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Carriage operator says Stanley Park lane closure an ‘accident waiting to happen’

Click to play video 'Traffic safety concerns in Stanley Park' Traffic safety concerns in Stanley Park
Traffic safety concerns in Stanley Park

The operator of Stanley Park’s iconic horse-drawn carriage says the removal of a lane of vehicle traffic is putting people at risk.

Stanley Park Drive, which circumnavigates the 405-hectare park, was completely closed to cars early in the novel coronavirus pandemic to make room for physical distancing on the seawall.

Read more: Following heated debate, Vancouver Park Board votes to open Stanley Park to one lane of traffic

The Vancouver Park Board reopened one lane to vehicles in June, leaving one lane — separated by cones — for cyclists.

But Gerry O’Neil, who has owned Stanley Park Horse Drawn Tours for 39 years, said that move has created the conditions for someone to get seriously hurt.

Click to play video 'Cyclists and cars now must share road in Stanley Park' Cyclists and cars now must share road in Stanley Park
Cyclists and cars now must share road in Stanley Park

The company reopened for business on Saturday but has been exercising the horses in the park for weeks.

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“The speed limit in the park is 30 kilometres an hour, but it’s become five kilometres per hour because they get behind us and (cars) can’t pass,” he said.

Read more: Vancouver Park Board to explore long-term plan to reduce traffic in Stanley Park

“More often than not, some of the vehicular traffic overtakes the bike lane and this is just an accident waiting to happen.”

O’Neil is frustrated with the way the lane closure was handled, arguing that he and other businesses in the park were not consulted.

He says he’s hiring his own engineer to provide a traffic safety report to the city.

In a statement, the park board said it is listening to O’Neil’s concerns.

“Park board staff have been in ongoing discussions with the Horse Drawn Tour operator,” reads the statement.

Click to play video 'Stanley Park Teahouse demands road access be restored to park' Stanley Park Teahouse demands road access be restored to park
Stanley Park Teahouse demands road access be restored to park

“The temporary traffic plan continues to be adjusted based on experience and feedback.”

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Cycling advocates have pointed to traffic data, which showed more than 200,000 bike trips on Stanley Park Drive between its April closure and June, as proof of huge demand for a protected lane.

Non-Partisan Association (NPA) park commissioner Tricia Barker, a consistent critic of the lane closure, argues that cuts accessibility and is having an impact on other businesses in the park.

Read more: Motion to limit car traffic in Stanley Park approved for further study

She said the conflict with the horse-drawn carriage is another example of how the plan was poorly conceived.

“Because he has to share the one lane with the cars, you get behind him and you’ll have to slow down… your lovely relaxing trip to the park isn’t going to be as relaxing anymore,” she said.

“I’m hoping that with what we see is going on we can slowly start to open it more and more. A lot of people want to come into the park and I hope that we get it open as much as we can.”

The single-lane closure is expected to be in place at least until the end of summer, while the seawall will be held for pedestrians.

The park board has also voted to study a long-term plan to reduce traffic in the park.

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-With files from Nadia Stewart