Several months of restricted or reduced vehicle access to Stanley Park, which has faced both praise and criticism, will come to an end.
The Vancouver Park Board (VPB) announced today (September 18) that it will reopen to full vehicle access and cyclists will return to the seawall as of September 26.
On April 8, the park board closed all vehicle traffic access to Stanley Park in order to ensure physical distancing during widespread lockdowns in the initial phase of the pandemic. After having previously closed parking lots, illegal parking in the area prompted the park board to close the park to all vehicles, following the closure of beaches and parking lots across Vancouver on March 22.
While cyclists, outdoor enthusiasts, and climate activists welcomed the change, some businesses in the area were unhappy with the decision due to concerns about limited customer access negatively affecting attendance levels and people with disabilities and seniors also raised concerns about access to the park.
After B.C. began lifting restrictions and the park board began reopening recreational spaces in May, it reopened one lane of vehicle traffic on Park Drive on June 22 but the seawall remained closed to allow pedestrians to physically distance during peak usage in the summer months.
On September 25, the park will temporarily close as staff remove equipment, traffic cones, and signs to restore vehicle access to the area.
On September 26, two vehicle lanes will be open to traffic. The exception will remain Park Drive between Beach Avenue and Lagoon Drive (about 700 metres), which will remain allocated for cycling.
Also, all vehicle parking will remain open except for parking near Ceperley Meadows.
According to VPB planning and park development director Dave Hutch, over 720,000 cyclists used the route. He explained that as data from previous years show that visits to Stanley Park decline in autumn, regular traffic patterns can resume.
The park board will continue to monitor usage and collect data from Stanley Park.
On September 14, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at a B.C. COVID-19 update that while a lot wasn’t fully understood about the coronavirus in the earlier stages of the pandemic, what has been learnt since then is that outdoor settings are less risky than indoor settings as air circulation (from breezes) can help to disperse the droplets that carry the virus.
While some transmission has taken place in B.C. in outdoor settings, she said these cases have been primarily between people spending long periods of time in close proximity to each other while talking or sharing food and drinks. She added that being infected by someone walking by is “very, very low to non-existent” and that she isn’t aware of cases in B.C. from these types of situations.