Saanich residents would like to see some 200 kilometres of additional sidewalks, many in residential areas.
That is one of the findings emerging from the latest Moving Saanich Forward report released last month. It presents the draft of the long-term plan that will guide Saanich’s planning for active transportation, such as walking and cycling for the next 30 years and beyond,
“The sidewalk [issue] is a key thing that has come up,” said Coun. Judy Brownoff, chair of Saanich’s planning, transportation and economic development committee, when asked which of the findings surprised her.
Brownoff said the report wants to make sure Saanich residents will be able to use active forms of transportation safely and conveniently, whenever they step out of their homes.
“Yes, there will be always be car drivers,” she said. “But if you make these alternative forms of transportation [walking, cycling, and public transit] accessible and convenient, people will slowly start to use them,” she said.
The report organizes its recommendations under three headings – connections, convenience, and culture – and notes many Saanich residents are already using an extensive network of sidewalks, multi-use pathways and trails, and bicycle facilities. “However, there are a number of gaps and barriers in Saanich’s existing active transportation network.”
A lack of sidewalks can discourage people from walking as they are forced to walk on the street or on unpaved areas beside the street. “This is not only less accessible and desirable, it can also be unsafe,” it reads.
The report also recommends improvements to Saanich’s existing bicycle network of over 130 kilometres in identifying “significant gaps in the existing bicycle network as well as many areas with no bicycle facilities.” While Saanich is a bicycle friendly community, Brownoff said the long-term goal of the plan is to develop a network that would be suitable for persons aged eight to 80.
The report also calls on Saanich to improve local transit access.
“There are several reasons why integrating transit with walking and cycling is important, including the fact that most people using transit are accessing it by foot or by bicycle,” it reads. “As a result, improving access and connections to transit for people walking and cycling and improving the customer experience at bus stops and exchanges can help to not only promote transit but also to encourage more walking and cycling.”
The report also calls on Saanich to make active forms of transportation more convenient. “People walking, cycling and using other forms of active transportation typically travel shorter distances than people driving or using transit,” it reads.
The report, accordingly, underscores the importance of land use, asking Saanich to support higher density and mixed use developments offering more destinations within shorter distances.
“Areas that contain a mix of commercial, institutional, and recreational uses, allow residents the opportunity to ‘live, work, and play’ in the same area and to move between activities conveniently on-foot, bicycle, or transit,” it reads.
The report also calls on Saanich to develop a culture that encourages Saanich residents to use active forms of transportation through education and awareness. Active transportation is also about changing life-styles, said Brownoff.
Members of the public can comment on the draft online until Dec. 8 following open houses held last month. Staff will then review and refine public input over the winter, with final adoption and implementation scheduled for the spring of 2018, which also when the public will learn about costs.
While Brownoff said it is too early to comment on costs, she would like to see Saanich adopt a balanced approach when it comes to adopting recommendations.