By Tim Collins/Contributor
The jury may still be out but based on the reaction at an Oct. 8 information session at the Mary Winspear Centre, there is strong support for the concept of changing Beacon Avenue in Sidney back to a two way street.
The session was hosted by Steve Duck of TIDESgroup and the Sidney Tourism Improvement Group (STIG). That’s a group of businessmen who have launched a campaign to do away with what they call a counter-intuitive and confusing traffic system through downtown Sidney.
About 50 residents, many of them business owners, attended. It was an effort on the organization’s part to allay some of the fears sprung from what Duck says is misinformation regarding his group’s proposal.
“We have people who have heard that going back to a two way would mean that everything would go back to the way it once was; that the wider sidewalks would disappear and the sidewalk seating areas would be gone. That just isn’t the case.”
While none of the individuals interviewed were openly opposed to STIG’s Two Way All the Way campaign, not everyone was willing to throw their support behind the concept; at least not yet.
Cliff McNeil-Smith, owner of Tanner’s Books and member of both the Sidney Business Improvement Area and the Community Development Commission said while he is open to the concept, more formal public consultation is required.
“Council commissioned a traffic report from Urban Systems (a Victoria consulting firm) and I voted in favor of public consultation based on some of the things in that report, including this issue. We need to allow for that input before I’m going to say whether this is a good idea.”
A small group of people, apparently representing the town’s administration, stood impassively at the sidelines, where they declined either comments or photos.
“I’m just here to gather information and impressions,” said one gentleman as he jotted notes on the proceedings.
Some of the attendees, however, were anything but reserved in their comments.
John Treleaven, Sidney resident and member of the Chamber of Commerce, was effusive in his support for the campaign.
“We put a big ‘Do Not Enter’ sign in front of a bunch of stores. Then we tell visitors that, to get to the stores, all they have to do are turn right … then turn left … then go down a few blocks … the turn left again … and then turn left again … By then you’ve lost them.”
Despite the predominant support displayed by the residents and business owners who attended the session, Duck said he fears that town hall remains unimpressed.
“They think that because we only had 50 people show up, it isn’t an issue with a lot of support. What they miss is that those people represented most of the business on Beacon. They should be paying attention.”
Sidney Mayor Larry Cross said he was unable to attend the meeting but the issue will be part of the Town’s strategic planning sessions this month. He would not comment on the possible steps the Town might take to explore the traffic debate.
The group intends to collect names on a petition supporting their Two Way All the Way campaign and present it to both the Community Development Commission and town council before Sidney hosts its Oct. 24 strategic planning session.
The group hopes that planning session will incorporate the two-way concept within the town plan at that time.
“It’s time to get this done,” said Duck.
— with files from Steven Heywood