By Britta Gunderson-Bryden
Avid walkers are sure to welcome the weather forecast, predicting a sunny and warm weekend ahead. Winter has been long and cold–at least by Victoria standards. Although many pedestrians did brave the Arctic winds and icy sidewalks, there aren’t many who would say that walking was pleasant, or even especially safe, during the worst weeks of February.
However, the long stretch of snowy days did bring home an important fact; most pedestrians rely on other modes of transportation from time to time, just as those who rely primarily on other forms of transportation are usually pedestrians at various points in their day. From personal perspective, our hometown heroes during those snowy, blowy winter days were our BC Transit drivers. By walking a few blocks, rather than my customary few kilometres, I was able to catch a bus and be taken safely to places I needed to go. At bus stops, drivers tried to position bus doors so passengers didn’t have to step off into snowbanks. When the roads became slushy, they slowed down so pedestrians and waiting passengers didn’t get splashed. They were patient with people who don’t usually take the bus, explaining how to get from A to B and how a day pass may be the best option for the passenger’s travels. I took more than forty buses over a two week period; all but one “out of service” driver, waiting to begin their routes, let people on the buses so they could sit, out of the cold.
I realize that I am fortunate to live in a part of Greater Victoria that is well-served by BC Transit and that not everyone may have had my positive experience. Either way, those of us who use foot-power as our primary means of transportation have a stake in advocating for better and more accessible public transit.
This year’s roster of Jane’s Walks include walks in several areas and on topics ranging from salmon to housing. Check them out here, and keep checking because new ones could be added at any time! So far there’s no walks planned for Sunday… so why not host one yourself? This video has instructions.
What: Screening of “Citizen Jane: Battle for the City” and social
Where: theDock, 722 Cormorant Street, 3rd floor
When: Thursday, May 3rd at 7pm
Snacks and non-alcoholic beverages will be served
Thanks to our event sponsors: ReThink Urban, Watershed Moment, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, and Market on Yates.
Recently, we asked members and social media followers to take part in our survey. Thank you for your responses! We’ll use the results to further refine our approach to pedestrian advocacy. Here’s what you said:
What are your favourite things about walking in Greater Victoria? The word cloud below sums up your responses:
Downtown is for everyone!
We asked you where you walk. Fifty-one of 70 respondents named “Downtown Victoria” as one of two areas they spend the most time walking in, making this the most popular response. Other popular responses were other City of Victoria neighbourhoods, along with the municipalities of Oak Bay and Saanich. There were zero responses for Sooke and the Highlands, but all other areas (including Sidney) appear to be home to Walk On members and followers!
What needs work?
We asked respondents to tell us what they felt was most needed to make Greater Victoria more walkable (up to five responses). Here’s what you said:As you can see, the most popular response was in favour of policies that encourage mixed-used, walkable neighbourhoods. Other top responses called for better-maintained sidewalks, reduced speed limits, and more marked crosswalks.
The many thoughtful additional responses to this question provide a goldmine of information and ideas about what needs to happen to make Greater Victoria more walkable. There were so many great ideas expressed, we had trouble narrowing them down, so buckle up! We’ve grouped some together but as you can see, there is a lot of variety. Thank you for taking the time to give us your thoughts on this question–we will make sure to put them to use, including by sending your concerns onward to local decision-makers.
Additional amenities that would benefit pedestrians:
- “More garbage/compost bins. There are so few!”
- “More washrooms”
- “[It] would be fantastic to see more street trees planted in neighbourhoods.”
Concerns about driver education and enforcement, especially regarding unmarked crosswalks:
- “Drivers [are] not aware that under the Motor Vehicle Act pedestrians are allowed to cross at corners even if they are unmarked. (This should be obvious because how else would one legally leave a block that does not have crosswalks on it!). Is a pain and is scary when angry motorists honk at pedestrians who are crossing from one corner to another when there is no marked crosswalk.”
