In an earlier post, I talked about a major project in Vancouver that I’m super-excited about: the purchase of a 9-km Canadian Pacific railway corridor by the city and its transformation into the Arbutus Greenway. The intention? To provide a vital conduit allowing pedestrians, cyclists and eventually a streetcar to move through the area’s many communities. Beyond that, the greenway promises to become a place in its own right that attracts curiosity and exploration. It gives you a beautifully quiet trek through a semi-secluded cross-section of neighbourhoods.
Right now, I’m involved with efforts to advocate with the city for a pathway design that will help the community develop a greenway that we can all love. I’ve been working with the Vancouver Public Space Network as Communications Coordinator and also as Arbutus Greenway Project Lead, heading up recommendations on the design. We’re hoping that the greenway will be created in such a way as to pull together green space, sustainable landscaping and public art, while preserving existing community character and adjacent urban gardens and also evoking the corridor’s traditional railway heritage.
The recommendations we’ve developed are posted on the network’s blog, with updates. I’m so happy that City Council has adopted a number of proposals consistent with our feedback. We’ve also been asked to participate as stakeholders in the consultation surrounding the path design. I’m really looking forward to that.
Short view, long view
As I write this, the path being installed is a temporary one for everyone to use between now and when the permanent version is complete, in around three years. It’s being paved, but you can go ahead and walk on it now. You can bike it too, though you’ll want rugged tires to take in the still unpaved portions. Over the coming months and years, the city will observe how it’s working out and turn it into a permanent installation, with various improvements including benches, lighting and better safety at intersections.
Cyclists vs. pedestrians? It’s both/and
Vancouver dwellers may remember the acrimonious debate earlier this year over the choice of surface. Paving is clearly better not only for cyclists, but also for users with mobility problems and parents with strollers. On the other hand, a number of residents preferring a natural feel underfoot or concerned about water infiltration have favoured gravel. Another issue: making the path safe for both cyclists and pedestrians to use. This gets to be such a problem on Vancouver’s shared seawall, particularly near Granville Island, where pedestrians run the risk of getting hit by cyclists pedalling at fast speeds.
The upshot? The city will pilot three different model designs separating cyclists from pedestrians. In wider stretches, there will be separate asphalt pathways; in some parts, there will even be a third path, pedestrian-only, made with mulch. Narrower sections will have one asphalt path, with lane markings to delineate between cyclists and pedestrians. You can find easy digests on the city’s information boards and in the summary report. Note: you can’t actually see these demarcations on the greenway yet if you go there, because bad weather has meant construction delays. According to estimates, it’ll probably be in early 2017 that we’ll see separate paths cut from the existing wide pavement stretches and lane markings painted onto the narrower ones.
Well, not exactly. There’s no plan or timeline currently on the books because there isn’t funding. At a public session on October 15, I asked city engineering about technical feasibility, given the limited width of the pathway. In response, I was told that where the greenway was 20 metres wide, this would allow for 10 metres for people plus an additional 10 for a streetcar. Where the path was narrower, the city would look into using more of the parallel street to accommodate track. Anyway, it’s moot until there’s actually money on the table. In any case, we can look forward in the near term to the certainty of a path friendly both to pedestrians and to cyclists.
Time to talk
The city is planning a public engagement on the permanent greenway design. Originally this was projected to happen in 2016, but with the holiday season nearly upon us at this point, I’m betting it bumps into the new year. I’ll report more as I hear.