A key area of public safety concern has been overlooked by the City of Vancouver in planning the Biltmore social housing units. There’s an urgent need to improve safety and the public realm around the facility. The topic of the public realm was not mentioned even once during at the first City-sponsored meeting about the Biltmore on January 8, 2014. Public realm issues appear to have been missed entirely in planning for the facility.
Public Realm Improvements at Kingsway and 12th are very much needed. Now. Before the Biltmore social housing facility opens. Here’s why.
The intersection of Kingsway and 12th Avenue is very dangerous and has a high-volume of traffic on both roads. At present, there’s no pedestrian crosswalk on the south end of the intersection. The entire intersection has been optimized for automobiles and traffic flow. Pedestrians who wish to cross Kingsway are directed to use the north crosswalk. We’re very concerned that pedestrians will cross on the north side of the intersection in increasing numbers. A proper crosswalk should be put in on the south side of East 12th Avenue at Kingsway to improve pedestrian safety.
At night, the intersection is dark and poorly lit, and this must be improved for safety reasons.
Kingsway is a diagonal street. It does not cross East 12th Avenue at the usual 90 degrees. Hence further difficulties in visibility are created for drivers by the non-standard angles of the intersection. It also takes more time to cross the street because the distance is longer than at a regular orthogonal intersection.
There’s a lack garbage bins, benches, bus shelters and public art in the area. There’s also a need for additional street tree planting, planters and more landscaping in the public realm. The City of Vancouver has spent $1.2 million on renovating the Biltmore hotel; however, the City has not yet addressed the improvements that are needed on the street. Many of the improvements are outlined in the Mount Pleasant Implementation Plan passed by City Council last year.
Improving public space will also improve the safety of the 95 residents who will soon live in the Biltmore social housing facility. This is a key concern. It’s much too late to make changes after a serious accident. The time for action is now.
By creating a safer crossing, and by encouraging more people on the street by making a friendly street for pedestrians, a positive step forward can be made to improve the quality of life for the community as a whole in this part of Mount Pleasant.
A map of the Biltmore and three intersections of concern (Kingsway and 12th Avenue, Kingsway and 11th Avenue, East 12th and Guelph Street):
A wide sidewalk and a single planter make for a very stark corner at 12th and Kingsway (northeast):
No benches, some shelter from rain (overhang)
Bus shelter and trash bin elsewhere in Vancouver, at SW Marine Drive and Knight Street.
There’s no trash bin or bus shelter at Kingsway and 12th Avenue. However, there is a little bit of protection from the rain under the awning in front of the Honda dealership.
There’s also an awning in front of the pub on the east side of Kingsway near the bus stop, if needed for protection from the rain, although there’s no bus shelter here nor is there a trash bin.
The public realm is mostly hard surface:
The #19 trolley bus stops right in front of the Biltmore.
Could a little public art improve the street edge of the Biltmore?
Here’s another view that shows that there’s no pedestrian crossing on the south side of the Kingsway & 12th Avenue intersection. Pedestrians who wish to cross legally on the south side of 12th Avenue have to cross the intersection three times to go around:
There’s a high volume of traffic on both Kingsway and East 12th Avenue:
The intersection at 11th Avenue and Kingsway could use a number of improvements too:
Here’s a map of the neighbourhood context centred on 12th Avenue and Kingsway (source: 2011 City of Vancouver, Open Data). Notice the street pattern and the challenges created by a single diagonal street (Kingsway) that cuts through a grid:
Many vehicles make left turns from Kingsway to East 12th Avenue. Pedestrians need to be really cautious crossing the street at all times. There’s also a right hand turn signal for vehicles travelling east on 12th (to turn on to Kingsway):
Note the median on 12th Avenue. Does this look a little stark?
or here’s another view:
One block away from the Biltmore in a residential neighbourhood, traffic calming measures have already been put in place a number of years ago, including this one at Guelph Street and 11th Avenue. Bikes and pedestrians can pass while cars can’t (near Florence Nightingale Elementary School):
The intersection is extra long because of the diagonal angle; Kingsway is 6 lanes wide (7 with turning lanes). The north pedestrian crossing is 40.5 metres (133′) in length, while the pedestrian crossing to the west is 32.0 metres (105′).
Kingsway and East 12th Avenue are designed around the automobile with little regard for pedestrians. Is it time for a change? We need an improved public realm in Mount Pleasant.