PENTICTON -- Residents and local business owners got what they wanted from the city by working with council, not against them.
After hearing the public’s concerns about creating bike lanes on Ellis Street, council unanimously decided to adopt a road share solution so parking wouldn’t be lost along the busy street.
Loss of parking was the major issue for businesses along Ellis Street. The bike lane plan included removing 68 parking spots along the West side of the street. While the city had plans to add parking to a stacked lot nearby, business owners said street parking was crucial for the survival of their businesses.
During the tourism season, Ellis Street is filled with cars of people visiting downtown markets, shops and beaches along Okanagan lake. Those tourists help support business along the strip and owners knew they couldn’t lose them.
RIck Valenti owns several commercial properties along Ellis Street and became the community’s spokesperson by addressing council and ensuring his neighbours were aware of the goings-on.
Valenti, 69, began canvassing the street in September, asking neighbours if they were aware of the proposed bike lane plans and what their concerns were.
“The Mayor said all people had been notified, but they didn’t know about it,” said Valenti, who asked council to put a hold on the plan so the community could review the proposal.
Valenti sent out several letters to his neighbours over the months informing them of changes to make sure they were always up to speed with council decisions.
He said neighbours have no problem sharing the road with cyclists -- they just can’t lose the street parking for the sake of their business.
Instead of fighting council, Valenti and the community were working with city staff to make sure everyone was benefiting.
“And council listened and I think that’s a feather in our cap,” he said.
“It’s our 'hood...and we’re going to protect it.”
Business owners addressed staff at Monday’s council meeting about their concerns and compliments the way council approached the community’s concerns. A few city councillors, as well as Mayor Garry Litke, visited businesses along Ellis Street during project planning, to work with owners and see the situation from their point of view.
Councillors and residents both said staff visits were encouraging and helpful for the planning process, and that it is vital for community members to be directly involved and aware of city plans before they are made public.
They said there needs to be more transparency, and not just a letter notifying residents after the city has made its decision.
The road share program that council approved Monday night includes painting bicycle insignias on the road to indicate shared lanes for cars and bikes. The speed limit along Ellis Street will be decreased from 50 km/h to 30 km/h to ensure safety.
To contact the reporter for this story, e-mail Meaghan Archer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 250-488-3065.