Step by step, the Greater Vancouver Regional District is creating a pedestrian/cycling pathway system with the potential to become the envy of other North American Cities. Currently, up to 17,000 Lower Mainland commuters are cyclists, comprising 2% of all daily trips in Vancouver. This is not a staggering number, perhaps not yet a “critical mass”, but it’s not insignificant and it seems to be climbing. A bigger, safer dedicated pathway system will no doubt help the growth of this positive trend.
About 10 years ago, the Vancouver City Council accepted the Vancouver Greenways Plan. Greenways are corridors for pedestrians and cyclists connecting parks, nature reserves, cultural features, historic sites, neighborhoods and retail areas. Their legacy dates back to the Bartholomew Plan of 1928, which envisioned a continuous waterfront parkway from Stanley Park around False Creek. Vancouver Greenways range from waterfront promenades, urban walks, environmental demonstration trails, heritage walks and nature trails.
There are two major components of the Vancouver Greenways system: the City Greenways and the Neighborhood Greenways. The proposed City Greenways network will have sixteen routes totaling approximately 140 km when completed. As a result of the legacy of the Seawall portion of the Seaside Route, 30% of the network was already in place before construction of the first route began. Street rights-of-way will make up approximately 50% of the network.
Greenways routes are concentrated in areas with greater population density and a higher number of destinations, such as the downtown peninsula, but they are also evenly distributed throughout the City. The goal is to provide a greenway that will be no more than a 25-minute walk or a 10-minute bike ride from every residence in Vancouver.
Neighborhood Greenways are smaller scale connections that respond to local needs identified by a neighborhood. They consist of smaller projects and shorter routes and are maintained by the community once completed. In Vancouver, eight Neighborhood Greenways have been completed so far.
Other neighboring municipalities outside the GVRD have similar plans. For example, a recent report indicated that Abbotsford has a bicycle master plan for 160 kilometers of on-street bike routes at a cost ranging from $7.3 million to $14.5 million. And bridge access is almost complete except for the Port Mann, although much of it is along unfriendly, exposed sidewalks. Debate over upgrading the bridge pathways has begun. For more information and maps of this system, search on the internet: “Vancouver Greenways.”
Drivers need to know about this growing parallel transportation network because so much of it shares the municipal highway system. In short, bike lanes are opening up all over. The challenge of watching out for other road users will continue to increase. Watch for cyclists in the bike lane on your right and watch for them wanting to go through the intersection when you want to turn right. Watch for them coming straight through the intersection in the bike lane on your far left, when you want to turn left.
Get ready for change. And please drive safely.
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