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Central Park: NPA park commissioner questions bike path plan

(This story has been updated since it first appeared Oct. 7.
John Coupar
NPA park board commissioner John Coupar says the separated bike path through Kits beach area is too wide at twelve feet.

(This story has been updated since it first appeared Oct. 7.)

Despite reports of an extensive public consultation, at least one Kitsilano resident took to Twitter to express her surprise and displeasure about a park board plan to build a 12-foot wide separated bike path through Kits Beach and Hadden parks.

In response to a story I wrote last week about the proposal, @teririch wrote, “@ParkBoard will vote to destroy the natural, rustic beauty of Kits Beach with separated bike lanes and pavement,” a comment she also addressed to Vision Vancouver vice-chair Aaron Jasper.

The Seaside Greenway Improvements report, approved by the park board Monday night, includes a recommendation to begin phase one of a $2 million project that will see the separated bike lane constructed as part of the Point Grey-Cornwall Active Transportation Corridor.

According to the park board, the report identified upgrades to Hadden and Kits Beach parks as a priority because during busy times the shared pathway along that route can be dangerous and conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists take place frequently.

NPA commissioner John Coupar questions the public consultation and adds there’s one stretch along the route where cyclists aren’t supposed to be on the pathway.

“If cyclists followed the rules, there’d be fewer problems,” says Coupar.

Coupar adds he only received the detailed report and had a briefing on the project last Thursday.

He also questions what he thought might be a disparity in the results of a survey completed over several days at Kits Beach. In response to the question, “How do you get around the park?” 351 or 90 per cent of respondents said they walk, while another 118 (32 per cent) said they jogged or ran. Meanwhile, 153 respondents, or 42 per cent, said they cycled. Coupar says when questioned the numbers he was told that if a person said they walked to the park, they were also asked if they cycled, which meant they responded twice.

The proposal also includes removing 23 parking stalls from the small lot off Arbutus at the west end of McNicoll Avenue, which Coupar says will push more traffic onto the crowded streets near Kits Beach.

Jasper says Coupar’s concern about the eliminated parking stalls shows some confusion when it comes to green space versus paved space.

“Our priority is green space and that’s what this is all about,” says Jasper. “During peak season there’s a higher demand for parking there, but for nine months out of the year that lot is empty.”

Jasper adds making the new bike path 12-feet width is standard along the seawall.

According to the survey, 93 per cent of the 341 people polled said they thought the idea of separated bike and pedestrian paths were a good idea. Another 133 also believe there’s a need for more lighting along the route, but because another 106 disagreed, that decision was postponed.

Jasper says this is the second time Coupar and his fellow NPA commissioner Melissa De Genova have spoken out against improved pedestrian safety. Jasper says when he moved a motion recently regarding strategies and opportunities to improve cycling and pedestrian safety, Coupar and De Genova voted against it.

“I have trouble squaring away why they’d be against these tried and tested strategies that have been in place for 20 years,” says Jasper.