Monday, September 15, 2008

Saanich and Sidewalks

My neighbourhood made the Saanich News. One of my biggest complaints about Saanich is the lack of sidewalks. I know that there are those people out there, runners mostly, that do not want to see sidewalks everywhere, but I think we need to see a lot more in the residential neighbourhoods of Saanich if there is to be a transition to a walking culture.


Saanich council hopeful campaigns on improving pedestrian environment

It's hard for Delores Thompson to leave her house on her own these days.

Legally blind, Thompson almost never ventures to Fairway Market without her group-home caretaker anymore.

"I used to go every day to get out and get fresh air," she said.

The lack of sidewalks in her Tillicum neighbourhood present real challenges. She's rolled her ankles on the uneven pavement that crumbles into the ditch.

Adding to her challenges, Saanich replaced a four-way stop with a traffic circle up the street. While pedestrians still have the right of way, it's hard to know where and when to cross.

"I have my cane out," explains Thompson. "They probably acknowledge it but they don't stop."

Missing sidewalks are a real problem for the blind, confirms Phil Crowson, counsellor with the CNIB low-vision services in Victoria.

"It's really awkward because of the uneven ground," he said, adding sidewalks can help prevent a mobility cane user from veering into the ditch or street.

Dean Murdock, who's running for Saanich council, said sidewalks, crosswalks and other pedestrian infrastructure needs to be a bigger priority.

"If you don't provide proper pedestrian walking environments, it means that, if you don't drive, you don't get out of your house. I think that's a big disservice for people who are aging in the community."

As part of his pre-election door-knocking campaign, Murdock said he's talked to almost 600 residents from all over the municipality.

Pedestrian safety is a major concern for about 75 per cent, he said.

Murdock calls Saanich's goal of building at least one kilometre of sidewalk per year "grossly inadequate."

"In a community as large as Saanich, one kilometre a year is next to nothing."

Crowson, however, is more forgiving.

"We all understand that there's always budgetary concerns," he said, adding Saanich has been very supportive by installing audible signals at crosswalks.

"I'm always reluctant to say this, but, if you choose to live in an area where your services are probably limited, that's your choice," he said.

"It would be nice if they could budget to be able to get sidewalks, but you also need to be able to go back and look at the practical side of it."

By the numbers

In recent years, the municipality of Saanich has beat its minimum sidewalk-construction targets many times over.

Between 2005 and 2007, an average of 4.2 km of sidewalk were built annually, including concrete and asphalt sidewalks and paved trails.

Of these, developers have built approximately one third, as outlined in the conditions of their development permits.

Between 2005-2007, Saanich taxpayers contributed approximately $980,000 each year to sidewalks and trails.

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