One of the key natural features of the Okanagan Valley is a chain of lakes that are connected by the Okanagan River. Many small and medium-sized communities dot their shorelines. Vineyards and orchards welcome visitors and residents. It is a remarkably beautiful region.
Over the last few years trail development for hikers and cyclists has progressed to a point where it becomes feasible to connect all communities of the Okanagan Valley including Osoyoos, Penticton, Kelowna, Lake Country and Vernon with a continuous 250km pathway. Over 70% will follow abandoned rail trails along beautiful lakeshores, valleys and rivers. Only a very small portion will follow Highway 97 on a separate bike lane or go through suburban areas on residential roads.
The Okanagan Valley has established an international reputation as a cycling paradise. Unfortunately many cycling events are at the local level since there currently is no safe way of cycling from community to community. Several local governments and volunteer groups including The Trail of the Okanagans, The Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative, The Gellatly Bay Trails and Parks Society and The Shuswap Trail Alliance have developed plans to address this situation.
The vision of a valley-wide cycling corridor includes the development of loops and spurs that provide access to communities, vineyards, beaches, parks, the Trans Canada Trail and the many single-track mountain bike areas. Various studies have shown that significant economic benefits can be realized by encouraging cycling-tourism. In addition a safe, affordable, green transportation option is required for commuters and students visiting UBC Okanagan and the various facilities of the Okanagan College.
Though significant investments have already been made by local municipalities, regional districts and the Provincial Government, additional funding is required to build safe cycling lanes along sections of Highway 97, to acquire land leases from private owners and the Okanagan Nation bands, and to construct trails or to improve the surface of existing trails.
These infrastructure investments are expected to yield significant returns by extending the short summer tourist season into the spring and fall shoulder seasons, which is required to make additional private investment for businesses including hotels, restaurants viable.
HELP MAKE IT HAPPEN
The $1 billion for cycling and walking proposed by the BC Cycling Coalition would greatly speed the completion of Trail of the Okanagans and other cycling improvements in the Okanagan thus enabling residents and visitors to experience the economic, health and environmental benefits of cycling sooner. Please sign the petition and share it with your friends, family and co-workers.