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Save Kelowna cyclists: petition pushes for UBCO safe cycling route

With professor Paul Shipley
With professor Paul Shipley's new trail concept, cyclists heading for UBCO would still travel around Robert Lake but skip the private road currently used to illegally trespass to campus.
— image credit: Sean Connor

Cyclists could travel west around Robert Lake to the north side of the waterway and onto the UBCO campus via the new endowment land

In less than 24 hours, an online petition posted by UBCO professor Paul Shipley garnered more than 500 signatures this week in a bid to find safe passage for cyclists trying to access the school.

The lack of a bike route to campus has been the primary target of cycling advocacy in this city, the topic of a multiple plaintiff lawsuit and years of similar petitions—to no avail.

“We still, to this day, do not have a safe and legal way to commute by bike to this campus,” said Shipley on Wednesday afternoon, an hour after he Googled online petitions and set up his plan on change.org.

Change.org is an online petition platform used to successfully advocate for a wide range of social justice issues.

Shipley may soon add "The University of British Columbia: Build a bike path along the north side of Robert Lake" to the company’s list of successful petitions.

Cyclists trying to commute to campus today must choose between two options—braving the highway toward the flyover on an extremely treacherous stretch or trespassing along a private road off the Curtis Road loop in Glenmore.

The Glenmore homeowners want the gravel road to remain private badly enough they waged a legal battle for several years against the university to ensure those running and biking on the 500-metre stretch would keep away.

Stating the route is not safe and likely would never be safe, they argued the marshy property surrounding Robert Lake would forever hamper efforts to keep the road free of dangerous pot holes, and that they did not deserve the onslaught of vandals and noise.

Their argument was backed by the fact one cyclist did crashed and die on the road; the court upheld their property rights.

The route Shipley is suggesting removes the neighbours from the picture by taking cyclists from Roberts Lake Regional Park at the end of Curtis Road in the opposite direction around the lake through the new endowment lands. “The timing of this petition is great for us,” said Bud Mortenson, UBCO communications department.

Noting the administration of the school has been actively pursing the suggestion since it came to their attention Wednesday, Mortenson said the petition shines a spotlight on the planning exercise the university has just launched.

When the university was created in 2005, the vision for the school did not include its engineering department or medical school or the West Campus land, purchased from the city in 2010. Hence a new master plan is underway with public consultation beginning this week.

Shipley’s suggestion faces a few potential roadblocks.

Mortenson believes there may be an environmental covenant around the Robert Lake wetland, one of the few North American breeding grounds of the American avocet.

There are also a couple of neighbours along the west side of Robert Lake which the university would need to consult, and a small strip of land owned by the Glenmore Ellison Improvement District would be impacted; the university already has an easement on the land for those travelling on the private section of Curtis Road.

Finally, the new West Campus Land is in the Agricultural Land Reserve and actively farmed. Any path, even a flat unpaved trail as Shipley is suggesting, could not interfere with the agricultural operation.

But his suggestion does align with other university and city transportation plans. The new trail could very well feed cyclists into the new John Hindle Drive campus access, making it a very appealing option for the university.

Terms for negotiating how this new road will connect Glenmore to the campus have just been set between the city and university. John Hindle currently runs up toward Aberdeen Hall off Highway 97 and in from Glenmore at the Yaletown subdivision, heading toward the dump; within the next two year the two sides are expected to connect.

The new trail would need to suit the overall planning needs of the municipality and could not be funded solely by the city, Mortenson said, noting a more global approach to transportation planning in the area is desperately needed.

“There has just been a rise in the general transportation needs in this sector (of the city) and we think it’s really time to get down to making things happen,” he said.

Mortenson added that planning on a multi-use pathway for cyclists on Highway 97 remains stalled until the city can secure access to the CN rail line.

Twitter @jaswrites

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