Saanich was lauded last week for taking a big step forward in the Shelbourne Valley Action Plan, a process that has been criticized by council and residents for taking too long.
Council voted to receive a two-option, abbreviated version of the plan that targets alternate mobility along the heavily travelled artery, such as cycling tracks.
Two options were put forward to bring improvements to the narrow four-lane street, and are explained as a transition stage towards the greater SVAP.
“This has been a roller coaster ride,” said Darrell Wick, a retired Camosun College instructor and president of the Friends of Mount Douglas Society. “I was part of the cycling committee 25 years ago advising council on Shelbourne and now it’s a 30-year-vision plan.”
The Saanich resident was one of many to speak to council and endorse the second of the current report’s two options, a $9.9 million strategy that will include cycling tracks and upgraded sidewalks.
Option 1 costs $10.8 million and also introduces cycle tracks on both sides of south Shelbourne between Knight and Pear streets and north Shelbourne between Feltham and Torquay (25 per cent of Shelbourne).
Both options are a quarter of the $40 million total that staff estimates it would cost to begin “immediate implementation of the SVAP ultimate concept.”
Option 2, known as the hybrid option, brings cycle tracks to all of Shelbourne. It was heavily endorsed by Wick and most of the 14 speakers during the public input period of council.
In Option 2 Shelbourne has a “reduced vehicle carrying capacity” with two- and three-lane configurations while retaining four lanes at all major intersections.
The report estimates narrowing Shelbourne to two lanes would divert 6,000 to 9,000 vehicles per day to parallel and collector streets, Cedar Hill and Richmond roads. Hence, the hybrid retains four lanes at intersections to promote traffic flow.
Saanich manager of community planning Cameron Scott delivered the synopsis of the project to council. By adding cycling lanes, Saanich believes the number of cyclists will increase dramatically.
“Shelbourne is the most important non-serviced cycling corridor in Saanich,” said Coun. Vic Derman. “No other route on that side of Saanich approximates those things. I cycle it because I have to to get where I want to go, but it’s not my favourite.”
Derman pointed back to when the Galloping Goose and Lochside trails were completed and the cyclists “showed up.”
“I don’t have a tool to measure it but I suspect that kind of latent demand for Shelbourne exists. We have huge turnouts, often families, every year at the Saanich Cycling Festival [on Shelbourne].”
Shelbourne’s challenges are well documented. It’s between 20 and 23 metres wide between North Dairy and McKenzie, which is far too skinny an artery for the amount of traffic it’s moving.
Expanding it has proved difficult, leading to discussions over expropriation of right-of-ways, a tactic Saanich refuses to consider to this point.
Ideally staff would like to bump the width of the street to between 28 and 30 metres wide. Among the problems are more than 300 trees to work around (and some to take down), some of which are not in ideal locations, and 90 per cent of which are in good condition. There’s also 150 driveways as well as utility poles, all adding to the costs for the design of cycle tracks.
“I think staff should be commended for bringing this along,” said Coun. Leif Wergeland.
Saanich will move forward on the interim SVAP mobility plan with another stage of public consultation. The final result will likely be a hybrid of both options, said Coun. Judy Brownoff.
The report is available at saanich.ca or by visiting this story online.