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Vancouver bike path critics ready to fight

Rally against Kits bikeway planned for Sunday

Residents protesting a 12-foot-wide, paved bike path for Kitsilano Beach and Hadden parks are not going down without a fight, despite the fact the Vision Vancouver-dominated park board insists the project is a done deal.

A petition is in the works, a rally has been organized for Sunday, signs have been posted and typically media-shy residents are speaking to reporters for print, TV and radio.

And according to park board staff, the white lines painted through the parks to supposedly mark the route of the path are not of their doing and will soon be removed.

Lynne Kent, a member of the Kits Point Residents Association, said the park board’s claims of a thorough public consultation are false.

“The park board says this was one of the largest consultations ever done,” said Kent, who added the fact the board would make such a claim demonstrates its inexperience.

“This was nothing compared to other consultations over much less problematic issues.”

The $2.2 million bike path was approved by the park board Oct. 7 as part of the overall Seaside Greenway plan connecting Canada Place to Stanley Park to False Creek and finally Jericho. This path is an extension of the Cornwall-Point Grey bike lane, and some residents have accused the city and park board of burying the details within the Seaside Greenway report and consultation.

According to that report, the public consultation included open houses, meetings, workshops, online questionnaires and a survey. The first question on the survey asks: “Our goal is to make walking and cycling in and through the parks safer, more convenient, and more comfortable — without compromising the way many ways people use the park.

Do you support this goal?” In response, 95 per cent of the 372 surveyed answered, “Yes.”

Based largely on that survey, the report said it became clear separate bike paths through Kits and Hadden Beach parks were “overwhelmingly supported.” The report noted that during busy times the shared pathway along that route can be dangerous, and conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists take place frequently.

Kent argues the report ignores the covenant under which Hadden Park was deeded to the city. Wealthy developer Harvey Hadden purchased the land from the CPR in 1929 and donated it to the city under strict conditions. Hadden wanted the park reserved for public recreational use, the land kept as natural as possible, the beach used only for swimming and the property protected from encroachment. When the Maritime Museum was proposed in 1957, an estate agent acting on behalf of the late Hadden wrote the park board reminding commissioners of the conditions included in the deed.

Kits point resident Marg Zibin is concerned about how the path might affect the memorial bench dedicated to her husband in Hadden Park. She suspects the bench is either directly within the bike path route or close to it.

“The bench with my late husband’s plaque still had one more year in the contract,” Zibin told the Courier in an email. “The park board have not contacted me about any proposed bike path and/or moving of any memorial benches. As I have had the same address for more than 40 years, not being able to locate me would not fly as an excuse.”
(At press time, the park board had not issued a response on memorial benches.)

KitsFest co-founder and two-time Olympian Howard Kelsey also has a bench named in his honour, but his biggest concerns are how the bike path will interfere with and possibly endanger the basketball, volleyball and tennis players who frequent Kits Beach annually. He says none of the sports associations representing these players was notified.

“They talked to 370 people, but didn’t bother to contact any of the organizations that use the beach every day,” said Kelsey. “The path is going to be 15 feet away from the Rick Hansen play area and close to the basketball courts, which are some of the most popular in Canada. And with the angle of the road, cyclists will be coming down that hill and picking up speed right there.”

Kelsey has joined forces with representatives from several sports organizations as well as a growing crowd of residents to convince the park board to shift the bike path onto the street.

Adam Smith, another member of the Kits Point Residents Association, has joined the protest. In a letter to the park board, Smith wrote in part: “Another acre of asphalt in Kits Beach Park? For a bike path that could just as easily be routed along adjacent streets, streets that I have been riding on for years without trouble? And your justification for this is a survey that made no mention of the actual plan, but instead asked a vague question about safety? Such a level of intellectual dishonesty, as the justification of this plan by the survey conducted, has no place in good government.”

Vision Vancouver park board vice-chair Aaron Jasper said when a licensed bistro was proposed for English Bay in 2010 under an NPA-dominated board, a survey completed at the time included fewer participants than the consultation for the bike path.

“But now they’re criticizing Vision for no consultation, but previously they thought 195 people was sufficient to build a restaurant on the beach,” said Jasper.

Not everyone is unhappy with the plan.

“We’re delighted to see the city continue to work on the seawall,” said Lisa Slakov, co-chair of the Vancouver-UBC Committee for HUB, formerly the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition. “The Greenway was introduced in the mid-’90s with a mandate of pedestrians first and people on bikes next and they are continuing that work.”

Slakov added while she hasn’t seen a definitive route for the bike path, it appears to be similar to the situation at Second Beach. “That used to be a combined path there, too, but then they moved the bike path over and it works great for everyone.”

A rally organized by the Kits Point Residents Association and Save Kits Beach is scheduled for noon Sunday, Oct. 20, in front of the Boathouse at Kits Beach.