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.
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.
The company reopened for business on Saturday but has been exercising the horses in the park for weeks.
“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.
“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.
“The temporary traffic plan continues to be adjusted based on experience and feedback.”
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.
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.
-With files from Nadia StewartView link »