- “Education and enforcement relating to vehicle drivers and cyclists being required to yield to pedestrians.”
- “We need clear driver education that unmarked crosswalks are the same as marked/signaled crosswalks, and frequent enforcement drives to reinforce this message.”
- “Crack down on distracted drivers.”
- “I want police to conduct operations that ticket drivers who do not stop for crosswalks and who ignore the white stop lines at intersections (encroaching on crosswalks).”
- “I want to see more enforcement of the law for motorists who ignore the law at crosswalks (including regular, i.e., unmarked crosswalks) and at stop signs and red lights.”
- “Education for drivers. I have almost been hit by a car several times – at all times during the day.”
- “There needs to be a cultural change where motorists assume more of the responsibility for operating dangerous machinery at speed.”
Concerns about sidewalk conditions:
- “I find that walking along the sidewalks is potentially dangerous. I have tripped numerous times on the uneven paving…I now have my arm in a cast…I have heard of numerous people tripping on the sidewalks. Of course it doesn’t get reported like my injury. If there is some kind of record kept, I’m hoping that the municipality will have an idea how bad things are. Even one injury is too many.”
- “Victoria is a very walkable city but the sidewalks are old and poorly maintained. I have had 3 friends trip on different uneven, raised sidewalks in the past 2 months. They all broke bones! All 3 were falls that could have been prevented if the sidewalks had been better maintained…Victoria is a city full of seniors, I am sure one of us trips and breaks a bone every day.”
- “Sidewalks in Oak Bay are either in great disrepair or non existent.”
- “I want sidewalks to be clear of vehicles and plant growth.”
- “Remove obstructions on sidewalk”
- “Public and private property trees & hedges encroach onto the sidewalk, making some impassable”
- “I want less clutter on the downtown sidewalks; specifically sandwich boards, restaurant eating areas, and bike racks on narrow sidewalks leaving sometimes only a meter of space.”
- “I want more roads temporarily closed for walking.”
- “We need a car free street in Downtown Victoria”
Additional input about crossings:
- “I feel the most dangerous think I do every day is cross the street. Drivers consider pedestrians as simply an obstacle put in their way. No matter how vigilant you are or how brightly dressed, the drivers just do not see you and they do not care. More driver education is needed….The traffic lights are designed only for drivers, pedestrians need more time to cross, especially the young and old. There should be a delay in the traffic lights to allow pedestrians to cross safely before drivers are allowed to turn.”
- “We need Scramble Crossings on busy pedestrian intersections, where all traffic stops to allow pedestrians to cross.”
- “[I want] more flashing cross walks outside of downtown (Bay street in particular, the crosswalks have no activation and drivers are looking to the next light at high speed and don’t stop).”
- “CoV has been installing traffic lights at major crosswalks in neighbourhoods such as North Park and Hillside/Quadra. Much appreciated. Please continue and expand these pedestrian safety features to other arterials.”
- “Better lighting is important for drivers to see pedestrians especially near crossings.”
- “I want protection at crosswalks and reduced speeds by using curb extensions.”
- “I have mobility issues. The walk times at some key intersections are too short for me. The walk timings need to be studied with focus on speed of walkers and habits of drivers, for example: if there is an advanced left turn north-south, drivers going west only look to the north when making a right turn going south, if you are a walker going north you almost get clipped with these right hand turning cars, the advanced left off and walk signals should have a delay. “
- “Reconsider bike lanes and the interaction between cyclists and pedestrians.”
- “I want more of the flashing crosswalk markers like the ones that were put on Cook street in North Park, those should be standard at all mid-block crosswalks outside of the downtown core where pedestrians aren’t as frequent so drivers often don’t stop because they don’t expect pedestrians to be there (Bay street in Fernwood is particularly bad for cars not stopping at crosswalks…”
- “I think that the 5corner intersection on Menzies needs to be re thought. Walkers, busses scooters canes cars trucks and me, all very confusing and dangerous even though everyone tries to be in the moment. Accidents waiting to happen.”
