April 18, 2014 - 9:46 AM
OKANAGAN - Westside Road is a gateway to stunning provincial parks, scenic motorcycle and cycling routes, and lakeside communities, but it is perhaps better known for its dark side.
Voted number one in BCAA’s worst road survey, Westside has a poor reputation on its shoulders—where it has any.
On its northern end, the road recently claimed the lives of two motorcyclists involved in a collision with an SUV. We don’t know what caused the accident, but it wasn’t the first time someone has died or injured themselves on that stretch.
RCMP spokesperson Gord Molendyk says there have been three fatalities in the North Okanagan section of the road in the past six years, and many more non-fatal accidents. Moving southward to Kelowna, the problems continue. That’s why groups have been pushing the province to improve the safety of the road, but it’s slow going.
New Westside-Kelowna MLA Premier Christy Clark announced $1 million for paving work on the notorious road last summer. More money has gone to improving lane and shoulder widths, and realigning sections of the road, but many kilometres remain covered in potholes and crumbling pavement.
What makes it more dangerous is its many twists and turns, traffic hazards, and the tendency for drivers to speed over it.
“The speed limit is low for a number of reasons,” Molendyk says. “It’s a narrow, windy road, that goes through residential areas. There’s free range cattle on the road at any given time as well as wildlife.”
Because of these things, Molendyk says there’s more potential for accidents to occur. The speed limit ranges from 50-70 km/h but many drivers are tempted to hit the gas pedal.
The Ministry of Transportation estimates approximately 1,000 vehicles use the the 65 km stretch between West Kelowna and Highway 97 in the North Okanagan every day. That number rises to an average 2,500 south of Bear Creek Provincial Park in the summer. Due to the high volume of traffic—which often includes cyclists, motorcyclists and other road users—it’s more important than ever to watch the road and stick to the speed limit.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014