05 June 2020

Accessible Spaces for Everyone

Stuart Mackinnon

At the next meeting of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation on Monday 8 May, a motion will be brought forward asking staff to examine road access within Stanley Park. Prior to the partial closure of the park because of the pandemic, Park Drive was mostly a two lane road used primarily by cars and buses. Bicycles and pedestrians were directed to the seawall, though some areas of Park Drive has sidewalks. 

During the partial closure access to the park changed with the seawall reserved exclusively for pedestrians while bikes, rollerblading, and other non-motorized traffic was redirected to Park Drive. These changes have proven to be very popular with the active transportation community. Pedestrians have been pleased that they no longer have to share the seawall with cyclists and bladers who, by and large, move at a faster pace, while cyclists and rollerbladers have been happy to have more room to move on the road. An unfortunate consequence of this change however, has been the restriction of people who cannot access the park by bike or walking great distances. Without the ability to drive into the park anyone with any kind of mobility issue has been unable to visit.

As we reopen our parks and recreation facilities I believe this is a good time to exam our policies on accessibility. With that in mind, I have co-authored the motion entitled 'Exploring Options to Reduce Motor Vehicle Traffic in Stanley Park'. Despite what you may have heard or read, this motion is not asking for a ban on cars in Stanley Park. On the contrary, automobile access to the park is just one of the many ways individuals and groups access the park and must be able to continue to do so.

 However, as Stanley Park has become more popular, I believe it is time that we looked at who has access and how they do it. I am not at all sure that as it stands the park is easily accessible for all, including those with mobility difficulties. I think a complete review of accessibility to and within the park should be examined. The motion asks only that our staff consider looking at alternatives to what is in place now. They may come back saying no changes are necessary, that changes to pedestrian and/or bicycle access be changed, that automobile access be changed, or something else completely.

 The motion does ask that “consultation include the Stanley Park Intergovernmental Working Group, as well as park partners, stakeholders and the community at large”. This would include the City of Vancouver's Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee. It would include the Active Transportation community. It would include residents of the West End who could be impacted by any changes. And it would certainly include the businesses both within the park, and those that could be impacted by changes that are outside of the park. What the motion does not do is prescribe any changes to access.
Just because we have done something for a long time doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. For me what this motion is about is asking “how can we improve access to Stanley Park for everyone?”

Access for everyone is an equity issue. Our new VanPlay master plan for parks and recreation has equity as one of its key foundational statements. This motion fits within this mandate. This is why I am proud to co-sponsor it.

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