Consultation sessions aim to find common ground on Arbutus Greenway

City seeking input on what hard surface to use for temporary pathway

Safia Boutaleb hopes the city opts for a separated asphalt surface, which accommodates both cyclists and pedestrians, when work on the temporary pathway along Arbutus Greenway resumes.

The city stopped work on the paving project this summer to give residents a chance to weigh in on the best hard surface to use. Asphalt now runs from 16th to 33rd, while crushed stone was put down between 10th and 16th and 33rd and 41st. The rest of the corridor, which stretches from False Creek to the Fraser River, hasn’t been dealt with yet.

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Consultation sessions to gather public feedback were held Sept. 17, 21 and 22. Two additional workshops are planned for Sept. 24.

Boutaleb took part in Thursday night’s event at Kerrisdale community centre, which attracted 60-plus participants who sat at tables of 10 with facilitators guiding conversations. 

Safety and accessibility are key considerations. The city, whose goal is to encourage people to explore the entire length of the corridor, believes the best options for a temporary path are a shared compacted gravel path, a shared asphalt path, a separated compacted gravel path or a separated asphalt path. But Jerry Dobrovolny, the city’s general manager of engineering, said the city is open to other suggestions raised during the consultation period.

The temporary path could remain in place for up to three years until construction on the permanent greenway begins.

A shared path would be about three to four metres wide, while a separated path, divided by a strip of grass or planters, would be five metres wide — 2.5-metres wide per path.

Many participants at Thursday’s workshop favoured an asphalt surface.

The debate seemed to centre more on whether it should be a shared or separated path. One person said a shared path is actually safer for families because it would be wider and there would be more room to manoeuvre if there’s a problem. Others thought it would be best for safety reasons to separate cyclists from pedestrians.

Still others felt a separated path might cost too much given its temporary nature.

A few people said they’d like a separated path, but with different hard surfaces — asphalt for cyclists and gravel for pedestrians.

Boutaleb maintains asphalt is best for people of all abilities, including the elderly, those with mobility issues, parents and cyclists. She was eager to test out the route in the summer after she learned that paving had started.

“I got really excited about it when I first heard,” she told the Courier after the workshop. “[But] I tried to use it and then I skidded on my bike on whatever gravel or crushed concrete that they have now. And, of course, the part where there is asphalt worked really well… And, [I’d prefer] separated just to avoid collisions and give more space for both uses."

Julie Paul, who lives next to the corridor, agreed asphalt is best, but she’d settle for a shared path.

“For a temporary trail, my preferred choice would be a shared trail so we didn’t take any more of the environment for the trail until we make our final decisions,” she said. “We all have to recognize that this is a temporary pathway. Let’s get on with the project and let’s make the planning for the final pathway be a very effective process.”

Dobrovolny said turnout at all the sessions has been good, with safety and accessibility being the common themes so far.

When asked if participants are coming in with entrenched views, he said, “I think there’s more that brings them together than divides them, to use a twist on a very clichéd phrase. There’s a love for the corridor. There’s genuine excitement about the potential it creates and there’s some differences around technique or the details, but not around the core issues.”

The city’s final decision on the temporary path won’t be made until mid-October when a report will be issued outlining the feedback that was received, the preferred option and reasons for that conclusion. But Dobrovolny promised the pathway will be completed by the end of December.

It will run from Fir to Milton Street. The asphalt that’s already been laid down will remain, while the surface for rest of the route is what is being determined.

Consultation about the design for the permanent greenway will begin in the next few months.

Details can be found at vancouver.ca/arbutus-greenway.

noconnor@vancourier.com

@naoibh

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