The stencilled graffito has appeared on the Greenway at 29th Avenue at the north end of Quilchena Park
A man using one of those small wheeled Brompton style bicycles stopped, and got off his bike to lift the front wheel over the lip of the bitmac. He started the conversation and told us “A lot of people opposed the use of blacktop.”
“A lot of people?” I asked
He was unwilling to take his bike onto the gravel, and felt that the opposition was overstated. He doubted that there was much danger from the runoff from blacktop and concluded
“I know that there are some people opposed to this because they want to extend their gardens.”
The crushed rock use starts south of 33rd and continues up the hill towards 37th. The top surface is loose: in some places very loose indeed.
This kind of loose surface is not acceptable – especially for bicycles.
I have come off my bike on loose gravel, and it was not a pleasant experience. There are some significant drop offs on the west side of the right of way here.
As we were walking up the hill, a cyclist drew alongside us and continued to ride as we walked. He thought that there had been some loss of character in the greenway, as it used to be kind of wild and rugged. Maybe not everywhere needs to be entirely smooth and safe, he suggested. I have read something similar from Patrick Condon.
“People have gotten quite used to the Arbutus Corridor as kind of a romantic landscape — the kind of unkempt quality of it,” Condon said, adding that “it’s level of decay has become something that people kind of like, that they’ve gotten used to.”
He said the path (“A little wide to be called a bike path and way too wide to be called a pedestrian path”) makes some sense from an engineering perspective. It would have been easy to plan and cheap to install — ideal for a temporary path, Condon said. Meanwhile, its foundation of crushed stone would offer drainage and stability.
“I think from a political perspective, they maybe today wish they had not acted so quick,” he said.
He might even be right in some places but the area between the two Boulevards in Kerrisdale is definitely not one of them.
There is no reason at all why this could not be blacktopped. On each side is a road and a parking lot. In fact between the faces of the buildings this is the only bit not paved!
and from Christopher Porter’s twitter
Postscript August 22
The section up from 33rd to 37th has now got a finer, better rolled surface.
None of the people in this group seemed to have any problem with the rolled gravel surface, though one lady wearing open sandals was none too pleased. You will note that the single wheeled stroller to the right of the group seemed able to cope with the coarser base on the outside of the rolled section.
There is nothing scientific about this: merely talking to the people we happen to meet when walking on the Greenway. I am astonished how much information people are willing to share. I think it is an affirmation of how effective the current work has been that people actually want to stop and talk about it. I have yet to meet anyone who opposes the use of black top. And on the section between 16th and 33rd where the work has been completed, I have only heard positive comments.
Today we met a woman who had been in charge of the work creating the BC Parkway (formerly the BCER right of way through Burnaby and New Westminster). She was most impressed by what has been done north of 33rd, where we met her, but was unaware of the opposition to the use of blacktop. She felt that rolled gravel was far inferior, and would be the cause of greater injury to cyclists.
“You come off on gravel, that’s gonna hurt!”
This is the unpaved surface south of the 33rd Avenue crossing: it is going to be like this all the way to South West Marine and beyond.
We also discussed the politics of the decision. There are some people who feel that the priority for City funds should be affordable housing, meeting the needs of the homeless rather than a public amenity for one of the wealthiest neighbourhoods. “But this” she said, indicating the Greenway, “is going to be available to everyone. And it’s going to be a great place to teach children how to bicycle. I taught my kids to cycle in a cemetery. There’s not much traffic and they don’t drive fast there.” She was also unaware of the upcoming consultations, so I pointed her to the sign (actually now set up again but facing the wrong way) which has the URL of the city information piece.
“I’m going to buy a bench for it!” She had also not heard of the use of movable tables and chairs in New York City for places like Times Square.
We also met Gabriel, on his electric scooter. My partner wondered to me if he was in the wrong place – but I pointed out it was not a motor scooter, as it was silent! He told us that the scooter is speed limited [“no faster than 32 km/h on level ground“]. He was very pleased to see the improvement which eases his commute: he works in one of the houses along the way. We talked about the process of consultation. He was full of ideas about what could go along the greenway. Perhaps the most far sighted was his idea for a roundabout to replace the current complex double signals at 41st Ave and the Boulevards. He thought that a large enough public space in the middle would become a popular meeting place, if properly designed, and a great improvement in the urban streetscape.
Earlier this week we met some people on bicycles, peering over the barriers at 16th Avenue where the gravel starts.
