HUB Cycling wants Powell Street separated bike lane

Proposed bikeway in Gastown and Downtown Eastside would be four kilometres long

Having witnessed the fractious debates over Vancouver’s Burrard Bridge, Dunsmuir Street, and Hornby Street bike lanes, Erin O’Melinn knows that proposing a new separated lane is a recipe for potential controversy.


Should a separated bike lane be built on Powell Street?

Yes 76%
123 votes
No 22%
35 votes
Maybe 2%
3 votes


Nevertheless, the executive director of HUB Cycling argues that this infrastructure is the best way to turn riders of all abilities into commuter cyclists.

“You don’t have to worry about a car coming along and whether they’re going to see you or give you enough space,” O’Melinn told the Georgia Straight ahead of her nonprofit’s spring Bike to Work Week, which runs May 26 to June 1. “That’s how a lot of people feel, so particularly on those busy arterial streets, we need separation.”

Speaking by phone from Robson Square, O’Melinn called attention to the lack of east-west “connectivity” in the northernmost parts of the city. The cycling advocate asserted the solution should be a two-way separated bike lane running through Gastown, the Downtown Eastside, and Grandview-Woodland, connecting the downtown core with the city’s northeast corner.

Extending four kilometres, this dedicated bike route would, ideally, use a combination of either Cordova and Powell streets or Water and Powell streets, according to her.

“It’s a bit of a no-go zone right now, if you’re not willing to ride right with car traffic,” O’Melinn said. “So that’s a gap.”

O’Melinn noted the proposed bike lane would link up with the seawall at the Vancouver Convention Centre on its west end and the Wall Street bikeway, near Victoria Drive, on its east end. It would also intersect the Carrall Street greenway.

George Affleck, a Non-Partisan Association councillor, told the Straight a separated bike lane would be a “potential traffic choker” on Powell Street, which is a truck route. According to Affleck, the busy Adanac Street bikeway already serves cyclists in the city’s northeast “quite well”.

“Is this for people who live in North Van?” Affleck asked by phone from his office. “Who would this be for? The population around the PNE is not particularly high. It’s mostly single-family residential, everything north of Adanac. So unless we’re trying to encourage people from Burnaby and North Van to bike into Vancouver, I’m not quite sure what their intention is here.”

In 2010, the City of Vancouver built a separated bike lane on Hornby Street.
Stephen Hui

Leanore Sali, executive director of the Gastown Business Improvement Society, said she couldn’t comment on a proposal she hadn’t heard about until now. But Sali told the Straight she couldn’t imagine a separated bike lane being added to “very, very narrow” Water Street.

“Isn’t it interesting that this would be a proposal to run through our neighbourhood and we don’t even know about it?” Sali said by phone from her office.

Joji Kumagai, executive director of the Strathcona Business Improvement Association, told the Straight his organization’s members support “alternative transportation” but the proposal calls for a “much more complex conversation than whether or not a separated bike path on Powell Street is good or not”.

Speaking by phone from his office, Kumagai pointed out that the $50-million Powell Street overpass, which is scheduled to be completed this summer, will feature a separated bike lane. Local businesses are already concerned about losing parking spots due to the overpass, he noted.

“Many of them do take alternative transportation and many of them do cycle, but there’s also a need for parking spots for clients and people that they’re meeting with,” Kumagai said.

O’Melinn said the best route for the proposed bike lane is a matter for discussion. For instance, Alexander Street could be an option in the Railtown district.

“We don’t mind if it’s a street over,” O’Melinn said. “Something quieter would be fine. We want it to work best for all of the different modes. But there does have to be some facility there that works for cyclists—that gives them some dedicated space too.”

According to O’Melinn, South Vancouver is also in need of a continuous east-west bikeway that lets cyclists “enjoy the Fraser River”. She said a bike route connecting the University of British Columbia’s Point Grey campus, new condo developments on Southwest Marine Drive, and Burnaby would benefit both commuters and recreational riders.

Comments (33) Add New Comment
Richard Campbell
Great idea! This would be great for commuting and recreation. Basically, the extension of the Seaside Greenway through East Van to Burnaby. With the sidewalk widening on the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge, this will complete the the connection between North Van and Downtown.

The Adanac Bikeway is way out of the way for many people. Also, this connection would almost have no cross streets making it much safer.

