A Bikepath For Everyone

A Bikepath for Everyone: The busiest bikepath in Vancouver runs within residential Strathcona. Before ‘upgrades’ to this bikeway are made, residents want a say.

Community Based Solutions

We call on the City to respect and engage the experience of the citizens who live and work in the community
Safety for pedestrians and cyclists of all ages and abilities is a top priority
and this can be achieved on Union Street by:
  1. Maintain a side by side bike/car flow along Union and discouraging perpendicular car crossing of the bike path as much as possible, by keeping the existing, two-way travel along Union Street for cars on all blocks of the plan except for Union to Quebec which will stay one-way for cars going West.
  2. Maintain street parking along Union to conserve slower cycling and driving speeds.
  3. Mark all north-south cross walks on both sides of every intersection (with paint, but ideally also by raising the crossing area) along the entire bikeway (this includes Princess, Jackson, Dunlevy, Gore and Main). Add a mid-block cross walk in the 200 block of Union to enable safer access to shops and green space.
  4. Add significant, evident signage along Union limiting all speed to 30K (cars and bikes) and reminding all travelers of the presence of crossing pedestrians and cyclists. Add signage at perpendicular intersections that indicates to vehicle drivers that they are about to cross a bike path.
  5. At Gore, where the bikeway transitions from residential to urban, increase cyclist safety via a separated two-way bikepath along the south side of Union on the green City land. This separated path will continue also on the south side of the last block of Union ending at Quebec. Remove parking from one side of this last block of Union to create an expanded, comfortable bikepath width. In these two blocks of new cycling paths, add bike racks in various spots.
  6. Improve both light functions at Gore and Main. Upgrade to a Hornby@Georgia type system with separated light signals for bikes, cars and pedestrians.
  7. At Main, remove the option for cars to access the viaduct ramp, leaving them with the choices to turn right, left or continue straight down Union.
  8. Repair the abysmal condition of road surface on Union Street between Gore and Main.

Background

City of Vancouver plans for Union Street bikeway upgrades, announced in May 2013, were met with much objection from local residents and business owners in Strathcona, Chinatown and City Gate.

Over a dozen speakers from the neighbourhood expressed their concerns about the proposed changes on Union Street, as part of the bikeway upgrades, at the June 12th, 2013 Council meeting, resulting in a decision from Council to postpone finalizing plans and commencing work on Union Street between Princess and Gore in order to take time to consult with the community and come up with ‘suitable traffic calming measures for all users between Main and Princess’.

THAT Council direct staff to postpone consideration of the eastbound barrier at Gore Avenue and Union Street pending further consultation with the community and report back within a month, with a view to identifying suitable traffic calming measures that improve safety for all users between Main Street and Princess Avenue on Union Street.  (http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20130612/documents/cfsc20130512min.pdf)

Residents in the affected communities, have since been meeting and working on constructive feedback and ideas in order to envision a bikeway plan that improves safety for all users, especially for pedestrians, who are currently at constant risk along an increasingly busy and fast bikeway. Their ideas are based on their intimate knowledge of this complex street, shared daily by thousands of residents and commuters, in cars, on bikes and on foot.

While the City’s upgrade plans are geared towards an All Ages and Abilities bikeway, the local working group has identified, among other deficiencies, that the proposed plan maintains and intensifies significant risks for pedestrians, and may actually be creating new risks for cyclists. The working group of residents preparing for consultation with the City has come up with a practical plan they call ‘A Bikepath for Everyone’*. They expect an opportunity to discuss their ideas with City staff before any work commences on Union Street.

Notwithstanding City Council's promise to consider the community’s concerns, City staff sent out a notification letter on July 3rd announcing that ‘approved’ bikeway plans will begin this month. At the June 12th meeting, Council directed staff to consult with the community regarding improvements for ALL users between Main and Princess. To date the only community consultation has been to advise construction start.  Residents are extremely concerned about the City’s apparent rush to schedule work crews on the ground before any consultation meetings have even been scheduled.

City Approach

The City of Vancouver's Active Transportation staff have failed in thier obligation to civic engagement or even following the guidelines set out in the Transportation 2040 Plan.

"In all cases it is important to consider other street functions and neighbourhood needs, and to tie the work into other plans that are currently in development. ... The City will work to improve the pedestrian environment and address business concerns around access for customers who drive as well as for services and deliveries. Given the complexity of these areas, staff will undertake a rigorous analysis, consider alternative routes that meet project objectives, and consult with residents and other stakeholders before returning to Council with detailed recommendations for approval."

Staff submitted plans for "Upgrades to the Adanac Bikepath" that failed to consult with or consider impacts on the community. "Public Consultation" consisted of two open houses in May, advertised as "upgrades to the Adanac Bikepath" where a finished plan was presented to whoever attended. As the open houses were specifically identified as modifications to the bikepath (rather than Union Street), local and non-cyclist interest was minimal if at all. Rather than just upgrades to the bikepath, however, their plan detailed altering Union Street east of Gore to be one-way (westbound) to car traffic; eliminating parking and compromising pedestrian access along 200 block Union; and eliminating vehicular access westbound on Union at Main. Needless to say, this plan stands to have a significant impact on traffic patterns in Strathcona, yet to date - no reasonable effort has been made by the City to work with the affected communities.

City information can be found on their Adanac Bikelane webpage *NOTE: this page has been edited numerous times since the City's two open houses in May

Among the anticipated impacts of the City's plan:

  1. Local traffic into Strathcona on Union (a significant local arterial) would be forced onto either Keefer or Prior. The former means more cars running past the elementary school, the latter forces vehicles to make a dangerous left turn against Prior Steet traffic.
  2. Eliminating concurrent bike-car traffic on Union will force cars to cross Union at a perpendicular, increasing the hazards to cyclists, particularly if they aren't equipped with lights.
  3. Compromised pedestrian safety and access for the residents and businesses of 200 block Union.
  4. Inability for the 97-year Benny's Market (a local landmark) to reasonably continue operating their business
  5. Closure of Union Street access to False Creek (via Main Street) will force traffic to divert through Chinatown on Keefer Street, or through City Gate along National. Neither street is suitable for the proposed capacity change, amd increase safety burdens for local pedestrians, many of whom are elderly.
  6. Despite the Active Transportation Department's mandate to consider pedestrian safety, staff have so far failed to address ongoing and pre-existent community safety concerns, particularly with the increase of aggressive commuter cyclists. These hazards are expected to only increase, as cyclists are emboldened by a "car-free" roadway.

When asked, the City were unable to produce any statistics for cyclist accidents on Union east of Gore, nor were they able to supply compelling evidence that closing Union westbound at Main would reduce cyclist risk. It should be noted that the closure of Union at Main is only for half a block, the road is to be two way vehicular traffic for the other half, ostensibly to provide access to the power substation and two new condo towers being built at Keefer and Main, which in and of itself seems to be counter-intuitive to the notion of increasing cyclist safety.

contact: bike-route-safety@strathcona-residents.org