News / Vancouver

Amid fears of “bike freeway,” Arbutus Corridor paving work to move forward

Following public consultation, City of Vancouver plans to continue paving disused rail line to make it accessible to cyclists, pedestrians and wheelchair users

A rendering of the City of Vancouver's plan to pave the Arbutus Corridor, a $3 million project

City of Vancouver

A rendering of the City of Vancouver's plan to pave the Arbutus Corridor, a $3 million project

Some protested it amounted to “paving paradise,” but the City of Vancouver is now going ahead with its plan to put down an asphalt path along the Arbutus Corridor.

The plan had been put on hold following complaints from residents this summer, who were concerned about losing vegetation and were worried cyclists would go too fast on the disused rail line.

But city staff say that after hearing from just over 900 residents, they have decided to proceed with paving the corridor. The path will vary from a 5.5 metre-wide path split evenly between bikes and pedestrians on some sections, to a path that is 2.5 metres for bikes and 1.5 metres for pedestrians. A bark mulch path will be added to two sections of the corridor, which stretches from 4th Avenue and Granville Street in Kitsilano to Southwest Marine Drive and Granville Street in Marpole.

Click here to read the entire plan.

The path will vary because the city is attempting to keep costs to the $3 million budgeted for the project, and some sections of the right-of-way are narrower or would have to have steep sloping sides built up, said Lon LaClaire, director of transportation for the City of Vancouver. The path is a temporary plan while the city works on a long-term plan for the corridor over the next two years.

City of Vancouver

“Accessibility should be a given and my feeling was that that was the plan,” said Gabrielle Peters, who uses a wheelchair and was looking forward to exploring more of the corridor.

But some residents who live in neighbourhoods closer to the corridor prefer it to stay as a semi-wild pathway. Elvira Lount, a resident who is opposed to asphalt because of aesthetics and concern that the path could turn into a “bike freeway,” said that crushed rock could be an alternative.

While some wheelchair users she has spoken to said they preferred a paved path, Lount said, “I can understand that people in wheelchairs would prefer to have it paved, but at the same time, I don’t think they fully understand it doesn’t have to be — it’s an education process.”

Crushed rock paths are more difficult to maintain and while some people who use wheelchairs can navigate them, it does take more effort to push a wheelchair on crushed rock than asphalt, LaClaire said.

The City of Vancouver acquired the corridor from the Canadian Pacific Railway in 2015 at a cost of $55 million. It is zoned as a transportation corridor, and the city hopes to put a streetcar on the throughway at some point in the future.

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