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City eyes lane changes near Skaha Lake

Penticton council directed staff last week to investigate a traffic reduction strategy for Skaha Lake Road between Channel Parkway and Lee Avenue that would take traffic down to two lanes from four.

Modelled on Government Street from Eckhart to Duncan avenues, the proposed setup may also include a multidirectional turning lane in the middle and new bike lanes on either side.

Coun. Andrew Jakubeit made the notice of motion, saying this week the plan would crystallize informal discussions about what the city could do to lessen speeds on the route and create an inter-connected cycling network.

“There’s no real safe passage. Once you go on the channel on the native side, you just hit the highway and it’s fast and there’s no real safe way for someone to cross over and continue on the KVR trail or double-back and tie into our existing bike network,” he said, noting many families and children also carry floaties along the narrow sidewalk as they return from their trip down the channel.

With additional plans for discussions with transportation ministry on the horizon, Jakubeit said he and others began questioning the value of the current configuration.

“Why is it four lanes? It’s not busy there any more. We walk it every night. It’s a narrow sidewalk, and there’s really not that much traffic. If you had three lanes like on Government, then you’d have a wider, safer area to walk and ride a bike. It sort of made sense,” Jakubeit said.

Then there’s the potential tourism benefits. The councillor said a revamped beachfront drive would encourage people coming off the Kettle Valley Rail Trail on their way to Naramata to have an additional route that would double back around the beach and into the bike network up South Main and Government streets. The terrain is for the most part flat, making it accessible to the full range of user abilities.

“It would be a nice simple bike ride that an eight-year-old kid or someone who’s not an avid cyclist could ride safely and comfortably,” Jakubeit said, adding the proximity to tourist lodgings would make it a natural fit.

“There’s a couple big campgrounds right by there. I think the family tourists, now they’re into what I call outdoor adventurism. They bring their bikes. They want to be active and do things.”

It also fits into increased calls to get people out of their cars. If the city wants people to create a healthier lifestyle or downsize the number of family vehicles, he noted, they should be enticed to do so.

“It’s not quite a protected bike lane, but it certainly improves safety. If you want to have more people cycling, you have to ensure that it’s safe,” Jakubeit said.

The proposal received a warm welcome at last week’s council meeting. Coun. Garry Litke said he agreed with the concept, but suggested staff research the possibility of ending it at a signalled intersection, such as Yorkton Avenue instead of Lee.

The motion was passed, with only Coun. John Vassilaki opposed. He said at the end of the meeting he feared the proposal would create congestion.

Jakubeit, however, said Monday adding to the cycling network would benefit Penticton in the long run.

“It’s been talked about for a while, but never been followed up and implemented,” he said. “I think there’s more and more of an appetite as people want to be more healthy or downgrade from two vehicles to one. I think it’s good for our community.”

Staff will draw up the report that must receive final endorsement by council.

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