At least one resident is calling for a proposed $1 million bike lane project in North Saanich to be scrapped, citing impacts on area properties and a lack of transparency from the municipality.
Joscelyn Barnard lives on West Saanich Road between Mills Road and the Tseycum First Nation, where two new bike lanes are being proposed by the District of North Saanich. the lanes would go on both sides of West Saanich Road from Willingdon Road to the southern border of the First Nation, connecting with existing lanes.
Barnard says while the residents in the area are not opposed to bike lanes, the current design — and how it was presented to the public — will have a negative impact and she wants it changed.
She said 48 properties are affected by the District’s project — and 33 of which have signed a petition against the plan, which they have forwarded to the municipality and to BikeBC, a provincial government funding source that provides grants to contribute to the cost of such projects. Barnard said she hopes the lack of public buy-in to the bike lane will cause BikeBC to think twice about supporting North Saanich’s plan.
“I have contacted BikeBC,” she said, “and they are apparently concerned with the lack of public participation.”
However, Barnard said she’s under the impression the District could still proceed with the bike lanes, and pay for it itself.
She has taken issue with the bike lanes, as current District plans have the painted centre line of West Saanich Road moving closer to her property, cutting off a portion of her driveway. She’s concerned the change will mean she and her husband will have a smaller turning radius to exit or enter West Saanich Road, forcing them to cross into oncoming traffic. With increasing traffic and speed along the road, Barnard said safety is a factor.
Acting Mayor Jack McClintock said District staff are working on some recommendations on the alignment of the lines in some areas of West Saanich Road. Approximately three metres of pavement would be added to the route to accommodate bike lanes on both sides of the road. McClintock said the District would be using its own right-of-way to complete the project and would not have to build on private property.
He added there are some restrictions staff are working around in the area, including a steep slope to Pat Bay, as well as areas of archaeological significance to the local First Nation.
North Saanich’s Director of Infrastructure Services Eymond Toupin said changing the design to move the bike lane further to the west side of road could add costs for things like retaining walls, and has the potential to disturb sensitive areas. However, he said staff are taking people’s concerns from a recent open house into consideration as they prepare a new report for council.
“We didn’t make any changes to the design as a result of the open house,” Toupin said, adding they will include people’s comments in the report to council for direction.
Toupin added staff did not ignore people’s concerns when looking at designing the bike lanes and re-arranging the lines on the road. However he noted there are constraints in the area, including space on the west side of the pavement and the smaller lots of properties on the east side.
Barnard said the District is within its rights to use the road right-of-way for this purpose, but asks if this is the right thing to do in a rural area. She added her husband’s company bid on the project, but was not selected. Barnard said if it wasn’t for him obtaining the plans afterwards, she and her neighbours would not have known of the municipality’s plans.
She said she has 87 signatures on a petition, which asks the District to be innovative and consider keeping the centre line as-is, and add lanes to each side of the road. If not, she said it’ll have “a huge impact on our neighbourhood.”
What has upset her the most, however, is what she sees as a lack on transparency from the District.
Barnard said a recent open house earlier this month only came about after residents complained to the municipal council. But, instead of meaningful input, she said the open house was for information only, with limited public participation.
“The lack of transparency here is just appalling.”
She added she feels Mayor Alice Finall and Chief Administrative Officer Rob Buchan have tried pushing the work through and that she’s faced resistance to her suggestions from the District. Barnard credited councillor Heather Gartshore and Geoff Orr for pushing for the open house, which was approved by most of council.
Coun. Geoff Orr said he did raise the motion to hold an open house after members of the public complained about the process. He said he felt it was necessary to give residents in the area an opportunity to express their concerns and support for the project. He also praised staff for their work on the project, saying they have taken many things into consideration in its design.
“I think we’re going in a good direction,” Orr said.
McClintock said he thinks the project has been well-publicized. The plans were put on the District’s website and he said the District’s focus on bike lanes has been no secret.
“We are a community that is … committed to providing bike lanes on our major thoroughfares,” he said. “I don’t think that can come as a surprise to anybody.”
McClintock added council felt that an open house for more information was needed and agreed it was driven by the community itself.
Both Finall and Buchan were away from the District and were unavailable to comment.