Jocelyn Land-Murphy asks for the city to put more emphasis on implementing its bicycle network plan during the city’s capital budget public input session in Whitehorse on Nov. 25. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Whitehorse Council told to use 2020 budget for cycling infrastructure

Public hearing draws delegations on spending plan

Cyclists are continuing to call on Whitehorse city council to put resources into improving connections between cycling routes around town by way of the city’s 2020 capital budget.

At a Nov. 25 public input session on the proposed $33.75 million capital spending plan for 2020 (including $7.45 million to come from city reserves and $26.3 million expected in external funding), Forest Pearson and Jocelyn Land-Murphy each called for the city to put more emphasis on implementing its bicycle network plan with a focus on making use of the budget to add better connections between cycling routes around town.

There’s relatively nothing in the proposed budget that speaks directly to implementing the bicycle network plan, they argued. In previous statements, city officials have said portions of the plan would be implemented as other work is done in an area. For example if road work is planned for a particular section of town, planning for that work would also incorporate cycling infrastructure outlined in the network plan.

Land-Murphy was part of a delegation earlier in November that called on the city for better cycling connections and presented a petition calling for the plan to be implemented by 2022, rather than 2023 as is proposed.

Along with Land-Murphy, the delegation was made up largely of youth who commute to and from school by bike, with many of those travelling with the “bike bus” with other cyclists every day.

Land-Murphy told council during the budget input session that since the group’s initial delegation, more names have been added to the petition. As of the morning of Nov. 27 the total was at 2,362.

The city has held recent public input sessions to gather comments on potential connections between Two Mile Hill and the riverfront trail as well as the intersection at Second and Fourth Avenue.

Land-Murphy pointed out there could be federal or other outside funding available the city could apply for to implement the plan by 2022. The city needs to dedicate staff to applying for that funding, she argued.

Pearson, of the Whitehorse Urban Cycling Coalition, made similar arguments calling on the city to apply for outside funds to pursue the implementation of the plan.

Throughout his presentation, Pearson highlighted the benefits of a good cycling network for the community.

Along with the environmental and health benefits to the population, Pearson put forward the argument that “cycling just makes good business sense for the city.”

Cycling infrastructure is cheaper than infrastructure for motor vehicles, he pointed out, noting that for 70 years infrastructure has been built for motor vehicles and it’s time to change that. He went on to cite stats showing higher productivity, fewer workplace absences and higher disposable income among cyclists (perhaps, he suggested, because they’re not paying for gas and vehicle maintenance) that they may choose to spend at local businesses.

Pearson called on the city to identify projects that would improve cycling infrastructure and better connect cycling routes around town, highlighting the potential to apply for external funding for the work.

Two other delegates also addressed council on the budget with Mike Gladish calling for more firesmarting and fire prevention work in the city while Iain Delamare of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association of the Yukon argued the city needs to put more funding into following through on the Schwatka Lake area plan.

Delamare argued the $50,000 identified for 2020 for improvement to the west part of the shore is very little when the implementation of the plan is already years behind where it should be.

“What will it take to get back on track?” he questioned, adding he hopes the area is still on the city’s radar for work.

Council will receive a report on the input session (including any written submissions that have come in) Dec. 2. Second and third reading of the budget will then come forward for a vote Dec. 9, the same evening the city will bring forward the operations budget for 2020.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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