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Divided council opts for 80 km of new cycling trails in Peterborough instead of 160
July 30, 2021

City council plans to add 80 kilometres of new cycling lanes and trails over the next two decades -- but not 160 km, as the mayor and some councillors would have preferred.

Council voted a final time on the plan at a virtual meeting on Thursday.

The 80 km of new lanes will double the current cycling lane network, though Coun. Kemi Akapo wanted the city to aim even higher and add 160 km of new lanes.

“Let’s do what’s right for climate changeā€¦ Let’s be bold, and let’s make the right decision,” Akapo said.

But her motion to go for 160 km of cycling lanes lost 6-5; Akapo and Coun. Don Vassiliadis, Coun. Stephen Wright, Coun. Kim Zippel and Mayor Diane Therrien voted in favour.

Dissenting votes coming from Coun. Henry Clarke, Coun. Dean Pappas, Coun. Andrew Beamer, Coun. Lesley Parnell, Coun. Keith Riel and Coun. Gary Baldwin.

The 80 km of bike lanes are expected to cost between $1.2 million and $1.5 million annually over the next 20 years, whereas 160 km of lanes would cost between $2.4 million and $2.9 million annually.

Pappas, the city’s budget chair, said it would be unrealistic to expect council to find more than $2 million for bike lanes in any given year.

To aim for it would be to disappoint citizens over and over, he said: “No one wants to do that.”

Baldwin agreed it’s better to aim for the “realistic and attainable goal” of 80 km of new cycling lanes (not 160 km).

But Therrien didn’t want to set her sights lower than 160 km of new bike lanes.

“Climate change is going to cost dozens of millions of dollars if we don’t make drastic changes now. And that’s why we were elected,” she said.

Therrien mentioned that wildfires in Northern Ontario are forcing the evacuation of First Nations communities in this hottest summer on record, as the planet continues to warm.

“It is imperative we act now,” she said.

Coun. Kim Zippel, the environment and climate change chair for the city, said council would be taking action to back up the climate emergency it declared in 2019 if it committed to adding 160 km of new bike lanes.

“Peterborough can be a leader -- no more lip service,” she said.

But Coun. Keith Riel didn’t like the implication that council wasn’t acting on its climate emergency declaration.

“I haven’t seen this council back down from their commitment to climate change (action)... We are doing the best we can with the dollars we have.”