Stand mid-block on Blanshard Street – between Saanich Road and Ravine Way – and watch a real-life game of Frogger play out right before your eyes. Jaywalkers regularly cross the four-lane road from Saanich Plaza to Uptown (and vice versa) while attempting to dodge oncoming vehicles.
Attempting is the key word there, as not everyone successfully makes it across. This week a man in his sixties was struck by a vehicle almost the moment he stepped off the curb to illegally cross mid-block.
Saanich police say around noon on Oct. 29 the man had just stepped onto the road on the Saanich Plaza side when he was hit by a car turning left out of the plaza onto Blanshard.
“He was clipped at a low speed, and he received relatively minor injuries, but he was taken to hospital for observation,” said Sgt. Steve Eassie.
No charges were laid, but Eassie said the pedestrian could have been issued a ticket.
Pedestrians jaywalking between shopping centres has been a problem since Uptown opened, Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard acknowledged. It was even anticipated before the new shopping centre was built.
“At the time of approval, several members of council urged the (Ministry of Transportation) to have not only a pedestrian but a vehicle access between the two malls. And they didn’t, and they’ve had troubles with folks trying to cut across (both in vehicles and on foot),” he said.
The ministry has essentially resolved the vehicle issue – by installing barriers preventing cars from crossing from the plaza exit to the Uptown extrance – but jaywalking persists.
“People fail to recognize that the safest thing to do would be to walk down (180 metres) to the corner and cross at the crosswalk,” Eassie said. “They see that as a burden though. It’s the mindset of the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.”
In a 2011 interview with the News, Geoff Nagle with Morguard Investments Ltd., the company that built Uptown, said their original plans proposed a light at that crossing.
A spokesperson from the Ministry of Transportation, which is responsible for that section of the road, says it may not make sense to do that.
“As there are controlled intersections approximately 500 metres apart (at Saanich Road and Ravine Way) as well as access and egress points for vehicles, it may not be feasible to add another crossing,” the ministry said in an email.
Leonard called it a “lost opportunity” with the ministry that a safe pedestrian crossing mid-block wasn’t built with Uptown, and says the next opportunity for a pedestrian connection will likely be when and if Saanich Plaza is redeveloped.
“In the future I could see an underground or above-ground connection there, depending on the type of redevelopment we eventually see there,” he said.
That portion of the road is considered part of the Pat Bay Highway. Leonard said if Saanich had its way and had jurisdiction over the road, it would have looked more thoroughly at walkability options.
“The ministry has always been reluctant to treat a highway within an urban setting with urban solutions,” he said.
Eassie hopes the recent incident, which fortunately didn’t result in serious injuries, will serve as a warning to pedestrians to not take the unnecessary risk of jaywalking.
“We urge people to cross at a marked or controlled intersection, and there are two very close by,” he said.