The District of Saanich has wrapped up the first phase of its Moving Saanich Forward initiative, with more than 2,000 residents taking part in the process through attending events, interacting on social media and completing surveys.
“We saw a tremendous amount of people get engaged in the first phase,” said Coun. Judy Brownoff, chair of the Planning, Transportation and Economic Development Committee. “This is a really important plan to develop, a 30-year plan for active transportation for all ages and abilities. We need to get as many people as possible coming out and giving their perspective. The plan will dictate the kind of investments that will be made in the long term.”
Moving Saanich Forward is designed to be a guide for the development of active transportation options for people of all ages and abilities over the next 30 years.
“When we talk about the walking environment, we’re talking about all ages and ability types,” said Brownoff, adding that includes an older demographic who may only get around with a scooter or wheelchair or mobility aid.
“I believe that when you walk outside your residence you should be able to get on a greenway, get on a bike lane, get on a sidewalk, and there should be a park close at hand – all those things that engage you to [become more active].”
The initial public engagements revealed a number of key findings, including health is the main reason why respondents say they walk and bike, with 41 per cent saying they do it to exercise or have fun. Nearly a third of survey respondents said they would be encouraged to walk more often if there were more trails and greenways, with gaps in the network being the top barrier to walking and cycling.
Brownoff said that proves the adage, ‘If you build it, they will come.’
“I think that’s what we’ve seen in Saanich. The more we’ve improved the connectivity of cycling networks and walking environments, the more we get out there.”
The insights gained through the public engagement process will now be incorporated into the second phase of the project, developing a vision and goals for active transportation in Saanich.
“The first phase was to capture data and this next phase will be to confirm what we heard,” said Brownoff, who expects details from the plan to make their way to council sometime next year.
The project will now move onto a community roadshow with stops in six Saanich neighbourhoods this month, beginning Tuesday in Gordon Head (4-7 p.m. at the Gordon Head Recreation Centre).
Future stops are planned for Broadmead Village from 2 to 5 p.m. May 10; Pearkes Recreation Centre from 4 to 7 p.m. May 11; Uptown Plaza courtyard from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. May 14; Cedar Hill Recreation Centre from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. May 16; and Red Barn Market on West Saanich Road from noon to 3 p.m. May 17.