The fate of the proposed Kits Beach bike path remains up in the air after park board commissioners Monday night voted to refer the issue back to staff asking for a more detailed plan.
Tiina Mack, manager of park development, told commissioners the proposal presented was a “conceptual alignment” and that further consultation would be done, as well as a traffic study, before a more detailed design would be brought back to the board.
NPA commissioners John Coupar and Sarah Kirby-Yung both questioned staff over the report’s lack of details and Green Party commissioner, and board chair, Stuart Mackinnon said he would have a hard time approving a route without knowing the cost.
Coupar, who put forward the motion to refer the report back to staff, said it left too many questions unanswered.
“I’m concerned we are approving something here without any idea of what the cost would be.”
Several residents gathered outside the park board office before the meeting to voice their concerns, citing concerns around safety, encroachment on green space and the unknown cost of the one-kilometre path.
Grant Vanderhoek, member of the Kits Point Residents Association, said he does not see a necessity in having a bike path going through the park. He added that he has nothing against cyclists but that having a paved bike path through the park would result in as big buffer areas which people would avoid, creating “dead zones.”
“I was there Saturday and Sunday, canvassing all day. There were lots of bikes. There lots of people and I didn’t see any aggression and everyone worked quite well because of common courtesy. Why can’t they do that?” Vanderhoek said.
Kits resident MaryAnn Labrie, on the other hand, said she has seen cyclists getting into accidents in the area and that it is dangerous to have a separate a bike path going past a children’s playground, especially during busy summer months.
“Putting it in an area that is heavily saturated with people, picnickers, people playing volleyball, there’s all sorts of things going on down there, you can’t put a bike path down there,” she said. “Why would you add that chaos into there? I don’t understand.”
Opponents of the plan were happy with the board’s decision to refer the proposal back to staff, breaking out into applause after the vote.
“That is a monumental decision in the city of Vancouver,” said Howard Kelsey, co-chair of the Kits Beach Association, and vocal opponent of the proposed bike path. “The cycling agenda was just put on hold. They are not driving the agenda anymore…
“We’re not against cycling, but what’s happened here is the citizens have said ‘Hey, that’s enough. Let’s make rational decisions. Let’s not make cycling-driven decisions,’” Kelsey said. “We’re open to any reasonable plan and we’re open to any reasonable cycling route. We are not against cycling. Cyclists have every right to cycle.”
Proponents of the proposal say the separated bike path is needed to improve safety for both cyclists and other park users, and reduce conflicts between cyclists, motorists and pedestrians.
In the report, staff presented a number of options for the pathway, which would start to the west at Balsam Street and Cornwall Avenue and run northeast to Ogden Avenue and Maple Street. The proposed alignment would run through green space in the western and northern ends, and would mean the loss of more than 900 square meters of green space.
Former city councillor Peter Ladner, an avid cyclist and Kits resident, said he was “extremely disappointed” with the board’s decision.
“I think the report was unnecessarily vague and people have a right to be frustrated that there weren’t very clear options laid out,” he said. “I think that the staff is terrified of these overly agitated opponents of anything to do with cycling in the city and they’ve fixated on Kits park.”
Ladner added that the city needs a connection for safe cycling from the Burrard Bridge to Jericho Park.
“Why can we not get something through a park? Why are cyclists considered a threat to a park?” he said, adding that more serious cyclists who want to ride fast won’t go anywhere near the park.
“I think it was a very sad decision for the people of Vancouver,” said Jeff Leigh, chair of the Vancouver committee of HUB Cycling. “I think it was a decision not to act when there was a call for action.”
He called the report “a path forward” but agreed that there were still questions that needed answers.
“By endorsing it the commissioners would have allowed staff to go back and take it to the next level of detail,” Leigh said. “Instead they said ‘We really don’t care about this’ and that’s what’s sad for Vancouver. I think we need to care about the safety of people in our parks. We’ve got recognized issues. We don’t have all the answers yet but apparently now we can’t even start working on them.”
With files from Saša Laki?