Cyclist fears tragedy down the road

Ministry promises safety improvements in the works for Eastside Road

Vehicle traffic moves to give cyclist Mike Barrett room on a narrow section of Eastside Road during his regular outing this week. Barrett and other riders are asking local government to fund improvements to make the route between Penticton and  Okanagan Falls safer.

Vehicle traffic moves to give cyclist Mike Barrett room on a narrow section of Eastside Road during his regular outing this week. Barrett and other riders are asking local government to fund improvements to make the route between Penticton and Okanagan Falls safer.

The video camera mounted on Mike Barrett’s bicycle shows a chilling scene that riders all too often see.

“My lawyer has my instructions for when I get knocked off the bike. If I’m alive, great. If I’m not doing so well, then I guess my family will be rich,” said Barrett with a smile.

But the video he captured from a recent bike ride is no joke. A 10-second clip is of a straight stretch on Eastside Road where an SUV pulls out head-on into the lane Barrett is travelling in, coming dangerously close to him as it whips by to pass vehicles.

“I think the video is pretty typical of what you would see on Eastside Road on any given day, depending on the time of morning or afternoon. There are lots of trucks and cars. Bike lanes are something that should be looked into, if they haven’t started to already. If they have, then they aren’t going fast enough,” said Barrett.

He said the road has been used basically for 25 years by Ironman, now the Gran Fondo event and people exercising, whether that be on bike or on foot.

“In all that time, I am not aware of any major improvement to the road other than a pothole fix or maybe to re-line now and again. There is certainly no proper, safe place that a person can ride along there and there should be a cycle lane all the way down to Okanagan Falls. There is lots of tourist money to put the infrastructure in,” said Barrett.

“This whole valley talks about tourism, but they are just not putting the infrastructure into the highways. The tourism they are getting are all cycle and sports related.”

And putting in more share the road signs is not enough, said Barrett.

At least since the beginning of winter, signs have been posted on one portion of Eastside Road by the provincial government for a road improvement project.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure confirmed a widening of 1.5 kilometres is in que. From the Penticton city boundary south, the shoulders will be widened to 1.3 metres on both sides. The spokesperson said this is to undertake safety improvements for pedestrians and cyclists along the corridor.

The project is pending the necessary environmental approvals, and the ministry spokesperson said they anticipate completion later this summer. The widening will involve in-filling into Skaha Lake, which will affect the riparian zone. Preliminary designs have been prepared for other segments of Eastside Road, but the spokesperson said these and other improvements may only be considered as priorities and funding allows.

Barrett said enough is not being done to promote cycling as an alternative to driving, and that even seniors he speaks with are frustrated because they would like to choose their bike over a vehicle but fear of being run over holds them back. He, along with others in the community, feel more cycle lanes would prompt people to ditch their cars. It spurred Barrett to start a Facebook group called Penticton Cycle Lane Proponents.

“I think lots of other cyclists have made noise, whether we are very succinct or universal. I think there are a lot of us so frustrated that we would rather just go riding and take our chances, but when you have to worry about whether you are going to be hit by a car it takes all the fun out of riding,” said Barrett. “I think it is up to the politicians now. I’m frustrated like everybody else and I hope for better results, but I somehow suspect I may be investigating another coroner’s case on Eastside Road one day. I hope someone does something about this before that,” said Barrett.

Andrew Drouin, past-president of the Penticton and Area Cycling Association, said they are thinking about doing a bike count on the bike lanes along Government Street to show the city just exactly how much they are used. They hope this could be leveraged to their advantage to have council realize the importance of them.


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