Road 'diet' creates indigestion -

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Many business owners along a busy commercial corridor in Vernon let city officials know what they think of a plan to reduce the size of their street.

A group of businesses located on the north end of 43rd Avenue, near Highway 97 held a noon hour rally Thursday to show their disdain for the project.

"You are destroying the business community," says Harald Kober, owner of Roko's Service Ltd.

He and other business owners are not happy with the city's plan to turn the four lanes along 43rd Avenue into three lanes, with the middle lane becoming a dedicated left turn lane.

The City of Vernon calls it a "road diet."

A typical road diet converts a four-lane undivided roadway to a three-lane roadway with the three lanes being made up of two travel lanes and a centre two-way left turn lane.

The remaining existing road space then can be used for parking, landscaping, bike lanes, new or widening of sidewalks, or a combination of these features.

In this case, the extra road space will be used to provide bike lanes to connect with the existing bike lanes on 43rd Avenue to the east of 27th Street and to the west of 32nd Street.

The business owners say the plan will limit traffic on the street, cutting into their bottom line.

"We are concerned about the proposed lane reduction on 43rd Avenue. Not only in terms of how it will affect business, but in terms of how this is being processed on a main corridor," says Kober.

"They're wanting to do a lane reduction on here and we're saying, 'How have you even coming up with such an idea?', there has been no request made from the businesses nor the residents. Our thoughts are, could it be that we've got somebody who has got a different motive in terms of why work is being done on 43rd."

Kober says his group wonders why the city is not directing it's attention to areas of greater need.

"Its not work that is perceived as being of need here and looking at the turnout we've had, it is supporting that sort of thought."

He also argues that bike lanes would be better served in other areas of the city and not one which features light industrial use.

About 75 people representing 35 businesses took part in Thursday's protest.

Chris August of Affordable Auto Repair was one of those business, and he says its about raising awareness.

"If the affected businesses in this area don't let the public know, nobody will.  The end result  will be different than the city thinks it will be. Traffic in this area on a long weekend with a Viper's hockey game, or an event such as creative chaos is already congested.  Thursdays and Fridays in the summer are gridlocked."

Richard Frisch of CARS Automotive-Integra Tire was even more apocalyptic.

"If the project does proceed, we will be standing in line at the E.I. office.  It would be a huge hit to this business."

Traffic was backed up to the bottom of Hospital Hill at one point during the protest, but was only slowed down not stopped.  The group and invited the RCMP to attend and there was one car standing by.

The proposal is not set in stone yet, and will be addressed again by Vernon Council on October 11.

"Mayor (Wayne) Lippert did contact me this morning (Thursday) and said he is aware this demonstration is happening and he was very happy that we are making this voice, and he said indeed, this voice will be heard and will be noticed at council meeting," says Kober.

30 Sep, 2011

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