Tag Archives: sidewalks

Sidewalks: An open letter to Saanich

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.lets-keep-moving

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.

Dean Murdock
Saanich Councillor

Walkability in Saanich

As you know, sidewalks and mobility continue to be major priorities for me. This summer I launched a sidewalk study tour. I have been visiting dozens of neighbourhoods all over Saanich to take a look at the walking environment. I asked your Council to develop a sidewalk strategy that would guide the construction of pedestrian infrastructure. While I’m disappointed that didn’t happen, I am inspired by your many emails and calls and will continue to be your advocate for a walkable Saanich.

Sidewalk strategy prompts review

Roadside

Saanich councillor’s sidewalk crusade prompts policy review; by Jeff Bell, Times Colonist – September 27, 2013

Saanich staff will review the municipality’s policies governing sidewalks after one councillor sparked a discussion on the issue.

Coun. Dean Murdock raised the issue at a meeting this week after spending part of his summer visiting neighbourhoods and talking with residents who want to see more sidewalks created.

Although his goal of creating a “sidewalk strategy” for Saanich didn’t materialize after he spoke to council about the issue, Murdock said he believes his council colleagues realize more sidewalks are needed.

“I think there was consensus among councillors that something needs to be done,” Murdock said. “They recognize that there is a real demand and a need out there for improvement in the pedestrian environment all over the community.”

Murdock received more than 200 invitations from people wanting their neighbourhood to be part of his summer study. He has said the need for more sidewalks can be tied to the fact that much of Saanich’s development came in the 1960s and ’70s, when pedestrians were less of a planning consideration than they are today.

Sidewalks strike a chord

Sidewalks strike a chord with Saanich residents
Kyle Slavin, Saanich News – September 19, 2013

Dean Murdock’s position as a councillor makes him prone to fielding questions from Saanich residents about a variety of hot-button issues. The one question that comes up more than all others? “When is my street getting a sidewalk?”

And unless that particular sidewalk is slated to be built that fiscal year, Murdock and his fellow councillors who get similar queries can’t say when it will happen.

“The way (sidewalk) prioritization is done at the moment seems to be ad hoc and conducted on an annual basis. None of that is open to the public to view,” Murdock said. “I think we need to have that exposed a little more to show our residents how those decisions are made.”

The engineering department uses its pedestrian priority improvement plan (PPIP) to evaluate unsafe pedestrian routes in the municipality. But that’s only part of the equation, Murdock said.

The councillor spent the better part of his summer walking sidewalk-less streets in Saanich alongside residents who want improved pedestrian infrastructure.

“There’s a lot of places I found where a sidewalk would dramatically improve the walking environment. We’ve got some very busy streets where there’s little more than a gravel road edge for people to walk on – that includes kids on the way to school and seniors on their way to the bus or the store,” Murdock said.

Murdock points to areas in Royal Oak, around Commonwealth Place and Royal Oak middle school, where kids and families are forced to walk on busy streets like Normandy Road because of an absence of sidewalks.

On Monday, Murdock intends to submit a report asking for support from council to direct staff to develop a more complete sidewalk strategy.

He foresees a sidewalk strategy having three components: “I want to see the inventory of the identified pedestrian improvement areas; I want to see how that assessment is going to be made, using PPIP or another tool; then I want to see some options from staff to help council manage these projects in a prioritized, manageable timeline,” he said.

Saanich engineering says staff use more than just the PPIP to prioritize building and upgrading sidewalks.

“The (PPIP) is never a replacement for the nuances that our staff see in their work every day. We inject good old common sense into (determining priority roads) to make sure everything fits,” Colin Doyle, Saanich’s director of engineering, told the News earlier this summer.

Murdock hopes that decision-making becomes a more public process.

“I don’t have a lot of insight into what informs that process, other than evaluation. We need to explore that and put it in context of all the work that needs to be done,” he said. “And if we continue on this basis, we should be able to tell residents how long until we get to Wilkinson, or how long until we get to Lynnwood.”

For the past 10 years, Saanich has invested a portion of the funds collected through a specific property tax levy – which increases annually – in replacing underground infrastructure, namely aging water and sewer pipes.

Murdock suggests above-ground infrastructure, like sidewalks, could be prioritized and funded in a similar manner.

“That walking environment, that surface infrastructure is equally as important as the pipes that convey water to and from our houses,” he said.

“A number of our neighbourhoods were designed without the pedestrian in mind. … If there isn’t a proper or safe place for people to walk, it doesn’t help build stronger communities. It makes people more reliant on the automobiles.

“Having a safe place to walk enhances community and enhances that community relationship and neighbourhood building.”

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.

Recommending a Sidewalk Strategy

Background
As Councillors are probably aware, I spent the better part of the summer on a sidewalk study tour. 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 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 firsthand look at the quality of our walking environment and the shortcomings of our pedestrian infrastructure as reflected through the eyes of our citizens. The evidence is clear. There is some very good work underway to improve pedestrian infrastructure with new sidewalks, as approved by Council during our annual budget deliberations. However, the demand is considerable and we have much work to do to address it systematically.

What can Council do to respond to the demand? We have a valuable technical tool in the Pedestrian Priority Implementation Plan (PPIP), which is used to evaluate the need for sidewalks based on safety criteria. However, PPIP is only part of the response. Just as we have a clear approach to upgrade our subterranean infrastructure, Council needs a strategy that outlines its approach to upgrade or install pedestrian infrastructure with a manageable, prioritized timeline.

A sidewalk strategy should provide an overview of the inventory of all areas identified for pedestrian infrastructure improvements, the evaluation approach, and options to assist Council in responding to the demand with a manageable, prioritized timeline.

Recommendation
That Council ask staff to develop a Sidewalk Strategy to manage the demand for sidewalks.

Dean Murdock
Saanich Councillor

Making sidewalks a higher priority

For the second year in a row, Council increased the sidewalk construction budget by a half-million dollars. This provides a much needed boost to spending to accelerate pedestrian infrastructure projects all over Saanich. The increase in sidewalk spending represents a significant shift in priorities in favour of pedestrian mobility.

Proper sidewalks let people of all ages do more than just get from one place to another. They foster a sense of community. When we go out walking, we meet our neighbours and see and feel the natural beauty that surrounds us here in our community. Walking also reduces our greenhouse gas emissions by letting us avoid using the car. We are much more likely to walk to the grocery store, or just take an evening stroll, if we have a safe and pleasant walking surface.

There are safety and health benefits too. Our population is aging, and many seniors who don’t feel safe on worn or uneven footpaths need a proper sidewalk to stay mobile and healthy.

Serving pedestrians with sidewalks and crosswalks has a much-needed traffic calming effect. Studies have proven that routes with sidewalks, bike lanes, and natural vegetation result in lower driving speeds. Commuters see that our streets are not through-ways or highways, but are the veins of life of our neighbourhoods.

Sidewalk spending is an investment in more than just concrete and asphalt. It means healthier communities, climate protection, better environment, safety, and mobility.

This year’s budget makes pedestrian mobility a greater priority. I believe it is important that Council continues to invest in making Saanich a more walkable community.

Saanich is a great place to live. Let’s give people the chance to get out there and enjoy it!