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This B.C. city council has voted to stop talking about separated bike lanes for 3 years

In a contentious decision around the council table and in the community, city council in Penticton, B.C., has thrown a roadblock in front of the construction of new bike lanes.

Councillor says residents have expressed 'overwhelming sentiment' against bike lanes, but advocate disagrees

A bike lane, with green paint and white bicycle stencils, is shown in a downtown area.

In a contentious decision around the council table and in the community, city council in Penticton, B.C., has thrown a roadblock in front of the construction of new bike lanes for the next three years.

At a meeting earlier this week, council in the south Okanagan city voted 4-3 in favour of a motion put forward by Coun. Amelia Boultbee to direct city staff "to cease all work … related to the creation of any new bike lanes with separated concrete barriers" until the end of the current council term in 2026.

Boultbee is a first-term councillor and said she brought the motion forward because voters were clear with her during the campaign process that they opposed new bike lanes.

Mayor Julius Bloomfield was among those who voted against the motion during the Tuesday meeting, saying it "paints us into a corner." The motion's narrow passing by council is also concerning for Matt Hopkins, urban cycling director of the Penticton and Area Cycling Association, who calls it "really disappointing."

'Bike lanes have not been good for our community'

Boultbee's motion was amended from its original form, which called for a halt in the creation of all new bike lanes, not just ones separated by concrete barriers. The amendment came after Coun. Helena Konanz noted that bike lanes could be done with "a can of paint and a paint brush."

Boultbee's motion further stated that council direct staff to remove all new bike-lane related items from the 2024 financial and corporate business plan prior to adoption.

During the council meeting, Boultbee said she and her volunteers phoned almost 1,000 people in the lead-up to the 2022 civic election and got a clear message regarding bike lanes.

"I will acknowledge that there are some people in Penticton who want to see bike lanes expanded, but … there is an overwhelming sentiment that bike lanes have not been good for our community, that they've been too expensive and there is no appetite to see them expanded at this time," Boultbee said.

Coun. James Miller said he supported Boultbee's motion because of a looming 8.4 per cent tax increase for city residents and the need for financial support in other areas.

"We have an opioid crisis, people experiencing homelessness, a perceived crime problem in our community," Miller said.

"At this time, I just feel that there are greater priorities, while still trying to keep a reasonable tax increase for our hardworking taxpayers."

In discussion leading up to the vote on Boultbee's motion, Bloomfield was vocal in his opposition.

"To say that we're not going to discuss it at all just paints us into a corner that we shouldn't paint ourselves into," Bloomfield said.

"We should leave our options open for discussing projects in their entirety in the future. And that is our job."

Half-completed bike lane getting heavy use

In an interview on CBC Radio's Daybreak South, Hopkins expressed disappointment with council's decision.

Hopkins pointed to a 6.7-kilometre protected bike lane currently under construction through the centre of Penticton and noted the heavy use it is already getting, even though it is only half finished.

The lane is known as the Lake-to-Lake Route, and Hopkins said a number count by the city has shown 85,000 people have used it to pedal through the intersection of Eckhardt Avenue and Martin Street. Farther along the route, he said counts have indicated 200,000 people have used it in 2023 alone.

"It's really disappointing to see that [council decision], particularly when you can see — just even with a half-finished bike route — how many people are enjoying that and using it today," Hopkins said.

Continued construction on the Lake-to-Lake Route will not be affected by council's decision. Work on the final section is planned to start next year.

The project carries an estimated cost of more than $8 million. Provincial and federal funding is covering $4.05 million, and the city says it "continues to apply for applicable grants as they become available."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Peters is a journalist based in Prince George, B.C., on the territory of the Lheidli T'enneh. He can be reached at jason.peters@cbc.ca.

    With files from Daybreak South

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    Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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