This was the scene of a collision last year between a service vehicle and a 42-year-old cyclist on Prospect Lake Road near Munn Road. A local group is lobbying Saanich to improve the road as well as other rural roads in the northwestern corner of the municipality. (Saanich News file photo)

Groups wants Saanich to improve rural roads

A group of Saanich residents calling themselves Livable Road for Rural Saanich are asking the municipality to improve the safety of several rural roads in the northwestern corner of Saanich.

“These roads were never designed to handle the speed, volume or size of traffic we are currently seeing,” said Guy Chester, one of the group members, who presented during Monday’s council meeting.

Specifically, Chester spoke about the state of Sparton Road, as well as Goward Road. Other presenters focused on Prospect Lake Road, West Saanich Road, Old West Saanich Road and Oldfield Road.

Located in the northwestern corner of the municipality, the roads share several similarities. They include a lack of shoulders, blind corners and a lack of space, a combination that has led to conflicts between local residents and out-of-area motorists.

Specifically, the public heard that these roads have become increasingly unsafe for pedestrians, bicyclists, and equestrians, thanks to out-of-area traffic from communities on the Westshore and the Saanich Peninsula.

“Increasing volumes of traffic are driving at unsafe speeds, often recklessly and aggressively,” said Deborah Tubman, while speaking about Prospect Lake Road. “Vehicles do not drive to suit the road, which is narrow, winding, with blind corners and hills, no shoulders, and rocky outcroppings.”

Saanich, she said, must introduce a series of measures that calm traffic without undermining the rural character of the neighbourhood, a point that other speakers echoed.

“The danger is serious and escalating,” said Tubman. “We need your help.”

A serious cycling accident last year underscored this point, as have a number of other studies.

Another speaker, Pam Harris, said trucks using the area as a short cut to the commercial area around Keating Cross Road in Central Saanich have become a problem, that has “hugely” escalated.

“Traffic [from trucks] is constant, and now it is a systemic problem,” she said. Harris specifically pointed to trucks with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) rating in excess of 5,500 kilometres that use Oldfield Road as a shortcut to Central Saanich in violation of Saanich’s trucking bylaw.

Harris acknowledged valuable assistance from Saanich police and staff, specifically Troy McKay, manager of Saanich’s transportation and development division.

But signage posted by Saanich and Central Saanich has not been effective. “We are grateful that signs have gone up, but they need to be enforced,” said Harris. “We feel most truckers want to comply, if they [know the rules].”

Mayor Richard Atwell acknowledged concerns from the residents.

“This has been a long-standing issue,” he said.

Two committees will take up the issue in additional detail later this month.

Saanich has also recently launched a pilot project that encourages motorists to pay more attention to local users through a series of signs.

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