A group of Central Saanich residents are banding together to call for a pedestrian walkway to be put in along a section of West Saanich Road.
Barb Whittington, who lives on West Saanich Road near the intersection of Old West Saanich Road, started a petition with several neighbors asking the municipality to consider the feasibility of installing a separated (from the roadway) pedestrian pathway that would run from the northern end of Old West Saanich Road into Brentwood Bay.
“What we’re looking for is something similar to what Saanich installed in front of the Red Barn Market,” explained Whittington. “We want a pathway that’s separate from the roadway and would give pedestrians and cyclists a safe option to travel into Brentwood or to the nearby bus stops.”
Whittington has lived at the same address for about 35 years, and although she said she isn’t against growth and change in the area, she does acknowledge that traffic has increased significantly along the stretch of road in the last three decades.
“(This section of) road, I would say, has become about 10 times busier since we’ve lived here,” she said.
“There isn’t really another way to get into Brentwood or to the bus stops and the volume of traffic is really discouraging to pedestrians, especially for families who have young kids who walk down to get the school bus.”
Whittington attended Monday night’s council meeting with a few of her neighbours who signed the petition and spoke to council about their concerns.
“We want this path primarily for safety and accessibility,” Whittington said. “According to a freedom of information request we got from the municipality, when this stretch of road was monitored from the fall of 2011 to the early spring of 2012, 100 per cent of the vehicles traveling down it were speeding, even after the speed limit was changed from 50 to 40 kilometers an hour. It really discourages people from walking when we should be encouraging people to get up and be active.
“We’re never going to get rid of cars, nor do we have to, we just need a solution to make these two things work together.”
During the meeting, council voted to send the idea of the walkway to staff and have them look at the feasibility and cost of such a project, but it wasn’t without discussion.
“I don’t think the speed limit should have even been changed to 40 in the first place,” said councillor John Garrison during the meeting. “(West Saanich) is a major arterial road and the speed limit should be at least 50.”
Coun. Carl Jensen indicated the desire to have walkways in other places around the municipality is an ongoing issue, and that all requests should be looked at long-term.
“I think we need to look at this in terms of the five year plan,” he said.
Chief Administrative Officer Patrick Robins said staff would have something back to council on the rough costs for such a project — both curb and gutter and separate gravel walkway — in the coming weeks, adding that the fate of the project would ultimately rest on approval from the province depending on if the land is part of the provincial right of way or not.