A safety report recommending against lighting the Selkirk Trestle has surprised cycling advocates, who have called for lighting the trail bridge in the past.
“I’m very surprised,” said Darren Marr, president of the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition. While the organization has yet to formulate an official response, Marr said that in his opinion, the decision “almost defies logic.”
Cyclists feel safer if there are lights on the trail, he said. “When you make the trail more inviting to cyclists, this in turn encourages more cyclists to use the trail at night.”
Last July, an anonymous donor came forward with more than $100,000 to place 26 solar LED lights, EverGEN 1710s by Carmanah Technologies, along the trestle. The regional Galloping Goose Trail passes over the trestle, connecting Vic West to Burnside Gorge neighbourhoods.
The CRD parks department hired a consultant to study the offer. Greg Perkins of Liahona Security Consortium submitted his findings Jan. 31.
Several areas north of the trestle have tipped into a state of disorder, Perkins said.
People traveling the Goose northbound over the trestle enter the Gorge Road Underpass and Cecelia Ravine Park.
These areas have been taken over with graffiti, camping, alcohol, drug use and the sex trade, reported Perkins.
This “No Man’s Land” presents a potential risk to the safety and security of legitimate trail users, he continued.
“Lighting the trestle will cause users to lose their dark adaptive condition. During the recovery time, their sight will be compromised and identifying risks from converging pedestrians or wheeled devices could be an issue.”
Because the trestle is isolated from natural surveillance, illuminating isolated spaces usually results in an increase in nuisance behaviour and crime opportunities, he concludes, recommending against lighting the bridge at this time.
Board members of the Victoria West Community Association reviewed the report and support the decision.
Marr, however, argued the concerns around lighting don’t warrant closing the door to the opportunity.
The cycling coalition was not consulted, he said, adding the donation should not be rejected before the CRD examines the entire Galloping Goose, as planned in 2013.
“We need to have all the facts before we decide on this issue,” he said.
Victoria Coun. John Luton also takes issue with the finding.
Upwards of 7,000 people use the trail each day, providing plenty of witnesses to potential crime, he argued.
“There are constant dangers of collisions between commuter cyclists and poorly lit pedestrians that crowd the trestle, particularly during peak travel times,” he said.
“Visibility is key to safe sharing of the corridor, especially in confined, congested segments like the trestle and during times of the year when morning and afternoon commute times are outside of daylight hours.”
In March, CRD parks manager Lloyd Rushton said his department decided to reject the anonymous donation, based on the consultant’s findings.
A commitment by the city to improve Cecelia Ravine Park, however, has contributed to a rethink of the decision.
On Thursday night, the city agreed to remove underbrush, improve lighting, create an allotment garden, and build a basketball court and bike skills facility in the park, said Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe, who acts as liaison to Burnside Gorge.
CRD staff are now considering a different recommendation: to light portions of the trestle and/or sections of Cecelia Park Ravine as a pilot project.
The CRD parks board will review staff recommendations April 20.
Thornton-Joe, who doubles as a parks board member, said she supports the pilot in principle, but will need to review the report before making up her mind.