Wheels in motion for cycling network upgrade

Penticton has B.C.'s highest percentage of residents who cycle to and from work

  • Mar. 8, 2012 8:00 a.m.

The City of Penticton will be wheeling out a public consultation process on how to add spokes to its cycling network through town.

Engineer Ian Chapman presented a cycling plan update by Urban Systems to council Monday, highlighting some surprising figures about how much Penticton bikes are used.

Chapman said that research found a surprising trend among Pentictonites: 3.5 per cent of residents bike to and from work — the highest percentage among B.C. communities.

Those who walk to work account for 13.3 per cent of the local population, and when combined with cyclists, that means 16.8 per cent of Pentictonites take alternate modes of transportation to and from work. In comparison, only three per cent of Kelowna residents and 2.3 per cent in Vernon bike to and from work.

“The City of Penticton is blessed with good weather, an active group of cyclists, interesting attractions, a desire for environmentally responsible transport options and several world-class cycling events all within a relatively compact community,” Chapman said, adding more work must be done to gauge how to move forward. “This is not a final plan by any means.”

He explained that research in other cities found most people fall under four categories with respect to cycling: strong and fearless; enthused and confident; no way, no how; and interested but concerned. While fearless and confident cyclists top out at 3.5 per cent, the city would have to tap into the “interested but concerned” group to see substantial cycling rate increases.

To address safety or convenience concerns, he said, cycling should become part of the city’s transportation planning — and a proposed bicycle network would play into that.

Chapman said that the city does have a nucleus of a network in the form of signage for shared lanes and dedicated bike lanes on South Main Street, Dawson Avenue, Government Street, Carmi Avenue and Power Street. Those could be expanded with extensions in a grid-like formation for connectivity.

The cycling plan update, he added, provided a reasonable implementation strategy the city could embark upon.

While installation of additional dedicated bike lanes will not proceed without council direction, Chapman said staff have developed concept plans for two potential network extensions that could be done within the current capital budget and in the immediate future. One is on Warren Avenue, providing dedicated bike lanes from the Wiltse area to Channel Parkway; while the second could be a two-way, left-turn arrangement on Skaha Lake Road between Yorkton Avenue and Channel Parkway.

The city’s options for making cyclists feel safer were listed in the report, including features like separated bike facilities such as paved trails, bicycle lanes and shared routes enhanced by markings and stencils. Staff are hoping the community will give input on which tools should be used, Chapman added. “They all have pros and cons, and we would have to choose them according to the particular corridor,” he said.

A thorough public consultation process, Chapman added, would be used to determine what the community would like to see.

“This has been a long time in coming,” Coun. Garry Litke said. “I’m really looking forward to how the public is going to react to it.”

Mayor Dan Ashton said enhancing cycling safety will prove to be big selling features to Ironman and Granfondo enthusiasts to stay for training.

“For a community like us to invite the world to come here, we do have to provide some safety,” he said.