Reallocate Lanes on Cornwall by Kits Beach for Protected Cycling Lanes - Leave the Existing Path for Walking & Rolling
The City of Vancouver and Park Board are proposing that people walk on a narrow sidewalk with no shade next to noisy speeding traffic instead of the current path that is now shared with people cycling as part of the proposed Seaside Greenway improvements around Kits Beach. Instead, the City of Vancouver should quickly implement pilot reallocation of traffic/parking lanes on Cornwall for the cycling path while reserving the current path for people walking/rolling (see image below). Using planters to protect the cycling path from traffic would also likely significantly reduce traffic noise in the park making especially the area near Cornwall including the current path much more pleasant to spend time in effectively increasing the amount of usable park space which is essential for people's wellbeing in a growing city.
The current path in many ways is excellent for walking and rolling. It is lined with trees; has 5m of greenspace separating it from traffic; is wide enough for side by side walking, rolling and jogging; and has several benches with great views, some of which are shaded. The main issue is that it is shared with people cycling. However, as detailed below, the proposed sidewalk is much worse in several ways. It simply is not a safe, comfortable or practical solution for people walking and rolling. The result will be many people continuing to walk on the current path. Given the success of reallocating lanes of traffic elsewhere in the city, including along Beach Avenue, it is puzzling why reallocating traffic/parking lanes along Cornwall was rejected even on a pilot basis pending the results of transportation studies that would likely support such reallocation to meet the city's transportation, climate and safely goals.
Reallocating Traffic/Parking Lanes on Cornwall Between Balsam and Yew
One option is to create a 4.5m planter separated cycling path by reallocating one lane of traffic, eliminating parking on the north side, adding 24 hour parking on the south side and reallocating 1.2m of the south sidewalk 3.7m. The existing 3m path would then be walking/rolling.
The south sidewalk is 3.7m. If 1.2m of this sidewalk was reallocated in some sections to create 24 hour parking bays, the sidewalk would be 2.5m. More than enough space for comfortable walking/roll in this location as sidewalk volumes are low. With 24 hour parking, there would be an additional metre or so separation from the speeding traffic during AM peak making walking then more pleasant and safe.
It would look something like this where parking is needed:
Where parking is not needed, it could look like this:
At least in the pilot, removing the bus stop at Vine would likely be easiest which could also create room for more parking if needed.
Ideally, such a reallocation could happen in the summer of 2022 instead of waiting for improvements until 2023 as currently proposed.
Dangerous and Unhealthy Excess Road Capacity on Cornwall
As with many other streets in Vancouver, Cornwall has dangerous excess traffic capacity even during peak periods especially with traffic reduced due to COVID. This excess capacity leads to speeding, increasing the risk of injuries and death as well as harmful traffic noise pollution.
Reallocating Traffic/Parking Lanes Almost Certainly Consistent with Future Transportation Plans
With the Broadway Plan and Sen̓ áḵw likely significantly increasing the number of people living within walking, rolling and cycling distance of Kits Beach Park, increasing the amount of usable enjoyable greenspace is essential.
However, Cycle Path Locations Explored But Not Advanced states a Separated Cycle Path on Cornwall Ave was not advanced due to:
While a permanent solution obviously needs more planning and study, a pilot street space reallocation certainly could be implemented before such a study with the results helping to both result in a better long transportation term plan and a better solution along Cornwall. Indeed, there have been several instances when the City of Vancouver has undertaken such a strategy including Burrard Bridge, Cambie Bridge, Beach Avenue and most Grandview Hwy North. It is puzzling why the City has chosen not to do this along Cornwall.
Excess Road Capacity Doesn't Likely Even Benefit Most Drivers
The additional lanes of traffic that are claimed to be justified to accommodate peak period traffic likely have the impact of increasing travel times throughout the day as red lights need to be longer so pedestrians have time to safely cross.
Reducing the number of lanes enabling red light length to be reduced would decrease motor vehicle travel times and or enable similar travel times at slower safer speeds. Especially at lower volume pedestrian crossings including Vine and Balsam, one lane of traffic per direction could enable safe pedestrian crossings without requiring people to wait for the pedestrian signal.
