Residents of Penticton opposed to the Lake-to-Lake bike route won’t be getting a break after city council gave the second phase the go-ahead once again during their budget deliberations.
Coun. Judy Sentes sparked discussion on the bike lane by raising the public’s concerns during debate on the tax rate increase for 2022. She called for a review of how the project had gone so far, as well as for future costs.
Mayor John Vassilaki called for the second phase to be held until there is grant funding for a minimum of a third of the cost for the $4.7 million of the route. Coun. Regehr supported the mayor’s call to tie it to grant funding.
Councillors Frank Regehr, Katie Robinson, Campbell Watt and Julius Bloomfield shot down the proposal to push the project to 2023’s budget.
According to city staff, there is a grant fund that would suit the project, however the application process had not yet been opened up.
As it was written into the budget, the funding for the second phase would be coming out of the reserves, in particular out of the city’s electrical reserve.
“We could stop building the bike lanes today, and it would not affect the budget in front of us,” said Coun. Bloomfield.
Bloomfield also pointed to other amenities in the community that not everyone uses, such as the library, museum, community pool and art gallery.
The green benefits of the bike lane were pointed out by coun. Katie Robinson, who also noted that so far the city hadn’t paid anything for the project. The first phase had been funded through a combination of grants and gas tax funds.
“This is not a luxury item, we are in the middle of a climate crisis, you only have to look outside your window to see we’re in the middle of floods and we just got out of wildfire season,” Robinson said. “It provides a greener city, a healthier city, and I am 100 per cent behind it.”
Coun. Watt also noted the benefits of bike lanes and how the city already had a bevy of projects on hold.
“I think there’s a misconception about the bike lanes as being strictly recreational when ultimately they are a form of transportation,” said Watt. “It does so many other things, it does safety number one, creates less traffic, creates less noise, it’s a less expensive way to travel, it makes safer sidewalks and it’s absolutely healthier.”
Announcing his opposition to the bike lane for 2022, coun. Miller cited the need for more mental health, addiction and community safety funding and support instead.
“This never went to a referendum,” said Miller. “The plans are there and the second stage is not going to evaporate if it isn’t done immediately. We have to set priorities.”
He pointed to the SOEC, the city’s casino and the Skaha Marina, and called for the bike lane to be pushed back a year and it be considered an election question.
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