Should a lane of traffic on the road through Vancouver’s Stanley Park be transformed into a bike lane again this year?
It’s a question headed to the Vancouver Park Board next week, setting the stage for another showdown over road use and accessibility in the city’s marquee green space.
On Thursday, a coalition of businesses, cultural attractions and recreational groups in the park joined together to oppose the bike lane, which was in place through the summer of 2020.
The group is hopeful for a return to somewhat-normal conditions this summer as COVID-19 vaccines are rolled out, but warns the lane threatens the survival of already struggling attractions.
“Last year’s situation was a nightmare. Casual cyclists were forced up to Park Drive, cars couldn’t get across bike lanes to access parking lots at prospect point, it resulted in traffic jams and idling, and vehicles couldn’t access the accessible parking spots in the lot,” said Sue Kalfa, spokesperson for the Capilano Group, which operates the Prospect Point restaurant.
Critics of the bike lane note it has led to a reduction of 27 per cent in parking spaces, along with no vehicle access to certain popular destinations such as Third Beach and Brockton Point.
Those changes have severely impacted accessibility for people with mobility issues, they say, and have frightened away would-be visitors to the park’s businesses.
Park Board Chair Camil Dumont told Global News the idea is to create a space on the road that is safe for cyclists of all ages and abilities while maintaining vehicle access to the park, but that he’s sensitive to opponents’ concerns.
“(I’m) certainly not deaf to that opinion, listening to everyone who’s coming forth with their ideas and their visions and their views,” he said.
“Certainly none of this process is geared to inhibiting the park to folks who need to get there by car. There’s still one vehicular lane dedicated to cars.”
According to the park board’s data, the park saw a 180 per cent increase in cyclists between April and June, when Park Drive was completely closed to vehicles.
When a lane was reopened for July and August, cycling volume dropped from a peak of about 180,000 trips per month to about 140,000. That’s about 40,000 trips per month lower than in 2019, a difference the board attributed to a massive drop in tourism.
Vehicle volume in the park was about one third of its 2019 average for the months of July and August, 2020.
The park board approved a two-year review into reducing vehicle access to the park last June, which included a public survey conducted last fall.
Forty-seven per cent of respondents said the park was better with a separated bike lane, while 31 per cent said it was worse.
Critics have questioned those results, noting the survey allowed people to fill it out more than once.
The park board is scheduled to debate the bike lane on Monday.