In previous posts, on December 1 and November 25, I’ve talked about the rail-to-trail project, unprecedented in Vancouver, of converting the Westside’s 9-kilometre CP track into the Arbutus Greenway for pedestrians and cyclists.
If you don’t know the greenway yet, have a look at this neat little video distributed by the city. With clips filmed by someone biking it before all the track got ripped out, it shows the pathway’s course through different neighbourhoods.
So what’s up with that?
Back in the fall, the city indicated in conversations with me and others that construction of the temporary paved pathway, including separations for cyclists and pedestrians, would complete by Christmas. Our weather delayed things, though, glaciating the pathway over several weeks and leaving only some of it paved. In fact I was tempted to try skating on it, but the ripples left by the slush would’ve exceeded even my tolerance for bumps, and I’m a person who learned to skate on a lake rather than a rink.
Anyway, by now it’s all thawed again, and on January 18, Mayor Robertson held a press conference with chief engineer Jerry Dobrovolny on the greenway where it intersects 57th, announcing that construction would recommence in the coming week. With this restart of construction also resumes the citywide public consultation. The city wants our “big ideas,” in the mayor’s words, on which design features and amenities to incorporate on a permanent basis.
In my own conversations with the city, I’ve received estimates that the paving will be in place by the end of March, along with the much-awaited separations for cyclists and pedestrians. These separations will be piloted in different ways. Along some sections, painted lines will indicate lanes. Elsewhere, the city will create two different paths by cutting a physical strip through the centre of the pavement laid.
In my opinion, there’s an urgent need to deal with the dangerous lack of clarity at major arterial crossings such as 12th, 33rd, 57th and others. Some places lack an obvious crosswalk to mark where the greenway intersects the artery. At 12th, for example, an outdated and redundant traffic signal stands at the former tracks that local drivers make a habit of overriding, leaving greenway users vulnerable.
Currently, concrete barriers and some signage exist at arterial intersections, but changing drivers’ behaviour calls for more permanent and visible installations. Painted and/or raised crosswalks, obvious signals, paved slopes at sidewalks for cyclists and wheelchair users and more direct connectivity between the greenway and bike lanes would all help create better rights-of-way. In conversations with the city, I’ve been told that designers are presently looking at options for improving these intersections and that solutions should be in place by completion of the temporary pathway, but details are still vague at this point.
Another interesting issue has to do with the urban farms and gardens lining the greenway. A gardener at one of the city-permitted sites expressed the hope to me that some clear separations might be created to protect produce from theft even as the gardens remain visible to the public. Perhaps low hedges might be a solution in some cases. It’s realistic to expect that the paving of the greenway will mean a rise in foot and cyclist traffic, and as this flow increases, there’s clearly a delicate balance to be drawn between allowing the public to appreciate the gardens while protecting the plots from destructive incursion.
More updates soon.
– photos by Naomi Reichstein