From Doris Hunter’s perspective in an electric wheelchair, Vancouver looks much different than it does to someone who’s able-bodied.
When out in the city, Hunter is always looking for the location of curb cuts — the ramps in the curb creating a smooth transition from sidewalk to street for people in wheelchairs and using strollers.
“This one isn’t too bad,” Hunter said about the curb cut at the northeast corner of Dunbar and 41st Avenue on the city’s west side.
Hunter was part of a “street audit” along 41st Avenue that evaluates areas based on their walkability and wheelability. It took place recently during Walk and Wheel Friendly Dunbar, which concluded on Sunday.
The six-page audit evaluated a section of the corridor in Dunbar from the point of view of safety for people on foot, in wheelchairs and with mobility challenges before changes are made for the proposed 41st Avenue B-Line bus service.
Hunter estimated she uses the bus six days out of seven, mainly in Dunbar and Kerrisdale, for outings that include going to medical appointments and picking up her grandchildren from school.
She said she’s worried about proposed changes that will mean the removal of parking next to the curb in some blocks. In the shopping area east of Dunbar, a lane of parked cars separated her on the sidewalk and traffic on 41st.
“I find that the cars are a buffer,” she said. “You’re not really scared, even with buses coming by every five or six minutes.”
Later on, Hunter was farther east along 41st Avenue by Kerrisdale elementary. A pedestrian decided to step onto the street instead of passing her on the narrow sidewalk.
Hunter said the city and TransLink need to hold neighbourhood meetings to counter any rumours and misinformation about the new B-Line service.
“I think there is a real need to get answers before things are done,” she said.
“They should do it early. Now is the time. “
Andrea Sara, chair of the transportation committee for the Dunbar Residents’ Association, accompanied Hunter on the street audit. She said the main takeaways were that intersections need bigger corner bulges to slow turning vehicles and narrow sidewalks need to be widened.
On the plus side are the wide sidewalks on some blocks such as the retail area on the south side of 41st Avenue. They provide the city with space to improve public amenities, she said.
“Maybe out of what we do today, someone will read this and see pictures and it will make them think: ‘I have to slow down. There are others I’m sharing the road with that don’t move as quickly and don’t have a big body of metal around them.’ ”
Part of the challenge, Sara pointed out, is that many of the sidewalks and streetscapes along 41st Avenue in Dunbar were designed for a different era and don’t fit with 21st-century approaches to urbanism.
“What are the issues that we all need to be aware of to make neighbourhoods more walkable or wheelable?” she asked.
TransLink wants a new 41st Avenue B-Line to connect Joyce-Collingwood Station on the Expo Line to the University of B.C. It’s designed to be a faster service than the 43 Express bus that it will replace.
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