Stanley Park businesses send bike lane dispute to BC Supreme Court

Apr 15 2021, 11:18 pm

Two restaurant businesses in Stanley Park are joining together for legal action against the Vancouver Park Board — a challenge to the recent decision to bring back the temporary bike lane on Stanley Park Drive, starting later this spring through the end of October.

The Teahouse Restaurant and Prospect Point Bar & Grill filed their petition to BC Supreme Court last week, asking the court to rule against the Park Board’s direction to restrict vehicle access following the impact of last year’s bike lane.

While COVID-19 and the decline in tourism were contributing factors to their financial losses, the businesses argue these difficult conditions were significantly compounded by the changes to Stanley Park Drive, and the partial and complete closure of the parking lots serving the restaurants.

Without a passing lane, the single lane of Stanley Park Drive retained for vehicles resulted in slow-moving congestion, especially when vehicles followed the Stanley Park Horse-Drawn Tours carriage. The reconversion of one of the two lanes for cyclists will likely result in the closure of the North Shore entrance and exit onto the Stanley Park Causeway, and continue the closure of the park’s access from Beach Avenue.

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Bike lane through the parking lot of The Teahouse Restaurant in Stanley Park in Summer 2020. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

“The Vancouver Park Board did not identify or evaluate the harms to the interests of many park users that would be negatively impacted by this lane closure before making their decision,” said The Teahouse owner Brent Davies.

“The Resolution was passed without sufficient public participation or consultation, is based on unfounded generalizations, and will cause numerous and substantial consequences to park visitors and stakeholders.”

The petition argues that the Park Board’s basis for bringing back the bike lane “is not reasonable, rational, or logical.”

The two reasons put forward in support of the bike lane motion during the debate amongst Park Board commissioners on March 10, 2021 were to avoid catastrophic climate change, and the results of a Fall 2020 survey.

“The global climate crisis caused by excessive greenhouse gas emissions is a national and international problem. But, carbon emissions in Stanley Park are only important to the extent that they contribute to the sum total of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions,” reads a backgrounder.

“The Park Board’s Resolution is based on an unfounded premise: individuals who previously visited the park by motor vehicle will now leave their vehicles at home and access the park by foot or bicycle. Imposing restrictions on motor vehicle traffic in Stanley Park will not reduce total greenhouse gas emissions if the natural consequence of the restrictions is to slow traffic and lengthen travel in the park and increase greenhouse gas emissions outside of Stanley Park as people travel greater distances to reach alternative green spaces.”

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In Summer 2020, the bike lane on Stanley Park Drive transitioned into the parking lot at Prospect Point, resulting in the parking lot’s closure. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

The legal action also argues that the survey methodology — which found general support for the bike lane — is flawed as it was not based on a randomized sample of individuals, but rather individuals who chose to take the time to complete a survey. There were no controls to ensure a person could only complete the survey once.

As well, the survey did not ask respondents to “consider the potential negative effects on other park users or to provide their opinion on whether the restriction on vehicles was fair or reasonable, if the interests of other users were taken into account.”

The same survey also showed one-third of respondents indicated their experience in the park was “worse” with the single-lane closure compared to the pre-COVID-19 configuration.

“The lane closure will clearly reduce access to Stanley Park and its amenities to those who are less able bodied and for whom walking or cycling to their destination in the park would be difficult or impossible,” continues the backgrounder.

“It will also reduce access to the park and its amenities to families, particularly families with young children, who cannot practically travel several kilometres on foot or bike with all of their equipment. It will detrimentally affect the many athletic and sporting clubs and many other activities in the park which rely on motor vehicles to transport people, supplies, and equipment. It will increase the pressure on other parks as users travel by motor vehicles to attend public parks and green spaces with better access.”

Over time, as a result of frustrating access to motor vehicles and tour buses, the businesses assert that “Stanley Park will be diminished as a tourist attraction to the detriment of the local economy.”

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Prospect Point Restaurant & Grill boarded up during its Winter 2020/21 closure. (Prospect Point)

All businesses in the park, including the Vancouver Aquarium, will be “detrimentally affected,” leading to business failures, lost income, and reduced employment. The Park Board would also see reduced revenues, as the rent paid by a number of businesses is based on a proportion of their annual income.

Pay parking in Stanley Park also typically brings in an average of $5.2 million in annual revenue to the Park Board, but in 2020 this was down by about 65% to $1.8 million. The pandemic is attributed as a reason, but it is believed much of this can also be attributed to reduced vehicle traffic due to the altered road and parking configuration.

The motion to bring back the bike lane to Stanley Park Drive was introduced by Green Party commissioner Camil Dumont, and supported by fellow Green Party commissioners Dave Demers and Stuart Mackinnon, and COPE commissioners John Irwin and Gwen Giesbrecht. NPA commissioners Tricia Barker and John Coupar voted in opposition.

The temporary bike lane on Stanley Park Drive — a system of traffic cones and barriers — was dismantled in late September 2021.

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Temporary bike lane on Stanley Park Drive southwest of the Information Booth. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

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