For the most part, it's been a picture-perfect summer here in Vancouver. Let's face it, things are tough in other parts of the planet today – with floods in Pakistan, and fires in Russia. Yet, here on the Left Coast we seem to be having some of the most pleasant climate you could ask for.
However, when it comes to politics, there often seem to be clouds on the horizon here in our lovely town.
In the weeks since city council recessed for summer, things have been heating up on Hornby Street. The separated bike lane on the street seems to be a done deal. The "consultation" is being staged at the rotunda at Pacific Centre Mall (plaza at the corner of Howe & Georgia Streets) beginning at 11am (Wed. Aug. 11th). Media will be in attendance, and so will some people with strong feelings about the separated lane on both sides.
For a city that has already welcomed hundreds of kilometres worth of safe, well-marked bike routes criss-crossing its neighbourhoods – with the largest expansion taking place under the previous council – this town has become dead prickly on the subject of bike lanes. Several consider Vision Vancouver's aggressive approach as a huge win for the cause of building alternatives to the car. Others feel that it is an unwelcome encroachment.
So here we are in the dog days of summer – and warmer weather on the way. Our brains are fixated on beaches, patio time and bottles of Rosé – not bike lane battlefronts. Which is exactly why Gregor Robertson booked off back to Cortes Island and left staff to take the brunt of the brewing backlash.
The Vancouver Sun's Jeff Lee and CKNW's Janet Brown are reporting some discontent along the proposed route itself, with businesses, their customers and residents all wondering what happens when the separated bike lane wides up in front of their door. It's predicted that the project will cost about $2 million, with the City standing to lose an estimated $1 million annually in parking metre revenue from the removal of those spots located a short walk from St. Paul's Hospital and the Vancouver Court House. Up to seven intersections between Davie and Dunsmuir will be reconfigured with new traffic rules to boot.
Defenders of the lanes argue who cares? The City is always transforming streets and changing up parking, so why not now? The bugbear on this one seems to be city council's top down approach to the issue. Even the Sun's Jeff Lee is asking if the project is merely a fait accompli.
No Parking signage, backhoe buckets and other street construction equipment is staged over on Howe Street at Davie, presumably for the Hornby project, but even if it isn't for that it's symbolic of how swiftly Engineering are going to act at council's urging to get the separated lanes on fast. It will not matter what people say on Wednesday down at Pacific Centre, or in online surveys or other fora, this decision has long been made. If you still want to weigh in, here's where you can do it on the City's website. And here are the comments already piling up from both sides of the issue.
What's coming after Hornby appears to be a plan to connect Yaletown to Stanley Park by another bike route along Helmcken and Comox Streets, if the map on the City's website is accurate.
The shame of Robertson's haste to prove himself as Action Man is that worthwhile causes get tarred by the bad feelings the Mayor's arrogant approach has stirred up. For example, I happen to think that PARK(ing) Day is a really fun idea. The Courier's Sandra Thomas has done a fine feature on this, which the Vancouver Sun has re-published on their website.
The point of PARK(ing) has been since it began to create some usable and pleasant public space out of a parking spot. Someone plugs the metre for the day while people bring out sofas, astroturf, plants, or whatever decor they have on hand in a creative, one-day event. Locally the event is being managed by the Vancouver Public Space Network.
Organizers have "fun" in mind, and not friction. But the comments on the Sun's website (recently balanced off by the bike lobbyists – who spend a LOT of time online) are predictably grumpy. Last year PARK(ing) Day went off without a hitch, but given the irritation many are feeling on the separated lanes subject the event may garner more controversy.
All of this follows July's Critical Mass ride which blocked the Lion's Gate Bridge for just under an hour during Friday rush hour. Certainly some members of Vancouver's powerful bike lobby aren't trying to win friends and allies among the mainstream.
Let's just count ourselves lucky that we've got such a beautiful city and enviable weather. And if you're Mayor Gregor Robertson be thankful that you're out of town and not around to feel the real heat.
- post by Mike