The South Okanagan region of British Columbia is the latest to announce an ambitious — and expansive — network for cyclists, paid for by provincial support.
In this case, though, it’s not about the painting of new bike lanes or the addition of new trails. Instead, it’s the placement of 120 signs throughout the existing regional trail network in the South Okanagan, establishing clear routes and indicating which ones go where. The plan is part of a provincial effort to boost tourism in British Columbia, starting with the showcasing of trails and other routes in the area — attractions, provincial and regional representatives say, that bring a significant influx of cyclists to B.C. each year.
“Penticton and the South Okanagan have world-class cycling terrain — road, mountain and recreational cycling,” said Penticton mayor Andrew Jakubeit, emphasizing that the Southern Interior city is no longer a self-professed cycling destination but, with this support, a now provincially-recognized one. Announcing the plan, the provincial government appeared to say the same.
“We decided to do the pilot project for this new concept here in the South Okanagan because there’s a tremendous network in place today,” said B.C.’s transportation minister Todd Stone.
Coursing through the South Okanagan, the array of freshly-delineated routes is called the South Okanagan Similkameen Cycling Network. Its signage, reports say, will be readily recognizable to cyclists by a graphic showing a stick figure riding on a green path, set against a backdrop of mountains and lakes. They’ll mark the directions of both on- and off-road paths, pointing novice and expert riders alike to everything from a quick, leisurely afternoon ride to a multi-day tour.
In addition to promoting those trails, though, another benefit of the network is in how it will better protect the more on-road, less all-terrain routes in the area. More roadside barriers will be erected along the asphalt of the network. Bikes lanes, meanwhile, will be cleared more regularly thanks to an increase in sweeps. “This makes the roads safer for everyone,” said Mark Pendergraft, chair of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen. “This is going to make it a lot easier to get around.”
“People come from around the world to ride, train and race throughout the South Okanagan-Similkameen. Now the required infrastructure will be put in place to support that interest and make it safer for everyone.”