As reported in Metro News, by Matt Kieltyka there’s a report going to Vancouver City Council next Tuesday with the title “Complete Streets Policy Framework and Related By-law Changes”. What that really means is that the City Engineer is asking for changes in the Streets By-law to undertake work under the guise of the Complete Streets Policy as outlined in the Transportation 2040 Plan without having to schlep to Council for approval of things like lane changes or the making of public spaces that generally follow the plan.
The challenge with the lack of reporting back to Council is establishing what Council should know about-or not. My years working as the City’s greenways planner showed that even something that would be seemingly a public good and not contentious-like closing the street for a small greenway at 11th Avenue and Maple Street in Arbutus-brought over twenty delegations to Council. While Council approved the greenway, the final design that was built incorporated the existing street instead of the specialized surface promised to the residents, and was not to the design approved by Council. At some time when redevelopment occurs on that section of street, I am sure that the residents will remind Council of this lapsed undertaking and request a greenway reboot.
There’s been some contention over the City’s move towards walking and biking priority as per the 2040 Plan, especially in recent events with the Point Grey Road, Commercial Drive, and the Kitsilano Beach bike lane and the Tenth Avenue Hospital improvements that will take out all but two metered parking spots on Tenth Avenue west of Ash Street. These big “events” would still be going to Council.
One councillor, George Affleck wants to maintain council oversight on road use changes. “It’s a great way for Vision Vancouver to avoid having to talk about bike lanes ever again. It would make me very uncomfortable,” said Affleck. “In my mind, the buck stops at council. Decisions on major developments, how we build our city, streets … those kind of decisions should be discussed in public with council oversight. That’s our job and when we start skipping that process, we’re in big trouble.”
“[The bylaw revisions] go against what I believe was the intention of that plan and why I supported it,” he said. “Changing a speed bump is one thing. But if you’re changing and getting rid of a lane or parking for bike lanes, making change that has significant impact not only on the neighbourhood but the city at large, city council should be making a decision on it.”
It’s an interesting point, as when changes do go to Council there is the opportunity for public debate and learnings for Council and the public. Do we need to have that discussion? Or should the engineer use delegated authority for changing modes and uses on public right of ways and do diversions and rerouting traffic routes? Are we at a place where the public good is recognized and served by less Council oversight and public debate?