They were not inclined to proceed further, and turned around to retrace their route back up to Kerrisdale. They had some fairly pointed views on those who opposed the use of blacktop.
POSTSCRIPT I have just read another blog post in the form of a letter to Council on the issue from the perspective of someone who uses a wheelchair. Essential reading, I think, for a number of reasons.
The speed with which the tracks were removed has surprised many observers along the Arbutus Corridor. It was not long before the rough ground revealed by the removal of the track ballast was being graded, and now blacktopped. Even faster was the response from the creme de la creme. As reported by the Vancouver Courier they have been handed a short term victory, as the City Engineer appears to have conceded that not everyone is happy to see a nice new smooth surface. See also the Metro piece which links to the video made by the nay sayers.
Work is still needed at the crossings both to remove the track in the roadway, finish the connections to the sidewalks and place barriers to prevent use by motor vehicles.
[UPDATE September 5, 2016: the track has now been removed at all the crossings shown here: work continues to divert bikes/peds to the existing crosswalks at the intersections rather than crossing where the track used to be.]
I think the overall impact is a distinct improvement over the shabby railway, and the mess left behind after its removal (noted in my previous post). We also noted more use by people on cycles as opposed to those walking, but I think the debate needs to be refocussed away from the tiresome stereotypes applied to cyclists and pedestrians, and concentrate on the use of this revitalised space by people. All ages, types and abilities, with all sorts of interests, and not just the locals or those with a proprietary interest.
I would encourage anyone to come along and share the wealth – not just those with tall boyfriends or walking sticks with curved handles.
As it happens, there are plenty of good examples of pathways with multiple uses in the neighbourhood. This is the scene today in Arbutus Village Park: a blacktopped path, you will note, though not quite as pristine now.
There are mature trees, providing welcome shade, and benches from which to observe the passing scene.
And someone who really appreciates a nice smooth pathway.
I could also point to Ravine Park which parallels the Corridor on the other side of Arbutus Street, is not permitted for use by cycles (but which seems to be unenforced) and is also blacktop through the trees.
Once the transaction between the City and CP was completed, work to remove the track and formation proceeded – and faster than expected. Since the Arbutus right of way was always one of my regular walking routes I have been documenting the process on Flickr. Looking at my latest effort there made me think that perhaps the blog reaches a different audience, and this might be a place to start a conversation about what the Greenway is going to look like. My impression is that there cannot be a standard end to end treatment, though some elements will need to be continuous. The integration of the Greenway into the neighbourhood is going to be critical to its success.
Between King Edward and 16th Avenues there is now a wide smooth pathway, awaiting blacktop. Very much more comfortable to use than the old railway and informal path. Nothing has yet been done with the crossings, nor the transverse pedestrian paths.
Grading south of King Edward Avenue W
The new greenway path is at least 7m wide in this section, with considerable amounts of land on each side.
Apparently someone wants the crossbucks preserved in place. I am not so sure that is a Good Idea: road signs should inform or warn of real present situations not outdated ones.
You can search Orders in Council but I couldn’t find one using that number.
Very little has been done to the right of way between 16th and Broadway. Inevitably parking is spreading like a plague across the available space behind the car maintenance businesses at the intersection of Arbutus and 12th Avenue.
Abandoned ties that are not much use for landscaping as they would have been treated with creosote: the contractors seem to have been remiss in not removing these
This section has Quilchena Park to the right and Maple Crescent to the left. I am baffled why this park isn’t green on Google Maps.
Informal access to Quilchena Park
The designers of the greenway will need to consider how to integrate it into the adjacent properties. A railway needs to have a barrier to limit trespass, but a bike a pedestrian way needs something else. Cyclists need to be deterred from using it as a racetrack, and pedestrians need to have reasons – and opportunities – to linger. There has to be more than the occasional bench, drinking fountain and securable bike parking – though all three are essentials. A Greenway is not a sewer to pull traffic through like a stroad, but a place in its own right. A destination as a much a passageway.
At this particular point, it looks like stairs may be required. Fortunately alternate flat access is not far away.
I think it’s daft that the railway crossing signs have been left in place
Even dafter is removing the City’s own signage before the work is even started, let alone completed!
This pathway and its connections to the local road network need better definition and surface(s).
