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One suggestion for Point Grey Road — take back the city land in front of existing houses and widen the road

July 25th, 2013 · 197 Comments

In just the last few days, I have heard dozens of suggestions from amateur engineers about what would make a better greenway/bike route through Kitsilano. Here’s one, to get the ball rolling among those who agree, disagree, or have a better idea that is neither of the above.

I’m happy to put up other comments that are well-written, to the point, and insult-free, if anyone wants to send them in.

In the meantime, from reader David Johannson:

It appears that a critical detail in all of this — and what has been downplayed deliberately or because details may tend to have less public appeal — is what can still occur within the existing road width.
I am retired, but was professionally involved for years with real estate and city planning issues.  I spent some time in the City Engineering Department yesterday to confirm what I had suspected.
Point Grey Road (along with the great majority of city roads) has a total dedicated width between private property boundaries of 66 feet (to convert this to metric multiply the imperial number by 0.3048 to equal 20.117 meters, which is usually rounded to 20.1 or 20.12 meters).  However, the actual constructed road occupies less than one-half of this width.  In fact, in the narrowest section between Alma and Waterloo Streets, the actual road — that is curb to curb — is some 27 feet wide. Within this constructed road there are two lanes of cars and one curb lane for parking. Adjacent to each of the north and south sides are curbs and sidewalks.
The remainder of the 66 foot road allowance — approximately 12 feet to the north and south of each sidewalk or 24 feet total– are vegetation buffers.  Please note that these are not my figures, they were the ones estimated by Kanji, who works with Mike Anderson in the Transportation Department of Engineering.  He did emphasize that the figures are subject to survey, but that the sizes quoted are what the existing city engineering drawings indicate.
The city representative confirmed that given the size of the road allowance and the extent of the existing usage, there is sufficient width left for the construction of additional pavement for bicycle uses. As an example of the ample room that is available, the existing road width of 27 feet allows for two lanes of cars and a partial width lane for parking.  An additional 13 feet of constructed road, which surely would easily accommodate two bicycle lanes, would still provide for more than 6 feet of landscape on each side of the road.
The issue of size of the landscape buffer is thus what has driven the entire development proposal.  Throughout the local area of Kitsilano, the private properties all appear to be larger than they really are, because the sidewalks have been constructed adjacent to or nearly adjacent to the road surfaces.  The sidewalks’ locations have thus provided the properties with, effectively, additional (but publicly owned) land for their own uses.   The property owners on Point Grey Road use this public buffer for their own benefits:  to aid in the landscaped appeal of their properties, to informally use the space for parking purposes, and to provide them with privacy.
However, throughout our neighbourhood of Point Grey and in many other residential areas of the city, the sidewalks are constructed within 3 feet of the property line.  The result here is that people using the sidewalk enjoy the public space between themselves and the road and are at the same time nearly adjacent to the private properties. Why should the Point Grey property owners enjoy a different street design than us?
It seems to me the same concept can be applied to Point Grey Road.  The City should move and reconstruct the sidewalks on both sides of the road allowance so that they are within 3 feet of the property lines. In this way all of the land between the two sidewalks may be used for cars and bicycles, or, if is is desired, wider sidewalks.  But above all, and especially because this particular road allowance is in demand by a variety of users, the city should use all of the public road allowance for public purposes.

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