Point Grey Road in Vancouver closed to commuter traffic between MacDonald and Alma roads on Jan. 18, and Monday, Jan.20, marked the first morning the plan was tested with rush-hour traffic. The route remains open for cyclists, pedestrians and local traffic.
When the idea to close the road was proposed early in 2013, it caused a stir in the west-Vancouver community. Point Grey saw about 10,000 commuter vehicles each day. It was one of the busiest throughways connecting the core and the University of British Columbia. Many were expecting the closure would cause traffic snarls on other routes. While Monday’s morning traffic was traffic, it didn’t feature the gridlock some anticipated.
Some locals believe the decision to make the road a bike-friendly route for commuters is a guise to close the road off to unwanted traffic, only benefiting wealthy residents who live there. The stretch of houses along the north side of Point Grey Road are among the most expensive properties in Canada. Some estimates say home values along the north shore could be boosted by as much as 20 per cent because of the road closure.
According to reports, about three dozen protesters showed up on Monday to picket at the intersection of MacDonald Street and Point Grey Road. The new bike route, which will close the final gap in a 28-km cycling network around the city, is expected to cost $6 million. Some cyclists have noted the road was dangerous before being closed but makes for a much safer ride now.
“We’re totally pro-bike, but we don’t want a road that benefits one part of a neighbourhood enormously at the expense of another part,” one protester told the Vancouver Sun.
Non-Partisan Association council member George Affleck attended the protest and says the NPA is prepared to campaign against the road closure in the next election if the decision is not reversed.
The Kitsilano Chamber of Commerce, a local organization that represents the interests small businesses in Vancouver, has threatened legal action against the city for the closing of the road. They claim the diversion of traffic will hurt small businesses on the roads traffic is diverted to because of traffic jams. Proponents of the closure claim the opposite: increased traffic will be beneficial for businesses along those roads.
Jerry Dobrovolny, Vancouver’s transportation director, has said the motivation for closing the street is only for cyclist safety on the 28-km bike path that the road is part of.