The latest flashpoint between drivers and the City of Vancouver: ‘banana barriers’

The city of Vancouver calls them the latest incarnation of their “Slow Streets Gateways”.

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Stanley Woodvine calls them “banana barriers”.

They are concrete barriers painted yellow, tipped sideways like pinballs in a pinball machine, and installed in 37 locations across Vancouver to slow traffic.

And they have become the latest focal point in the never-ending battle between drivers, the city and cyclists.

There have been several incidents where cars or SUVs have not seen the barriers and have been impaled on them.

This week, CKNW radio host Jill Bennett posted a photo of a gray SUV suspended from a barrier Twitterwith the message “hey @CityofVancouver, This is the second incident I’ve seen caused by those useless “slow road” barricades that were installed last month. They don’t slow down traffic; they cause accidents and traffic chaos.”

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Her post went viral, with over 3,500 comments as of Friday afternoon, many from people who like the barriers and don’t seem to like cars.

“I see no problem here, Jill,” Michael Coyle said on Twitter. “This person was too fast. The barrier stopped them. Saved the life of a pedestrian or cyclist. It worked.”

An SUV is impaled on a yellow guardrail in the city of Vancouver. Photo: Jill Bennett. jpeg

Whether the driver was speeding is unknown, but sometimes drivers just don’t see the barriers, which aren’t very high.

“We saw a taxi hit one of them,” said Nicole Duncan of the Waldorf Hotel, which is next to a yellow barrier at McLean Drive and East Hastings.

“It is a greater danger than before. It’s unsafe, people bump into the barrier. They cause traffic jams, especially around three or four when it’s busy. People can’t even cross the street anymore.”

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The Waldorf is in a small industrial neighborhood that doesn’t seem to have much traffic, bikes, or pedestrians. But McLean is part of the Mosaic bike route, so the city has knocked down some barriers.

Woodvine, a former Georgia Straight cartoonist who now blogs about homelessness issues, tweeted several photos of the yellow barriers on Alder, near Broadway on Vancouver’s west side.

“I am skeptical about the usefulness of these barriers,” he wrote in a statement.

“These banana barriers are essentially an experimental attempt to create “instantaneous” curb islands at the mouths of intersections without incurring the traditional costs and obligations.

“Unlike curb islands, these barriers ‘can’ be easily removed if necessary. Such curb islands are said to improve turning visibility for drivers by forcing their vehicles off the curbs.

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“Oddly, curb parking would do exactly the same thing. And we really need all the side street parking that we can get on West Broadway because the subway construction has eliminated all parking on West Broadway itself.”

Woodvine also points out that “Not only do these banana barriers discourage ordinary drivers, but it also discourages commercial drivers, such as truck drivers.

Drivers navigate a series of obstacles designed to slow traffic on McLean Street and Hastings Street in Vancouver. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

Katherine Glowacz is Municipal Transportation Branch Manager Engineering Services for the City of Vancouver. She said the barriers are part of the city’s Slow Streets Network, “streets that we want to develop as places where people can walk and bike and feel more comfortable.”

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She said: “With any new intervention (like the yellow barriers) we generally see an adjustment period for all people traveling on a road. Then we hear a little bit more (from the public).

“We really listened and tracked a lot of that feedback. Community members have shared over 311, we monitor social media and project email, staff monitor sites.”

As a result, she said: “We will be making adjustments at a number of sites, including the McLean and Hastings sites.”

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