Over the last year I have become increasingly concerned about the failure of public process in decisions affecting this community.
More and more Council seems to be deferring to staff the responsibility of deciding what is in the best interests of this community. When I first spoke to the Director of Engineering in November about the details of the B Line proposal, he said Council had already approved it in principle and it was up to him and TransLink to decide on how it was to be implemented. I was relieved that Council didn’t agree and took over the decision-making and allowed real public input.
In other areas, however, in my opinion Council has improperly deferred too much to staff. When it comes to engineering there are many ways of achieving a result and different approaches have different impacts on the public. Near the end of the last Council’s term I advocated for raised crosswalks to add to pedestrian safety.
The Director of Engineering turned that into a motion to reverse a longstanding policy bar against speed bumps (and speed humps) and Council approved it. When staff implemented the new policy, however, they refused to put in raised crosswalks but instead put in speed humps close to existing crosswalks but not in a way that would benefit pedestrians.
This is not a question of there being only one proper way to design this. North Vancouver has many examples of combining speed humps with crosswalks to create a raised crosswalk. This way you have both the speed reducing function AND added safety to pedestrians. There are perfect examples of this on Jones Ave in North Vancouver and Bewicke Ave.
The laws of physics and engineering do not change when you cross over to North Vancouver, so why does West Vancouver refuse to add this level of safety to pedestrians but North Van can do it?
I believe Council has a say in what type of street design we have here. After all, the public is paying the bill. So if Council wants bike lanes, they should ask staff to incorporate bike lanes into road design, if Council wants raised crosswalks, they should ask staff to incorporate raised crosswalks into road design.
It is improper to simply leave these decisions exclusively to staff. If, however, you believe West Vancouver pedestrians don’t need or deserve the added safety of raised crosswalks then say so.
Please explain why the speed hump in front of Municipal Hall on Fulton couldn’t have been lined up with the crosswalk at 16th to create both a speed hump and raised crosswalk. Why couldn’t that be done at Hollyburn school or 21st Street where speed humps went in near but not at crosswalks. Drivers slow down for speed humps to protect their suspension, but they do not often slow for crosswalks.
Another example of Council deferring to staff decisions that should have had more public involvement is the Five Creeks project. Again, there wasn’t just one way to address that problem, but Council seems to have let staff choose a solution that directly impacts on the enjoyment of property of the residents of 800 homes.
Surely with that level of public impact you would think that the decision on how to proceed would not be left strictly to staff, yet that appears to be what has happened.
I believe West Vancouver residents should be given the respect to be heard when there are legitimate options on what we build as improvements to this community.
It should not be just left to engineers to decide what is in the public interest (s. 22(1) (1)). When the public money is being spent on improvements Council should weigh in on the alternatives so that they decide what we are going to buy when those choices can have differing impacts or benefits to the public.
I am asking you as Council now to answer why West Vancouver residents are not receiving the added pedestrian safety benefits of raised crosswalks when speed humps are being put in.
(Paul Hundal is a West Vancouver resident.)