Kelowna bike paths leading to future challenges

My story on bike paths was published this morning in the Globe and Mail. Here’s a link: Kelowna faces hard choices on bike paths

And then at 9:30 a.m. I got this e-mail from a local cyclist who had some excellent criticism of my take. Here it is:


Thanks for taking a stab at this topic. I think it is always good to have more bicycling in the news. However, you have missed the mark on this one. Kelowna and Vancouver have taken different paths in developing physically segregated cycling infrastructure. Kelowna has chosen to use a multi-use-pathway as the backbone of its cycling facilities. Vancouver on the other hand is moving towards the use of the cycle track. A multi-use-pathway is best used when it runs through a park, along a sea wall or recreational corridor. A cycle track is best used when it runs along side the roadway. In your article you have mistakenly lumped these two distinct facilities together. While Vancouver has chosen the proper use for the cycle track, Kelowna has often chosen the improper use of the multi-use-pathway. Using the multi-use-path has allowed Kelowna to avoid conflict, but has also put cyclists in greater danger.

It may be looked at from this perspective: Vancouver has made cyclists more visible resulting safer cycling condition and has faced a “backlash” from the car driving public because of it; Kelowna has hidden cyclist resulting in more dangerousness conditions for cyclists and has avoided challenging the car driving public.

It is true that physically segregated cycling facilities decrease conflict between cyclist and motorists and make cyclists feel more safe resulting in an increase of bicycle mode share. It is also true that inappropriate cycling facilities result in increased conflict and will actually discourage dedicated cyclists. Kelowna’s use of the multi-use-pathway along side road ways is mostly discouraged for the following reasons:
  • Unless shared use paths are paired, they require one direction of bicycle traffic to ride against motor vehicle traffic, contrary to normal rules of the road. This movement greatly increases crashes. The designer is often left with complex placement issues.
  • When the path ends, bicyclists going against traffic will tend to continue to travel on the wrong side of the street. Likewise, bicyclists approaching a path often travel on the wrong side of the street to get to the path. Wrong-way travel by bicyclists is a major cause of bicycle/automobile crashes and should be discouraged at every opportunity.
  • At intersections, motorists entering or crossing the roadway often will not notice bicyclists coming from the right, as they are not expecting or looking for contra-flow vehicles. Even bicyclists coming from the left (the expected direction) often go unnoticed, especially when sight distances are poor.
  • Bicyclists using the roadway are often subjected to harassment by motorists who feel that, in all cases, bicyclists should be on the trail instead. Many bicyclists will use the roadway instead of the shared use path because they have found the roadway to be safer, less congested, more convenient, or better maintained.
  • Bicyclists using shared use paths generally are required to stop or yield at all cross streets and driveways. Whereas, bicyclists using the roadway usually have priority over cross traffic, because they have the same right of way as motorists.
  • Stopped cross street motor vehicle traffic or vehicles exiting side streets or driveways may block the path crossing.
  • They are not safe for higher speed bicycle use.
  • Conflicts are common between pedestrians and bicyclists. Pedestrians exiting stores or parked cars may surprise bicyclists.
  • Conflicts with fixed objects (e.g., parking meters, utility poles, sign posts, bus benches, trees, fire hydrants, mail boxes, etc.) are also common.
  • Walkers, joggers, skateboarders, in-line skaters and roller skaters can, and often do, change their speed and direction almost instantaneously, leaving bicyclists insufficient time to react to avoid collisions.
  • Pedestrians often have difficulty predicting the direction an oncoming bicyclist will take.
  • At intersections, motorists are not often looking for bicyclists (who are traveling at higher speeds than pedestrians) entering the crosswalk area, particularly when motorists are making a turn. Sight distance is often impaired by buildings, walls, property fences and shrubs along sidewalks, especially at driveways.
Furthermore, 75% of bicycle motor vehicle collisions occur at intersections. Kelowna’s use of multi-use-pathways make cyclists more venerable at intersections. In contrast the new cycle tracks in Vancouver promote cyclist priority, are well energized (distinct crossings for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists)  and are easily readable.
Kelown’a multi-use-pathways are designed primarily for recreational use while Vancouver’s cycle tracks are promoting commuting or utility cycling. It is for this reason that I predict and increase of bicycle mode share for Vancouver while in Kelowna this will decline.
I look forward to more cycling related articles from you in the future. please feel free to contact me if you need any guidance in your research.


Ryan Mijker

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