Additional input about reduced traffic speeds:
- “I want more infrastructure interventions to reduce speed limits, not just signs. I want more bollards to re-route traffic but allow bicycles and pedestrians. I want more indirect routing for cars and trucks.”
- “A street that by design, not rules, encourages more active transportation and slower cars is more palatable to people than taking the same street they’ve been driving 50km in and making it 30km with few discernible changes. Reducing road widths, having bumpouts at crosswalks, encouraging plants and gathering spaces, all help convey a message of ‘hey, let’s hang out here’.”
- “We need systemic fixes to improve the safety of people walking and biking in Victoria. #1 would be a default speed limit of 30 kph on non-arterial streets with an understanding that streets need to be calmed primarily by better design and education, not just by posting speed limits.”
- “A big problem with walking is often the number of dogs you encounter. Many are off leash and/or out of control. Dallas Road is a perfect example of this. The off leash area should be separate from the walking path. More education to dog owners is needed.”
- “It is very popular to encourage people to give up their cars and get out and walk. But when a pedestrian is hit by a car nearly every week in British Columbia, it is difficult to feel confident about walking. Much more needs to be done to keep pedestrians safe.”
- “I want less trucks on secondary streets (i.e. Bay street).”
- “Wider sidewalks are a must! The North Park Village re-design should have included wider sidewalks – walking down Cook Street can be difficult when it is busy.”
- “[I want] requirements for new developments to offer wide salewalks with grass/trees between sidewalk and road.”
- “I want municipalities…to formally adopt Vision Zero in each municipality as the Province has with the Moving to VisionZero plan and RoadSafetyBC. I want municipalities to recognize and ACT on the reality that the built environment they manage at the community-level has population health effects and consequences to their citizens and everyone who commutes through or visits those communities. Active transportation, road safety influence preventable injuries and deaths among vulnerable road users. Transportation-related injuries and fatalities don’t only select for citizens and taxpayers of any given community – they are relevant to tourists, international students, visitors and trade/business. I want them to recognize the interdependence of safe, active transportation, road safety for vulnerable road users, the fundamental requirement for safe system infrastructure, reducing automobile speeds on neighbourhood roads, the importance of walkability and community connectivity to age-friendly community planning which allows people to age-in-place instead of having to leave when they can no longer drive a car, because so many of our communities have been built as car-dependent for access to services and amenities. I want municipalities to commit to NOT following the 1950’s sprawl and crawl car-centric planning style of Langford’s council and mayor, and instead take the lead on healthy built environment and active transportation which supports SAFE walking and road safety for vulnerable road users.”
- “In general, I’d like to see the walkable parts of the streetscape not be treated as secondary, or afterthoughts! Especially downtown, there are often more folk on the sidewalks than driving down a given block – yet the sidewalks are a mere tiny percentage of the street area, and often in poor shape and cluttered”
- “I want roads patched so massive puddles don’t put pedestrians at risk for drenching by passing cars. “
- “…it would be nice to see initiatives aimed towards safety lighting that cuts down on ambient light pollution to the environment, with IDA-approved flat lens full-cutoff features and lower wattage.”
- “I would like less hard surfacing of walking routes – the Goose, the Connector and now the Great Trail are now bike routes and do not encourage walking because of the hard surfaces.”
- “Complete sidewalks to bus stops would be good. A study should look at bus stops and sidewalks that seem to start and stop in odd fashions. I often need to cross the street to find the sidewalk link or walk on the street since sidewalks stop.”
- “Wider sidewalks will better accommodate both independent walkers and those walking with wheeled devices (strollers, shopping baskets, Zimmer frames)”
- “We need a planning culture that encourages densification in neighbourhoods (without high rises necessarily) by lot size changes, more permissive zoning and more. We need a reinforcement of our community plan priorities, that put planning for walking, biking and transit above driving.”
- “We need police/media to stop victim blaming on pedestrian accidents with a focus on what they were wearing/doing at the time.”
