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UPDATE: Mistaken vote by Penticton councillor gives life to bike lane’s final phase

Council will hold a re-vote on the fate of the bike lane’s last leg during a Thursday meeting
A split council voted to remove the final stretch of the bike lane from the budget after a spirited debate (Monique Tamminga Western News)

Update (3:45 p.m.)

A “culture war” that played out during Penticton’s budget deliberations on Tuesday, March 14, is not over, following an apparent mistake made by one councillor who wants to change his vote on the fate of the controversial lake-to-lake bike lane.

Coun. Ryan Graham was one of four councillors Tuesday who voted in favour of removing the $1.5 million allotment set aside for the last phase of the bike lane, after Counc. James Miller brought forward a notice of motion to do so. The 4-3 vote put the brakes on the last leg of the route.

However, at the end of the city council’s budget deliberation on Wednesday, Graham said his vote was a mistake and he supports completing the final phase of the project, set to be built along South Main Street.

“I’m going to bring a motion forward at the next council meeting to re-vote on that,” Graham said.

Mayor Julius Bloomfield, who voted against Miller’s motion and supported keeping the $1.5 million allotment set aside for the bike lane, said the re-vote will happen on Thursday, March 16, during the city’s third day of budget deliberations.

Miller’s motion to halt the lake-to-lake project was supported by a vote of 4-3.

If Graham changes his original vote, the motion would instead be defeated by a margin of 4-3 and the bike lane’s last leg would once again have the green light to move forward.

Coun. Amelia Boutlbee called to pause the final phase of the lake-to-lake bike lane on Dec. 20, 2022. Her notice of motion at the time was defeated by a vote of 4-3, with Graham amongst those against her.

Boutlbee was joined by Coun. Helena Konanz, Miller and Graham in Tuesday evening’s vote against the bike lane.

Bloomfield, as well as councillors Isaac Gilbert and Campbell Watt, were opposed.

Council’s meeting on Thursday will commence at 2 p.m.

Original (10:30 a.m.)

A “culture war’ that played out in the budget deliberations of Penticton city council ended with the Lake-to-Lake route on the losing side.

A split council voted 4-3 at the end of budget deliberations on March 14 to remove the $1.5 million allotment for the final section of the bike lane from the 2023 budget, with Mayor Julius Bloomfield and councillors Campbell Watt and Isaac Gilbert voting to keep it in.

Coun. Amelia Boultbee had made her intentions known at the very beginning of budget deliberations that she would be opposing any vote that included funding for the bike lane, but it was Coun. James Miller who pulled the trigger and introduced the amendment to remove funding from the budget.

That means that even if the city does get the grant they had applied for, that grant would have to be refused.

One of the points of contention over the bike lane was the cost for the project, and how despite being a capital project that doesn’t directly influence the tax rate for the city, is still paid for by taxpayers.

READ MORE: Design underway of final section of controversial $8 million Penticton bike lane

The continued public backlash over the bike lane was also raised during council’s debate over the amendment.

“This project has been massively unpopular. Many people lost their seats on city council or didn’t run again as a result, which I think speaks for itself,” said Boultbee.

Gilbert took issue with the idea of leaving the project unfinished, and raised the comparison of the Point Intersection project, which he claimed is set to cost $5 or $6 million. The Point Intersection, as budgeted in 2022, is set to cost $1.5 million.

“That’s just for cars, so when we look at that, it’s people who are using public transit or who are on bikes that choose not to have cars that are subsidizing people who are choosing to be in cars and more expensive vehicles,” said Gilbert. “This has turned into, in my opinion, a culture war in the city and I would like to see this project go through to the end.”

Coun. Helena Konanz noted that there is an existing bike lane, though not as polished as the rest of the Lake-to-Lake route, that already runs down South Main that cyclists can use, which once the Point Intersection is completed will connect with the larger route.

Miller called for the project to return for consideration during the deliberations for 2024’s budget that is set to begin in November this year.

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