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OPINION: Curtis Road closure brings end to safe cycling for many at UBCO

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September 18, 2016 - 8:30 AM

 


OPINION


Editor,

It is a shameful day when a beautiful, safe, and accessible bicycle route is closed. Curtis Road is the safest, most direct route to the UBC campus in Kelowna with the least amount of traffic and elevation gain for cyclists from almost everywhere in Kelowna except Rutland. The B.C. Supreme Court, however, recently ruled in favour of those few residents who objected to sharing their road with cyclists and pedestrians, and the access to the campus has now been closed to everyone, even those living on Curtis Road south of the entrance to campus.

How did this appalling situation come about? With traffic congestion and pollution levels steadily rising in the valley, an extensive and functional bicycle network has never been more important. There were three major parties involved in the 30-year dispute: the city, the university, and the Curtis Road residents who took the case to court (according to our sources, it is only a small minority of the residents on the road who objected to cyclists and pedestrians using it to access the university).

While all three parties have just cause to be frustrated with the others, they also all have a share in the shameful responsibility of this closure. The city failed to expropriate the road at a time when the residents would have found that solution acceptable, the university at key times failed to negotiate in good faith, and, of course, the few aggrieved Curtis Road residents ultimately chose not to find a way to share their road and help build a healthy, bicycle-friendly and environmentally friendly community.

The story being touted by the university, the city, and the media, is that the opening of the Bulman Road path under the highway overpass solves the issue of safe access to campus. The new path is indeed a boon to all cyclists accessing campus from Rutland. Unfortunately, cyclists commuting toward campus from the west side of the highway must still negotiate a number of dangers on Sexsmith, including heavy traffic and busy intersections with no traffic lights, in order to access the Bulman Road path. Their route to work is also now significantly longer – in many cases nearly double what it was on the Curtis Road route.

The city does have plans for alternate biking routes in place, and eventually there will be safe access for cyclists from all directions, and everyone in the city will benefit from the reduced number of cars. But the creation of such access will take many years to build.

We shake our collective heads in disbelief at the utter ridiculousness of a beautiful, safe, quiet road leading directly to campus - that absolutely no one can use.

— Rebecca Tyson is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at UBC Okanagan


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