NEWS: Residents Tell City to Share the Road

By Think City Staff

Can citizens come up with practical solutions for pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and private vehicles to better share the road?

Think City and Vancouver's Grandview Woodlands Area Council (GWAC) tried to answer that question with the Share the Road project that took place over the summer and fall of last year. The first phase of the project is now complete, and Think City would like to share what we found – both the process and the outcomes.

The process was designed to involve people in discussions that lead to specific improvements in this vibrant East Vancouver neighbourhood. The desired outcomes are changes to the use of road space to make the area pleasanter, safer, healthier, and more sustainable.

Think City and GWAC drew up proposals for the Grandview Woodlands area based on suggestions from nearly 1,000 members of the public. Initially a working group of local people proposed ideas which went into a survey. The survey, which also invited further suggestions, was completed by 839 people of which 650 have a close connection with the area (i.e., live, work or visit weekly). There was also a table at Vancouver's annual Car Free Day on Commercial Dr. where 150 people made suggestions. The survey results and ideas gathered were considered at a meeting of local volunteers who drew up a set of proposals.

These proposals and the survey results were presented to GWAC in September 2010. After further discussion, the working group prepared a final set of policy proposals. In late 2010, these proposals were forwarded to the City of Vancouver as well as several other local organizations in support of walking, cycling and public space.

The process was very encouraging because people put a lot of thought into their suggestions and shared a great deal of local knowledge. The community interest that has been shown in this project demonstrates the public is willing to participate and support planning processes that demonstrate genuine interest in citizen participation.

Think City hopes the city will take the next step and begin to engage the community in a dialogue on how and when these proposals could be implemented.  

Below is a summary of the main proposals:

  1. Make Commercial Dr. more pedestrian friendly by reducing traffic to one lane each way from Broadway to E. 1st Ave., with on-street parking to access local business. The space gained from reducing the width of the road could be used to upgrade the environment with trees and flowers, benches, bike parking, bus shelters, etc.

  2. Between E. 1st Ave. and Venables St. people wanted to see on-street parking restored all day. This would mean allowing only one lane of traffic in each direction. In the longer-term the city should seek ways to enhance and widen the sidewalk on Commercial Drive.

  3. The pedestrian crossings on Commercial Dr. at E. 1st Ave. and Broadway are too dangerous. Pedestrians are rushed and have to dodge turning cars. This could be improved by changing the traffic lights to include a phase when all traffic is stopped (including turning) and pedestrians can cross in all directions. This is called a pedestrian scramble.

  4. Along Victoria Dr. between Venables St. and Broadway there are several schools and parks. This stretch of road could be made safer and more pleasant by calming the traffic with improved pedestrian crossings and a bike lane.

  5. Many of the pedestrian-controlled crossings would be safer if there was more time for people to cross the road.

  6. Bus flows would be improved if traffic lights were triggered to change when a bus approaches the intersection.

  7. Residential streets would be safer and more pleasant with slower car speeds. This would be achieved by reducing the speed limit on local streets to 40 km/hour. This should be reinforced by changes to the road space making it clear these are areas to be shared with other uses. Narrowing street junctions with planting bulges, wider boulevard strips with more greenery and home zones would also enhance the neighbourhood.

There were also a number of danger spots highlighted such as a parking lot driveway on the south west corner of E. 1st Ave. and Commercial Dr. This turning spot is dangerous for cars and pedestrians and blocks traffic in the intersection.

One of the overall aims of these proposals is to reduce the volume of through traffic in the area. Unfortunately, this goal clashes with the current provincial mega-project to widen Highway One from Langley to Vancouver, which will increase the amount of traffic entering the city. However, traffic calming in Vancouver can help moderate traffic in local neighbourhoods.

In the longer term, the success of local traffic calming could increase pressure on the province to adopt more sustainable transport policies and invest in better quality public transport throughout the region, including improved rapid transit from Surrey and the Tri-Cities. However, Think City’s Share the Road project deliberately focussed on actions the local government can do by itself, at modest cost, without waiting for the province.

These proposals would make the community safer and healthier, improve the environment, and increase neighbourliness. They would support Vancouver’s goals to be the world's greenest city and to achieve half of all our urban journeys by walking, bicycling and riding transit, rather than driving cars.

The strength of the ideas, and the level of public interest and knowledge demonstrate the benefits of the city working together with local people. When the city develops neighbourhood and transportation plans they should look at this model of public engagement.

The full results of the survey and the final policy proposals are available by clicking here.

Think City would like to acknowledge all the people who submitted ideas to Share the Road. The support and involvement of the GWAC directors was also instrumental to the success of the project. 

