The disturbing bike lane trend in Vancouver

October 22, 2013

…or the robfordisation [7] of a bike lobby…

People looking at the bike lanes from the plane, tend to see all of them as created equal…and after all, a massive mall development, be at Oakridge in Vancouver, or at Tsawassen could also looks the same as seen from the plane… it is then easy to frame the debate as pro vs anti bike lane… but on the ground it could quickly appears that the reality could be a bit more complex:

  • As we have seen before: Why insisting to bisect a narrow and crowded park, when perfect alternatives, still offering a seaside experience to the cyclists, are able to satisfy all parties?

Bike lanes on the street

the bike path at English bay is on the Beeach avenue ROW, making the best use of the narrow strip of grass

the bike path at English bay is on the Beach avenue ROW, making the best use of the narrow strip of grass

Could such an alternative be that difficult to implement at Kits point:


A bike path can be implemented along Arbutus, providing some minor alterations: In this option, Arbutus is one way north of Creelman, and lost parking space on its west side, south of it (to preserve 2 way general traffic)

The example above considers the bike path along Arbutus,

  • To preserve park space as much as possible
  • To provide a seamless conection with the future York’s bike lane, and in longer term a Rapid transit station at Arbutus#broadway (making Arbutus a desire path to join Kits beach)

The example above is not the sole solution on the street but is provided to demonstrate that alternative exists:

  • They offer far less dramatic change than the one involved by the closure of Point Grey
    • The illustrated option converts Arbutus one way, to preserve parking space- but around 20 space are lost south of Creelman, if the bike bath is kept routed on Arbutus (that is no more than the current proposal by the park board) south of the tennis courts
  • They provide a defacto lighted path at night, and eye on the street, so enhancing the general safety feeling at no additional cost (no additional lighting)
  • They could please or not the residents, could need to be altered according to their feedback, but since they haven’t been presented to them, we don’t know

What we know, is that the Vancouver park board refuses, so far, to consider such compromise and prefers, the below solution, adding basically nothing to the cycling experience, but certainly removing an important park space.

the 3.5meter wide bike lane cut accross the park…depriving the park of a significant swath of grass for better use of it

Shared space

A similar solution (bike lane on the street ROW) at Ogden could be in place as easily, nevertheless, the very low level of traffic on it could justifies a shared street arrangement, something planned on the future traffic calmed Point Grey Rd, part of the same seaside bike route [4][6]:

The seaside bike way at Point Grey Road at TRutch will share the road with local traffic

The seaside bike way on Point Grey Road at Trutch: cyclists will share the road with local traffic

Why the above solution is considered good on the Point Grey portion of the seaside bikeway, and not at Odgen road, lining Hadden park?

To be sure, as illustrates the desires line below, it is not a problem for cyclists:

this googleView shows the desire lane of the cyclists: coming from Vanier: they overwelmngly go to Ogden avenue, in despite of a steep slope (which could need to be gentled), rather than trying to continue along the pedestrian path – the marked path in Hadden park is mainly created by cycling coming from Kitsilano beach (no option)

Shared space for bike is often the recommended alternative, as explained by the Bicycle network, an Australian cycling advocacy group:

When speeds and volumes of motor vehicles are low enough, no separate space is needed for bikes – they share the road with motor vehicles. Quiet, slow streets not only allow children and family groups to walk and ride in comfort, they also allow more interaction between people using the street. This usually requires restrictions to motor vehicles access to keep actual speeds and numbers of motor vehicles low (30km/h and 3000 per day) as well as complementary measures to favour walking and cycling. [1]

There is no recent traffic number for Ogden, the latest ones available, suggest a traffic of ~500 vehicle a day (in March 93) to ~1500 vehicle a day (July 98), what makes the street apriori suitable to be shared by both car and cyclist. To be sure:

  • More recent traffic data should be collected
  • Traffic calming measure can be implemented to reduce further the traffic and speed there

Again, such possibility is quickly dismissed without analysis: The population of Metro Vancouver grows steadily by an average of 40,000 people annually, and we have little if no room to create new park spaces, even less with waterfront and beach, and serviced by frequent transit. So all measures should be taken to minimize unecessary paving of this space…but still it is obviously not what is happening. Why?

The park board doesn’t provide answers, but what is also of a concern is that some bike lanes apologists also refuse to consider that other solutions, minimizing impact on the park, can exist. why?

