October 16, 2013 - 1:24 PM
PENTICTON - The city's plan to add green bike lanes to Ellis Street is making a few business owners see red.
Penticton's council chambers were filled Tuesday night with annoyed business owners and managers as well as cyclist-enthusiasts over the plan to insert green bike lane strips on Ellis Street. Attendees said they were upset over the possible loss of free and paid parking spaces in front of their store fronts and the difficulties delivery vehicles might have dropping off goods.
The busy road runs parallel to downtown Main Street and has two-way traffic lanes. Government Street received bike lanes but that street has been widened to three lanes in some places.
City operations director Mitch Moroziuk said the addition of a bike lane on Ellis Street is part of the official community plan. Several neighbouring streets have already been approved by council to get bike lanes but when city staff began to hear rumblings about Ellis Street they put the brakes on until they get more feedback. It is also the reason the city called the special public meeting for Tuesday evening.
Moroziuk said the city wants to grow its cycling network to accommodate riders who might otherwise be intimidated to cycle on certain roads, like busy Ellis Street, and to attract out-of-town cyclists and cycling events. There is also the benefit of reducing carbon emissions. More drivers might turn to their bicycles for transportation if more bike lanes are laid down.
Penticton resident and cyclist Greg Burdock works on Industrial Avenue but has been told by co-workers they avoid Ellis Street entirely when riding to work.
"They'll try it, cause everyone else is trying it," he said. "Four to five blocks are lovely to ride but the last block is difficult. It's confrontational with drivers. Myself, as an experienced cyclist, it doesn't bother me. I get my (signal) arm up, I get my space and away I go. (Others) are timid at that point."
Businessman Rick Valenti is against the plan as is. He owns The Heritage House on Ellis Street and is an avid cyclist but he said he is "100 per cent opposed" to the current strategy.
Valenti said business owners and tenants do not want to lose parking on Ellis Street.
"It's an absolute disaster in the making."
Valenti would rather see Backstreet Boulevard get bike lanes. It's a curvy road that forces drives to slow down.
He said, "If you know Ellis Street at all it's a race lane."
He does feel confident city council will reconsider the issue.
"I hope democracy will prevail here where we can come to some solution to satisfy everyone's needs."
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