Joan Nesbitt, 75, is a frequent walker. Her house near Lannon Creek in Sooke is right next to the trail. She enjoys walking with friends along the Galloping Goose, often making multiple trips, walking for around three hours a day.
But recently, she says she’s had a rash of near-misses and collisions with cyclists who also use the route.
Nesbitt said bikers frequently speed past her without using a bell or shouting. In one instance, a friend she was walking with stepped the wrong way to avoid a passing cyclist and was knocked over. Nesbitt said it’s become more common recently, with more people taking to the trail during COVID-19. She has a hearing aid in both ears, and without a loud enough warning, she can’t hear cyclists coming.
“It’s almost like a wild west scene now. Because people have been cooped up with COVID – there is so much anger out there. It’s just shocking how rude people can be.”
With the District of Sooke pushing people to consider alternatives to commuting by car with traffic delays mounting, Nesbitt said she’s worried someone could get seriously hurt.
She wants the district to consider a bylaw requiring bikes to have bells. But she’s also worried about other safety concerns on the trail. Nesbitt carries bear spray whenever she walks on the path, partially “for the four-legged” creatures she may encounter but also for the two-legged.
Between 2017 to now, there have been at least 200 calls for service with a Galloping Goose component, said RCMP Const. Meghan Groulx.
The Capital Regional District’s 2019 survey of trail visitors found that the top concerns were “increase in user volumes and speed, lack of separation between trail uses, poor trail etiquette, lack of lighting, safety concerns at intersections, and crime.”
In a report prepared by consulting company Urban Systems for the CRD, adding lighting along the trail was identified as a measure to improve safety and reduce crime.
In October, those efforts received a boost when CRD board members approved a $17.8-million lighting plan, directing CRD staffers to look for funding sources. According to Christina Jones, spokesperson for regional parks for the CRD, the regional board is still working with the province to find funding for lighting.
But the project is limited in its scope. It would cover 6.6 kilometres of the Galloping Goose and Lochside Regional Trails (the trail that runs from the Swartz ferry terminal to Victoria). The project would cover two-kilometre stretches between the Selkirk Trestle and Switch Bridge, the Lochside Regional Trail between the Switch Bridge and McKenzie Avenue, and a 2.6-kilometre section between the Switch Bridge and Grange Road.
Those plans are contingent on the CRD securing funding and have no locked timeline.