The robfordisation of a bike lobby

Some bike lobbyists share the common though with Rob ford:
The street is too dangerous for cycling, and cycling belong to the park, or at minimum requires segregation

That is, as Rob Ford, they give up on the idea of sharing the street and tame the car, and advocate for segregation everywhere,…but like the bike helmet law, the segregation paradigm foments widespread and largely unjustified fears about cycling outside of bike lane, especially when they are used unappropriately (that is neither for cycling safety nor comfort). The fact that some proeminent bike lobbyists use this fear card, to exclude cycling on street seeing less than 500 vehicles/day [3], is just doing a disservice to the cycling cause, since we don’t gonna install segregated bike on every single street in our city…or are we?

[2] gives a reason for that: cycling groups, in as much as they choose to concentrate on political lobbying rather than facilitating cycling socially, benefit from maintaining the segregation paradigm because they legitimise their existence by the results of their lobbying and segregation policies (whatever their real effects on cycling) and offer faster and more clearly quantifiable results of political value to show their constituencies

What should have been a tool, segregated bike lane, to be used appropriatly, to facilitate and encourage cycling, is becoming a goal in itself:

For this reason, some bike lane apologists [3] wholeheartly embraces the paving of a park, and dismisses any research of better compromise…and to justify a such extrem position, the arguments are well known, they are exactly the same that the road builders use (asphalt is asphalt!):

  • We have already pave a lot of the park, why stop there?
  • (As for the Massey tunnel:) There is lot of congestion, we need more space for our constituency
  • (As for the Sea to sky Hwy and the tunnel), We do it for the sake of safety, and especially the little children
    • And the ones playing in the playground will be put behind a fence to not pose a safety hazrd for cyclists [5]

None makes good sense, when better alternatives exist…

[1] Notice that some other publications consides that shared space can work with as much as 5,000 vehicle a day, see Traffic Calming and Cycling

[2] Segregated cycling and shared space in today’s cities, Garcia, Velo-city 2009 Conference, Brussels, Belgium

[3] see Richard Campbell blog for an example of the tone.

[4] To make sure, to not be misunderstood, It is eventually useful to remember my position on it, as worded on the Gordon PRice’s blog

[5] Seaside Greenway Improvements,Vancouver Park Board, Oct 1st, 2013

[6] Seaside Greenway Completion and York Bikeway (Phase 1 of Point Grey-Cornwall Active Transportation Corridor),General Manager of Engineering Services, City of Vancouver, July 16, 2013

[7] neologism, to express the Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, view of the world…By the way, Rob Ford also recently inaugurated a segregated bike lane


13 Responses to “The disturbing bike lane trend in Vancouver”

  1. Rico Says:

    A good article with useful ideas.

  2. Little children (including mine) run around in that grassy area. If they put the bike lane through there, it’s only a matter of time before one of them runs in front of a bike and is injured.

    Thanks for this post — I will be writing to the Park Board about this.

  3. For the record, I am pro bike lanes, but we need to balance the needs of all park users. I don’t think a separated bike lane or path is necessary in Kits Point because there’s not a lot of car traffic and the car traffic moves at slow speeds anyway. It’s relatively safe for bikes to share the road with cars in this instance.

    • Voony Says:

      I think you are right on the traffic speed and level: it doesn’t necessarily warrant a bikelane.

      Nevertheless, the row of parked car along Arbutus create 2 problems:

      (1) dooring hazard (cyclist being slammed by car opening door)
      (2) the row of parked car on the West side of the street creates a visual barrier, impacting negatively the seaside and park experience for cyclists…
      that in itself can justify a bike lane at least on Arbutus.

      Notice that many other solutions are possible. I notice that people behind @savekitsbeach (Howard Kesley?), against what a bike lobby and some park commissioners helped by medias, want us to believe are not only opposing, but also proposing:

      And, we end up in the very odd situation, where it is a bike lobby which is ending to aggresively defend parking space to impose its pet solution in the park.

      • Chris Says:

        What is the general opinion among those opposed to the seaside bike path toward the removal of parking on Arbutus? Certainly removing the parking and putting a separated bike lane along the west side of the road, as you’ve illustrated, seems like a most reasonable compromise. Is the bike lobby really working to “aggresively defend parking space”, or do those who oppose the bike path also oppose the removal of parking? What about the change to a one-way, as you also suggest?

