Cyclists trying to access the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus got a major boost with the announcement a multi-use pathway will soon be built to campus.
The announcement came as part of a three-way partnership between the City of Kelowna, the province and the federal government to complete the long-anticipated John Hindle Drive, a 1.6-km major road artery to access UBCO and Kelowna International Airport via Glenmore, several years ahead of schedule.
“This is going to help people in Rutland and into the Mission, in all parts of the City of Kelowna and that’s why it’s such a high priority for us to make sure this happens,” said MLA Norm Letnick, speaking on behalf of Minister of Transportation Todd Stone.
Letnick said the cycling issue has been on the government agenda for a couple of years as he took the time to tour former Minister of Transportation Shirley Bond over the Ellison overpass by bus to see how dangerous the only legal access to campus is for the cycling community.
Most cyclists accessing the campus do so illegally along Curtis Road and the residents of Curtis Road have won a lengthy court battle to keep them off of the private thoroughfare. Yet with virtually no other option, those riding a bike are left to continue trespassing along the pothole-riddled dirt lane, angering residents and placing themselves in peril.
On hand to support the announcement, a group of cyclists said they are pleased with this advancement, handing out information suggesting the pathway is progress. There are still issues to be addressed, in their view.
“What people are concerned with is, if you are coming from Kelowna, you have to go through a stretch of Glenmore that is quite narrow,” said Spencer King, engineer for the Ministry of Transportation.
The portion of road is along Glenmore Road. City of Kelowna community services manager Jon Vos, who also attended the announcement, said there is a long-term plan to make Glenmore Road four lanes and the issue will be addressed as part of the work.
A second, likely more pressing, concern of note is the way cyclists will cross from the cycling pathway over John Hindle Drive to campus, and how the new bike path will be accessed from Academy Way, a road above the university campus intended to push through to the new Hindle artery.
The cyclists are pulling for a tunnel under John Hindle to make access easier and have alternatively thrown out ideas, like a floating walkway through the middle of Roberts Lake, where the university has a legal easement.
“I think it’s going to be important that, even with the restricted access under the court ruling, that the easement still does access UBC. And so you’re going to get safely across or under. Cyclists coming along are going to need to somehow get across the road,” said Michael Treschow, an associate professor and member of the UBCO Board of Governors who also owns a home along Curtis Road.
The Ministry of Transportation will hold an open house to discuss the design options as soon as funding for the $11.6 million John Hindle Drive extension comes through.
In addressing media gathered on campus Monday morning, Mayor Walter Gray said securing the partnership funds—$3.5 million from the Build Canada Fund’s Major Infrastructure Component and $3.5 million from the province—saved the City of Kelowna $7 million and bumped the start date up by several years. It was originally planned for 2018.