To further make transit more predictable and improve safety, left turns could be banned at Yew, Vine or Balsam. Reducing or eliminating on street parking reduces congestion, conflicts and crashes making transit more reliable and reduces trip times.
Proposed Sidewalk Next to Traffic Worse than Existing Path
The proposed sidewalk is right next to the high speed traffic on Cornwall exposing people to significantly higher levels of noise and air pollution and a much greater risk of being injured or killed by an out of control vehicle. In 2020 alone, at least two people on sidewalks, a toddler and a person using a wheelchair, were killed by out of control vehicles in downtown Vancouver
The north sidewalk along Cornwall from Arbutus to Yew is narrow and right next to traffic. A really miserable experience. Really surprised and disappointed that a similar sidewalk is being proposed.
A lot of people currently walking along the path are walking side by side. A 1.6m to 1.8m path next to high speed traffic is really not wide enough for social walking. People also walk their dogs along the path.
I certainly would not use that sidewalk and continue to use the path. I expect many other people will do the same either on purpose or because they won't realize or expect that they have to use such a narrow noisy sidewalk.
Reducing Traffic Noise Adjacent to the Park
A row of planters separating the cycling path from traffic would also most likely significantly reduce harmful traffic noise making both the walking path and the park in general more pleasant and enjoyable, likely increasing the use of the portions of the park adjacent to Cornwall.
Reducing Traffic Noise Adjacent to Affordable Rental Apartments
The current configuration of Pt Grey/Cornwall totally fails from an equity point of view. Those lucky enough to be able to afford a multi million house west of Macdonald, have a quiet, very low traffic street. From Macdonald to Trafalgar, with more multi million houses, Pt Grey only has 2 lanes of traffic making it relatively safe and quiet compared to most arterial roads.
Meanwhile, Cornwall east of Trafalgar, which is lined with much more affordable rental apartment homes, has 4 lanes of traffic making it significantly more dangerous and noisy compared to Pt Grey.
Shade and Greenspace Separating People Walking from Streets Essential During Hot Weather
Shaded Benches are Essential
Benches, especially shaded ones, are essential for many people with mobility challenges. On the current path, two benches are likely well shaded in the summer with two more likely shaded for a portion of the day. Forcing people, especially those with mobility challenges to walk across a busy cycling path with a long downhill slope is not a good idea. While benches could be placed adjacent to the proposed sidewalk, they would likely be harder to shade and be significantly closer to traffic making them less healthy and pleasant places to sit.
All Ages and Abilities Cycle Lanes
The British Columbia Active Transportation Design Guide states on page D36 "If bicycle volumes are expected to exceed 350 bicycles per hour, then a width of 4.5 metres is more appropriate to accommodate passing and side-by-side travel." As this will likely be the case on some days especially with new developments and the increased cycling volumes required to meet the City's climate goals, it really seems like reallocating space on Cornwall is the only viable option without reducing the amount of greenspace in the park.
A wider cycling lane is especially important on sections with significant grades as is the case between Balsam and Yew. A width of 4.5 metres will enable safer passing as people won't be forced to pass in the path of on-coming cyclists. With the increasing popularity of electric cycles and scooters increasing the speed of uphill cycling, it is really important to minimize the possibility of head-on collisions which could cause serious injuries or even be fatal.
Wider cycling spaces also better accommodate disabled cyclists using adaptive cycles, parents using cargo cycles or trailers, and delivery people using cargo cycles.
All Ages and Abilities Connections from Burrard Bridge to Kits Beach
Currently, there are not any all ages and abilities cycling connections from Burrard Bridge to Kits Beach. Many people use Arbutus St to connect with York as this avoids the hill west of Arbutus. However, this section of Arbutus is quite busy, especially in the summer, and the intersection of Arbutus and Cornwall is not designed to be safe for cycling. To avoid conflicts at the parking lot access, continuing the separated bike lane from Yew to Arbutus is likely the best option.