A recent string of incidents on regional cycling trails has raised questions about their safety.
A Saanich man was riding on the Lochside Regional Trail in Central Saanich on Aug. 15 when a man attacked him. While the Saanich man was lying on the ground, the attacker used the cyclist’s own bike to beat him, breaking several bones along the way. The injuries of the man would have been likely worse if two cyclists had not intervened. Police were considering charges against the man, who was considered a mental health case.
Days earlier, a man pulled a knife on a women cycling on the Gallop Goose Trail. He reportedly leaped from nearby bushes after the woman had stopped to move a log that appeared to have been placed intentionally on the path. The woman fled unharmed and Victoria Police later arrested a man who matched the description of the attacker.
Perhaps the most serious of the incidents took place in March when a 32-year-old woman was sexually assaulted while jogging on the Galloping Goose trail near Pickford Road in Colwood.
Officials in all of these cases have stressed their unusual nature, while acknowledging that total safety is not possible.
“We talk to the police and the police tell us to tell our patrons to be careful,” said Mike Hicks, chair of the Capital Regional District’s parks committee after the sexual assault in Colwood. “Obviously [the trails] aren’t totally safe … [but] I don’t think the Galloping Goose is any less safe than anywhere else.”
This said, Saanich residents like Sue Ferguson have expressed growing safety concerns following this recent run of incidents. While the Saanich woman does not ride the Galloping Goose Regional Trail herself, she walks it occasionally.
“I do live in Saanich and have grown increasingly concerned over the safety, specially for women who use the [Galloping Goose Regional Trail] by themselves,” she said. “I think that if they installed lighting in the darker parts of the trail and also had regular patrols by either a security company or perhaps the bike police members, it might help people feel safer.”
Ferguson said she knows that the trail is overall a very safe place to walk and ride and that the number of incidents is small compared to the amount of people who use it daily. “[But] why not increase the safety of using it if possible?” asked Ferguson.
In 2016, the Galloping Goose Regional Trail drew 1.9 million users, while Lochside Regional Trail had 1.18 million users, according to the CRD. According to Hicks, over 100 police incidents have been reported over the last year on the Galloping Goose between Sooke and Saanich, with seven of those considered “serious.”
Notably, the CRD had been studying the possibility of adding lights along stretches of the Galloping Goose Trail before these incidents, including the sexual assault in March.