The Gastown BIA should love this idea. It will be great for tourism. People can just get off a cruiseship, rent a bike and visit businesses in Gastown.
Rating: +13
George A.
Cycle paths should be on almost every street.
Rating: +1
Steve W
Absolutely there should be a bike lane - if anyone has ever been down those roads you would see that bikes either have to hop on and off the sidewalk or they block traffic - the roads are narrow.

I prefer separated lanes and know that myself, my family and others would bike along that corridor a lot more and would visit gastown more often giving them more business. Powell is a very scary road to cycle on during rush hour.
Rating: +19
It's easy to just say we need a bike path here, we need a bike path there, we need a bike path everywhere. Particularly if you don't have to worry about financing and you don't give a damn for people who drive cars and need to park those cars. But the reality is that cars will always be with us and will always be needed. Not everyone can use bicycles all the time. Hell, even the hard core cyclists don't use most of the bike lanes in the winter. There's a lots of bike lanes that aren't even close to capacity. Let's try to be more reasonable and work together instead of pretending cars will somehow become extinct.
Rating: -21
Ken Ohrn
I am in favour of any increase to safe and effective transportation infrastructure. This Powell Street idea is a good one, since it would provide another connection to and from downtown and areas to the east -- where cycling mode share is already quite high.
Rating: +4
Damn the cars
All of Water Street should be bike and pedestrian only, with a bike lane extending along Powell. More space for bikes, people and transit, and less for cars = healthier cities, less congestion and reduced pollution and emissions.
Rating: +12
Why is Water street still open to through traffic anyhow? It's a terrible way to let people enter Downtown. They should adopt the European square model: closed to traffic, deliveries only in the morning before 9. And yes, there's a parkade, but that's local traffic that can be fed in and back out again from the side. The European market squares used to be full of cars, now they're some of the nicest places to sit outside.
Rating: +25
Darcy McGee

The city installed "temporary solution" has been there for what...six years now? Finish the damn project before starting new ones.
Rating: -15
Wow - and just like clockwork, Hub and its supporters/advocates/representative are out in full force trying to boost up sentiment for this idea. It's unfortunate that Vision Vancouver is the only organization that cares about your short-sighted and self-righteous approach to recommendations to transportation infrastructure.

Go ahead and continue to use Europe as an example HUB, as far as I've seen - Europe's been slowly imploding for the last five years.

I will give a couple of you credit though - at least a couple of you supplied your real names (unlike Vision Vancouver that has been seeding these types of articles for quite awhile now).
Rating: -27
“Go ahead and continue to use Europe as an example HUB, as far as I've seen - Europe's been slowly imploding for the last five years.”

Because of bike lanes?

(FWIW, if you actually look at which cities have strong cycling infrastructure you'll find that they're among the ones that haven't been “imploding”. Maybe there is a connection after all…)
Rating: 0
More separated lanes please!
I support this bike lane suggestion and the suggestion of a car-free water street. It makes no sense having all those cars there when there are so many people walking. It truly is a nightmare at times.

I have stopped biking because i hate biking with cars. The only way I am coming back out is with more separated lanes. I am sick of the horrible mean drivers in this city being rude, even though I am following the rules.
Rating: +1
"Go ahead and continue to use Europe as an example HUB, as far as I've seen - Europe's been slowly imploding for the last five years. "

Funnily enough not the ones that invested heavily in alternative modes of transport. The car dependent countries though? They pretty much imploded. Go figure.
Rating: -1
"Let's try to be more reasonable and work together instead of pretending cars will somehow become extinct."

Yep, and because we won't get rid of cars it's imperative that we have more bike lanes. People deserve safe access to public space. The motoring community has proven again and again that their refusal to hold to account the minority of their cohort that drives recklessly makes sharing the road' a scenario that puts pedestrians and cyclists at undue risk. In fact, the motorists flouting handheld device laws and new 30 kmh speed limits are making the roads even more dangerous for the rest of the community, not to mention the aging population that remains behind the wheel. Bike lanes (and improved pedestrian infrastructure) are two arms of a reasonable, cooperative approach. The unreasonable approach would be to demand driver training equivalent to pilot or commercial driver standards and zero tolerance for driving infractions... which would save the country millions of dollars and thousands of lives annually.

