About three dozen Vancouver residents upset over the conversion of one lane through Stanley Park from vehicle to bicycle traffic gathered at Hallelujah Point on Saturday.
Organizers of the event, dubbed as “Take the park back!” say the Vancouver Park Board has not listened to residents’ concerns.
The group points to the complete closure of Brockton point to traffic and the closure of the Third Beach parking lot, reduced parking elsewhere and fewer handicapped parking spaces.
Businesses in the park have also complained that the changes are cutting into their already pandemic-hit bottom lines.
The park board closed Stanley Park Drive completely to vehicles at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, but reopened one lane to cars in June. The other lane has been held for cyclists, who are barred from the seawall in order to make more room for physical distancing.
“The closures were meant to be temporary, but now they are being treated like a trial to potentially keep them this way forever,” wrote rally organizers.
Vancouver Park Board manager Dave Hutch says about 93 per cent of Stanley Park Drive is open to vehicles, and that about 70 per cent of parking in the park remains open.
He said after talks with the city’s disability advisory committee, the board also added 10 new handicapped parking spaces.
“We’re seeing that the park and parking is nowhere near capacity this year. The busiest day was in mid August, we had 63 per cent capacity. We would expect about 90 per cent in August,” he told Global News.
At the same time, Hutch said close to 750,000 cycle trips have taken place along Stanley Park Drive since the road changes were implemented.
“So its been a pretty enormous impact in terms of the number of people who are using the dedicated lane,” he said.
Hutch said the lane reallocation is only temporary, but acknowledged that board staff have also been directed to explore long-term options to reduce vehicle traffic in the park.
Hutch encouraged anyone who wants to have a say on the lane reallocation to fill out the board’s Shape Your City survey, which remains open until Sept. 20.
Parks commissioner Tricia Barker said Saturday’s rally is being spearheaded by members of the city’s disability advisory committee and seniors’ advisory committee.
“I get so many notices from people and heartfelt stories about what this park means to them and how they want to take their seniors, their family members back to the park. The only way they can get there is by car,” she said.
“One of the most heartbreaking is the lady who wants to take her 87-year-old mother back to see the memorial bench they have for her husband and father at Brocton Point, and they cannot get there.”