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Residents of Greater Victoria come together to give rides during snow season

One Facebook group has amassed 1,000 drivers for essential workers and the elderly
Jim Swanson with Carol, a Fairfield resident who carpooled with the Harbour Cats manager the icy morning of Dec. 29. (Kiernan Green/News Staff)

Fairfield resident Carol already had a bone scan at the Royal Jubilee Hospital to worry about on Wednesday, Dec. 29, and the frozen weather conditions outside weren’t much of a comfort either.

Carol, who is in her 60’s, said she found the roads “worse than anticipated” that morning, and may have found herself skidding on her Toyota Yaris’s front-wheel-drive if she tried to make it to the medical appointment on her own.

Instead, she called Jim Swanson.

The Victoria Harbour Cats managing partner had posted his cellphone number and a photo of the baseball team’s Hummer to Twitter, both of which he offered to Victoria residents needing transportation during last week’s treacherous weather.

“It felt very safe, and friendly,” Carol said of her chauffeur that morning after she’d arranged for Swanson to drive her to and from her 9 a.m. appointment.

Icy road conditions across Greater Victoria last week caused several road incidents and cancelled recycling collection. Throughout the snow squall, hundreds of good Samaritans offered their four-wheel-drive equipped vehicles to transport vulnerable or essential residents – such as the elderly or healthcare workers – to appointments and work.

The Facebook Group ‘VI Toyota 4x4 & VIHA Staff Transportation’ has what administrator Ashley Tapp believes is as many as 1,000 volunteers happy to shuttle three times that amount of healthcare workers to centres across southern Vancouver Island.

The three-year-old community group has never seen demand this high this early in the winter months, she said.

READ ALSO: Curbside recycling pick up cancelled in Greater Victoria due to icy roads

“It doesn’t matter who you work for – if you’re a healthcare worker, you’re needed,” Tapp said. Although it was initially restricted to Vancouver Island Health staff, other health care workers were allowed to join the group this year in search of safe, reliable transit.

“This has created nice communication for everybody to work together, and make sure everyone gets to hospitals and care facilities,” she added.

The majority of the 20 trips made by the Harbour Cats’ Swanson between Saturday and Wednesday, Dec. 29 were for medical appointments. Like for each of the drivers of the 4x4 Facebook group, they’ve been completely voluntary. “It’s been great to meet some people, for sure,” he said.

READ ALSO: UPDATE: Snow continues on Malahat as icy roads make two separate crashes in Saanich Sunday morning

During typical weather, Swanson and the Harbour Cats use their Hummer to deliver groceries to the elderly and for supply runs between Victoria and their organization’s second baseball team in Nanaimo.

Being a four-wheel enthusiast, Tapps shared some tips for slick driving conditions.

The first is to have proper winter tires, and skip “all seasons.” Next is to remember that “four-wheel-drive doesn’t give you four-wheel-stop;” no matter the drive type, take extra time to come to a stop at red lights and turns.

“The four-wheel-drive does definitely help,” Tapps said, adding that she and her friends in the Facebook group are all experienced off-roaders.

“We wait for this snow so that we can go out to the back roads and goof around in it. We’re experienced in how to handle our vehicles because it’s totally different.”

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