Bruce Coffin and Jodi Bratt are among the operators of small businesses who will speak with Penticton planners on Tuesday to argue that bicycle lanes on Ellis Street will result in a loss of parking and so a loss of business for local merchants.
It has been proposed that parking on the west side of Ellis Street be blocked from Wade Avenue to the roundabout at Vancouver Hill when a network of bicycle lanes is installed. Merchants believe the move, though well-intentioned, would limit business or force them to relocate. Most shops do not have parking lots and rely on curbside parking for their customers.
"I've been here four months and I see maybe two bicycles pass by each day. It's doesn't make any sense," said Jodi Bratt, owner of Okanoggin Barbers. "The real issue here is that when you lose your parking, you lose your business, and for me, 70 per cent of my customers are seniors. Is this the way we treat seniors who may need a walker or who might have a bad knee or hip?"
Ditto for Bruce Coffin, a denturist who has been at 272 Ellis St. for the past eight years. Almost all of his clients are seniors. Describing his property as "the old European model," he said he and his young family live on site with a separate apartment for his 85-year-old father, who rides his scooter across the street to the Elks Lodge.
"I can live with a loss of parking on the west side of the street because I'm located on the east side of the street, but it's not ideal," Coffin said. "My question is where do the cars parked on the west side now go to park? They will move over to the east side, making it harder for our customers to find a place to park."
Spa Tranquila is another nearby business that also has a strong client base of seniors.
Coffin said bylaw enforcement officers are seldom seen on the street and that many people who work in the downtown core, where there's metered parking, move over to Ellis, where motorists can park free for up to two hours. He adds that it's virtually impossible to find a spot Saturday mornings during the peak market season.
Establishing a series of bicycle lanes and green alternatives has been a pet project of Mayor Garry Litke for the past eight years and a goal of the current city council.
City engineer Ian Chapman understands the merchants' concerns but has been directed by council to expand the cycling network in the city. He sees no other way.
"Is the city concerned about the lack of parking? Yes. We're physically not able to widen the street, so there will now be parking available on only the one side. When is there ever really enough parking?" Chapman argued.
City council has delayed implementation of the bike lane proposal pending further public consultation. An open house is scheduled for 4:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers at City Hall.
Agnes Stayanovich, owner of Lanyon Homes, an interior-design company specializing in antique furniture, has been warned delivery trucks could be ticketed should they park in front of her store. A loss of parking will make it difficult for customers to pull their vehicles up to the front door in order to move large items into their vehicles.
"Nobody told us until it was a done deal, and we were shocked when we learned about it," she said. "It will kill my business because the first time a delivery truck gets ticketed, they won't deliver here anymore. It's not realistic."
Homeowner Rick Valenti, who owns a restored cottage on the street plus a commercial property, is encouraging all property and business owners to meet with city planners on Tuesday to argue the case.
"It's quite insane what we're experiencing here as taxpayers, property owners and businesses," Valenti said.
Stayanovich said she met with Litke for more than an hour, and that the mayor was receptive to her ideas and is hopeful for an adequate resolution.