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Oak Bay defers sidewalk changes debate as council meeting runs late into the night

Municipal staff seek direction on pandemic changes to pedestrian spaces
Oak Bay staff are seeking direction from council on how to proceed with temporary sidewalk changes. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)

Pedestrian traffic changes in Oak Bay made in response to COVID-19 won’t be tweaked anytime soon.

As the Oct. 12 council meeting neared 11 p.m. members opted to defer the conversation on pandemic-response sidewalks to an undetermined future meeting.

While still maintaining quorum, Couns. Cairine Green and Eric Zhelka had already left the meeting by the time council approached a staff report seeking guidance on widened walk spaces in the district.

As emergency measures took hold in spring 2020, sidewalks around Greater Victoria were deemed not wide enough for safe distancing.

Under the direction of Oak Bay’s Emergency Operations Centre at the time, staff used plastic bollards and tape to delineate temporary sidewalks on Oak Bay Avenue to allow more room for physical distancing.

In February of this year, council approved similar spacing on Crescent Road. That work, staff noted, marks the only timeliness of the staff report as Crescent Road widening is scheduled to be removed by Dec. 31 unless council provides further direction.

The deferred staff report suggests keeping the extra space on Oak Bay Avenue – with upgrades – and removing the Crescent Road work.

READ ALSO: Oak Bay expands sidewalks to accommodate social distancing

The temporary infrastructure on Oak Bay Avenue has been damaged in the more than 18 months since it was installed. If it is to remain, staff suggest, it could be upgraded with movable traffic islands or concrete planter boxes. If council opts for that direction, the associated costs could be covered within the existing operational budget for engineering, the report noted.

While the temporary crosswalk on Oak Bay Avenue garnered overwhelmingly positive feedback, the public response was less enthusiastic on Crescent Road. The district received correspondence requesting it be removed because of a “negative impact on driver behaviours in that neighbourhood.” With typically fewer sidewalk users in the fall, staff recommend the temporary sidewalk be removed, citing the space between parked cars as a safe place for people to step and wait while others pass.

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Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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