This is an exciting time for cyclists in the Okanagan as communities are investing heavily in cycling infrastructure such as the Rail Trail from Vernon to Kelowna and protected bike lanes in Kelowna.
We in the south got off the a fast start with the KVR Trail and now it’s time to take it to the next level. Soon you will be able to ride from Vernon on the Rail Trail which will connect to the KVR at Myra Canyon and you will be able to get through Penticton and all the way to the south end of Vaseaux Lake before the trail ends.
Now is the time for Penticton to create a cycling network within the city which will allow cyclists a safe way to cycle around.
There was a great article in the Guardian called How to Copenhagenize your city and we could learn from this. Copenhagen, Denmark in 2016 had more bicycles (265,000) entering the city than cars (252,000). The main reason cycling is so popular is that it is the quickest way to get downtown with the cycling infrastructure provided. It takes 37 minutes to get downtown by car and only 13 minutes by bike.
It was very interesting to look at the reasons for cycling: 56 per cent was because it is quick, 19 per cent exercise, six per cent inexpensive and only one per cent was environmental.
We are a ways from that as it takes me 22 minutes to ride to work and 12 minutes to drive my car. However there is another motivator in Penticton to encourage cycling: lack of parking, especially around the South Okanagan Events Centre and downtown. This will get worse as infilling converts parking lots into multi-storey residential buildings.
Now is the time to build cycling corridors which are safe for cyclists and scooters and also provide depots for safe cycle storage at destination hubs. This will lead to a bike sharing scheme like Kelowna’s (1,200 bikes to rent).
For example Atkinson Road would make a great cycling corridor. It’s nice and wide and by using dividers from traffic could be very safe. It would connect to a fork at Duncan Avenue. One branch would go behind Safeway and connect to the KVR path and lead downtown. The other would go along Duncan to Okanagan College and then on to the SOEC.
Now these will need to be real bike lanes of which we don’t have any at this time. They need to have barriers to traffic to increase safety, they need to be well lit and there should be bike traffic lights which allow cyclists to get a lead on cars in an intersection.
In other words a bike lane I would ride in with my 93 year old dad or my five year old granddaughter. Also we would see cycling taxi services increase (think rickshaw in a weather-proof cab). Imagine riding your bike to the John Fogerty concert on a beautiful summer night along a well-lit bike path. You then park your bike in a secure compound so you know it will be there after the concert.
It’s time to Copenhagenize Penticton to alleviate parking problems which are going to get worse while at the same time provide safe cycling corridors for tourists and locals to enjoy.