Complaints that cycling the most direct route to UBC Okanagan is a life-threatening endeavour, are now being addressed.
The provincial government, in conjunction with the City of Kelowna and UBC announced this week that they’d foot the bill for a new multi-use pathway and bridge that will allow cyclists to bypass the Ellison overhead on Highway 97.
“Cycling to UBC is a daily part of campus life for many of our students and staff,” said Doug Owram, deputy vice-chancellor and principal of UBC Okanagan. “It is vital that we are involved in efforts to improve the main bike route to UBC for both safety and efficiency.”
There have been complaints about the highway route to the university since the highway was expanded a few years ago, but were loudest last August when the student union started posting signs and writing letters explaining that the route was wrought with danger.
“I measured the bike path before the bridge and it begins at a standard width of roughly five feet. When you get to the bridge the bike path shrinks down to a mere 15-inch width,” reads a letter from Amanda Lepholtz, the former internal coordinator of the student group, adding the danger was especially pronounced when the 80 km/hr speed limit is factored in. “This small space leaves very little room for a bike and a car to safely share the road…This needs an immediate solution before anyone suffers an injury or worse, a fatality.”
Until the new pathway is complete, cyclists will continue to use the Ellison overhead to reach the campus, but there will be additions to make it safer.
This August, a new cyclist-activated warning sign will be installed on the northbound shoulder at the bridge. The solar-powered sign will alert drivers to the presence of cyclists on the bridge’s narrow shoulder.
UBC’s School of Engineering has been engaged to study the effect of this new sign on highway drivers and cyclists.
Stantec Engineering is currently working to fine tune the proposed alignment of the path and preliminary design.
Final design and construction will take place next year. The province is contributing up to $1.55 million toward the design and construction of the project, with the balance of funding coming from the City of Kelowna.