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'A really bad move,' says cyclist advocate of reinstating two-way traffic on Beach Avenue

Love the Lane group says there are many advantages to keep Beach Avenue as is, including fewer car crashes and less congestion.

Vancouver's parks board has approved a 30-year plan to transform the waterfront area in Vancouver's West End neighbourhood.

During the April 22 meeting of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation,commissioners voted for the plan to move forward, though it wasn't a unanimous decision, as commissioners Angela Haer and Jas Virdi voted against the final motions.

The plan is meant to update 94 acres of land along the shoreline and beaches between Stanley Park and Burrard Bridge over the next 30 years or more, according to a parks staff report, with seven different phases.

Among the reasons for the massive plan is the effect climate change is having on the shoreline and public usage of the area.

"This vision is necessary to protect and renew these spaces for generations to come," parks manager Tiina Mack told commissioners during the meeting. "If we don't act now and plan to adapt these lands to rising tides and the onslaught of increasing climatic events, we're going to lose these beaches."

The plan is varied and will bring new public amenities, alter traffic and cycling patterns, and see the removal of some features from the shoreline over the years.

Mack noted that most changes won't be dramatic, though, as it will include more incremental changes taking place over decades. However, there are some bigger changes and themes that will appear over time.

At the same time, due to the long period for the plan, Mack explained the financial situation is also spread out.

"Much of this 30-year-plus vision is to be delivered over time," she said. "It's going to come down to the availability of funding and partnerships."

The first phase will focus on improvements to the intersection of Denman and Davie streets, along with the surrounding area. The report notes two essential changes there: the transformation of Morton Park (where the "A-Maze-Ing Laughter" sculpture is located) and the return of two-way vehicular traffic to Beach Avenue between Denman Street and Stanley Park.

Two-way traffic on Beach Avenue a concern

Lucy Maloney, creator of Love the Lane, believes it’s very important to maintain the Beach Avenue bikeway as the most popular bike lane in all of Vancouver.

"It's an incredible success and it should be preserved,” she says.

What she's concerned about is the restoration of two-way traffic.

“That's going to induce motor vehicle traffic in Stanley Park and into the West End,” she says. "Residents along this stretch have enjoyed several years of reduced traffic because it's been one way into the park.”

This has made it safer for pedestrians and cyclists, she adds.

"We've seen fewer [vehicle] crashes, we've seen fewer exhaust fumes, less honking of horns, less traffic congestion lined up outside these people's homes. It's been very peaceful and tranquil for the West End,” she says, adding reinstating two-way traffic on Beach Avenue could create more congestion in Stanley Park.

During the meeting, commissioner Laura Christensen said there is concern about two-way traffic.

“I think there’s concern opening up Beach Avenue to two-way traffic and that is a large price tag,” she says.

Commissioner Tom Digby says if the “city wants to force it though because it is city jurisdiction, we’ll let them do that.”

An amendment was made and referred back to staff to investigate how two-way traffic will affect residents and traffic flow. Maloney calls this a win.

“I think it's a really bad move and I really hope that the councillors decide not to do that,” she says.

The vote will take place on May 8.

Implementing the first phase of the plan is expected to cost $16 million.

Several people showed up to speak against the plan. Trisha Barker, a former parks board commissioner herself, raised concerns that people weren't aware of the plan.

"That really concerns me, that there wasn't more of an outreach," she said during the meeting's public period.

Barker noted that the first phase made sense, but raised additional concerns about changes in the plan, including some specifics like changes to the view from the Sylvia Hotel and the removal of the inuksuk on the seawall.

"I would like to see [the parks board] defer maybe most of this," she added.