Stanley Park is a often regarded as a jewel in Vancouver's park system. A huge park next to downtown and accessible from all over Vancouver the 405 hectare public park is a great place for so many activities.
During the COVID lockdown in 2020, people needed to get out, but stay social distanced. There is a seawall that runs around the outside of the park and also a roadway. As we all found during the pandemic, the seawall is not wide enough to allow for social distancing, so the park board took up most of one lane of the road for a bike lane. This gave pedestrians more space, cyclists more space and gave people space to enjoy the park during the lock down.
Fast forward to 2023 and every few months its still being discussed if this bike lane should be permanent. As park boards come and go, new ideas come up, we keep getting asked if we want a bike lane, we all keep e-mailing.
Radio talk show hosts and others keeping stoking controversy and spreading misleading facts about the park not being accessible. The drums keep beating for more cars because "access" is equated to having a car at the exclusion of all other access.
In February 2023, the Park board has voted to remove all but a few bits of the park to motorists. They are spending another $330,000 of taxpayers money to remove the bike lane (which has cost money to put in as well). They are planning a new version of the bike lane which is two lanes for motorists and another seperated bike lane at between $20 and $50 million 1 and will take around 10 years to build.
Advocating for a solution like that is just disingenguous. It is an excuse to never build anything, claim it's too expensive, repeatedly defer and then eventually drop the project in the future. A similar excercise is happening with the Spirit Trail in North Vancouver.
If you are looking for a good summary of the bike lane and all the details and how it still allows the park to be accessible, check out Love the Lane.
At this point I've learned a few things:
It is exhausting to keep advocating for this bike lane. We are continually asked our opinion, continually sending emails and just being ignored. Repeatedly. The park board ignored the 411 of 594 emails supporting a different approach and went with the politically motivated one. This has been going on for over two years.
If you ever put in a road, it is almost impossible to get it out.
Bike lanes and infrastructure are given a fraction of the funding yet receive a level of planning, inspection, public consultation and so on than any other development.
Cheap and simple options are often ignored in favour of expensive, complicated solutions. See also the District of North Vancouver where we are spending $200,000 to create 8 parking spots out of a bike lane.
If we can't get people to accept that a park should not have a two lane road going through it, then what hope do we have for the rest of our city? What hope do we have to combat climate change and car culture?
There are some amazing people who are able to give thoughtful and meaningful arguments and keep advocating for the park. People such as Martyn Schmoll and Lucy in Canada just keep going. Thank you to you all.
Cycling isn't the exhausting thing, advocating for it is.
I've seen estimates on Twitter go up to $100 million, which given inflation between now and 10 years time, seems an underestimate. ↩