"short-sighted and self-righteous approach"

Building cycling infrastructure is actually a long-term approach. You create facilities for today and ensure there's capacity for growth, the same way they have always built highways and bridges. It ain't rocket science and given the steadily decreasing number of young people getting driving licenses it's clear that we need to stop investing so much in private car facilities and put that money to better use in transit and active transportation infrastructure.
Rating: +6
uncle cranky
These lanes are just for people who are too chickenshit to ride with the traffic or too clueless and have to gaze at the scenery while they ride.
Rating: -17
Bruce Triggs
I see cyclists on Powell and Cordova almost every time I drive there. It's freaking terrifying. Feels like the most dangerous place to have cars and bikes together in the city because it's such a choke point. An alternative would make it safer for everybody.

And Gastown without cars would be a tourist and business mecca. Buy property there before the value skyrockets when they get rid of the cars and walking traffic doubles and triples.

Oh, and of course cue hue and cry about how people hate cars. Then ignore the generally smooth adaption to new traffic patterns and improvements in neighbourhoods. And let me just say that, "Cars will always be with us," is a weirdly biblical reference. It may be true for our lifetimes, but it doesn't mean we have to make cars more important than people when we plan our cities.
Rating: +10
"Go ahead and continue to use Europe as an example HUB, as far as I've seen - Europe's been slowly imploding for the last five years"

Then you haven't really been looking, because it really depends on which country you look at

Your statement makes sense in the context of someone that reads headlines about the "EU debt crisis" without looking too much further or takes into account the vast array of economic and financial situations that are particular to each EU member

There are nations in Europe within and outside of the EU that have, and are, performing economically better than Canada, and have stronger fiscal positions.

There are also nations in Europe, within and outside of the EU, that are far worse than Canada.

It is really hard to take your points seriously when you call yourself "TheTruth" and make statements indicative of someone that only takes into account those things that confirm what they want to believe.

Even poor old Greece is finally running a primary surplus in its public accounts, which is pretty much the opposite of "imploding"

I am going to bet you didn't know that.
Rating: +13
There's a gapping gap from the east side of the new Powell Street overpass to the west side of the Wall Street bikeway that needs to be de-gapped ASAP. I'd like to see the City make that a priority. For commuting downtown, the connection along Alexander Street and Port Road works pretty well, but it bypasses all the businesses along Water and Cordova Street. People tend to not shop in places they don't see and can't easily access, so I would think this is an issue for Gastown businesses. Also, the Port Road connection is pretty much impossible to find unless you know where you are going, so out-of-towners are likely to feel trapped downtown and west, and not bother to venture east at all. A better bike connection would help fix that.
Rating: +3
Mark Bowen
@Darcy McGee, there has been a huge construction project to fix up the whole south end intersection and bike connections, and it's like 99% done now, way better than it was before. It's much better for cars, bikes and peds then before. Totally worth checking out if you haven't been through in awhile.
Rating: -4
Greg Robinson
I often ride from North Vancouver to downtown over the Second Narrows Bridge, and once I reach the junction of Wall Street and Powell it's time to choose: do I roll the dice and take Powell, with its high traffic volume and un-bike-friendly dimensions, or seek to access a bike route (Adanac/Union)? I almost always take my chances on Powell, as roving down to Adanac at that point just doesn't seem worth the (considerable) detour. People like George Affleck are always making suppositions about how far cyclists are willing to go out of our way to get around, despite the fact that he doesn't ever find himself in these situations and never has to make these kinds of choices. So, to be clear: cyclists are generally inclined to take the shortest routes, just like drivers. We have to work for every kilometer (not just press a little pedal on the floor for a few minutes longer), plus we're slower than cars, so detours take that much longer. Finally, given the choice between a relatively flat versus hilly route and we'll go flat thank you very much.

It's very easy to say, "You don't need to ride on Cornwall, Powell, Kingsway!" when you don't ever ride a bike for transportation. For regular commuter cyclist, it's beyond obvious why we do covet these arterials and seek bike lanes on them.
Rating: +8
East Van Guy
There should be a bike lane down Powell. I used to be able to ride from Renfrew and commissioner all the way to Stanley park along the waterfront. Now with all of the useless "security" measures and Canada's love affair with cheap Chinese junk made with slave labour, people living in the east end of Vancouver have been separated from the waterfront with barbed wire and cameras, while access continues to grow elsewhere in the city.
One thought though is to make the sidewalks along Powell shared use, as there are virtually no pedestrians between Wall St. and Heatley.
Rating: +7


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