Construction underway for Penticton's lake-to-lake bike route receives mixed reviews

Bike lane proves polarizing

Casey Richardson

Bike lane construction for the lake-to-lake route through the city of Penticton is causing problems for some businesses, whether it be with the current construction or future worries for traffic and parking in the area.

Corey Hounslow, the Owner of Valley Ink Tattoos and Body Piercing on Martin Street has already seen the assembly of the city’s $8 million project impact his shop.

“I've had a lot of customers show up to be here for an appointment and then leave because they couldn't get in here because there was a sign of the street that said ‘Sidewalk closed,’ so they couldn't get to my shop. That to me is a problem,” he said, adding he also had an issue with the lack of notice given to shops in the area.

“This was not well planned. This whole project was pushed through without anybody really wanting it.”

The bike lane project has been in the works for well over a year, officially unveiling the proposed routes in November of 2019, but the final phases of its creation were announced in August of 2020.

The last phase of the three-phase information collecting process ran from Sept. 16 to mid-October, gathering feedback from owners and tenants along the proposed preferred route, which comprised South Main St., Atkinson St., Fairview Road and Martin St., to comment on how a bike lane along their road may or may not impact them.

At the end of October, the City reviewed the feedback from 82 people who live or have a business along the route. While there was some support for the proposed preferred location, nearly half of participants did not agree with their street being selected for a section of the route.

Time Winery also sits along Martin Street, right in the centre of bike lane construction. So far, General Manager Christa-Lee McWatters said it’s hard to tell whether their business has been impacted by the construction or if it’s just due to the pandemic.

“We're hoping that once construction is finished and people are able to use it, that hopefully it will help business by allowing people to come out and visit us by bike as well,” she said.

“Definitely parking is a concern. We don't have a lot of parking in the region, in the area anyway. We've also taken our parking lot here on site and converted it into a tasting lounge for the summer so that we have more outdoor space. So unfortunately, yes, parking is going to be an issue.”

However, a cycling advocate is looking forward to the addition for the city and thinks the route along Martin Street was the right choice.

“I think the key thing was to have it as central as possible and Martin [Street] was the most central of the options and also maintained more parking than the other option. So I think for myself as a cycling advocate and for the cycling association, it was key that the route was as central as possible to connect to as many amenities in the city as possible,” Matt Hopkins, urban cycling director for the Penticton and Area Cycling Association said.

“So you look at it where it's coming down Martin Street, you're only one block off Main, you're one block off Winnipeg.”

Hounslow and McWatters feel differently about the route choice.

“Where should this bike lane have gone? Nowhere. We don't need another bike lane,” Hounslow said. “A lot of people are boycotting downtown because of the pay parking. Now we've taken out more than half of the parking spaces on Martin Street.”

“We preferred it that it would be built on Winnipeg, I'm not gonna lie, for sure,” McWatters added.

“The concerns that we have as businesses down here is that it will affect our business, because of parking, the expense of building it as well. So at this time, anything that interrupts anybody's business, as I said, it hasn't affected ours, but that's not to say it hasn't affected other businesses.”

The businesses don’t necessarily think their customers coming downtown will be using the bike path either.

“Ideally, we encourage people to buy wine, it's a little bit hard to take a case of wine home on your bike. So hopefully, we'll see more local people that will come in and enjoy our restaurant as a result. But I guess we'll have to see.”

Hounslow explained that in his 13 years at the location, he's had only one person show up on a bicycle.

“People don't go shopping on bicycles. They go out for leisure rides, this is not going to benefit businesses. This is going to benefit, maybe the bike shops,” he said.

However, the cyclist pointed out that since downtown hasn’t been very inclusionary for cyclists and other transportation in the past, this could be the right step to changing that.

“One thing that's important, it's not been touched on, is that it's going to reduce the parking burden of the city. I mean, you look at the multiples on bikes that, you know, you can park 15 bikes into a single car parking space. So when you start looking at that multiple in terms of parking management, I think that's really key as well,” Hopkins added.

Downtown construction is expected to be completed by mid July, with the project currently ahead of schedule.

More Penticton News