Ron Bierman and Ashlee Robinson, along with one-year-old Mason were on hand to celebrate the kick-off of the 2019 Bike to Work and School Week in Kelowna Monday in Stuart Park. (Alistair Waters-Black Press)

Bike to Work and School week rolls out in Kelowna

Week will feature ‘celebration stations’ to encourage people to ride their bikes instead of using cars

Bike to Work and School Week kicked off in Kelowna Monday with a call from the city’s mayor to not only look at alternative forms of transportation, but also to encourage others to take their own action on climate change.

Mayor Colin Basran, speaking at at the kick-off event in Stuart Park, veered off script during his remarks to talk about recent ‘scary’ reports on the impact of climate change and to urge the members od the public to do their part to fight it, including by looking at ways of getting out of their vehicles when it comes to travel.

“The message that needs to continue to resonate with our residents is, and I hope you take it away today, there’s no sense arguing on social media with climate change deniers,” said Basran.

“Lets encourage people to get out this week. Let’s not say ‘I’m better because I rode my bike,’ but let’s encourage those who maybe think they don’t have the time or think it’s too hard. Let’s show them that it’s not hard. Let’s show them that it’s fun.”

Bike to Work and School Week encourages the public to ride their bikes instead of driving in single occupancy vehicles during the week and, to aid in that, the city has set up six celebration stations throughout the Central Okanagan. The stations offer refreshments, bike checks, yoga and opportunities to enter prize draws.

This year, 29 schools have signed up to participate in the week-long event.

Basran told the crowd gathered in Stuart Park Monday that every weekday residents of Kelowna collectively drive 1.7 million kilometres, four times the distance to the moon.

“The fewer single occupancy trips we make the better it is for those who need to drive, and for our air quality,” he said.

According to Basran, if the 50,000 people expected to move to Kelowna over the next 20 years own as many cars as current residents, “boy, are we in trouble.”

“It would be the equivalent of adding a line of cars from Kelowna to Hope to our road network,” he added.

In recent years the city has stepped up its moves to make alternative transportation more appealing to locals with an increased number of bike lanes and paths, as well as multi-use corridors.

READ MORE: Bike to Work Week in Central Okanagan more popular than ever

Coun. Loyal Wooldridge, who said he rides his bike to work a lot, said like many, safety on the road is a big concern for him. He rides to work downtown from his Glenmore home.

He plans his routes based on the city’s alternative transportation maps to make sure he is as safe as possible.

Both Basran and Wooldridge said they are happy with what the city has done to encourage alternative transportation in the city so far, but both feel it can, and should, do more.

Basran said he has a number of initiatives he would like to see addressed, including talking to the downtown Kelowna Association about possibly closing sections of Bernard Avenue occasionally to encourage people to get out of their cars and walk on the city’s main downtown street.

He pointed to the success of the annual Block Party that takes place on the street as an example of popular such a move could be.

He said he is also looking at creating a mayor’s or council task force on climate change to look at the impact on the city and what can, and should, be done.

Penticton already has such a task force, as do many other B.C. municipalities.

Bike to Work and School Week will run until June 2.

To register, for prize details and for event information go to smartTRIPS.ca.

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