The Penticton and Area Cycling Association is calling on the city to increase its current cycling amenities.
“Penticton’s cycling routes are outdated and unsafe, and there is a lack of bike racks placed in strategic locations,” reads their submission to city council.
According to PACA, studies have shown that as cities add protected bike lanes and safe infrastructure, injuries are reduced and new riders are attracted. Trisha Kaplan and Matt Hopkins presented the request to city council on Jan. 8 during the committee of the whole meeting.
“This benefits the broader community by improving health, increasing storefront sales, reducing the demand for car parking, and slowing climate change,” reads the PACA submission.
PACA is asking city hall to meet current basic municipal cycling standards. That includes installing 50 bike racks, along with dedicating funds and staff time to upgrading bicycle routes: “a safe, protected cycling network, including a much-needed north-south route.”
The association highlighted its successful bike valet during the 2018 season farmers’ markets, which saw 800 clients used the free, volunteer-provided service. Kaplan said this proves that city residents are likely to use safe cycling ammenities when they are available.
“It’s sort of like a coat check, you drop off your bike and volunteers watch it until you come and claim it when you’re done,” said Kaplan. “Matt (Hopkins) and I put this together, the first day we had 10 bikes checked. Within a few weeks, we had 45 (bikes) and in another few weeks we had 60 and 70 and then 80 (bikes).”
“What we want to talk about is what is inadequate about our cycling facilities right now. One of the biggest things is that we don’t have a facility right now that would be considered applicable for all ages and abilities,” said Hopkins. “What I mean by that is for people from age eight to 80 — or even younger or older than that — where they feel safe and are separated from vehicular traffic. We also don’t have anything going through the city connecting cyclists with city ammenities. What I loosely mean is replacing possible car trips with cycling trips.”
Hopkins highlighted the ongoing parking problem at the South Okanagan Events Centre as an example of a location that could benefit from safe cycling ammenities. He also noted the Government St. is considered a “ring road around the city” by cyclists because it is not linear and “it does not get you to places you want to get to.”
“The parking study that came out recently mentioned the John Fogerty concert, a sold-out concert, that had one bicycle in the bike rack. I think there’s a lot we can do to improve things like that,” said Hopkins. “(Government Street) is poorly maintained, it has snow storage in the winter and is the same grade as the road so there is constant dirt from cars that goes into the bike lane.
This does not come out until the street sweeper comes out in the spring.”
“We want to make cycling as inclusive as possible,” said Hopkins.
Coun. Katie Robinson expressed her support in enhancing cycling ammenities throughout the city, noting that she sat on council when they voted to have the first bike lane installed in the city. Coun. Campbell Watt questioned what portion of city residents would be included in the association’s definition of urban cyclists.
“We don’t know that, and that is something we are very interested in finding out,” said Kaplan. “One of the things to note, when municipalities invest funding in cycling based on the number of existing cyclists, it is usually not a very good approach. People aren’t cycling because they don’t feel safe. What’s been proven over and over again in municipalities around the world is when you build cycling infrastructure is when people do cycle.”
“One other thing that people talk about in cycling circles a lot is that in terms of car transportation is that you wouldn’t judge where to build a bridge based on how many people are swimming across,” said Hopkins. “I think that’s important when you think about cycling, if you make it safe and an attractive option, that we actually want to recruit cyclists.”
City staff noted that it would cost $20,000 to install 50 bike racks throughout the city, the locations of which have already been identified by PACA. The submission also notes that the province has a BikeBC program that will cover up to 50 per cent of the eligible project costs, and applications are evaluated on how they improve safety for cyclists.
Penticton council debated their options for funding this initiative and, ultimately, referred the request to staff to come back with a list of all of the available funding options. The deadline for the current cycle of applications for the BikeBC Grant is open until Feb. 18.
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