Youth add voices to safety on rural roads in Central Saanich

Parents urge District of Central Saanich to have a safer walkway for kids.

Eden Scott

Parents and their children are concerned for their safety when walking along West Saanich Road.

One of the concerned residents, Barb Whittington, presented a petition to the District of Central Saanich on Monday with 29 signatures from people asking for a safer pathway along the route.

They are asking the District to look at improvements at the area between Keating Cross Road and to the south boundary of Central Saanich itself.

“What we’re requesting is not a sidewalk … but a pathway similar to what there is at Mount Newton Cross Road …” said Whittington. “So we’re looking for a pathway that would make it accessible and walkable for kids going to and from school.”

Whittington and others have approached council before, but she said they received no response.

This time when they got together to give it another try, one child asked Whittington if they could take the petition to council, as it’s the kids who are more likely to be injured or killed if something bad happens along those roads.

“When I read what the kids put on their petition, I was shocked. I knew what I was doing and why I was doing it but to hear their words, it was really powerful for me and I don’t think we can wait ‘til 2021 …”

Many kids who walk along that route to and from school or to the dance school nearby, walk in fear of their safety, said Whittington.

One of those children is Stelly’s Secondary School student Yemali Sieh, who said she was almost hit by a vehicle along the stretch of road.

“After that, I was pretty scared … and I’m more aware …” she said, adding she used to think cars would pay more attention but now, since her incident, she’s more aware of how she walks to school.

Student Arista Marthyman is also nervous when walking there — even when using a flashlight and wearing a reflective vest.

“It’s kind of scary especially since I often have to walk in the dark because it’s too short a distance to drive it. But in the dark it’s really scary because the cars are just going really fast and they can’t see us as well,” she said.

“It’s quite scary. I walk to dance every day and people whizzing by you on the white line is really nerve-wrecking,” added student Acacia Scott.

Parent Janis Scott said she would really like her kids to be able to walk up to the dance school, not far from their home. She has started letting them, but said it’s scary as the vehicles drive fast, often cutting corners.

Gail Marthyman, a resident in the area for 13 years, has seven kids and said it’s a very dangerous area to walk.

“I want my kids to grow up and have an active lifestyle and farm life does do that but as they’re getting older, they want more privileges,” she said. “I would love just a simple path on the side of the road. It doesn’t have to be a fancy sidewalk but something to keep them safe.”

Councillor Alicia Holman asked council to consider the issue at its next budget meetings.

“I just wanted to recognize the volume of traffic in that area, the speed of traffic, the introduction of family oriented dwellings, the fire hall with a park that would encourage young people,” Holman said. “I think this is something that we should take a look at and evaluate it against other priorities.”

Coun. Zeb King said he believes there is an epidemic of roads in Central Saanich that face the same problem. Roads or pathways, he said, are needed on Mt. Newton Cross Road, Stelly’s Cross Road and along the neighbouring Tsartlip First Nation.

“In our municipality we have a general target of trying to keep growth to about one per cent per year but you can imagine what that does over a decade and where you have rural roads which are not lit and then suddenly the traffic that comes as a result,” said King.

Council asked for information and that the issue be addressed at budget time. They will also encourage a further review of safety issues and increase monitoring for the area.