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Vancouver park board to vote on removing separated Stanley Park bike lane

Click to play video: 'New Vancouver Park Board expected to axe Stanley Park bike lane'
New Vancouver Park Board expected to axe Stanley Park bike lane
WATCH: Despite last-ditch efforts from cyclists, the ABC Vancouver-dominated park board is expected to remove the dedicated bike lane from Stanley Park, at least temporarily. Emad Agahi reports. – Dec 1, 2022

Commissioners on the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation will vote Monday on whether to “immediately” remove the temporary protected bike lane from Stanley Park Drive.

The lane was set up during the COVID-19 pandemic, then closed when full vehicle traffic was allowed to resume in Stanley Park in September 2020. It reopened in March last year as a mobility study on the park got underway and has remained open ever since.

That study’s preliminary report, however, now suggests the temporary bike lane and current reallocation of road space in the park “represents an inadequate response to the needs of some park users,” according to park board Commissioner Angela Haer.

“ABC has been listening to the people of Vancouver for the last six months, and overwhelmingly, voters want the temporary bike lane on Stanley Park Drive to be removed,” said Commissioner Brennan Bastyovanszky.

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“Most of what we hear from the public is that it causes traffic issues, not just within the park, but it impacts regionally, such as around Georgia and Denman (streets).”

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While commissioners aim to offer a permanent alternative for next summer, the possibility of removing the bike lane — even temporarily — has upset a number of recreationalists.

The lane allows vehicles and cyclists to share Stanley Park Drive, and removing it for the winter season could be dangerous, according to Love the Lane, an organization advocating to keep the bike lane open.

“Cyclists need the protection more when it gets dark earlier and the road can be slippery and wet,” organizer Lucy Maloney said, adding that even in cold weather, the lane is “hugely popular.”

“I know there are six groups of West Vancouver senior centre cyclists that come and ride twice a week around Stanley Park … the thing that makes it all possible is the protection of the separated bike lanes.”

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According to the preliminary findings of the Stanley Park Mobility Study, a “solution that better meets the needs of all park users and park partners is required.”

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The motion before commissioners on Monday is to direct staff to “immediately restore” the pre-pandemic traffic and parking arrangements on Stanley Park Drive in time for the holidays. It also recommends the current mobility study be reframed and repurposed “toward a comprehensive strategy as a planning tool that can deliver new, permanent, dedicated cycling infrastructure in the park.”

That strategy, it notes, ought to consider equitable access to all park users, including those with disabilities, along with tourist access and bus parking, the emergence of new modes of travel, and environmental concerns. If the motion is carried, staff will report to the Vancouver Park Board with a planning outline by February 2023 at the latest.

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Wally Oppal, a lawyer representing Stanley Park’s Prospect Point Bar and Grill, said his client is “absolutely delighted” with a proposition restores greater vehicle access to the park. The restaurant on Stanley Park Drive has been closed for the past year under “chaotic conditions,” and has suffered great financial losses, he added.

“There are pilons, there are barriers that are there now that prevent people from using the park, prevent people from going to the businesses in the park,” Oppal explained.

“There are people who have disabilities who cannot visit the park now. Many of those people have been in touch with me.”

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The B.C. Supreme Court threw out a challenge of the controversial bike lane brought forward by two businesses, including Prospect Point Bar and Grill, last September.

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Click to play video: 'ABC Vancouver outlines priorities for Vancouver Park Board'
ABC Vancouver outlines priorities for Vancouver Park Board

Proposed changes to the pandemic-era temporary bike lane emerged as a civic election issue.

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Prior to the October vote, ABC commissioner candidates told HUB Cycling their plan for Stanley Park was to close the lane, develop a more equitable and desirable option for cyclists, and implement it in time for summer of 2023.

Six of seven commissioners on the newly-elected park board belong to Mayor Ken Sim’s ABC Party, and after the election, successful ABC candidate Laura Christensen said a priority for the new board is to spend the winter developing “an engineered solution to maintain access to both bikes and cars.”

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On Nov. 5, about 100 cyclists took part in a Love the Lane ride to urge new commissioners to keep the protected bike lane in place until the new design is ready.

Maloney said she’s pleased commissioners want to offer another lane option for cyclists next year, but is worried about the safety of cyclists in the meantime. She noted cycling options in the park will also be restricted when parts of the seawall close for maintenance.

“We really wish they’d change their minds and just leave the lane in place until the permanent redesign is ready to install,” Maloney told Global News.

Click to play video: 'Stanley Park bike lane supporters hold rally'
Stanley Park bike lane supporters hold rally

Monday’s motion, if passed, offers no timeline for restoring the lane.

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ABC’s Bastyovanszky said other concerns expressed with the lane include access in long traffic lines for those with mobility challenges, a reduced number of handicapped parking spaces, and a lack of consultation on the mobility study.

He also acknowledged business impacts, including the loss of tour bus parking by Prospect Point Bar and Grill. A loss of revenue for Stanley Park businesses also impacts the park board’s budget for maintenance and services, he added.

Editor’s Note: This is a corrected story. A previous version incorrectly attributed text in a motion from park board Commissioner Angela Haer to a mobility study on the temporary bike lane. Global News regrets the error.

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