On October 15, the City of Vancouver held an open house at Kitsilano Neighbourhood House to present findings of consultation on a temporary path on the Arbutus Greenway.
Below we share a letter we received from active citizen Elvira Lount addressed to Jerry Dobrovolny, the City’s General Manager of Engineering, which provides some insights and perspectives into the consultation and its results. She challenges some of the City’s conclusions, and ends by calling for the City to “go back to the drawing board and incorporate the wishes of the significant percentage of people who would prefer a non-asphalt surface and include a couple of sections that are not asphalt – i.e. along Cypress Gardens (between Broadway and Fir), and the section between 33rd and 41st…..There’s certainly nothing to be lost in trying this out as it can always be changed in the future.”
I’ve reviewed the “final” designs for the Arbutus Greenway and attended the open house yesterday where I spoke at length with [city staff] Mike, Maggie and Paul.
I appreciate your efforts, and the efforts of the Greenway project staff. Some progress has been made, such as preserving the existing gardens, trying to preserve greenery and add “pollinators”. These are all steps in the right direction.
However, I don’t feel that the process and design has gone far enough in achieving what your materials state: “We took all input into account in designing the temporary path and tried to balance different needs and opinions.”
The materials state (see attached photo) “We’ve received 567 emails, letters and 3-1-1 calls since purchasing the land in March 2016. As of October 5, 2016 “More than three times as many people wrote or called in to express their support for asphalt or a smooth accessible surface (248) compared to the number that were against asphalt. (73).”
This statement is misleading and written in a such a way to support the city’s own preference for asphalt:
1. 248 (77.25%) of the 321 people who wrote or called in AND expressed a surface preference, indicated a preference for asphalt OR a smooth accessible surface. The latter preference does not automatically mean the former, yet you have chosen to present it as such. If the right crushed stone is used and ground and packed firmly enough, as it is at Vanier Park, this surface can be both smooth and accessible. Accessible does not mean asphalt.
2. 73 (22.75%) out of the 321 people who wrote or called in AND expressed a surface preference were against asphalt. However, it’s quite possible that a number of the other supposedly pro-asphalt group would have also been happy with a properly designed crushed stone surface such as at Vanier Park.
3. Of the 567 people who either emailed or called 3-1-1 it appears that only 321 of these expressed a preference. So, what did the other 246 people prefer? Perhaps they were neutral, or were more concerned with other aspects of the greenway? We have no way of knowing. But, we do know, according to your own figures, that of these 567 people who wrote or called, 43.39% didn’t express an opinion as to surface, so for all we know would be just as happy with a non-asphalt path.
4. Where are the figures for the surface preferences of the 350 people who attended the workshops? How many supported asphalt, how many supported gravel, how many a mixture of surfaces? The staff assured me and others that the majority of these supported asphalt. But there are no figures to back it up, just the “feelings” of the staff. This is not good enough. My experience at the consultation I attended, was that many people were primarily concerned about the aesthetics of the path and open to trying out different surfaces and styles in different sections. A friend who attended another workshop says that at his workshop the residents along Cypress Gardens clearly asked for a non-asphalt path along the gardens between Broadway and Fir. Their wishes were ignored.
There was no survey form distributed to participants at the end of each workshop to express a preference for surface, separated paths or not etc, preservation of gardens, adding art work etc. So how do you actually know what people preferred?
5. Although the materials state that you tried to balance different needs and opinions, you have actually totally ignored the needs and opinions of the 22.75% of the people who wrote or phoned in and were against asphalt. You have totally ignored the preference of the those who attended the workshops who were against asphalt or who suggested a combination of surfaces in different sections. This would certainly have been a good compromise and taken into account our needs and opinions. Nowhere in the design have you allowed for this preference. For instance, it would have been quite easy to have the Broadway to Fir section, along Cypress Gardens as crushed stone. Or the section between 33rd and 41st.
How can you say that you have tried to balance difference needs and opinions when you have ignored the significant percentage of the public who expressed an opinion against asphalt?
6. It’s a fact the the city cycle lobby HUB organized a campaign to get their members to attend the consultations and write or phone in, in support of asphalt. This was apparent on Twitter, Facebook groups and wordpress blogs to anyone that follows social media. So, the overall numbers are likely stacked in favour of the asphalt loving HUB cyclists. This should certainly be factored into the balancing of “different needs and opinions.”
7. Although charts were provided as to the makeup of those who attended the workshop, there is no indication of how many who emailed or phoned in were mostly cyclists, occasional cyclists, joggers, walkers, seniors, people in wheelchairs, and mothers with strollers. Without these statistics we can’t get a real sense of the balance of the overall feedback. And of course many who phoned or emailed, such as myself, also attended a workshop.
8. It seems to me that the opinions of the very large HUB cycle lobby and the very small disability lobby are what really counted in the end, not the opinions of those who preferred crushed stone to asphalt, or a combination of surfaces along the route.
The City Transportation Dept and the Arbutus Greenway, as well as the 4 committees “consulted” appear to be stuck in the old paradigm that accessibility = asphalt, even though this is not the case, as can be seen from the growing trend elsewhere in BC, Canada, the US and Europe in designing non-gravel paths for accessibility, such as indicated in the links below, that I’ve previously provided, but appear to have been ignored.
1. The Inland Trail near Powell River, BC — “The 12 kilometer wheelchair accessible circuit includes 8 picnic/rest areas, 4 overnight camping areas and 6 fishing piers. The trail is a crushed limestone covered pathway with minimal grades.”
2. The National Trails Accessibility Study 2014 which states “The impetus for the National Trails Surface study was to investigate alternatives to the typical firm and stable surface materials of asphalt, concrete, or boardwalk. It is a common misconception that in order to make a trail surface firm and stable, it needs to be paved. Professionals have found that using soil stabilizers, or natural aggregates, can be effective alternatives to creating a trail surface that meets accessibility guidelines (Boone, 2008).
An individual’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being is positively affected by the action of hiking on trails. Factors such as being in nature, participating in a physical challenge, socializing with others in an inclusive recreational environment all contribute to an increased well-being. The desire to enjoy this type of outdoor recreational experience is equal amongst individuals with and without disabilities. Research shows that recreating is a necessary action when looking at increasing an individual’s overall well-being. The technical provisions of the Draft Final Accessibility Guidelines for Outdoor Developed Areas (U.S. Access Board, 2009) for trails requires a trail surface that is firm and stable. The guidelines are currently being applied as a best practice set of guidelines for Federal, State, Local and Private entities. In an attempt to preserve the natural trail experience (i.e. not concrete, asphalt and boardwalk surface materials), recreation professionals have identified a need to find alternative firm and stable trail surfaces.
I hope that it’s not too late to go back to the drawing board and incorporate the wishes of the significant percentage of people who would prefer a non-asphalt surface and include a couple of sections that are not asphalt – i.e. along Cypress Gardens (between Broadway and Fir), and the section between 33rd and 41st.
There’s certainly nothing to be lost in trying this out as it can alway be changed in the future. And there would be a lot to gain, as then you could truly say that you’ve balanced different needs and opinions in designing the path.