Is the city choosing the right path?

New $5.25 million cyclist path from Sahali to downtown may begin construction this spring

New Multi-Use Pathway will extend from Sahali Secondary School to Peterson Creek park. (City of Kamloops)

New Multi-Use Pathway will extend from Sahali Secondary School to Peterson Creek park. (City of Kamloops)

The city of Kamloops is planning to build a new multi-use paved pathway from Sahali to downtown. The first phase of the project extends from Sahali Secondary School to Peterson Creek park and will cost $3.25 million. The project has three or four phases in total, which will collectively cost $5.25 million, according to the city.

The construction could start as soon as spring 2017, as long as the project receives approval for a $500,000 grant from Bike BC. If not, the start date will be delayed until 2018 or 2019.

The purpose of the path was initially to give cyclists an alternative route to Columbia St., as the traffic and steep grade on the road make it dangerous for riding. The path would serve both pedestrians and cyclists, encourage active transportation and is meant to offset some of the vehicular travel within the city.

However, some cyclists in Kamloops have raised a few concerns about the project.

Darryl Ketter, an avid cyclist in Kamloops, supports the purpose of the path but not the price. When he heard about the proposed budget, Ketter stated that the price seemed, “way over the top.” Having worked on budgeting for different road designs himself in the northeast of the province, Ketter asked how the city could possibly find the reasoning behind spending $3.25 million on the project.

Ketter also believes there are many other bike paths that should be of higher priority over this project. Primarily, the city should give cyclists a safer way to cross Highway 1, and the completion of Rivers Trail from the east end of Valleyview, where people are currently using the Trans-Canada Highway as a pathway.

Ketter is not the only one who believes the focus should be placed on different cycling paths in the city.

Trent Smith, another avid cyclist, said “I’m supportive of the framework of the idea, but I think the execution is currently not actually helpful.” Smith highlighted his concern on the issue that the start and end of the proposed pathway currently does not link to any existing cycling routes.

“If the goal is to get more people cycling I don’t believe this path will do it because it doesn’t address the areas that are a primary concern,” Smith said.

Liam Baker, assistant transportation engineer for the City of Kamloops addressed some of these concerns. He said that there were many aspects of this path that created the proposed price tag. Along with being paved, it has a lot of gravel structure below the asphalt. There are also geotechnical concerns and retaining walls to consider, Baker said.

“There will also be lighting for the entire length of the pathway for safety and so it can be used at night, so it isn’t too different from a small road,” he added.

As for the other pathways of concern, Baker said “the bicycle master plan identifies many future connections on either side of the path, some of which we will be looking to implement at the same time as the path to make sure people have a better way to get to and from it, and then some are future phases of the actual path project itself.”

As for Highway 1, Baker said, “the future phases of this Peterson Creek project include a multi-use path that travels underneath the existing underpass along summit drive, so cyclists don’t have to cross the highway itself.”

When asked about other pathways, such as Rivers Trail, Baker said, “that’s one of our major projects as well but is a bit lower down on the priority list as we have paths such as a Summit overpass from TRU to Dalgliesh identified as a higher priority.”

City Council member Donovan Cavers said that the city was aware of the fact that many cycling pathways still need to be connected to each other and there are plans to implement this, stating that “long term, we want to have a network of connecting pathways.”

Although it is uncertain when construction will begin, when asked about the cyclist underpass to cross Highway 1, Cavers stated the project is, “extremely expensive and getting all the permits from the ministry of transportation will be quite challenging.”

The project will find out if they have received approval for Bike BC’s granting program in mid-December.