The battle over whether to reopen Stanley Park to vehicles and implement a temporary transportation plan that limits traffic to one lane and adds a separated bike lane was expected to continue late into Thursday night.
More than 100 people were registered to speak at a special meeting called by NPA commissioners Tricia Barker and John Coupar to request the park open the way it was pre-pandemic with no separated bike lane.
“A plan has been developed to reduce parking by approximately 30 per cent, to line Stanley Park Drive with orange delineators — all with minimal public and stakeholder engagement,” Coupar said in introducing the reason for his motion at the beginning of the meeting.
Prior to the meeting, Commissioner Dave Demers took to Twitter and suggested Stanley Park could have reopened Friday to vehicles with the separated bike lane, but the motion by Coupar and Barker forced postponement.
With 116 speakers registered, the majority of the board agreed to limit comments to three minutes from the usual five to allow for a decision at the end of the night. That goal didn’t look achievable, with technical difficulties evident as speakers called in by telephone.
As of 9 p.m., commissioners heard from 21 speakers, including Colleen McGuinness of the city’s seniors’ advisory committee. McGuinness said the board had yet to acknowledge a letter outlining concerns of seniors about accessibility to the park.
“We are concerned that this discussion about vehicle access to Stanley Park comes at a time most everyone over the age of 65 has chosen to self-isolate to protect their very lives,” McGuinness said by telephone.
“I urge you to return the access [by vehicles] to the park to the pre-COVID-19 levels while you undertake the research that will determine the future of the park. It is our concern about accessibility that helped us come to a unanimous agreement.”
Lisa Slakov of HUB cycling pointed out the park board’s temporary transportation plan for the park does not call for an outright ban of vehicles, despite what some people are suggesting in the media.
But, Slakov added, “we feel that it’s not equitable to throw these roads open primarily to motor vehicle traffic because not everyone wants to, can afford or is physically able to own or drive a car.”
The board closed the park April 8 to vehicles to create more space on the park’s seawall for physical distancing and move cyclists to the park’s main road.
Dave Hutch, the park board’s director of planning and development, said at a June 8 meeting that “we are talking weeks in terms of the timeline to get vehicle access into the park, but there are a number of challenges to overcome in ensuring a safe and laned approach.”
Hutch emphasized the separated bike lane was a temporary measure “aimed at the busy local summer season to provide the space and more opportunity for the health, wellness and social connectedness.”
As Glacier Media reported earlier this month, the temporary separated bike lane could ultimately become permanent in a future traffic plan for the park. That’s because commissioners voted 5-2 at the June 8 meeting to have staff explore the long-term feasibility of reducing vehicle traffic in Stanley Park.