Elise Cote dreads walking the two blocks that separate her house from the daycare that her four-year-old son Milo attends. She dreads it because of the traffic driving up and down Tillicum Road.
She dreads it because of the speed with which the traffic passes her. While the speed limit on that section of Tillicum Road is 50 kilometres per hour, it sure does not feel like it when a transit bus or a truck barrels past her, lifting up her hair along the way. Above all, she dreads it because today could be that day when it all might end.
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“Just since we have lived here, a car has crashed into El Greco restaurant,” she said, as she stands outside her son’s daycare, not far away from the intersection of Tillicum and Gorge roads. “Earlier this week, on the Esquimalt side, just past Selkirk on Tillicum [Road], a van crashed into a house. So as a pedestrian walking along, you are thinking this could be the day that somebody loses control.”
Cote is not alone this morning, as she, Milo, and two-month-old Lucia – tucked away in a Baby Bjorn – walk to the daycare.
Coun. Rebecca Mersereau, who used to live in the neighbourhood, joined Cote this morning to learn more about the situation.
“To walk along with young children gives you a different experience,” said Mersereau.
She noted she has heard similar concern from residents like Cote in every neighbourhood of Saanich. “In the space of a year, it has become a huge issue in Saanich,” she said.
Reasons for this change have been incidents such as the Ash Road collision in December 2017 that left 11-year-old Leila Bui in a non-responsive state and the lobbying work of groups like Safe Ash Road Now, Livable Roads for Rural Saanich and Saanich and Oak Bay Community Safety Network, along with individuals like Teale Phelps Bondaroff.
The subject of traffic safety was also a theme during the last municipal election and Mersereau said this is the time for Saanich to do more to protect children, individuals with mobility issues, and others, who do not have a vehicle. Saanich, she said, may not have done enough in past to protect some of its vulnerable populations.
Improved traffic safety for pedestrians is also imperative if Saanich wants more people to walk, cycle or take transit, she said, adding that she senses support for such an agenda among her colleagues.
Since Cote and her family moved to the area some 18 months ago, they have become familiar with its traffic safety issues.
She is now calling on Saanich to study the possibility of putting Tillicum Road on a ‘road diet’ — to reduce the number of lanes through the addition of bare bicycling lanes that would create a safety buffer for pedestrians and other users relying on personal mobility devices. She would also like other measures that reduce speed and improve safety along the road.
In the meantime, she and her family might be re-thinking their transportation choices.
“My husband has actually asked me to drive our son to pre-school,” she said.