Posted by: Brandon Yan | April 29, 2011

Close Up: Pedestrian Advocacy Network

Les deux magotsLes Deux Magots (Wikipedia) 

When the City of Vancouver went ahead with the separated bike lane trial on Hornby Street, opposition was strong. Local citizens and proprietors argued that the loss of road space, loading zones and curb parking would be the ruin of business along street. The City did its best to mitigate any negative effects of the lanes by modifying design and putting more parking on adjacent streets, however, two individuals, Katherine Lyon and Clayton Mollica, wanted to do something more. They wanted show the public and business owners the positives of the street’s new design, and to particularly emphasize the benefits to pedestrians.

They created Pedestrians Promoting Hornby Business (PPHB), a group that aimed to “challenge the prevailing North American logic that cycling infrastructure has negative commercial impacts” and they were going to do this by planning events and working with businesses. Since its creation more than 3 months ago, PPHB has held many successful events and now has six pedestrian advocates on their board (and looking for more!) and they’ve also recently expanded their focus and changed their name to the Pedestrian Advocacy Network (PAN).

We reached out to them a little while ago to learn a bit more about them. Mollica and Lyon were gracious enough to answer a few of our questions.

Firstly, since the changes to Hornby Street were to accommodate Cyclists, we asked them why PAN, a pedestrian advocacy group, is trying to ensure that the bike lane succeeds. Mollica said, “None of us are really cyclists, but we walk and take transit everywhere. Planning decisions that benefit cyclists are invariably positive for walkers and transit users. Making efficient use of road space just makes sense.” Lyon also added, “Pedestrians, cyclists and transit-users have many long-term goals in common.” For them, it’s about engaging citizens and businesses owners to show them that bikes lanes can have a positive effect in the community – and on their bottom lines. To do this, they’ve hosted many events along the street.

So far, they’ve done a lot of ‘STORM’ dining events at restaurants. Think flash mob but more delicious. Recently, they held a Discover Downtown walk and ride with the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition (VACC). Mollica noted that the response has been good so far. “People have been having a great time and many ideas have been shared. We have strong relationships with a few key businesses, and with our recent partnership with VACC, this will hopefully continue in the months to come.” Lyon added that while many businesses have been incredibly hospitable, others have also discussed their concerns. She continued, “One of our aims is to increase communication and decrease the polarization of groups around Hornby” (think Toronto and the War on Cars).

Discover Vancouver with the VACC and PAN // April 2011 from Duran Cheung on Vimeo.

I asked Mollica what he would like to see more of on Hornby and his answer was simple: more sprawling sidewalk patios. Personally, I couldn’t agree more. He went on a bit more: “[PAN’s] main goal is to promote a vibrant, commercially-viable downtown core that is enjoyable for people on foot.” Lyon also emphasized the need for more areas to sit and socialize.

Mollica noted that Vancouver has so far been a leader in North America for its planning decisions but argued that there’s no time to be complacent. “If Vancouverites don’t support these decisions through action and advocacy, we risk losing our vibrant downtown core like so many other modern, post-war cities,” he said.

We at VPSN are glad to see another group of dedicated people advocating for better city and we look forward to working with them. You can check out the Pedestrian Advocacy Network on facebook and twitter.

More about the Clayton and Katherine:

Clayton Mollica is currently a researcher and teaching assistant in the Department of Sociology at UBC and is also an employment counselor for a Neighbourhood House in East Van.

Katherine Lyon is a research associate with the Department of Sociology at UBC analyzing BC high school education curricula and leading tutorials for students. She also volunteers as an event and fundraising coordinator for non-profits in the Downtown Eastside.

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