October 1, 2013

City of Vancouver

453 W 12th Ave

Vancouver BC

V5Y 1V4

Mayor and Council, 

CC Jerry Doblovrony, Transportation Manager

CC Dale Bracewell, Manager, Active Transportation

CC Dr. Penny Ballem, Manager, City of Vancouver

re: Union Street and Adanac Bikeway

Dear Council, Mayor, Dr. Ballem, Mr. Doblovrony, Mr. Bracewell,

I am writing you as chair of the Strathcona Residents' Association, on behalf of the communities and businesses of Strathcona, as well as Chinatown and City Gate.

I am also writing you as a cyclist.

You may recall, I spoke on behalf of the aforementioned stakeholders before council on June 12th of this year, regarding plans to reconfigure and limit local access to Union Street as part of a project that had been advised as an Adanac Bikeway upgrade. At that time, council were presented background material that identified what we considered a disingenuous approach to community consultation in that it failed to engage stakeholders who were not specifically cyclists. Furthermore, we found this consultation process fell very short of the protocol prescribed in the City's Transportation 2040 Plan (p.70) 

"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."

Council responded with an amendment which directed "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."

On July 22 a large group of concerned residents and stakeholders met with staff and outlined their concerns. Following this meeting I was advised by Mr. Doblovrony that meeting within the aforementioned month to discuss "improving safety for all users between Main Street and Princess Avenue on Union Street" would need to be postponed in light of the summer schedule and we could expect to discuss further in the fall.

Since that meeting there have been a number of concerning developments:

1. Active Transportation installed balustrades for a separated bikeway at Union and Glen as part of the Powell Street Overpass Project. These balustrades were installed adjacent to the BNSF rail line without consulting operators CN (let alone local resident stakeholders). CN found these balustrades such a significant safety risk that they demanded the City remove them immediately.

2. Despite Council's direction, the last month has seen significant alteration between Main Street and Princess Avenue on Union Street, specifically on the 200 block. Anecdotal reports, concerned letters and feedback indicate that no-one is happy with these changes, neither cyclists, residents nor local businesses. We invite council and staff to visit first hand and observe the confusing mess of poorly demarcated parking, car and bike lanes. We have identified a number of deficiencies and problems, to wit:

a.) There has been no consultation with local residents or businesses on this block before or during construction.

b.) There has been no work done as far as impact assessment.

c.) There is no longer safe access to Handy Dart or pickups for the seniors and residents living in Solheim Place.

d.) There is limited emergency vehicle access, with the current configuration, cars would literally have to mount the curb to get out of the way.

e.) Excepting the repair of potholes, 200 block Union Street is no safer for cyclists now than it was before the project began, in many respects, it is now less safe

Notwithstanding our own willingness to work on developing a shared street that works for both commuters and locals alike (http://bikepathforeveryone.ca), and notwithstanding the criteria set out on page 70 of the Transportation 2040 Plan, the obvious safety deficiencies outlined above leave us with grave concerns about the competence of this plan.

Since first drafting this letter, on September 25 we received notification from the Adanac Bikeway Impovments Manager, that advised:

- an eastbound vehicle closure of Union Street at Gore Avenue will not be implemented at this time 

- a two-meter wide off-street cycling path will be constructed on the south side of the street behind the existing sidewalk (on Union Street from Gore Avenue to Main Street). Ironically, this very idea was proposed by frustrated residents months ago, in our own proposal for bikepath improvements as part of a shared public realm  http://bikepathforeveryone.ca/

While we welcome changes to what we feel to be an obviously flawed project, we are dismayed that (once again) these changes are being proposed in lieu of any community consultation. 

As residents, we are concerned that these changes to 200 block still don't address the safety and access concerns with regard to the westbound bikelane installed on the north side of the street (not specifically addressed in the Sept. 25 advisory) and that this project continues to move ahead without any community consultation or input. 

As taxpayers, we are concerned about the mismanagement and waste that could have been prevented by the upfront community consultation mandated by the 2040 Plan. 

As citizens we are concerned about the apparent disconnect between the Active Transportation Department and the explicit instructions provided them by our elected representatives. 

As voters, we are concerned that the vague and ambiguous wording about east of Gore suggests this item is being postponed so as not to be an election issue.

Given the so far worrisome lack of transparency, consistency and providing of crucial data in this process, The SRA wish to formally request all the records regarding the consultation and planning process thusfar for the Adanac Bikeway upgrades on Union Street. We should add that our membership did unanimously support funding and undertaking this request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA), but implicit in that approach would be a media release explaining why we felt our concerns compelled that sort of action, effort and expenditure. 

We urge that staff respect the June 12 instructions of Council and that the City respect the terms of the Transportation 2040 Plan, and the residents of and around Union Street. It is our genuine hope that rather than an issue of "anti-bike-lane" we can use this opportunity to work towards a meaningful solution that benefits all the users of Union Street.


Pete Fry — Chair, Strathcona Residents' Association

CC: SRA Council