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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Many of the pedestrian-controlled crossings would be safer if there was more time for people to cross the road.
Bus flows would be improved if traffic lights were triggered to change when a bus approaches the intersection.
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.