Cars whiz by Coun. Dean Murdock on Wilkinson Road as he walks not on a sidewalk, but on a dusty gravel path.
It’s this kind of pedestrian-unfriendly roadway that Murdock plans to spend his summer touring to get a better sense of where sidewalks are needed in Saanich.
“Wilkinson is a major challenge, particularly as you get to the five road intersection. Just west of there there’s a serious lack of sidewalks,” Murdock said. “That is, we know, a major vehicle corridor. We’ve got commercial there, we’ve got the Camosun campus, we’ve got tech centre, we’ve got PISE, but there are no sidewalks.”
While Saanich engineers have a document that helps determine which sidewalk construction projects get annual funding, the councillor said it doesn’t go far enough.
“What we don’t have is a long-term approach or road map on how we’re going to meet this need in the long run,” he said.
“I think if we continued on the path we’re on now, it’ll be well over 30 years before we get to all the major and connector roads.
“If you look at our neighbouring communities – Oak Bay, Victoria, Langford – you see sidewalks on most of the streets, particularly the ones well-travelled, and in Saanich that’s not the case.”
After touring the municipality, Murdock says he intends to make a recommendation to council that Saanich create a sidewalk strategy that examines how a comprehensive pedestrian route is achievable.
“I’m using this sidewalk tour to help inform the need. What I’m trying to do is be an advocate: gathering evidence, having a look at the need and at what’s out there, to help make a compelling case to quantify that need that exists.”
Colin Doyle, Saanich’s director of engineering, says the existing pedestrian plan isn’t the be-all-end-all for his department when determining sidewalk priorities.
“The (pedestrian plan) is never a replacement for the nuances that our staff see in their work every day. We inject good old common sense into (determining priority roads) to make sure everything fits,” Doyle said.
“As land changes, the model changes. Something like Uptown happens and that creates the need for additional sidewalks. Until we have a sidewalk on every road in Saanich, we’re not really finished, are we?”
Saanich currently classifies roads into three categories: major, arterial and residential. Major roads should have a sidewalk on both sides of the street; arterial roads get a sidewalk on one side, and residential roads get no sidewalk.
“What you find if you look at our road classification system, there’s still lots of gaps in that inventory,” Doyle said.
Murdock hopes his walking tour will bring attention to those gaps, and ultimately lead to an approach that makes Saanich a more accessible community.
“Residents have expressed very clearly that there is a need for sidewalks, and we need to plan on how we’re going to meet that need.”
Residents interested in having Murdock walk their sidewalk-less streets can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter (@Dean_Murdock).