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Saanich council moves to speed action on road safety, active transportation

Trio of councillors push for Vision Zero concept, call for 30-year timeframe to be reduced to 15
Saanich council voted unanimously to ask staff to find ways to speed up planning and implementation of the district’s Active Transportation Plan. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)

Saanich council is looking at how staff can speed up improvements to road safety in the district.

A unanimous vote by council at the Jan. 10 meeting showed support for more quickly adopting infrastructure upgrades to enhance road safety, encourage residents to more readily choose active modes of transport, and achieve what is known as Vision Zero.

That concept embraces the idea that transportation systems should work toward improving infrastructure to the point where there are zero motor-incident-related fatalities and injuries.

Couns. Zac de Vries, Rebecca Mersereau and Ned Taylor wrote and brought forward a report to council highlighting the importance of Saanich reducing its Active Transportation Plan timeline from 30 years to 15 years.

The plan is a road map to implementing safer infrastructure and shifting away from car-centric societies and roadways through phases. Short-term priorities are identified in a one- to five-year time frame, medium-term actions are determined in years five to 15, while long-term actions are outlined in a projected 15- to 30-year timeline.

The report emphasized a shorter approach, recommending instead that proposed changes happen within 15 years.

The issue of road safety is one of the most important issues facing Saanich, Taylor said during discussions.

“The heartbreaking truth is that people are dying and being seriously injured on our roads because our region has been built for cars,” he said in arguing that a 30-year timeline is too long.

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Mersereau added, “… in working more closely with staff I’m very confident in their skill set and in their innovation and creativity to help us figure out a path to do more, and more quickly …”

Mayor Fred Haynes weighed in on the subject in a later interview with Black Press Media.

“Saanich is the largest municipality on the Island and we’ve inherited auto-centric road infrastructure that needs to evolve to enable Vision Zero – this will take time and considerable investment,” he said.

Council directed staff to report back on options as to how to achieve Vision Zero in tandem with the Active Transportation Plan in the coming months.

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