Local opinion

When I approached council with the idea of restarting efforts to complete a lake-to-lake bike route with my colleague Trisha Kaplan in January 2018, our goal was to have a linear route that was safe for all-ages and abilities, and connected with key amenities.

We still feel this way, and this is why we are advocating for the Martin Street option – a two-way protected cycle track on only one side of the road. This route is the most central of the options, while preserving car parking on one side of Martin.

In my advocacy work on behalf of the Penticton and Area Cycling Association I have been relaying the message to our decision makers that we are a long way behind other cities in implementing all-ages and abilities cycling facilities. The positive side of being so far behind the curve is that there is significant data available that shows the impact when bike lanes are added to a downtown.

In terms of the effects of possible economic impacts of bike lanes being added to streets, these studies are numerous, and all reach virtually the same conclusion: Replacing a curb parking lane with a bike lane has little impact on local businesses, and there is some evidence to show that they can increase business.

A study in Portland, Ore., by the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium showed that while drivers spend more than cyclists on a per-trip basis, cyclists make more trips and spend more than drivers over the course of a month. The study also found that cyclists take more trips in a month to restaurants, convenience stores and drinking establishments than drivers.

In Vancouver one of the most vocal business-oriented proponents of safe cycling facilities is the president and CEO of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, Charles Gauthier.

In a 2017 interview Gauthier said, “More people than ever before are walking or cycling to stores, restaurants and cafes, and that’s helping move people move efficiently through the city, creating a vibrant local economy, as well as attracting talent and innovation.”

He went on to say, “Having the option to take multiple modes of transportation enhances the desirability of downtown as a place to live, work, and do business; it makes us much more competitive and provides us with an advantage that other employment centres don’t necessarily have.”

One reason we approached the Downtown Penticton Association when we were in the early stages of our urban bike advocacy in Penticton is we admire greatly the events they operate downtown. In particular, their large-scale public-facing events that close the streets to cars and open them to people. We believe this is what truly creates vibrancy and a great sense of place.

The best weekly event we have in Penticton is the Saturday Market. Why is this event great? Well there are many reasons, but one that I think is understated is that the priority shifts from cars to people.

There are street closures for many blocks, and cars fill up all the adjacent streets. Instead of worrying about parking, Main Street is dedicated to people. We say hello to our neighbours and friends, converse with local merchants, and boast to all our visitors about how great of a place Penticton is. This event wouldn’t be great if the parking on Main was preserved.

With Martin Street’s current set-up as a multi-lane one-way road, the built environment is set up to get cars through as quick as possible. We believe that the addition of one bike lane will enhance Martin Street as more than a place to drive through, but a great place to be.

Matt Hopkins is a board member of the Penticton & Area Cycling Association and co-founder of the Penticton Bike Valet