Mayor Shari Green has nothing against two-wheeled travel and would certainly like to see more people riding their bikes to work.
But considering the difficulty the city has had to meet its budget demands over the past year, Green isn't prepared to spend more taxpayers' money on building bike lanes in the current economy.
"Right now I know what I have to do in my community and that's buy asphalt [for roads]," said Green. "If I put asphalt on a bike path right now, people in their cars will run me over. So this year we don't have a bike plan and we aren't spending dollars on that."
While cyclists would welcome wider bike lanes on city streets and more paved paths for commuting along the city's two river valleys, the city is unable to take advantage of the province's Cycling Infrastructure Partnerships Program, which will pay as much as $100,000 to fund such projects. The program will help local governments expand cycling networks by funding up to 50 per cent of eligible cost-shareable capital work.
To qualify for cycling infrastructure funding, the city would have had to already have started design work and public consultation on a construction-ready cycling project, to be completed within a year. There are now 17 such projects worth $1 million that have been approved under the program. None of those projects are being planned for Prince George.
"We would have to come up with half, at the potential loss of some other just-as-needy project that we did have plans for," said Green. "This isn't to say I don't support bike lanes, but if something comes up, are we going to wipe something off the books so we can jump to the opportunity the province puts in front of us for a short period of time. It's not sustainable and it's not good community planning."
Green says cities across the country have to maintain 60 per cent of their own infrastructure but receive only eight per cent of the provincial and federal tax base.
She says it would be better to hand over that money with no strings attached and let municipalities choose how to spend it, rather than force them to focus on specific projects. The cycling infrastructure grant is yet another example to Green of the inflexibility of the grant system and how it ends up hurting municipalities.
"Grants come and you kind of swipe everything off your desk and look for a way to take advantage of it," said Green. "It's always been done that way and it's gotten a lot of communities in the state this community is in. We've taken advantage of lots of funding, and it's meant we haven't put funding into some of our core basic services like roads."