- “Separate walking and biking areas by expanding mixed use trails.”
- “We need neighbourhoods where I can send my child on a 15-20 minute walk to school without too much worry.”
Thanks again to everyone who responded to our survey! Reading all of your thoughtful responses helps keep us motivated to advocate for a more walkable Greater Victoria!
For our second Walktober profile of 2017, we’d like to present Jeremy Loveday, who goes by @LovedayWalks. His walking stats aren’t quite as impressive as @BobV’s, but he’s a councillor for the City of Victoria so we wanted to hear his thoughts on walking and walkability. Here’s the full scoop:
WOV: What is your favourite neighbourhood in Victoria to walk in, and why?
@LovedayWalks: That’s a tough question! I love walking in all of Victoria’s neighbourhoods. If I had to choose, I’d say Vic West. The combination of waterfront paths, the industrial feel of the E&N rail trail, and the many beautiful character houses make Vic West a very enjoyable place to walk.
WOV: In your opinion, what is a key walkability issue that Victoria/Greater Victoria needs to work on?
@LovedayWalks: For a city to be truly walkable it must be safe for pedestrians. There are many streets and intersections that need new crosswalks or upgrades to include pedestrian activated signals. We’ve made some progress in the last few years but there is still lots of work to do.
WOV: There are many linkages between social justice and walkability–do you feel there a linkage that is especially relevant in Victoria, or especially relevant to the work you’re involved with?
@LovedayWalks: When I think about walkability, I think of safety, accessibility, and climate change. I’ve been pushing to make sure that all neighbourhoods receive equitable investments in pedestrian infrastructure. Upgrades and investments have historically come more quickly and more often to wealthier neighbourhoods. I passionately believe that walking should be safe and enjoyable in every neighbourhood in our City.
WOV: Why do you like to walk?
@LovedayWalks: Connection. Walking allows me to experience a sense of connection with people and place. I enjoy having the time to experience the City through each of my senses, say hello to my neighbours, and appreciate the small things that make our city so special.
You may have heard that Walktober 2017 gets underway October 1st, 2017. We encourage you to sign up (see our homepage for instructions).
If you participated in Walktober 2016, you may have noticed that one participant in particular walked an especially impressive number of steps. @BobV won the “High-Stepper” prize for walking a total of 839,419 steps throughout the month.
WOV: What is your main motivation for walking?
@BobV: The simple answer is that I enjoy walking but that may be a result of knowing that walking is a great way to keep fit. We gave up our car when we moved to Victoria 9 years ago so almost all our every day trips are on foot.
WOV: What walkability improvements would you most like to see in your neighbourhood or in Greater Victoria more generally?
@BobV: We are lucky to live in James Bay, perhaps one of the most walkable neighbourhoods in Canada. A recent survey undertaken by the James Bay Neighbourhood Association found that 74% of trips within the neighbourhood are made on foot. With this high number of walkers we need to have as much commitment to pedestrian safety as there currently is to cyclist safety. Top of my list would be a 30 km/h speed limit within residential neighbourhoods followed by additional and safer (and well maintained!) pedestrian crossings.
WOV: Last year you walked from Sidney to James Bay in one day! What’s your advice for people who want to start walking long distances?
@BobV: Actually, my walk started at Swartz Bay, something I had planned to do for some time – it was always to be next week, or when the weather improved or was not too hot; Walktober provided the incentive to do it now! So, my advice would be: start the journey today, get a pedometer and gradually build up to a weekly average of at least 10,000 steps a day; don’t use the car for short distances and walk all or at least part of the way to work. Join a walking group, Victoria has several for all levels.
Walkers at all levels walk the Victoria half marathon in October so there’s absolutely no need to be concerned about your ability, sign up today! And, of course, participation in Walktober is a great motivator.
WOV: What’s a walking highlight for you? Have you ever done a pilgrimage trail or other long-distance walking trip? A really scenic walk you would recommend to others?
