When Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson announced the purchase of the old Arbutus rail corridor, he alluded to a potential park like a famous one in an American city.
“This is Vancouver’s chance to have a New York-style High Line,” the mayor said last year.
Robertson was referring to an elevated freight rail line on Manhattan’s west side that was transformed into an extraordinary public park.
Vancouver resident Adrian Levy recalls much of this after attending an event Wednesday (January 18) wherein the mayor launched public consultations for a future greenway.
“The High Line is a very structured, pedestrian-access park with all kinds of opportunities for people to be involved with arts, with greenery,” Levy told the Straight in a phone interview. “There are no bikes on it, though. None.”
For the Point Grey resident and chair of the Cypress Community Garden along the path of the old rail line, bikes should not be allowed on the future greenway, just like at the High Line in New York.
“There’s a very defined group of people who are using bicycles,” Levy said. “We are not a European country or city, where that’s what they grew up doing. And we do not have a culture that everybody is out riding bikes. The number one exercise for any age group is walking. It’s not biking. It’s walking. Well, we’re taking away the walking space and putting in bicycle space.”
What he wants to see in the future greenway are gardens, arboretums, and flower beds on the nine-kilometre Arbutus corridor running from False Creek to Marpole.
“What does the city need more of? It truly needs more green space, true green space for people to have access to use that green space,” Levy said.
According to him, Vancouver can also have something like the Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto, the old capital of Japan.
“It’s a walking space that meanders through Kyoto,” Levy said about well-known path along a stream lined by cherry trees and greenery.
The city has yet to finish laying a temporary path made out of asphalt, bark mulch, and gravel along the corridor, which will be shared by pedestrians and cyclists.
“We have a bike path right now, and a skateboard path,” Levy noted. “I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of people walking on that, who are happy about people zipping by them, riding bikes and skateboards.”
The Point Grey resident claimed that putting a bike path in the corridor doesn’t really make a difference in terms of how cyclists go about.
“Me, personally I think that right now, bikes use everything they think is appropriate for them,” he said. “Whether it’s a bike lane or a bike path or a sidewalk, they’ll use it if they think they want to. I don’t see that changing.”
Can’t pedestrians and cyclists share space in the greenway?
“It can be quite scary for older people, and it can be quite dangerous if people don’t want to give people the right of way,” Levy said.
With a pro-cycling council in city hall, Levy acknowledged that having a bike-free greenway isn’t going to happen.
“I think it’s already a done deal,” he said.
When the city purchased the rail corridor from Canadian Pacific Railway for $55 million, it did so to have space for walking, cycling, and a future streetcar.
For details of the city’s consultation about the future greenway, click here.