Several dozen people turned out to voice their opposition to a separated bike lane in Vancouver’s Stanley Park on Saturday.
The Vancouver Park Board has begun work to re-implement the lane, which first appeared last year, with modifications.
Bonnie Mackenzie with the group Stanley Park for All said the bike lane discriminates against seniors, people with disabilities and people who rely on cars to get their families to the park.
It has also been devastating for businesses in the park, she argued, which have seen a sharp drop in revenues amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2020, the project involved the closure of one lane of vehicle traffic on Stanley Park Drive, the loss of about 30 per cent of the park’s parking spaces, and the closure of Third Beach and Brockton Point to vehicles.
“There was really no reason for seniors and people with disabilities and families to go into the park,” she said.
“If you don’t ride a bike, it’s very difficult to take your family, your picnic cooler, your blanket, your umbrella to a beach on a bike when you have toddlers.”
The park board has pledged to rectify some of those concerns, specifically around access to Prospect and Ferguson points and Third Beach, with the 2021 project.
The plan is being rolled out in phases, with cones separating a lane on the west side of the park from Pipeline Road North to Second Beach.
The city says parking lot entrances, the Lions Gate Bridge causeway access and intersections will remain unaffected in the first phase.
Phase Two will involve an evaluation of the east side of the park and consultation with stakeholders, before concrete dividers are installed to separate the lanes park-wide in Phase Three in July.
“We don’t know what their plans are. I think that’s the biggest issue. This park belongs to all of us, it should be accessible to all people,” Mackenzie said.
“They say they’re going to open some of the parking lots, we’re not sure how that will affect the safety of the cyclists in the dedicated lane, and all of a sudden you’re going to have cars pulling in front of them.”
Jeff Leigh with Hub Cycling said there is no doubt there was room for improvement in the 2020 plan, but that opponents of the lane are misrepresenting its impacts.
“It’s not clear to me how having one lane is is somehow blocking access and no cars,” he said.
“I fail to understand why Stanley Park, a 30 kilometre (per hour) urban park, needs more lanes than many sections of the Trans Canada Highway, which still have not been two-laned.”
Leigh argued the separated lane actually allows accessibility to the park for cyclists with disabilities or other needs.
He noted that baffle gates placed along the seawall in several locations prevent people who use hand-pedaled cycles, trikes and bikes with trailers from using it.
“I think not allowing families and children and less-confident cyclists to ride in Stanley Park is discriminatory to a much larger segment of the population,” he said.
“What we need to do is make sure that Stanley Park is usable by all, and that includes those that choose to cycle, whether they’re able-bodied or mobility-challenged or whatever.”
According to park board data, Stanley 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.