Although Stanley Park has reopened to vehicle access, safety and traffic issues are arising due to an animal-powered form of transportation.
During the local rise of the pandemic, the Vancouver Park Board had closed vehicle access to Stanley Park on April 8 to reduce visitors to the park. To ensure physical distancing for joggers and pedestrians, roadways were reallocated for cycling.
On June 19, the park board voted to reopen one lane to vehicle traffic, with the other lane left reserved for cyclists.
However, tensions between vehicles and horse-drawn carriages that travel through the park are becoming a focus of concern.
Stanley Park Horse Drawn Tours operates open carriage rides pulled by horses. But with only one lane open, vehicles are slowed down and backed up behind these trolleys.
CTV News reported on July 6 that Stanley Park Horse Drawn Tours owner Gerry O’Neil provided footage of vehicles veering into the cycling lane in order to pass the carriages, which raises safety concerns for cyclists.
The park board had stated that the plan could be adapted to changes in the pandemic.
However, the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) issued a statement today (July 7) to express opposition to the horse-drawn carriages themselves, arguing that they “not only create a risk to public safety but also compromise the horses’ welfare”.
The organization cited an incident in November 2016 when pipeline protestors at a news conference with the prime minister on Stanley Park Drive wound up spooking the horses.
The startled animals galloped across a cycling lane and smashed a park bench with the carriage they were towing. Several tourists leapt off the trolley, but no one was injured and neither were the horses.
The VHS stated that it is against horse rides in the city due to the proximity of the horses to traffic, noise, and pollution, and for horses standing in all weather conditions for lengthy periods of time.
“Now is the opportunity for the city to listen to local residents and prioritize safety, ensuring the increase in cycle traffic is adequately accommodated,” VHS spokesperson Peter Fricker stated in a news release.
When the Georgia Straight contacted the park board for comment, spokesperson Christine Ulmer said that staff are aware of this issue and are working with stakeholders, including the tour operator, on a traffic-management plan that will include pull-outs that slower-moving traffic, such as the horse-drawn carriage, can use to allow vehicles to pass by.
Ulmer also stated that vehicles are not permitted to use the designated cycling lanes and usage of these lanes will be monitored.
Meanwhile, the park board has been reopening numerous outdoor and recreation spaces across the city that were closed during the onset of the pandemic, such as parking lots, playgrounds, swimming pools, tennis and basketball courts, and the Bloedel Conservatory.