@BobV: My longest recent one-day walk was the 55km Saints’ Way in Cornwall, UK. We have family in the UK and often visit Cornwall in the South West corner of England. We love to walk the coastal path – a 630-mile path which hugs the rugged landscape. We complete several sections on each visit with the long term aim of walking the whole of the Cornwall section. Closer to home our favourites include East Sooke Park, Juan de Fuca trail, Gowlland Tod and Thetis Lake.
And if you’re looking to beat @BobV, you may be in luck this year. He’s set his sights a little bit lower:
“Last year I set myself a challenge to achieve a high daily step count – this year I’ll be happy with a 12-15,000 step average!”
Looks like there’s some hope for the rest of us!
For the past two years, the steering committee members of Walk On, Victoria (WOV) have come together in November to review our mission and vision and decide on strategic priorities for the coming year.
Much of our core focus will stay the same. We will continue to advocate for funding and policy decisions that support walkability, expand our membership and steering committee representation, and engage with the communities of Greater Victoria on pedestrian issues. This year, we will also add a focus on building partnerships with other organizations that a share common interests to achieve mutual goals.
Building off the success of last year’s events, WOV will again participate in the annual Jane’s Walk in May and Car Free Day in June. We will also again take a lead role in organizing Walktober in October, in partnership with the Capital Regional District’s People Power Program.
Community projects in 2017/18 include advocating for better walkability of the Douglas Street Corridor and Shelbourne Street, both of which are in the midst of redesign processes. We will also be looking for opportunities to connect with developers to ensure new building projects and renovations take pedestrian needs into consideration. We are also hoping to expand our outreach by connecting with active transportation committees in communities throughout Greater Victoria, and organizing walks to bring fellow walking enthusiasts together.
Please look at our proposed strategic plan for 2017 and let us know what you think by emailing us or commenting through any of our social media platforms. We are also looking for feedback on a draft policy paper one of our committee members put together on some common pedestrian issues.
If you would like to get involved with any of the projects, or are interested in joining the steering committee, please send us an email at: email@example.com
Part of Walk On’s mandate is to promote and celebrate walking as a form of transportation and recreation. Pedestrians may frequently go overlooked by policymakers and engineers, but we’re here to let you know that we appreciate every step you take! Whether you choose to walk because you love all the benefits, or whether you walk because it’s the cheapest or most convenient way to get around, we salute you for using an environmentally-friendly, community-enhancing, healthy form of transportation.
In October, we hosted Walktober–an online step-counting challenge. Participants were able to register using their FitBit, smartphone, or other fitness-tracking device to track their steps on a common platform. Participants were entered into a draw for every day they walked 10,000 steps and also had a chance at additional prizes for special challenges. Overall, over 11 million steps were taken by participants–the distance from Vancouver to Toronto and back again! The participant who took the title of “Big Stepper” (most steps overall) walked over 800,000 steps during the month (including from Sidney to James Bay in a single day!)
Special thanks to our Walktober Champions, who shared some of their thoughts about walking and walkability.
Next year we’ll be doing it again, only bigger and better. We look forward to seeing you on the sidewalk during Walktober 2017–if you want to participate, make sure to sign up for our mailing list using the “Become a Member/Contact Us” link above.
We’re very happy to introduce a report entitled “A Critical Path: Taking steps towards a more effective pedestrian advocacy organization”, an insightful report produced by the University of Victoria’s Master of Public Administration student Jeff Barber for Walk On, Victoria. To see the report, click here.
Thank you to the many pedestrian advocates from across North America who helped Jeff arrive at a very well-informed set of recommendations! Also, thanks to Jeff for taking on this project. We look forward to considering which of these great recommendations we should start putting to work over the next year and beyond.
Earlier this summer Walk On representatives Arielle Guetta and Sally Reid had the pleasure of discussing pedestrian advocacy on Shaw TV’s Citizens Forum. Watch it below!