City looks at improving crosswalks downtown

The City of Victoria is moving forward with plans to upgrade and add a number of crosswalks.

The City of Victoria is moving forward with plans to improve the walkability of downtown streets by upgrading and adding a number of crosswalks over the next few years.

City staff have identified 35 crosswalks to be upgraded, many of which are along Biketoria routes, including Cook and Haultain streets, Belleville and Menzies streets, Wharf and Yates streets, Hillside and Graham streets, and Government and Herald streets.

Improvements include adding lighting, medians, overhead signs, flashing beacons and pedestrian signals, depending on how much crosswalks are used and where they are located.

A number of crosswalks on Pandora Avenue will also be upgraded as part of the city’s Biketoria project to construct eight bike corridors.

“There’s significant interest in the community around the issue of crosswalks,” said Brad Dellebuur, the city’s assistant director of transportation. “We get lots of letters, concerns, phone calls, comments whenever we’re out in public, so it’s top of minds for a lot of people.”

There are currently 222 marked crosswalks at un-signalized intersections throughout the city and more than 470 crosswalks at signalized intersections. Since 2005, 37 new marked crosswalks have been installed and 35 existing crosswalks have been upgraded.

When updating or building crosswalks, municipalities use the Transportation Association of Canada Pedestrian Crossing Control Guide as a reference for planning, assessment and design.

However, city staff have developed a new prioritization tool to determine which crosswalks are in need of updates by measuring the number of pedestrians crossing multiple lanes of traffic, existing crosswalks close to major crossing points, collision history involving pedestrians and cyclists and locations that connect to major destinations, among other things.

“I think this could be a real model for other municipalities,” said Mayor Lisa Helps. “I look forward to seeing how this will be rolled out . . . real kudos to the people who have worked on it.”

Shellie Gudgeon with Walk On, Victoria, a pedestrian advocacy group, applauded the city’s efforts to make the city more walkable, but said more still needs to be done.

“We’re delighted the city is making a very clear process and policy for identifying crosswalks needed. It will move away from the squeaky wheel approach that it has been where you had to create petitions and rally the community,” she said. “This policy-based approach is fantastic, but a lot more is needed to really make Victoria more walkable.”

She added improvements could also include extended times for pedestrians at crosswalks.

Council recently directed an additional $200,000 be allocated for crosswalk upgrades and installations this year for a total proposed budget of $308,000.