Earlier this summer, I invited Saanich residents to contact me to point out areas of the municipality where the safety and quality of the walking environment could be improved by a proper sidewalk. The response to my request was extraordinary. I received well over 200 invitations to visit neighbourhoods in every part of Saanich to see the condition of the walking environment.
The intent of my tour was to gather evidence and get a first hand look at the quality of our walking environment and the shortcomings of our pedestrian infrastructure. The evidence is clear. There is some very good work underway to improve pedestrian infrastructure with new sidewalks. But we have much work to make Saanich a truly walkable community.
Last month, I brought a report to Council that recommended the development of a Sidewalk Strategy. The recommended Strategy would provide a focused, prioritized approach to building the pedestrian infrastructure that Saanich residents value.
Council chose not to support my recommendation. However, Council asked staff for a report that summarizes the policies, guidelines and processes that informs sidewalk prioritization and implementation decision-making. I suspect we will get that report in time for next year’s budget deliberations. I am hopeful that we will see some recommendations that will assist Council to move forward with the work that needs to be done.
This summer, I heard clearly from Saanich residents that sidewalks and a walkable community are important priorities. I heard my Council colleagues respond that they take this issue seriously. Although my recommendation was not adopted, I was pleased to bring the conversation about the need for sidewalks into the Council chamber with a report to Council. It is the first of many steps toward a walkable Saanich.
Thank you to the hundreds of Saanich residents who reached out to me over the summer. I am so inspired by your notes and phone calls of concern for community safety and well-being. It’s the desire to provide a safe place for our kids to walk to school; for our seniors, with a walker or scooter, to get to the bus to buy groceries or a doctor’s appointment; and to create a community where we can venture out on foot and meet our neighbours.
I will continue to work with you to keep this issue on Council’s radar. It’s about more than building sidewalks. I think it’s about building community. And, if we work together, I know we will make it happen.