Seniors living on the edge of Chinatown say recent changes to the busy Adanac Bikeway have made them feel vulnerable when they step outside of their building.
The elderly Chinese residents of Solheim Place on Union Street say that navigating the new bike lane has made their trips more precarious. The bike path pattern was changed almost three months ago, with the westbound bike lane now situated between a row of parked cars and the sidewalk.
Seniors with limited English didn’t realize they needed to watch for bikes because they didn’t notice or understand the signs. Once they figured out what was happening, they found themselves still blindsided by cyclists coming up quickly. Seniors talk of many near misses.
“At first I didn’t know that there was a new bike lane there, so when I walked out to meet my brother, a cyclist almost crashed into me,” said 64-year-old To Muoi Tran. “I didn’t know that there was a bike lane.”
Vancouver has been aggressively promoting greener transportation as part of its 2040 Transportation Plan. Upgrades to the Adanac bikeway, one of the city’s busiest bike routes, were part of this plan.
The bike route is used by an average of 4,000 cyclists per day in the summer, extending from downtown Vancouver to Boundary Road and connecting to Burnaby’s Francis Union Bikeway.
According to the cycling app Strava, some cyclists travel as fast as 38 kilometres per hour.
The new lane has also made it hard for residents getting dropped off by friends or relatives who drive them around.
“Getting out of the car is dangerous now, because I have to watch for cyclists,” said Oi Luen Wan in Chinese, leaning against her walker.
Another change the bike path brought to the street was the removal of 20 parking spaces on this block of Union.
For the residents of Solheim, this means that friends and relatives often cannot find parking on Union Street.
“Before, my grandchildren would pick me up at the front door, but now I have to wait at the back alley for them,” said Wan.
The back alley is largely hidden from the street, making it potentially unsafe for seniors.
None of the seniors interviewed said that they felt they were consulted by the city before the bike path was put in place.
Although the city’s notice of the hearing was distributed to the residents, the majority of Chinese seniors would not have been able to express their thoughts due to the language barrier, explained Lawrence Lam, building manager at Solheim.
Lam estimates that 90 per cent of the Chinese residents don’t speak English. “They don’t even know how to spell their name [in English].”
Vancouver city Coun. Heather Deal said that feedback regarding seniors was taken into consideration during the consultation process.
“Staff received feedback that a physical barrier between the bike lane and parking would be a barrier to seniors crossing,” she said.
“As a result of this feedback, only paint has been used to separate the bicycles from parked cars to provide the ability to pass through.”
The city has not received any comments via the 3-1-1 line regarding seniors’ issues so far.
Grumbling cyclists and businesses
Seniors are not the only ones unhappy with the new bike path.
Even some cyclists are not enthused about the lane design.
“Overall, I am in favour of bike lanes, but the design of this one is awkward,” said Brendan Cunningham, a maintenance worker at Solheim who bikes to work on Adanac every day.
Businesses on the 200 block of Union Street, who were the first to raise concerns about the new lane, are grumbling as well.
“Even when we opposed it before the bike lane was built, we never anticipated all the complaints from [clients] that we’ve been getting. I find that it is even more dangerous now than before,” said Samson Wong, an insurance advisor with Allena Chong Insurance.
At the end of the block, Kleah Michnik of Charlie and Lee had similar things to say. “There is a lot of confusion and frustration. No follow-up whatsoever with any residents or businesses.”
Pete Fry, chair of the Strathcona Residents’ Association, has long been critical of the city’s consultation process for the Adanac bike path. “I just think that when they haven’t considered all the stakeholders, it doesn’t legitimize the process at all. It just creates more backlash.”
The section of the Adanac Bikeway causing concern