Ignored repeatedly and then hoodwinked all of a sudden. That’s how the residents of East 29th Street feel about a project that will wipe away almost all on-street parking from their street.
They have made phone calls and written letters to municipal staff and councillors, appeared before council and launched petitions but all seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
“Not only were we not aware this was happening until a brief letter arrived in our mailboxes less than two weeks before the project was set to start, our letters/emails haven’t been responded to; our phone calls have not been returned; and our requests to have some kind of conversation regarding this have been completely declined,” says Brenda Irving, an East 29th street resident.
Irving says residents want the council to start a dialogue with them and come up with a possible compromise on a problem that has many people angry and worried about the consequences of what the district and the city want — an almost complete obliteration of on-street parking.
Both the City and the District are working on safety improvements for people who walk, bike, drive, or take the transit along East 29th street between Lonsdale and Lynn Valley Road. Those improvements include new bike lanes, sidewalks, crosswalks, and new traffic lights at an intersection.
But these improvements mean hardship for residents of East 29th as the project, barring a few sections, removes nearly all on-street parking. This, the residents fear, will set in motion a ripple effect that will create tension in their family-oriented neighbourhood. While the residents may find some parking on side streets, lack of adequate parking will strain those who come to the neighbourhood to work, make deliveries, or to simply visit their families. The removal of on-street parking will hurt especially those with mobility challenges. Also, many of the visitors are seniors who will have to scramble to find parking on the side streets and then walk the steep East 29th street to visit family.
It will be a frustrating change for residents like Lindy Libke, who is concerned her 87-year-old mom and her friends will find it challenging to park in the side lanes. “The winter is going to be especially tough with these changes,” Libke says.
Lauren Emond has a home-based business, and she knows finding parking is going to get tough for her employees and UPS delivery guys, not to mention her tenants and their visitors who will all have to find a way around this challenge.
Another resident, Peter Mickelson, wonders if the planner gave any thought to what the garbage truck drivers are going to do with little leeway on parking. “They are just going to back up the traffic on this street,” he says.
Mickelson says the district doesn’t appreciate the value that parking lanes provide as a safety buffer for those backing out of their driveways onto 29th street. “With the north side parking lanes gone and the driving lane shifted north into the parking lane we will be required to back out directly into oncoming traffic which may still remain at high speed. This is a very critical issue and of the utmost concern,” he says.
The change will force resident Mike Pajak to park his work van far from his home. That would mean coming back home and spending considerable time looking for a parking spot, possibly several blocks from home. If it is broken into, will he even hear the alarms, he wonders.
Mary McWilliams, another local resident and a mother of two, says she would avoid the new bike lanes with her kids because they are not “AAA”, or for all ages and abilities as in Vancouver. “The bike lanes are only meant for professional cyclists. I won’t be taking my kids on these.”
Another resident, Peter Coles, commutes to West Vancouver on a bike and says with the steep slope, East 29th Street isn’t a good one to create bike lanes. “This is a steep street and a busy one with lots of traffic. It isn’t used much by cyclists,” he says.Brenda Irving says if the district had indeed done a thorough consultation with the community, they would have been more aware of the challenges the residents will now have to contend with. The district, she says, has gone about an underhanded way to remove all parking with minimal consultation.Irving says there was one survey last year, which a lot of residents responded too, but the maps in the survey in fact did show on-street parking on one side of the street. But in the latest iteration of the project, that option was simply gone, and the motion to have bike lanes on both sides was passed in the council meeting in May with little input from the community. She also says district is acting upon incomplete data on cyclists and parking in their haste to take away parking for bike lanes.
Roseanna Lynch says the residents aren’t against safety improvements but simply want their voices to be heard and are willing to work out a compromise. She says the bicycle lane on a portion of 29th, for example, can be a “shared road” as many other streets in different municipalities have been deemed and function quite adequately without the disruption of the residents.
Brenda Irving says there can be compromises and residents are willing to work with the district — if only they listen.
“Can we just start a conversation?”