        The reason I ask — apart from not attending any of these meetings and thus not knowing the general opinion — is because I have been continually surprised since moving to Kits how attached residents seem to be to their cars. Do most prefer changes to Arbutus instead of the proposed path?

  4. Kyle Z. Says:

    I see two main arguments from people who don’t support the park board’s plan for a bike path: 1) Removal of park space, and 2) Cost.
    The reason I don’t think that the proposal above is optimal is because even though it limits the removal of green space, there would be significant cost to reconstructing the sidewalk with a bike lane. I don’t think that this proposal will cost any less than the $3 million currently proposed.
    For example, a possible alternative that was floated was using white paint on arbutus. We may immediately see flaws in this plan, but the proponents argue that it’ll cost just $60,000.

    As what we are building at Kits Beach should be a long term solution, cost shouldn’t be a major detriment of how we should proceed. So maybe your solution would work. But I’m not sold.
    Because what we are talking about here is the seawall, and not some simple bike connection, it must be world class. Our seawall is ultimately the pride of Vancouver, and Canada’s number one public space. That’s why the connection must be a seaside path as close to the water as possible. Views are very important!

    Also, I disagree that the bike path will have an effect on picnic users or basketball players. If anything, the bike path will improve safety and help people get to the courts. The green space in Kits beach isn’t unlimited, but it’s abundant. Moving the picnic tables a few paces southwards will not affect kids safety or deter picnic users. And lastly, the bike path does not cut through the heart of the park. The bike path goes along the edge, similar to how the bike path at the second beach playground travels near the edge of the field. In addition, the bike path adjacent to Arbutus that is proposed is very similar to the one that is already in place adjacent to Cornwall, just 3 feet wider.

    If we really wanted to preserve green space, after the bike path is implemented, we would put grass on the section of the parking lot that will be closed, but leave a 12 foot bike path.

  5. Voony Says:

    So far, the most vocal opponents to street parking removal, have been from the bike lobby

    *Lisa Slakov, from Hub, has explicitly stated that Hub was against any street parking removal to accomodate the bike path, this at the November 4th special Park board meeting on the topic.
    I didn’t hear any opponent to the park board plan, be against…

    it is not to say, some are not against (but among the opponents of a bike lane in the middle of the park, you can also find some explaining that asphalt is better than grass). that said, since such option has not been put on the table, we don’t know too much what they prefer (green space, or parking?)

    I would like point out that the street parking on the west side of Arbutus is neither reserved for resident (at the difference of parking along York AVe or arbutus east side), nor used for retail use, making eventually the issue a bit less “hot”.

    That said, I don’t think there is a need to suppress too much parking on arbutus or Ogden, but just to convert those streets one way to accomodate the bike path.

    A bike path in the park cost ~$1.5M/km,

    *A bike path on street basically consists to extend the sidewalk over the roadway, and /or to add some planters and other furnitures (as on Hornby). It costs around ~$800,000/km…and help to improve the streetscape, pedestrian safety, benefit of streetlighting (in the park board proposal, it is part of phase 2, adding extra cost…), and other street maintenance (like snow plowing, sodium which is very damaging for the environement) at marginal cost.

    *A bike path on the streeet as at Beach avenue is a world class bike path (that is a “world class” promenade to be more accurate).
    *As already stated, Arbutus and Ogden, offer excellent views, basically identical to the one from the bike path in the middle of the parks.

    • Chris Says:


      Have you heard of any new developments about the Kitsilano Park bike route? I agree with you that the original route plan makes little sense given the negligible traffic on Ogden and the possibilities with Arbutus. Has no one suggested modifying Arbutus like you have? I feel like the community would choose this option over more pavement.

  6. […] amendment, and will become increasingly chaotic as summer approaches. I am surprised that a routing along Arbutus has not garnered more attention, as it would seem to avoid the brunt of the disagreements about […]

  7. menotu Says:

    I know carry a telescopic staff to jam in the spokes of the a**holes who constantly buzz me while I’m walking…. is that illegal ?

  8. Jeff Leigh Says:

    It is if you use it. Real name?

  9. Will Henry Says:

    Segregated bike lanes are great for cyclists where feasible. They protect cyclists from aggressive motorists who don’t respect a bicycle as a vehicle. They also help to keep clueless cyclists off the sidewalks.

    However, I can’t help but agree with the author regarding paving of green space — not ideal. Let’s make use of existing, traffic-calmed streets for dual use. It’s not perfect for riders, but it works and preserves park space.

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