The amount of land available along the route varies considerably, but most bas been left to vegetate, mostly shrubs, scrub and the invasive, prolific himalayan blackberry. These sites must not be neglected but deliberately adapted to improve both their community utility and landscape value.
As matters progress I imagine that I will return to this topic. So for now I have given it its own category
It has been a very long time in gestation, with at least one false start, but today was the first day of operation of Mobi, Vancouver’s bike share system. Ever since I used Velib (seen above), the system in Paris, I have been waiting for one to start here. I have also used systems in New York and Denver.
This is the station on Bute at Robson: two parking meters have been suspended until the end of the year to accommodate the station. Presumably, this is to allow for some assessment of need and the potential exists for the station to moved and the meters restored.
Because we are in BC every bike rider has to have a helmet – and you can see how they are currently padlocked to the bike. In other places where helmets are mandatory, bike shares have been unsuccessful. Vancouver hopes this time it will be different. Of course our brain dead provincial government could not conceive of the possibility that its helmet law is based on falsehoods, and refuses to reconsider it in the light of current knowledge and, yes, data.
The current offer is for an unlimited number of rides for a year – and there is a discounted price for early adopters that ends at the end of July. It is not an offer that I feel inclined to accept. Nor does my partner. As I mentioned I have tried other systems, and none of them required a significant upfront investment from the user. Usually a credit card was necessary as a deposit in case of an unreturned bike, but the ride itself was cheap or even free. There were significant sponsorships on all of the bike share systems that I have seen. Barclays Bank had their name all over the bikes in London: even so everyone calls them Boris Bikes. Here the city has made the up front investment – and I do understand that experience elsewhere has shown that bike shares that actually work reliably do not come cheap. Whatever the model was in Rome, for instance, that didn’t work.
The home zone does not extend south of 16th on Arbutus, so it doesn’t actually get close enough to me. A bit like Modo, whose nearest car to my front door is in Kerrisdale. So that’s another mobility aid that is out of my reach.
I also know that there has been significant lobbying by the established bike rental operators that Mobi not cut into their business, and the current pricing structure is clearly a real deterrent to use by visitors. Which is a shame, I think, but I can understand how the people who rent out bikes feel.
So I will watch what happens with a sense of detached interest. And will watch for the comments of the readers to see if they like the deal better than we do!
POSTSCRIPT a set of recent tweets
I am going to Chicago tomorrow. Following the advice given on the documents I printed off from the Air Canada booking I made, I went to the Air Canada web site to check in, using my Air Canada booking reference. The documents warn that the flight is a code share with United but nowhere do they inform me of the United flight number or, even more importantly, the booking reference used by United, which is different from the one given me by Air Canada. Both airlines are members of the Star Alliance, but apparently the degree of integration between Alliance members is far from complete, or even adequate. I wait on hold for someone from Customer Care listening to AC tell me all the exciting things I could be doing instead of listening to the adverts.
When I finally get through I am given the United booking code, and the person I am talking to even waits while I use that to log in to United’s check in on line. Once I know that has recognized me, I hang up, and start re-entering the information about my booking that the booking reference ought to have provided and then go through the on line check in process. Now I know that they do like people to use their app and get the boarding pass sent to their cell phones, but since I am not a United frequent flyer I am not really happy with that process. I have used cell phones for such things in the past and frankly the paper document seems to be much more likely to work first time with most gate readers. Though even then I have stood and watched while gate attendants type in my data manually. So I opt to print my boarding pass at home.
No, that won’t be possible. In fact, I get a message to tell me that I am not actually checked in. United says that it doesn’t have my passport number on file. So until a United representative can actually see my passport or I use the self service check in at the airport to scan my passport, I cannot have a boarding pass.
If United actually kept track of who flies on its planes, this might have been avoided. Since I have flown United. In fact my family has a store of United stories. Most recently I flew to New Orleans, via Chicago, on United: that was in May last year. So I would have used my current passport then: and none of my information has changed since. But, once again, because I am not a United Frequent Flyer I get treated like a second class citizen.
I used to think that maybe the treatment I got on United was something to do with how much I paid for the flight. Perhaps there is indeed even more market segmentation that is apparent from their loading preferences. Since my outbound flight on United to New Orleans was so grim, I actually upgraded to “better” seat for the return journey. That seat was actually in the row in front of the emergency exit, and would not recline. I cannot imagine how United could justify charging me the higher price for that seat and no-one has ever even tried to.
