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Should pandemic-induced changes to Stanley Park become permanent?

VANCOUVER —
There have been hundreds of thousands of bike rides through Vancouver’s Stanley park since the city decided to close the park to vehicle traffic.

The move aimed to create more space for cyclists to exercise safely and practice physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve never seen it used so much in the whole three years we’ve been here,” said one area resident in an interview with CTV News Vancouver.

According to the City of Vancouver, there have been 201,000 bikes in Stanley Park since the vehicle and parking closures were implemented on April 8.

The pandemic has inspired a “test ride” for many cycling advocates who have been calling for Stanley Park to become car-free on a permanent basis.

“What we have learned through the pandemic is we can do so much more with Stanley Park,” said Jeff Leigh, of the cycling advocacy group Hub Cycling. “It would be such a shame to go back to the old way … We’ve got to figure out what the new normal is.”

While the Vancouver Park Board reopened parking lots at several popular locations around the city this weekend, it has yet to reopen parking lots at Stanley Park and English Bay.

Leigh wants the board to reconsider what the park could look like post-pandemic.

His preference is to still allow room for vehicles for people who can’t cycle or walk, and also for those who need to access workplaces within the park.

“That all makes sense,” he said. “What doesn’t make sense is providing so much space for vehicles while those roads are basically empty most of the time. Then push everyone else who is walking or cycling into a narrow seawall path.”

Leigh would like to see those in charge have a conversation around splitting traffic in the park to one lane for cars and one lane as a protected bike lane.

Sam Reeve, of Car-Free Vancouver, is also suggesting increased transit options for those trying to access the park.

“Transit is more accessible to more people than cars because when you think about it through an economic accessibility standpoint, cars are only accessible to people who have the money for a car,” Reeve said.

She said she’s hearing a lot from those who are using all the extra space in Stanley Park to ride with children or elderly people who may have not felt safe on normal streets. 

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