Long weekend traffic delays reignite Stanley Park bike-lane debate

Heavy traffic through Vancouver's Stanley Park and along West Georgia Street over the Victoria Day long weekend has reignited debate over a separated bike lane. 

Over the weekend, cars could be seen at a standstill as drivers tried to exit the park.

The separated bike lane has been in place since the early days of the pandemic, initially to move cyclists off the seawall and allow for greater physical distancing. In October the Vancouver Park Board voted to extend the temporary bike lane project until the Stanley Park mobility study was complete. The report has not yet been presented. Last fall, CTV News reported the cost of the bike lane project came to $815,000 for public surveys, consultation and implementation.

The configuration of the lane through Stanley Park involves one-way traffic along Beach Avenue, meaning cars can only exit onto Georgia Street, creating bottlenecks at the exit when vehicles are leaving during peak hour, and on some weekends.

David Fine started a petition not long after the bike lane was introduced, calling for it to be removed. It’s now attracted more than 33,000 signatures. 

After the Victoria Day long weekend, Fine posted an update saying the bike lane needs to be removed before summer, and the tourists, arrive. 

“I started this petition about Stanley Park because I care very deeply about keeping it accessible for all,” Fine said, adding he’s also a cyclist but did not want people who are less mobile to be excluded from enjoying the park.

“I posted an update in response to Penny Daflos posting about intense traffic jams … it goes beyond what I believe it is the park board should be doing.”

CTV Vancouver’s Penny Daflos tweeted a picture the line of cars trying to exit the park on Sunday after visitors took advantage of the good weather.

Stanley Park is such a headache right now. No one knows if it’s one lane or two getting out of the park, traffic barely crawling, and two guys in a convertible are screaming at everyone they get stuck behind.
Fun times. pic.twitter.com/pz7xLX2Oi8

— Penny Daflos (@PennyDaflos) May 22, 2022

Cycling advocate Lucy Maloney hopes the bike lane remains, arguing it provides a safer route for less experienced cyclists and children to enjoy the park.

Maloney also believes the traffic issues were not only the result of the bike lane.

“Everyone just decided they were going out this weekend,” Maloney said. “Maybe it’s not the separated bike path that's the problem, maybe it’s just that a lot of people decided to go out in their cars.”

The park board commissioner who moved the original motion for construction of the bike lane did not respond to an interview request from CTV News. But on Tuesday, Camil Dumont did tweet a link to a New York Times article hailing the biking experience in Vancouver.

“Nice to see the Stanley Park bike lane so thoroughly appreciated,” Dumont wrote. “Especially so on a weekend where I keep getting called out on this platform by folks who loathe what it represents: public infrastructure that isn’t car-centric.”

However, the article he referenced refers to the bike lane along the seawall, not the bike lane through the park itself.

MAYORAL CANDIDATES WEIGH IN

Mayoral candidates John Coupar and Ken Sim gave their thoughts on the issue.

NPA candidate Coupar told CTV News the amount of parking spots taken up by the bike lane amount to around $2 million worth of revenue that’s no longer coming in and is promising to reinstate Stanley Park to its original format if elected mayor.

“Not everyone one is able bodied (and) we have a beautiful seawall bike lane,” Coupar said. “As a mayor and council, if we have the majority, we’d certainly open up beach avenue.”

Sim, mayoral candidate for Vancouver’s new ABC party said he would go a step further and abolish the park board altogether if certain issues can’t be fixed.

“Kits pool is closed, the side of a building at the Aquatic Centre falls off, prioritizing wild coyotes over little kids and tourists in the park - there are a lot of issues at the park board that need to be fixed and they need to be fixed now,” Sim said, adding that if he is voted and mayor doesn’t see changes at the park board, he would go to the province and ask for a restructure.

“If that means getting rid of the elected park board and have them report to council, then that’s exactly what we’ll do."