Seniors, people with disabilities say Point Grey bike plan ignores their needs

Vancouver's bike lane debate rolls on

(Note: this story has been revised since it was first posted July 24.)

The public hearing over the Point Grey separated bike lane may be a long and winding road itself.

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Almost 200 people signed up to air their opinions on the controversial $6 million proposal. The July 23 public hearing at city councils finance and services committee was scheduled to resume with speaker 18 at 6 p.m. July 25, after Courier press time. A decision is expected before city council recesses for the rest of summer on Aug. 1.

Seniors and people with disabilities, who were among the first speakers at council, say they were consulted too late on the proposal and want the Vision Vancouver-dominated council to order staff back to the drawing board.

This is a plan developed for very fit young people, it reduces access for people who cannot travel any distance by foot or wheelchair, Jill Weiss, chair of the council-appointed Persons With Disabilities Advisory Committee told council. It reduces access to an important beachfront area for the most fragile and vulnerable people and it reduces access to an important seniors centre.

Weiss said city staff consulted her committee and the Seniors Advisory Committee early in the planning for the Comox-Helmcken Greenway. However, on this file, staff didnt meet with them until July 8, near the end of the four-month, second phase of consultation. Weiss said the plan removes vehicle access and parking on a street that is not fully served by transit. Verbal assurances by staff that alterations would be made are not sufficient.

None of the proposed solutions to our concerns are included in the report presented to you because of lack of time, Weiss said.

Seniors Advisory Committee chair Chris Morrissey said the costly plan benefits only a small percentage of citizens on the West Side.

If the citys coffers were overflowing, perhaps we might be more supportive of the project, Morrissey told councillors. However this is not the reality.

If it is going to go ahead it needs to be sent back for more consideration, she said.

Chestnut Street resident Brian Tucker, who holds a doctorate from Cornell University in organizational behaviour, was the first citizen to speak and set the tone for several opponents to follow, worried that it is a done deal because of the Vision Vancouver majority.

Tucker said diversion of more than 10,000 vehicles from Point Grey Road to Fourth Avenue, Broadway and other southern streets to satisfy an estimated 600 cyclists a day would cause congestion and greater danger elsewhere. I predict blood will flow on the streets of Vancouver, he said.

The staff report said ICBC data, which includes crashes in parking lots and crashes involving parked vehicles, reported 46 bike and car collisions from 2008 to 2012 on Cornwall Avenue and five on Point Grey Road. Tucker said the report doesnt offer safety projections for the new route.

Dont you think that if there were some positives and good news about safety in this plan it would have a high-profile, it would be front and centre? Tucker said.

Mayor Gregor Robertson is abstaining from the debate and vote because of the appearance of conflict of interest. A map on the staff presentation shows a new traffic signal at Point Grey Road and Stephens Street and closure to vehicles on the north end of Stephens, near Robertsons recently purchased home. A bus stop will be relocated to Trafalgar Street. The plan includes additional traffic calming where York Avenue meets Stephens.

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