Letter to Editor

by

Re: cyclists not feeling safe – by Jennifer Smith – June 6th, 2007

I would like to clarify several points made in the above noted article.

Cycling and pedestrian access to the UBCO campus, Kelowna Airport and other parts north, by way of Hwy 97, is a dangerous proposition.  The highway is congested with high speed vehicles and the north bound shoulder at Ellison Overpass is extremely narrow.  The campus (first as Okanagan College, now as UBCO) has been teaching students for over 14 years and the cycling/pedestrian access situation from the Hwy 97 area has not improved. 

The flyover project, over Hwy 97 into the UBCO campus, includes a cyclist/pedestrian path from the corner of the campus heading south on the west side of Hwy 97 to the CN rail right of way.  This is intended to eventually link to the planned rails with trails system.  As designed it will be a dead end until the rails with trails is completed in this area.  Since this path is part of the flyover agreement, UBCO, the City of Kelowna and the Provincial Dept. of Transportation are paying 1/3 each.

It should also be noted that most of the total cost of the flyover project is related to improving existing automotive related access to the UBCO campus (and eventually the airport area).  A very small portion is to provide much needed cycling and pedestrian access to that area.

The UBCO cycling coalition and the Kelowna cycling coalition became aware of the cycling provisions for the flyover project late last summer and put forward several options to allow cyclists to reach the south end of the flyover path from City of Kelowna street(s).  The cycling groups felt that it would be a number of years before access along the rails with trails route would be achieved and that an alternative route must be constructed in the meantime.

The cycling coalitions did request that the shoulder on the Northbound lane of Hwy 97 be widened however the Dept. of Transportation felt that it could not do so as part of the flyover project and that it would be extremely expensive due to the design of the original structure.

A safe route in this area will be of service to students and faculty living in the Rutland area and to students living on campus.  It will allow students  living on campus safe access to the commercial areas near the intersection of Sexsmith Rd. and Hwy 97 and safe access to other areas of the City by bicycle or on foot.  A safe and legal route is also needed from the City centre through the Glenmore Valley.  I will not comment on the Glenmore route in this letter as it is a complex situation.

In the fall of 2006, I understood that the three parties (UBCO, City and Province) were in general agreement as to providing access to the flyover path from one or more City streets nearby.  At that time no final route had been determined but several options were being explored.

In the months since the fall of 2006, I believe that the project manager (Dept. of Transportation) has kept all parties, including UBCO, informed as to the options for a route to connect the flyover cycling path with City streets.

Very recently the project manager asked UBCO to commit to 1/3 funding of a route to be constructed to access the flyover project path (note that there was no formal agreement on this portion as it was not part of the initial flyover project).  The cycling coalitions became aware that UBCO is unwilling to fund 1/3 of this additional route.

Although I understand the reluctance of UBCO to fund a path within the City, it is unfortunate that this decision is being offered at such a late date.  I can only hope that the path will go through in any event.  Any assistance that UBCO can provide in this matter would be very much appreciated.  I know that they are concerned about cycling and pedestrian access to the campus and would ask that they work hard to find a solution to this problem.  I would also ask that the City of Kelowna and the Dept. of Transportation work with UBCO to make this route a reality.
Thank you,

John C. Suttie
member Kelowna Cycling Coalition.

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One Response to “Letter to Editor”

  1. Gord Lovegrove Says:

    Right on John,
    As a faculty member at UBCO that lives in Rutland, I would love to bike to work regularly. I must say the existing northbound situation on Hwy 97 across the Overpass is most uncomfortable. I’m sure many would call me crazy for even doing it. But I know of at least one other bicycle commuter from Vernon (to Kelowna) that has been doing it daily for the past several years. So we silent few soldier on, but this is a HUGE impediment to promoting sustainable transportation in this valley. We need good, convenient routes all across it, and, especially where we have a concentration of young, able-bodied, keen, sustainability-oriented, students that would bike more often if we had better routes! For now, I’ll gather my courage, collect my wits, mount my steed, and pedal on – or perhaps I’ll take Sexsmith/Curtis – oh well. . . . .

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