West Bench pedestrian corridor

  • Posted on: 1 April 2015
  • By: Michael Brydon


The West Bench pedestrian corridor was a joint project of the RDOS and the Province of BC completed in 2013.  Half the costs were covered by a grant from the Province and the remainder was covered by Area F gas tax funds.  Much of the path was undertaken coincidentally with the West Bench water system upgrade.  This made sense since major repairs were required to the roads and right-of-way after the new water mains were installed.

Sweeping and Snow Removal

The RDOS has reluctantly got into the sweeping and snow removal business.  When we proposed the idea of a walking path we had no intention of keeping in clear of snow in winter. And although the path technically belongs to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, they made it clear from the outset that they have no willingness to maintain it. However, we have received a large number of requests to keep the path clear year-round.  Our initial plan was to subcontract path maintenance to private sector providers as required.  However, "as required" turned out to be much more frequently than we anticipated. 

As the economist Oliver Williamson pointed out more than a generation ago, subcontracting the provision of services does not always work out in practice.  Specifically, it turns out that when we need a snowplow everyone else also needs a snowplow.  So unless we own and control our own snowplow, our paths do not get plowed.  Or they do not get plowed until it is too late.  So we now own a tractor and a sweeper and will do our best to get to the path when the snow falls.

We did have some community-minded residents with tractors or ATVs who have plowed parts of the path in the absence of a formal program.  This is commendable, but ultimately suboptimal due to "insurance issues".  In a nutshell: What happens if you flip your tractor while plowing an RDOS/Province of BC path?  Or what happens if you take a big chunk of asphalt out with your blade?  For this reason, we have to officially discourage community-minded maintenance of government assets.

Parking on the Path

Please don't do this.


RDOS staff recommended installing conduit during construction of the West Bench Hill Road portion of the path.  Although lighting was outside of the scope of the grants, and although no formal investigation of the desirability of lighting had been undertaken, we decided it was much cheaper to install conduit during construction than install the electrical infrastructure for lighting later.

As it turns out, the lighting stubs have attracted a lot of attention.  A large number of people have asked me and RDOS staff when lights will be installed.  I take this as an indication that people want lights on the path.  Two outstanding issues as of April 2015:

  1. Funding: Lights are expensive
    1. Capital costs could be covered using gas tax funding.
    2. Operations costs (basically electricity and maintenance) could be funded through the existing West Bench lighting service area (inherited from the West Bench Irrigation District).
  2. Design: There are many different types of lights on the market.  We have undertaken an initial web-based survey but have been waiting for the outcome of the West Bench sign project before moving forward. It is likely better to coordinate the style of the lights with the sign, should a sign be installed.


The raw results of the survey can be found here.  The first round was intended to be exploratory and informal rather than the last word:

Initial lighting survey May 2014

A better summary of the Round 1 survey

The survey panel consisted of "the usual suspects": about 35 or so people on the Area F Parks Commission, the Area F Advisory Planning Commission, my mother, and various other residents for whom I have an email address. I try to make some effort in these surveys to get a cross section of demographics and temperaments.  Please let me know if you would like to be added to the "usual suspects" list—the more the merrier.

Here is my conclusion based on the survey:

The most obvious result from the streetlight survey is the following: opinions are all over the map.  All but one of the alternatives has at least one person who thinks it is “totally unacceptable” and at least one person who thinks it is “perfect”.  The exception is Candella, which no one thought was perfect but a significant number of respondents did not hate.  This outcome is not unexpected—tastes do vary.  But hopefully you see the issue that we face when making this decision: we can go with a “safe” option that no one loves or hates.  Or we can go with a more risky option that evokes a mixture of strong positive and strong negative results.


Would it be feasible to use wind and/or solar to power the lights? There would, of course, be the initial set up cost but in the end operating costs could be reduced.

We have not looked at solar street lights but we did consider solar power assist for the West Bench water pump house and other projects. Much of this analysis was based on actual numbers from the solar assist system for sewage treatment in Osoyoos.  After looking at this many different ways, I have come to the following conclusions regarding solar power in the RDOS:

  1. Solar, especially photo voltaic, is very expensive.
  2. Most power is British Columbia is generated from hydro, which is pretty green.  So it is not clear that investments in solar will have any net impact on (say) global warming.  Indeed, it is likely that we could get much more bang for our buck by doing other things.  For example, rather than paying for solar upgrades in the RDOS, we should be subsidizing China and India to convert coal-fired generating plants to natural gas.  There is only one atmosphere, after all.
  3. Our electricity cost for these lights is unlikely to be very high.  The old, energy-inefficient gooseneck lamps that comprise the existing West Bench lighting system cost about $5,000 per year in electrical costs.  The lights being anticipated in the survey for the walking path are modern LED models and use less (about half?) the electricity.
  4. Electricity in BC is too cheap to justify solar, even on very large scales.  Projects that make sense in (say) Germany simply do not make sense at our prices.