Crash sparks debate over pedestrian safety

Power pole knocked down on sidewalk that some say pedestrians are fearful of walking on.

A single-vehicle crash Tuesday morning that saw a car strike a power pole in the 4100-block of Quadra St. is a prime example of why residents don’t feel Saanich is pedestrian friendly, mayoral candidate David Cubberley said.

“Quadra is one of those roads where the entire right-of-way that’s available was built for the automobile. Then we stuck in sidewalks – and they are high quality – at the very edge of the roadway,” he said.

“Pedestrians tend to avoid that area because on (busy) streets like that you need boulevard sidewalks, separating pedestrians from the vehicles, to make you feel comfortable.”

Hennie Stimme walks the road daily and was at the spot of the collision a mere 15 minutes before it happened, she said.

She’s concerned about the lack of protection there is for cyclists and pedestrians.

“Somebody will get killed on Quadra Street,” she said. “There’s no median, there’s no grass (barrier) and the power pole that was hit is literally inches from the curb. It bothers me that we have (candidates) running for re-election saying Saanich is pedestrian-friendly.”

Incumbent Mayor Frank Leonard calls pedestrian improvements “a very steep hill to climb” because much of the existing infrastructure has been around for half a century.

“It was a totally different era – now we’re trying to build smart communities. But to go back and rebuild (these communities) into our expectations of today is a very tough thing to do,” he said. “We’ve doubled what we’re spending on sidewalks, and we’re going to have to double it again and double it again to catch up on the way we want our community to work in the future.”

He says he tries not to politicize sidewalk improvements because Saanich has a pedestrian priority study that rates where work needs to be done.

“We’re 10 years into a 15- to 20-year plan of getting our infrastructure up to a sustainable level,” Leonard said.

However, Cubberley said the existing plan isn’t giving residents the results they want. He points to “piecemeal” bike lanes and sidewalks on Shelbourne Street, Cedar Hill Road, Marigold Road and Prospect Lake Road where power poles, lamp standards and trees impede walking and cycling routes.

“Despite the idea that we’re into healthy, active living, there hasn’t been a focus on healthy, active living,” he said. “It needs to become a priority in the infrastructure budget.”

Stimme has extended an invitation to politicians asking them to walk the north end of Quadra Street with her so they can get a firsthand understanding of how unfriendly some places in Saanich are for pedestrians.

“I’ve seen half a dozen poles come down (due to car crashes), I’ve seen a retaining wall knocked down by a car, I’ve seen (cars) knock out fences and trees. Something needs to be done,” she said. “Cars don’t have to drive over broken streets and around power poles – why the hell do pedestrians?”