A couple of days ago, Colin Basran, the mayor of Kelowna, B.C., started his day in a somewhat unconventional way for a politician. Instead of meetings, the city’s top official wheeled out to the campus of UBC Okanagan, after being invited to experience the cycling route for himself first hand by a professor at the institution. The professor, the CBC reports, has long been an advocate for a safer, more bike-friendly route to the campus.
For Basran, that point was well proven.
“It’s not safe,” he told CBC reporters after saddling up for the ride, a trip that took him under Highway 97 — one of the most troubling parts of the route, he said. “We had a large lumber truck roar by us, which fortunately for us, cooperated and changed lanes for us, because we had a big group. But this was a good day.”
“What happens when it rains or is a little bit darker?” Basran added. “So no, did I feel safe? No, I did not.”
The route Basran followed, reports say, is the only route legally available to cyclists commuting to and from UBC Okanagan, after a legal battle that closed off the only alternative. That alternate followed a private road, Curtis Road, which a case before the British Columbia Supreme Court in 2013 decided would only be legally open to certain people employed by or studying at the university, and only on certain days. When the hoped-for drop in the numbers of riders along the stretch didn’t happen, the CBC reported, residents took the case before the courts once again. Ever since, the Curtis Road route — a decidedly safer option for cyclists — has been closed to everyone on two wheels.
Having experienced the difficult, dangerous trek for himself, Kelowna’s mayor is now open to other options, floating the idea of a road built under the Highway 97 overpass that could accommodate cyclists more safely. It’s possible, he told reporters, that such an artery could be constructed by a deadline as early as next spring.
“There are a couple of different options there,” Basran said, “that I would like to have the discussion with staff in regards to, and we’ll see where it goes.”
A full audio version of Basran’s interview with the CBC is available online.