Bike lanes can be a divisive issue in municipal politics. This is not news. What is new is a town council being banned from talking about bike lanes. For three whole years. Even wilder? It is the town council that has banned itself from discussing bike lanes.
This is the extremely weird scenario that is playing out in Penticton, B.C. right now. Last Tuesday, councilors in the Okanagan community voted 4-3 to pass a blanket moratorium on any discussion of separated bike lanes, Castanet reports. Led by Coun. Amelia Boultbee, the decision doesn’t just ban town council from discussing any new bike lane projects. The motion also directed city staff to remove any new bike lane from next year’s financial and corporate business plan.
How does the Councillor justify this gag order?
“I will acknowledge that there are some people in Penticton who want to see bike lanes expanded, but” Councilor Boultbee stated, “There is an overwhelming sentiment that bike lanes have not been good for our community, that they’ve been too expensive and there is no appetite to see them expanded at this time.” Boultbee added that further discussion was a waste of councilors’ time.
The motion was opposed by Mayor Julius Bloomfield and two more councilors. Their objections failed to prevent the ban from passing but did earn some concessions. Council can continue to discuss bike lanes that are merely painted onto the road. The ban on separated bike lanes also does not impact the ongoing construction of Penticton’s Lake-to-Lake bike lane.
Opposing councilors argued that it is not only their job to discuss issues like bike lanes but that the city has a responsibility to include active transit in any future development plans.
“Having this blanket statement, ‘no bike lanes,’ removes any flexibility or any growth or evolution of our city over the next three years, especially if the city is planning on introducing more housing. We’re going to have more cars we need alternative modes of transportation. we don’t have any more room for lanes of cars to go through the city,” Coun. Isaac Gilbert argued, to no avail.
Penticton’s self-imposed gag order is odd, to be sure. But it comes during a weird week that also saw the city of Lille, France ban bikes from its downtown core.