Vancouver council OKs Point Grey bike lane

Plan affects stretch from Burrard Bridge to Jericho Beach

 City council has approved a controversial $6 million plan it says will make cycling and walking safer but limit vehicle access along a popular driving route in Kitsilano.

After hearing from more than 100 speakers over several days, the Vision Vancouver-dominated council voted Monday night to go ahead with changes to the stretch between the Burrard Bridge and Jericho Beach.

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The plan calls for street closures, removal of parking spots, separated bike lanes, the widening of sidewalks and upgrades to intersections and parks.

The most significant change will see the section of Point Grey Road between Alma and Waterloo streets become a one-way street, with closures at Trutch and Macdonald streets.

The change will mean approximately 10,000 vehicles per day will be diverted to Burrard and Macdonald streets and West Fourth Avenue. "Change is difficult and this [plan] is asking people to change their behaviour and that is going to be difficult," acknowledged Vision Coun. Heather Deal in passing the plan.

But, Deal said, drivers heading to destinations such as the University of B.C. will simply have to turn left one kilometre sooner along Point Grey Road.

In return, she added, the upgrades will improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians, and complete a 28-kilometre cycling loop that begins at the Vancouver Convention Centre, goes around Stanley Park and over the Burrard Bridge into Kitsilano.

"This route is going to become a jewel and very, very much appreciated by the people throughout the region and beyond," Deal said. "Its a challenging change, its been a difficult process but I believe we will adapt to it and that well be glad we did it, at the end of the day."

Another piece of the project includes the creation of bikeway along York Street, which keeps cyclists off the busy stretch of Cornwall Avenue and will see upgrades for pedestrians in front of Henry Hudson elementary school.

The plan passed despite NPA Coun. George Afflecks unsuccessful request to delay a vote until October. Affleck said the plan divided the community and suggested the majority of speakers were opposed to the project.

"We have a lot of people in our city who are angry about this," said Affleck, who called for more consultation to improve upon the recommended upgrades.

Council heard from the last round of speakers Monday night, including Gerda Toffoli, who described herself as a pedestrian, cyclist and occasional transit user and motorist.

In panning the project, Toffoli suggested road closures along Point Grey Road would improve property values for residents along that stretch while other Kitsilano residents would see more vehicles in their neighbourhoods.

"It seems undemocratic to us Vancouver citizens to pay millions of dollars for the benefit of a few already privileged homeowners," said Toffoli, who urged council to instead widen Point Grey Road and upgrade existing cycling routes in Kitsilano. "Please consider all voters, not just a select few."

Point Grey resident Steve McMurdo, a lawyer and former professional triathlete, made an animated plea to council to make changes to Point Grey Road to improve safety for cyclists.

"This is not about my property values going up," McMurdo said. "Ive lived there for seven years. I have seen hundreds of instances where death could have been imminent."

City staff conducted a one-day count in August 2012 that recorded about 450 people walking and 600 others cycling on Point Grey Road. Another 1,250 pedestrians and 900 cyclists were counted on Cornwall Avenue, which links with Point Grey Road.

Data from the Insurance Corporation of B.C. showed 51 crashes involving cyclists along the Cornwall-Point Grey corridor, between 2008 and 2012.

City staff pointed out the data didnt include accidents where cyclists didnt make a claim to the insurance corporation or statistics on hit-and-run incidents.

The council vote Monday night was severed into several sections, with NPA councilors Affleck and Elizabeth Ball opposed to segments of the overall plan.

Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr voted for all of the plan, except for the creation of the York Street bikeway, saying more consultation was needed.

Vision councillors Deal, Tony Tang, Andrea Reimer, Geoff Meggs, Raymond Louie and Tim Stevenson were unanimous in their support for the plan.

Mayor Gregor Robertson recused himself from voting because he recently purchased a house in the neighbourhood near York Avenue. Coun. Kerry Jang was absent.

mhowell@vancourier.com

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