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Residents had their say Monday evening.
Inside city hall Tuesday afternoon, council took its turn.
“I can tell you this is probably the toughest question I’ve had to answer and the toughest vote I’ve had to take since I’ve been on council since 2002,” stated mayor John Vassilaki to begin his address to residents. "I have such a conflict with myself over which direction I’m going to go.”
After 53 minutes of discussion, council eventually passed Lake-to-Lake All Ages and Abilities Bicycle Route Official Community Plan Amendment Bylaw No. 2020-48 by a vote of 5-1.
Councillors Julius Bloomfield, Frank Regehr, Katie Robinson and Campbell Watt voted in favour, with mayor Vassilaki holding the room in suspense until finally announcing his support.
“I’m also in favour. I talked myself into it,” stated Vassilaki. “The motion is carried.”
The lone dissenting vote came from councillor Judy Sentes.
“A gentleman last night said, get it right. He didn’t believe we had it right. The task of supporting the concept? Absolutely, no question. But get it right,” offered Sentes. “I don't feel a comfort with going forward with a plan where I don’t know how these things are going to be resolved.
“I’m supportive of the concept, but I don’t have a comfort with this route. I think we could do better.”
Staff recommended replacing Map 2: Transportation Network with an updated version that includes the location of the Lake-to-Lake Bicycle Route, including Section 1 – South Main Street, Section 2 – Atkinson Street, Section 3 – Fairview Road and Section 4 – Martin Street.
At the public hearing Monday, residents took up an hour and 26 minutes voicing their opinions.
A total of 26 residents spoke through zoom, with at least that same amount speaking in person.
Most spoke in favour, with a few questioning the cost implications, and some concerned with the route, and the loss of parking spaces along Martin Street.
One by one Tuesday, council weighed in on one of the most-important decisions they may face during their time on council.
“I’m not a biker. I don’t think I’ve been on a bicycle for over 25 years. But my kids do, and my grandkids bike. They’re all over the place ,” said mayor John Vassilaki, who waited for each councillor to have their say before chiming in for 15 minutes . “I agreed very strongly with what most people said. It’s good for a healthy lifestyle, absolutely.”
Councillor Katie Robinson has been involved with the process for decades.
“Well, no surprise to anybody. I’m in one hundred percent support,” she said. “I think this is a really exciting opportunity for Penticton to provide a healthy, safe, green active community for generations to come.
“I think almost every bike lane in the world faced some opposition at its inception. But they soon proved themselves to be a jewel in the crown and have been enjoyed for generations to come, by locals and tourists alike.
The project is priced out at just over $8 million, which includes more than $5.8 million for the work, and a $1.5 million contingency fund.
“It’s about allowing everyone to have a safe and healthy way through the city from north to south.” said councillor Bloomfield. “It’s not about people biking from lake to lake. But it’s also connecting the city and being a biking commuter route within the city.”
The work includes the cost to remove and replace line markings, add green paint at important crossing points, add barriers and road signage, modify intersections, curbs and gutters at various locations, wayfinding signage and bike counters.
“It’s inevitable there will be some disruption. There’s going to be some loss of parking. But I believe this is probably as good a route as we’re going to get,” said councillor Regehr. “I see Penticton as the perfect spot to start this route. This is just the start of connecting to those routes around town.”
Councillor Campbell Watt echoed those thoughts.
“I hope this route is a main artery that becomes a network. I would love to see our community expand from this. I really like the direction we’re heading in,” he said. “I think last year we budget for $1.4 million net for on transit subsidies, which is a similar number to what we’re talking here.
“We’re talking as if it’s a form of transportation, and I think we have to look at it that way, which puts the dollars more into perspective.”
In 2019, council directed staff to work with the community to identify the best location for a AAA cycling route through Penticton and connecting Skaha and Okanagan Lakes.
“Today’s amendment will lock in the route,” said city engineer Ian Chapman. “We are not committing to a specific design. We’re locking in the four roads - south Main Street, Atkinson Street, Fairview Road, and Martin Street. Then we can proceed with the design.”
More detail is available at www.shapeyourcityPenticton.ca.