Why Kamloops, Okanagan winter cyclists are envious of Penticton | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Why Kamloops, Okanagan winter cyclists are envious of Penticton

Bike lanes are sometimes in better shape than the roads.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Daniel Pontes

More Penticton cyclists appear to be riding in winter weather thanks to the City’s decision to clear its new bike lanes of snow — and it's making cyclists from other cities jealous.

Josh Shulman, manager of Freedom Bike Shop, said he’s already noticed more cyclists out this winter season.

“I’m all for it,” he said. “It makes for safer transportation for families and commuters.”

Shulman appreciates the direction the City has taken on cycling infrastructure in the downtown, but he would like to see Government Street – which is a major cycling corridor in Penticton – also cleared for cyclists. Those lanes are only separated from vehicle traffic by a line of paint and are not part of the City’s protected bike lane network. Only the protected lanes have been getting cleared of snowfall by a sidewalk plow that has an attachment for cycling paths (see video at bottom of article).

Earlier in 2021 the City finished construction on 2.3 kilometres of protected bike lanes from Okanagan Lake to Duncan Avenue – almost halfway to Skaha Lake. The route will eventually reach all the way to Skaha Lake.

READ MORE: Bike lane inches closer to completion in Penticton

Some sections of the bike lane on Government Street have snow banks on them.
Some sections of the bike lane on Government Street have snow banks on them.

Not everyone in Penticton agrees on which bike lanes should be built and maintained, but from outside of the city, other cyclists are impressed.

“It’s an immense asset for the community,” said Darren Schlamp, president of the Kelowna Cycling Coalition.

Rather than just lines on the road, he wants to see more cities embrace dedicated cycling tracks which have barriers separating vehicles and cyclists.

Penticton's cycling infrastructure is better than Kelowna's, Schlamp said, but there has been a “definite” improvement in Kelowna over the past five years.

He said the Okanagan Rail Trail was well maintained last winter, but on the roads, many of the bike lanes are where plows would pile up the snow.

“They are maintained in Kelowna in certain pieces,” Schlamp said. “They’re not the City’s highest priority but not the lowest.”

To get the most amount of riders using each route, it’s important for a city’s cycling infrastructure to form a “full skeleton,” he said, but that’s not the case in Kelowna.

So when Schlamp sees the effort being made in Penticton to connect the city with a lake-to-lake dedicated cycle track, he considers it to be a valuable endeavour. Penticton's new bike lanes may seem under-utilized right now but he said it takes time to change people’s habits – it’s the first year the public has had access to cleared bike lanes, and the route will become more useful to more people upon completion of the project.

Also the advent of electric bikes continues to make cycling more accessible.

“Electric cars get all the attention but e-bikes are the real game changer,” Schlamp said.

But without a robust cycling infrastructure, riders of all abilities have less incentive to use the environmentally-friendly form of transportation.

In Kamloops, none of the major centres – downtown, Thompson Rivers University, the North Shore business area – are connected by bike lanes.

“Not just separated bike lanes,” said Rob Higgins, vice-president Kamloops Association for Low-Carbon Transportation. “We have no bike lanes whatsoever, so you have to be comfortable cycling in traffic.”

Higgins feels like Kamloops is lagging begin other communities but said city council is beginning to understand the importance of cycling infrastructure.

“Here in Kamloops you have to be a fairly experienced rider to go out in the winter.”

Video Credit: SUBMITTED/City of Penticton
Penticton's bike lane snow plow is seen clearing a section of Martin Street after a significant snowfall.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Dan Walton or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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