Beach Avenue: “interim” safety and design upgrades in the West End

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On December 4, 2020, the City of Vancouver announced “City to make interim safety and design upgrades to Beach Avenue.” Press release: 

Excerpt: … we will be making interim upgrades to Beach Avenue, which saw the introduction of a two-way protected bike path in the spring at the outset of the pandemic. This reallocation of space supported increased space for walking along the seawall and record numbers of people cycling.

The upgrades include:

  • Improved pedestrian crossings at key locations, which may include:
    • Painting crosswalks to better prioritize pedestrians crossing the street
    • Adding median islands to shorten the crossing distance for people walking
    • Incorporating accessible design features like tactile walking surface indicators, level bus boarding islands, and modified traffic signals
  • Eastbound travel restored for vehicles and transit between Denman Street and Jervis Street following completion of other project elements
  • Replacing traffic cones with sturdier and harder-to-move concrete barriers
  • Working with the Park Board to provide accessible parking in the waterfront parking lot near Bute Street Retention of the two-way protected bike path

On the same day as the announcement, City crews were already at work, making clear markings in the pavement, which indicates that working drawings were already prepared for the work prior to the announcement.

Some residents commented that the City announcement did not indicate what it has planned for Beach Avenue between Denman and the boundary of Stanley Park. Also, that the City made no mention of what happens between Jervis and Burrard going east, and some frustration with the City’s pattern of ” ‘temporary’ changes that somehow just seem to get permanent.”

There was a fair amount of media coverage, with various angles, some simply informing the public of the change. Here is one angle, by The Breaker.

“Another bike lane by stealth in Vancouver, construction begins next week” (Bob Mackin, 4-Dec-2020)

Excerpts from The Breaker:

Good news for vehicle drivers. You will be able to drive eastbound from Denman to Jervis again on Beach Avenue in the West End.

Bad news: The ban will continue from Jervis to Hornby, as city hall moves to create a permanent bike lane. The traffic changes were imposed in the spring when the Park Board, dominated by left wing COPE and Green commissioners. They banned bikes from the dedicated bike lane on the seawall in order to displace vehicles when traffic decreased during the stay at home spring. The lanes remained shut even after the economy reopened. A Dec. 3 memo to Mayor and Council from Lon LaClaire, general manager of engineering, said the seawall bike path will remain closed at least into 2021. “Staff have developed an interim design for Beach Avenue that will start to be installed in December 2020 and would be replaced with more permanent treatments depending on the result of engagement and design through the master plan process.” LaClaire claims the move was the result of an online survey that received 2,500 responses. There was no formal public hearing… Ultimately, the new bike lane is part of a bigger strategy, connected to the West End Waterfront Master Planning process. The council-approved project is marketed as a rethink to parks, beaches and other public space. This happens during a wave of upscale condo tower development around the West End, transforming the dense forest of apartment buildings into a resort district appealing to foreign investors who want to buy close to Stanley Park.

3 thoughts on “Beach Avenue: “interim” safety and design upgrades in the West End

  1. This is another example of the control city staff have on transportation decisions and design. No other City Council gives their staff so much power.
    Even in Toronto a city of 3M people City Council makes the final decisions on many projects.

    • That is a pretty broad generalization, nathanarticulated. In most cases, councils are happy to leave the day-to-day, routine decisions up to staff, UNTIL staff does something controversial. When people/residents/taxpayers/road users get their ire up, and start pulling political levers, that is when council likes to get involved.

      • In the last 20 yrs or so Vancouver city council gave extra powers to city staff. The new staff is not aware of how the city was run for over 100yrs.
        The same projects that were approved by other city councils ( eg. RapidBus ) has never been approved by Vancouver City Council.
        I can give many other examples. Transportation is the main item in most other city councils except Vancouver.

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