Creating a Walkable Saanich

Councillor working to bring more sidewalks to Saanich
Jeff Bell, Times Colonist – September 20, 2013

Saanich Coun. Dean Murdock spent part of his summer examining the needs for sidewalks around the municipality.

He talked to residents about their desire for sidewalks and has produced a report that will be presented to his fellow councillors on Monday.

The report recommends the creation of a “sidewalk strategy,” Murdock said.

“I spent the better part of the summer visiting neighbourhoods all over Saanich to have a look at the walking environment,” he said.

“I invited residents to get in touch with me back in July and received over 200 invitations to travel around. I visited about 30 streets around Saanich.”

A lot of people have made it clear to him that they want sidewalks added in the areas where they live, Murdock said.

“I’d say the most common question I get on the doorstep and at community events is ‘When is my street getting a sidewalk?’ ”

An existing Saanich plan that looks at basic demand estimates 190 kilometres of new sidewalk are needed on the municipality’s major and collector roads, at a cost about $57 million. Some work is already underway.

The timing of Saanich’s past development is a big part of the reason that more sidewalks are required, Murdock said.

“Saanich was largely built out in the ’60s and ’70s, and obviously the plans that guided that development didn’t consider the pedestrian as the dominant mode of travel. So now we’re in a position where we’ve got to go back and retrofit our neighbourhoods to try and fit sidewalks in.”

Safety is a major consideration in building sidewalks, but not the only one. Murdock said.

“It’s also about community-building,” he said. “If people feel comfortable walking in their neighbourhood, they’re going to get out and meet their neighbours, and that lends itself to community development and community relationships.”

Murdock said he hasn’t tried to prioritize requests, but has simply tried to get a first-hand look at locations that have been causing concerns. The Quadra area, Royal Oak and Gordon Head all need more sidewalks, he said, while Gorge/Tillicum still has a definite need despite some sidewalk installation there in recent years.

He said Gordon Head, in particular, has many streets without sidewalks that are used by children heading to and from school.