Cycling Advocacy Kelowna

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In the non winter months there are a many cyclists on the roads in our area. Many are racers or triathletes but there are a considerable number of recreational riders and commuters.

There have recently been comments by City officials and politicians that the bike community in our area is “fragmented”. At the very beginning of a recent meeting with a local politician we were asked how many cyclists the KACC represented. Whatever your thoughts are on this approach, this is the general attitude of many of our senior officials.

I can’t recall the last time motorists had to lobby for better access to facilities – did it take a concerted effort by the motorist lobby to have the COB initiated? Did it take a concerted effort for them to have the flyover planned and completed? Does Kelowna have a “Kelowna Sport Utility Coalition (K-SUC)” dedicated to lobbying for improved roads and parking? Have those using motor vehicles waited 15 years to get legal and safe access to the local university campus?

The reality is that cyclists and pedestrians must lobby hard to be provided with safe and convenient facilities. Most of our roads, traffic signals, sidewalks and bike lanes are built with the needs of motorists a priority and the safety and convenience of non motorized traffic a secondary concern.

Some would argue that the City and Province have a responsibility to the majority (those driving motor vehicles). However, considering the social and environmental costs of building bigger and better motor vehicle related facilities, I believe that the City and Province have an obligation to provide decent and safe facilities for cyclists, pedestrians and other non motor vehicle transport users.

In some regards I am surprised at the amount of resources the City has put towards cycling facilities. Over the last few years there have been only a handful of people lobbying for better facilities. When Okanagan College opened what is now the UBCO campus, there was a brief time period when students, faculty and others lobbied for cycling access. This lobbying did not last for long and the result is that we have been faced with the same problem for over 15 years. In my opinion until there is a continued and loud outcry the City, Province and UBCO are unlikely to make a real effort to improve this situation. In fairness to UBCO, they are limited in their ability to improve access to the campus, however their voice could be much louder in asking (demanding) that the situation be remedied.

In some ways we may be getting what we deserve – if you as a cyclist or pedestrian want better and safer facilities speak up. Your best option is to be a part of the local cycling coalition as they lobby directly on these issues. If you sit on your butt and do nothing don’t be surprised when the cycling and pedestrian communities are shortchanged.

John.

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