Vancouver city staff began removing Stanley Park's temporary bike lane over the long weekend, a process that will reopen two lanes of Stanley Park Drive to vehicle traffic.
Cyclists gathered at the park Sunday to protest the removal, including members of advocacy group HUB Cycling.
"Surely, now that we've had a taste of what Stanley Park could be, we will never go back to having a park filled with cars," said 73-year-old cyclist Mary Sherlock.
The temporary bike lane was created following the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020 to encourage physical distancing along the park's seawall, which was crowded with people enjoying the outdoors amid pandemic restrictions.
In February, the park board voted to dismantle most of the lane by May. The board wrote in a statement to CBC this would return traffic flow in the park to pre-pandemic levels.
Although cyclists can still ride on the side of the road, Sherlock said feels uncomfortable riding alongside cars.
"The only time I feel safe riding in Vancouver is when there are separated bike lanes," she said. "I feel extremely anxious, and I feel anxious for kids."
Vancouver resident Rhiannon Fox says she did not feel safe cycling in Stanley Park with her two young kids until the temporary bike lane was erected.
"It became a really special place to our family," said Fox. "I really feel as though we're losing a refuge."
She says the lane's removal makes cycling less accessible for certain people, especially children and seniors.
Fox added she has noticed drivers in the park routinely exceed the 30 km/h speed limit, or are distracted by scenery or navigating, increasing danger for cyclists.
Another group of cyclists rode through the park Sunday afternoon distributing flyers in protest of the lane removal. The group plans to continue their protest ride every Sunday at 1 p.m., starting at the park board's office.
Park board staff are working on a proposal for a permanent bike lane through the park, which is due to be voted on by November.
More space for vehicles
But for some, the expansion of car access is welcome news.
"We're pleased with what's happening now," said Wally Oppal, the lawyer representing Prospect Point Bar and Grill.
Prospect Point is part of Stanley Park Stakeholders, a group of 14 businesses and societies that have previously called on the city to open roadways.
The group says their businesses rely on vehicle traffic.
"They were all not just slightly affected, they were absolutely decimated," said spokesperson for the group Nigel Malkin.
"The amount of parking that was taken away unnecessarily was brutal. There was nowhere to park a tour bus. These guys used to have tour buses arriving by the dozen every week."
Oppal says the businesses he has spoken to are not against having bike lanes in the park, but want the roads to be open to two-way traffic and parking spaces restored.
"There are other people who want to use the park other than cyclists."
The park board says new safety measures would be added to the roads as the temporary bike lane is dismantled, but it did not specify what those measures are.