Cyclists are taking a stand.
A rally will be held at Wesbild Centre Saturday at 10:30 a.m. to support the City of Vernon’s development of bicycle paths, including a contentious plan which would see 43rd Avenue go from four to three lanes.
“I feel strongly enough about this that I want to do something,” said Gerry Naito, an avid cyclist who is organizing the rally.
“We want to show the city that despite the complaints they hear (about bicycle paths), there are people supporting what the city is doing with cycling.”
Naito hopes to increase awareness for improved bicycle safety on 43rd Avenue.
“It’s the final segment to be created for a route that goes across town,” he said of installing paths.
“Using 43rd Avenue makes sense because you can go across two major roads — 27th and 32nd streets — at traffic lights.”
The city has proposed going from four to three lanes of motorized traffic (one each way for traffic and a centre two-way, left-turn lane), while the rest of the space would be designated for cyclists.
Merchants along the route have stated the plan will drive away business.
Some merchants have suggested that very few people cycle along 43rd Avenue, but Naito says that is because the necessary infrastructure to ensure safety doesn’t currently exist.
“Without connectivity of lanes, you won’t get enough people cycling,” he said.
“We need to make cycling easy enough to draw people in.”
Naito is trying to avoid conflict and points out that most cyclists also drive vehicles.
“It’s not us against them. We’re all part of the same community,” he said.
“Providing alternative transportation such as bike lanes benefits everyone due to reduced traffic congestion, cleaner air and healthier people.”
Naito is hoping for a good turnout at Saturday’s rally.
“We want to show the community that there are a lot of people who are cyclists,” he said.
A petition supporting the 43rd Avenue project is available at the Starting Block, Olympia Cycle and Ski and Outdoor Exposure.