City seeking input to make Commercial Drive a ‘complete street’

Grandview-Woodland residents and business owners will have their say on what would make Commercial Drive a “complete street” at open houses set for Oct. 20 and 22.

The City of Vancouver is embarking on a project, which could take up to a year, aimed at making the strip friendlier for all modes of transportation — for those on foot, taking transit, cycling and driving.

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Creating a “complete street” and a cycling path for people of all ages and abilities along the Drive were among goals adopted in the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan.

The rationale behind the project is that Vancouver arterials were designed to prioritize vehicle traffic, so now there’s a need to redesign them for a variety of modes of transportation to make them easier and safer to navigate.

“The evolution of transportation grid network in Vancouver was largely most beneficial for people driving. Over the years, we’ve tried to improve it for people walking, people cycling, people taking transit. This is one more effort to look at that and to really look at the street as being designed for all people and all types of modes and all ages and abilities,” explained City of Vancouver transportation manager Dale Bracewell.

Consultation is being organized in three phases, beginning with this month’s listening and learning phase. Design options, featuring alternatives discussed in phase one, are expected to be revealed in the winter of 2017. The overall project is expected to be wrapped up in the spring or summer, depending how smoothly the process goes.

Bracewell said the city is examining Commercial Drive from Hastings up to the southern end of Grandview-Woodland, around 14th Avenue.

“We also want people to pay particular attention to where we think there might be more opportunities in terms of design ideas and thoughts. Because the section between Graveley just north of First down to 10th Avenue or the Broadway area has a wider section, so there’s an opportunity to talk about different things where there’s more potential for space reallocation,” he said.

Commercial Drive is the first street to get this treatment under the “complete street” moniker.

While other design efforts by the city have had the same intent — where staff design for people of all ages and abilities — the term didn’t exist when the city adopted its Transportation 2040 plan, which council approved in 2012, although Bracewell said all of the policies and action items mean the same thing.

“It was when council approved the renewable city strategy last year that there was an articulated effort to move towards looking at corridors such as Commercial Drive as a complete street,” he explained. “[This is] an important opportunity for the public to review what the draft design principles of a Commercial Drive complete street are, which would be different from Main Street or Nanaimo, for example.”

The Commercial Drive Business Society has raised concerns about the prospect of a separated bike lane along the Drive. It’s even launched a “Save Commercial Drive from Bicycle Highways” petition to lobby against that possibility over concerns a protected bike lane will threaten the viability of businesses.

Bracewell said the city has been in touch with business owners. “What we have to do is listen to all the perspectives of people — how do we enhance Commercial Drive so it continues to be a thriving business environment and looks at all modes of transportation and ideas of increasing public realm,” he said. “Different members of the public or businesses may have different views on what that looks like.”

Bracewell noted businesses have said that parking is important, so the city is collecting data to better understand parking turnover, and it’s seeking input from business owners about goods movement “because we want to make sure any of the design ideas for the next phase of consultation is based on good information.”

“There’s an opportunity to bring back alternatives that respect what we heard from this phase of consultation because again we’re not expecting everyone to have the same types of ideas but we do want to know what the public thinks as we head into this corridor,” he said.

Bracewell said putting in a separated bike lane is not a main focus of the project.

“No. The main emphasis is to better serve all people and enhance the safety of all modes of transportation. So certainly exploring what people think about how to accommodate people cycling on Commercial Drive is an important part of our dialogue,” he said, later adding, “We will talk about a separated bike lane as one way of addressing the current amount of people who want to cycle along Commercial Drive and is it a good idea from addressing the safety concerns that are already present along Commercial Drive.”

The Grandview-Woodland Area Council supported the community plan in the sense that access to the street is considered for pedestrians, cyclists, transit and drivers, according to Dorothy Barkley, the council’s chairwoman.

“But we’re also very sensitive to the concerns of the businesses on the Drive, which is that with those changes they don’t want to see any loss of parking because we’re a destination shopping district. And so we wouldn’t want to see the business community disadvantaged either,” she told the Courier.

Barkley said GWAC supports widening sidewalks to accommodate the many different abilities of people and the increasing number of scooters using them, and the idea of narrowing the south end of Commercial Drive — as separated by First Avenue — to give it the same feel as the north end, while preserving the parking that’s important to businesses.

Details about the “complete Street” consultation process are on the city’s website.

The upcoming meetings run from 3 to 7:30 p.m. at the Croatian Cultural Centre, Oct. 20, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at WISE Hall, Oct. 22.


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