The controversial bike lane taking up one roadway lane of the two-lane Stanley Park Drive will return in 2021 on a temporary basis, following a decision by the Vancouver Park Board on Wednesday evening.
Park Board commissioners voted 5-2 in support of a motion to bring back the temporary bike lane, which was first implemented early last summer following a months-long complete closure to vehicles upon the onset of COVID-19.
NPA commissioners John Coupar and Tricia Barker were opposed to the motion, and Coupar saw his request to open the matter to public speakers at a future meeting rejected.
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The approved motion, moved by Green Party commissioner Camil Dumont, directs Park Board staff to re-establish the configuration of orange cones and barriers, potentially relatively soon, until the end of October. A single lane will be retained for vehicle traffic.
“It makes sense to me to bring forth a temporary measure to bring this protected bike lane back to Stanley Park. The main driver of this is a realization that we need to de-centre the automobile culturally and from our way of life, and that’s a very difficult thing to do and it comes with a lot of challenges,” said Dumont during the meeting.
Dumont’s motion did not specify whether cyclists should be banned from the seawall, just like last year. However, he stated during the meeting this would be a decision for Park Board staff to make based on their transportation modelling. Barker suggested cyclists should be banned from the seawall after the temporary bike lane reopens, as a physical distancing measure for pedestrians.
Last year’s full vehicle closure through late June and the subsequent temporary bike lane throughout the summer months drew the ire of seniors and disability advocacy groups, and several restaurant businesses within the park.
The businesses attributed a portion of their financial losses to the complex roadway configuration, which greatly reduced or closed their parking lots entirely to accommodate the bike lane. Parking was particularly affected for far-flung destinations such as Brockton Point, the northeast shoreline near Pipeline Road, Prospect Point, and Third Beach. Parking was also significantly reduced at Second Beach.
“Not all Vancouverites have the privilege to have residence within minutes of some of Vancouver’s most enjoyable assets — English Bay, Stanley Park, the Seawall and beaches, as well as the Aquatic Centre,” reads a letter last month from The Teahouse restaurant to the municipal government.
“It would seem that City Council and the Park Board have the responsibility to ensure that all residents as well as tourists have reasonable access to these areas that support City businesses and the tourism industry which employs thousands of Vancouver residents.”
According to Coupar, the Park Board recorded a reduction of over $3 million in parking revenue in 2020 partially due to the roadway changes and parking limitations.
With limited passing lanes, there was also severe congestion from the slow-moving traffic when Stanley Horse-Drawn Tours resumed their operations on the single lane dedicated for vehicles.
The temporary bike lane on Stanley Park Drive was dismantled in late September of last year.
Before the end of 2021, Park Board staff are expected to return to the commissioners with a report outlining permanent options to reduce vehicle traffic in Stanley Park.
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