There is now a direct Air Canada flight between Vancouver and Chicago – though not at a time which I find acceptable. United, of course, will grimly hang on to its gate slots. There are clearly differences between allies and the extent of their co-operation is limited.
I remember a time when flying was enjoyable. When the journey was a fun part of the trip. When the skies were actually friendly.
POSTSCRIPT After posting this I heard from AirCanada on Twitter – who prefer to keep their conversations with customers private by using Direct Messages. Which I shall respect. But I will note that this DM thread extended back to last year, and I saw then that I raised exactly the same issue. I thought then that it had something to do with me paying for the flight with AirMiles, who of course handled the booking. I had rather expected that if I booked through Air Canada this time the experience would be different. I was wrong about that. I also think the problem lies with United and not Air Canada. I have never had any contact from United other than speaking to their employees during my travels.
I am currently on holiday in Edinburgh, but this just arrived in my in box. Hopefully it is getting picked up by the mainstream media and creating a stir. I hope so.
Please be advised that the attached open letter was delivered to the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council and B.C. Premier Christy Clark this morning on behalf of the David Suzuki Foundation and 31 other stakeholder groups and individuals across the region.
The Hon. Christy Clark
Premier of British Columbia
Office of the Premier
Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council
Cc: Hon. Todd Stone; Hon. Peter Fassbender
Re: A call for leadership to invest in transit and transportation in Metro Vancouver
Dear Premier Clark and Members of the Mayors’ Council,
We the undersigned are a diverse group of organizations from business, labour, health, environment and student associations working together to advocate for investment in Metro Vancouver’s transportation system.
We are writing to urge you to act quickly and take advantage of the opportunity afforded by the recent federal budget to improve transit and transportation in our region. As you know, in its budget, the federal government made a commitment to a $370 million “down payment” toward the 10-year Metro Vancouver Transit and Transportation Plan.The federal government has also shown tremendous leadership by agreeing to pay 50 per cent of all capital transit costs provided agreements can be struck with the province and local mayors.
These commitments have changed the landscape for transit funding in our region, but with this opportunity comes a challenge: we need to be ready with regional and provincial funding, or else these federal dollars, collected from local taxpayers, will go to other cities and provinces that are ready. For the good of our economy and the health and livelihood of citizens, this cannot happen. We are calling on the province and the Mayors’ Council to work together to ensure that we are ready to get Metro Vancouver moving again.
Expansion of transit services — especially when they’re electrified — is crucial for Metro Vancouver to improve air quality and health, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote economic development and job growth.
A growing number of studies confirm that congestion costs our region more than $1 billion each year due to lost productivity, increased operating costs and lost business revenue and regional GDP. It has been estimated that investment in transit could save the health care system at least $115 million annually, and likely considerably more if the benefits of increased physical activity were also included as part of the cost-savings analysis.
We ask you show leadership by putting history and political differences aside to work together and ensure we are ready to take full advantage of federal support and start improving transit and transportation. Adding new federal dollars is an essential prerequisite for moving ahead with stalled transit improvements so badly needed for the Metro Vancouver region, and for B.C. as a whole.
Lastly, we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the importance of using newly available federal funds to implement the full set of regional transportation improvements outlined in the Mayors’ Council Transportation and Transit Plan rather than a few projects here and there. A regional approach to transportation investments will ensure that Metro Vancouver residents and businesses throughout the region will benefit. Local and provincial governments have the power to help us make history in B.C. and Metro Vancouver through implementation of a world-class provincial and regional transportation plan.
Should you require more information, we would be happy to meet with you or your staff.
Thank you for considering this request.
BC Federation of Labour
BC Healthy Living Alliance
BC Teachers’ Federation
British Columbia Golf
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Clean Energy Canada
Connecting Environmental Professionals – Vancouver Chapter
The David Suzuki Foundation
Disability Alliance BC
Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association
Downtown Vancouver Association
Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association
Dr. Lisa J. Jing Mu, Medical Health Officer, Fraser Region
Gordon Price, Director of the SFU City Program
Graduate Student Society at SFU
HandyDART Riders Alliance
Heart and Stroke Foundation
Peter Ladner, Columnist, Business in Vancouver Media Group
Public Health Association of BC
Renewal Funds Company
Transport Action – British Columbia
Vanterre Projects Corp
Victoria Lee MD MPH MBA CCFP FRCPC, Chief Medical Health Officer, Fraser Health Authority