British Columbia

Stanley Park traffic returning to pre-COVID patterns next weekend

Traffic in the park has become an issue of intense debate between those in favour of restricting cars to give more room to bikes, and those who believe that vehicle restrictions are unfair to drivers.

Both lanes of Stanley Park Drive reopening to vehicles, seawall bike lane reopening to cyclists

Cars were banned from Stanley Park Drive on April 8 as part of the pandemic response, but starting Sept. 26, both lanes of the road will reopen to cars again. (Karin Larsen/CBC)

Stanley Park will restore traffic to pre-COVID-19 patterns starting Sept. 26, reopening both lanes of Stanley Park Drive to vehicles and returning cyclists to the seawall.

The return to full vehicle traffic comes as exciting news for Jennifer Ryan, director of training and development for the Sequoia Company, which owns the Teahouse restaurant in Stanley Park.

"We are very excited about the news," she told CBC. 

She said the lack of vehicle traffic "ate up a large part of our business during our busiest time of the year when we normally make the majority of our revenue."

Traffic in Vancouver's famous park has become an issue of intense debate between those in favour of restricting cars to give more room to bikes, and those who believe that vehicle restrictions are unfair to drivers.

Cars were banned from most of the park on April 8, and the seawall bike lane closed to cyclists as part of the pandemic response.

The changes gave pedestrians on the seawall more room to stay physically distanced from each other, while giving cyclists a safer and car-free route through the park on the two-lane, one-way road.

The park board reopened one lane of Stanley Park Drive to vehicle traffic on June 22, as businesses in the park began reopening. The other lane was maintained for cyclists only. 

Cars drive behind a Stanley Park Horse-Drawn Tours carriage in Vancouver in July, when only a single lane was open to cars. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The director of planning and park development said historic data shows visits to Stanley Park decline as fall approaches.

"The temporary traffic management plan in Stanley Park was always just that — temporary," said Dave Hutch. "With children back in school, and with COVID protocols and behaviours in place, the data tells us we can return the park to its conventional traffic patterns."

More than 720,000 cyclists pedalled through the park during the COVID-19 changes.

Cars could be restricted again next summer

Park board commissioner John Irwin said it's possible traffic will be restricted once again next year following public consultation.

"This or some version of this might be the model. But we're going to listen to people," he said.

Bicycling advocate Navdeep Chhina at HUB Cycling said he's hopeful that any future changes to traffic patterns will prioritize safety for cyclists of all abilities.

"It should be physically separated from traffic. It is very important, especially for young children as they can drift into traffic," Chhina said.

The September reset doesn't include 700 metres of Stanley Park Drive between Beach Avenue and Lagoon Drive, where current traffic patterns will be maintained as part of the city's Room 2 Move program.

Full vehicle access to Stanley Park will be available at the causeway entrances and all parking will be fully reopened with the exception of Ceperley Meadow.

A public survey on park use and access has attracted more than 10,500 responses. The survey closes Sept. 20.

With files from Joel Ballard

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