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LETTER: Oak Bay cyclists advocate for safety in numbers

(Black Press Media file photo)

Spring is just around the corner and Critical Mass Oak Bay monthly rides to the Oak Bay Municipal Hall will soon resume.

Critical Mass is a form of direct action in which people travel as a group on bicycles (and other rolling devices) to raise awareness of transportation issues. The idea is for people to join together and make it safe to cycle and roll through their streets based on the old adage: there’s safety in numbers.

The Critical Mass Oak Bay rides arose from years of frustration with the lack of municipal action on alternative transportation infrastructure. We envy our neighbouring municipalities Victoria and Saanich who have invested in cycling, which ends at the Oak Bay border.

Oak Bay is failing to honour its priorities and stated goals made over many years, including the approved Active Transportation Strategy (2011) and the Complete Streets Policy (2015).

Throughout Oak Bay, arterial roads lack appropriate modifications to make rolling and walking safe. Take, for example, Cadboro Bay Road, north of Thompson. This vast sprawling arterial road is 15 metres wide with two vehicle lanes. The Transportation Association of Canada engineering standard for arterial vehicle lanes is 3 metres each way. The remaining 9 metres of Cadboro, by design, contributes to the ongoing problem of speeding. There are no protected amenities for rollers despite having a vast amount of public space, and pedestrians cling to the only narrow sidewalk on the road’s east side partially obstructed with hedges.

For years council has promised to upgrade the Haultain Road crossing at Foul Bay Road. A few years ago a vehicle crashed into a cyclist, causing critical life-altering injuries. ICBC made some small upgrades, but a proper safe crossing has yet to be undertaken similar to the Haultain crossings in the neighbouring municipalities.

When Richardson Road was traffic-calmed, Oak Bay residents in the McNeill Avenue area, long concerned about safety and speeding, looked at the improvements on the Victoria side of the municipal border and began to advocate for similar infrastructure. To date, no improvements have been made by the municipality.

In 2023, council approved a bikeway at the southern end of Henderson below Lansdowne. But metal maze gates obstruct Henderson at Kings Road, thus blocking many means of active transportation. Maze gates such as at Kings Road exist throughout the municipality, yet simple steps to remove them and calls by young families and disabled persons are ignored.

Of course, there are costs for infrastructure improvements. But these issues span decades and some examples outlined above are very low-cost items.

Critical Mass Oak Bay is not a ‘war on cars’. Many participants (probably most) own vehicles, while also recognizing there is a priority need for safe modes of travel available to all who use our public roadways and sidewalks. Only in that way can Oak Bay make progress to meet its various stated priorities. Until then, we ride.

Critical Mass Oak Bay rides are fun, family-friendly events. Everyone is invited to participate on March 25 at 5 p.m. at the UVic south entrance at Ring Road and Henderson.

Lesley Ewing

Oak Bay

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