Shawn Steele, a representative for Fix Ash Road Now, here seen at the intersection of Ash Road and Torquay Drive during morning traffic, will lead a delegation of area residents during an upcoming meeting with Mayor Richard Atwell to discuss road safety.

Saanich group pushes for increased safety at site of serious crash

A local community group is pushing for increased traffic safety along Ash Road as the 11-year-old girl seriously injured on the road has returned home after months in hospital.

Shawn Steele, a representative for Fix Ash Road Now, is happy to see that the family of Leila Bui will be able to care for her in their own home. He said his group will show their support by lobbying for additional improvements to the intersection where the collision happened.

Bui returned home last week, a little more than six months after suffering injuries that have left her reliant on a feeding tube. Bui was struck by an SUV at the intersection of Ash Road and Torquay Drive as she made her way to school on Dec. 20, 2017. She was crossing Ash Road to catch her usual morning ride to Arbutus middle school.

Doctors consider her non-responsive as her responses to stimuli appear inconsistent following several rounds of surgery and coming in and out of a coma for a week, but Bui’s family has publicly expressed hope in some sort of a recovery.

“She has come a very long way since that horrific day six months ago,” said a post on her family’s GoFundMe page. “She still has a long ways to go in her recovery, but every step, no matter how small it is, it is a step forward. Our family is always holding on to the firm belief, and [I] am continuously hopeful that she will find her way back.”

FARN will continue to do its part by pushing Saanich for additional improvements. Group representatives will meet Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell July 24 to discuss their ideas, which they have already presented to Saanich engineering. These ideas include reducing the speed limit along all of Ash Road to 40 km/h from 50 km/h. Ash Road runs for just two under kilometres from its intersection with Cordova Bay Road before turning into Grandview Drive.

“The scope is not that long, but that would be most effective,” said Steele. Such a reduction, if coming forward, would require a bylaw change, with the timing “undetermined” if it were to go ahead, he said.

The group is also calling on Saanich to ask ICBC to audit the road, which residents have called a bypass and a “free for all.”

“That is what we would like to see in the short term,” he said.

While such an audit may give the road a clean bill, it promises to offer independent insights, he said.

”We have a few traffic calming ideas, but they need to be validated by a third party to be strongly considered by Saanich engineering,” he said.

The audit — which Saanich has to request — would also allow the District to access funding that would then go towards funding the recommended improvements.

In fact, money from ICBC’s Safer Roads program helped to fund improvements that crews installed earlier this spring at the intersection where the collision had taken place. Saanich, for the record, had already considered improvements to the area following concerns from Gordon Head Residents’ Association prior to the incident, but the incident undeniably played a role.

Steele said local residents have been trying to improve the safety of Ash Road since 2012.

“It’s unfortunate that it has taken an incident [such as this one] to invoke some changes,” he said.

While always present, the issue of road safety has gained some traction in recent months, with residents in rural and semi-rural areas (such as Ash Road) calling on Saanich to make improvements.

“I’m optimistic and we are looking at this as a collaborative approach for the benefit of everybody,” he said.

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