Bike Lanes on Commercial

It's great that Woodland Drive and Lakeview Drive are bike-friendly routes, but they don't do much for cyclists who want to browse along the shopping street - Commercial, that is. The worst thing about Commercial is the way those extra lanes are squeezed in in the stretch between Broadway and First Avenue. It's not a great design for either cyclists or motorists when drivers are always having to squeeze around cyclists who are just to the right of the parked cars but can't help taking up half the lane. I'd like to see a bike lane on each side, with just one lane in each direction for motor traffic. We could have wider sidewalks, just as much room for parking, and bike lanes too, so everyone would be happy.

Think Again City

Another nutty article. Widen the sidewalks for bikes - leave the roads alone. I spend tens of thousands of dollars for my car - which I love to travel in - I pay gas taxes for roads, I pay for insurance - the last thing I want is my transportation restricted for crazy bike riders who take no responsibility for their actions and don't pay anything for roads which are supposed to be for CARS (and buses too).

Share the road ???

Me thinks maybe we should be taking a time-out right about now. More pedestrian friendly, there are sidewalks, if you want trees and flowers, go to the park. Perhaps, some new construction from Broadway to 1st ave, that might "pretty" the place up. Seems to me there is plenty of on street parking from 1st to Venables. Scramble crossings should probably in a few other intersections as well! What Victoria St. needs from Venables to Broadway is some decent lighting. Bus flows would be better if they were freeeeeee!!!!! How about we keep Translink off Commercial Drive and provide a free service from Broadway to Hastings?? We get the business people to buy up a half dozen used buses and run em up and down Commercial non stop. Traffic calming is great idea for residential side streets, but not Victoria Dr. or Commercial Dr.

As a cyclist, I hate narrowed street junctions with bulges

I understand the desire to improve the safety of pedestrian crossings. However, curb bulges at intersections force bicycles into very close proximity with cars. The openings are often so narrow that a car and a bicycle cannot safely pass through at the same time. Car drivers often try anyway, making those spaces feel very dangerous. I've lived near Commercial Drive for more than 20 years now. I love the neighbourhood and would be happy to see it made a bit more pedestrian friendly. However, I'm not sure the approach outlined in this article addresses the right issues. - I cross the street at 1st and Commercial quite frequently, both on foot and in my car. All the pedestrian traffic there sometimes causes a long wait for cars that want to turn. There is rarely much of a wait for pedestrians wanting to cross. The long wait for the cars causes frustrated drivers to take risks to get through; it's this that endangers the pedestrians. The long waits to turn can also cause long lineups of vehicles to form on both 1st and Commercial. Changes to the lights there must address the problems for vehicles, as well as pedestrian safety and convenience. - I often bike or take transit, but I also often drive places. Over time I have noticed that the east-west routes used to cross the city are getting slower and slower as more traffic lights and other traffic calming measures are installed. This leads to increased driver frustration. 1st Ave is one of the few corridors that provides reasonable access to downtown. 1st Ave already tends to get plugged up near 1st and Commercial. Any changes to the intersection there should not aggravate that situation. - Traffic calming alone is not a sufficient. Making vehicle use unpleasant without providing transportation alternatives also makes the city less livable.

bike lanes

I am delighted to read about a consultative process with the city with positive results. I am feeling quite defeated about my efforts. Last spring, City Engineering put a written notice in my mailbox about an alteration to the intersection at King Edward and Heather. I am one of a number of local residents who protested the alteration not because we don't support the Heather Bikeway but because we saw the alteration as unnecessary. City Engineering proceeded to put up a concrete barricade. I was told there would be traffic counters on the adjacent streets. There have been a few (very few?) I was told there would be public consultation before the barricade became final. I was told this would be a 6 month trial. It has been longer than 6 months and there has been no notice from the City nor any consultation. On the substantive matter of increasing use of the bike lane, I walk the bike lane daily with my dog, at various times of the day. I see no increase in the use of the bike lane. It seems to me to be a huge waste of effort and taxpayer money. And it has been a huge disappointment to me as a citizen to think that what I and my neighbours think doesn't matter.

share the road suggestions

We need more public transit. There has been improvements over the last few years, but more is still needed. It seems that the more buses and trains we add, the more they fill up. I think this shows that if we add transit, people will use it. Look at the numbers, they don't lie. If it accessable and frequent, people will use it. The city spent a ridiculous amount of money on the bike lanes....spend more on transit! What is the point of making more parks and green spaces if there are more cars than ever spewing their pollution into the air. Come on, lets get with it, more buses and trains! And while I'm on the topic, the trains should have extended hours on weekends so that people can get home AFTER the bars close. It makes no sense to have extended hours for bars downtown and have few options for them to get home. It's almost as if the city wants to cash in on DUI tickets. If transit is a public service, then it should be available for when the public actually needs it.

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