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Resentment of the rich a roadblock to Point Grey bike route

Think bicycles, not mansions. Vancouver cyclists are hoping that community meetings in April over the future of Point Grey Road will shed light on the public benefits of creating a picturesque bike route for the masses.

But the thought of rich homeowners getting richer, if car traffic on Point Grey Road gets largely diverted to West 4th Avenue, will be the elephant in the room. Under one scenario, city planners could designate the northern side of Point Grey Road for cyclists and pedestrians only, while converting the southern portion into a one-way street for vehicles travelling eastward. Many cyclists would like to see the 1.6-kilometre stretch from the Jericho Tennis Club to Macdonald Street restricted to local auto traffic and no longer used as a thoroughfare.

Peter Ladner is an avid cyclist and former Non-Partisan Association councillor who lives one block south of Point Grey Road. It is counterproductive, he said, to get upset over the prospect of waterfront and water-view properties benefiting if vehicle traffic fell sharply along Point Grey Road. "People wonder why should we pamper these people, why should we do something that is just going to increase their property values? There is a certain amount of resentment of rich people in the discussion, but that is totally uncalled for," Mr. Ladner asserted.

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Jerry Dobrovolny has received plenty of feedback on potential ways to overhaul the Point Grey-Cornwall corridor so that cyclists will be able to safely and comfortably commute between Jericho Beach Park and Cypress Street, near the southern end of the Burrard Bridge. Mr. Dobrovolny, director of transportation for the City of Vancouver, is aiming to present options for discussion in a new round of open houses in April, before civic staff make recommendations to city council in June.

More than 500 people attended a series of recent open houses held by the city, and another 1,300 residents filled out online surveys to give their input on ways to alleviate traffic congestion along Point Grey Road, which turns into Cornwall Avenue as you head east.

"Change is difficult, and change requires some time for people to adjust their travel patterns," Mr. Dobrovolny said. "We're going to start with a white sheet of paper and draw up some ideas and see what become options, and we'll bring those out to the public."

Brent Toderian, former director of planning for the city and now an urban consultant, said the ideal outcome for cyclists will be a fully connected system of bike paths.

"Cyclists want a complete network. When you do it piece by piece, painfully and slowly, it tends to be controversial each time," he said.

Cyclists argue that introducing a bike lane of nearly 1.3 kilometres along one side of Cornwall Avenue (displacing parking in some parts) would make it safer to pedal from the Kitsilano neighbourhood to the southern end of the Burrard Bridge.

An average of 13,000 vehicles a day travel along Point Grey Road, where some of Vancouver's most expensive homes are located. Cornwall Avenue is even busier, with an average of more than 30,000 vehicles a day. Some motorists say city planners should leave well enough alone, and instead target West 3rd Avenue and York Avenue as viable bike routes that could be improved by banning parking on one side.

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Critics are worried that traffic patterns will be thrown into chaos if the Vision Vancouver-dominated council makes dramatic changes to Point Grey Road and Cornwall Avenue.

"We need to efficiently get to sites to do work at people's homes," said painting contractor Michael Del Pellaro. "My staff can't cycle to those homes."

For city planners, the challenge will be to prevent a revolt from motorists, including those who prefer to drive west on scenic Point Grey Road before turning onto Alma Street to get to their homes in Dunbar and other neighbourhoods. Gordon Price, director of Simon Fraser University's city program in continuing studies, said the city has rights-of-way that would allow the road to be widened where needed. "Point Grey Road could become the de facto seawall," Mr. Price said.

In the Point Grey-Cornwall corridor, "we don't want to negatively affect public transit," said Mr. Dobrovolny, who is keeping in mind the important route for buses along Cornwall Avenue.

He said constructing a seawall between Jericho Beach and Kitsilano Beach is a possibility for the long term.

Whatever city council decides, easy solutions for promoting cycling remain elusive.

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About the Author

Brent Jang is a business reporter in The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. He joined the Globe in 1995. His former positions include transportation reporter in Toronto, energy correspondent in Calgary and Western columnist for Report on Business. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Alberta, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of The Gateway student newspaper. Mr. More


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