There is more than one name for this, the tenth month of the year. Of course, “Walktober” suits this span of 31 days very well but it is also a month when “Fogtober” is also appropriate. And when the fog rolls in, what better place to walk than the Ogden Point breakwater?
A tale of two schools
There has been much discussion in Greater Victoria on lowering speed limits over the past few years, which Walk On, Victoria supports. If you have travelled across the the region, you may be confused about the different speed limits in different areas, and the inconsistency of speed limits, even on portions of the same road. On some roads there are clear signs notifying drivers of the speed limits, but on others, there are no posted signs. This problem is especially evident when looking at two neighbouring schools: Quadra School and Cloverdale School.
Most people are aware that the speed limit in school zones is 30km/h between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. when school is in session. The speed limit is set at 30km/h because this is the speed at which, should a child be struck by a car, the risk of serious or fatal injury is reduced. Should a driver neglect to slow down, fines for driving over the speed limit in a school zone are higher than those for driving over the speed limit on other roads: $196 for those driving up to 20km/h over the 30km/h speed and $283 for those driving 21km/h or more over the posted school zone speed.
Driving with caution in a school zone is serious business, so you might be surprised to learn that one of the two elementary schools, located just blocks apart on Quadra Street, does not have a posted 30km/h speed limit.
Cloverdale School, located at 3427 Quadra, does not have a 30km/h posted speed limit. Quadra School, located at 3031 Quadra does.
Location of Quadra and Cloverdale Schools (click to enlarge):
Quadra School, located in the municipality of Victoria, is fully fenced on both the Finlayson and the Quadra sides of the school. The speed limit on this portion of Quadra is 40km/h when school isn’t in session, and there are 30km/h school zone signs on both Quadra and Finlayson. There is also a traffic calming median with plants at the intersection of Quadra and Finlayson. No cars are able to park on the school grounds in front of Quadra School, and there is no turn off from Quadra onto the school grounds. Traffic moves slowly in this area during school hours.
The message is clear: Drive slowly and keep children safe.
Proceed a couple of blocks along Quadra, where at Tolmie, motorists cross the municipal border between Victoria and Saanich. On the Saanich portion of Quadra, the speed limit increases to 50km/h.
At 3427 Quadra, where Cloverdale School is located, there is a roadside sign with a picture of children but no speed limit posting of 30km/h. Motorists can drive 50km/h on this portion of Quadra even when school is in session. Furthermore, Cloverdale School is not fully fenced on the Quadra side of the school grounds, and there is a driveway in front of the school allowing motorists to pull off Quadra onto the school grounds. Cloverdale School is located directly next door to the Cloverdale Thrifty Foods Store, and motorists sometimes mistake the school driveway for the Thrifty’s driveway.
If you are a pedestrian who walks in this neighbourhood, you know that the intersection at Cloverdale and Quadra feels dangerous. Drivers are focused on looking for breaks in traffic to make left or right turns or to turn into one of the two gas stations or the stores located at this intersection.
The message is clear: Hang onto your kids. This is not a safe street to walk on.
Walk On, Victoria advocates for consistency in posting 30km/h school zone signs throughout the CRD.
Walktober is an excellent time to explore Victoria – from southwest to northeast – and back again. Following is a personal account of an urban walk – full of autumn colours.
My jaunt took me across Victoria – twice. I live in James Bay and had an appointment to keep on Hillside, at the Victoria-Saanich border. The trek took about ninety minutes each way; going “out” I noticed one handful of tourists in front of the legislative buildings, taking photos, and another small group waiting to board the solitary double-decker bus in front of The Empress. The level of activity reminded me of an early fall morning back in the 1990s, before the Coho docked on its first run of the day and long before legions disembarked from the final cruise ships of the season and overwhelmed downtown.
There was a large circle of like-minded folks engaged in some sort of contemplative gathering in Pioneer Cemetery and many people sipping coffee at numerous Cook Street cafes.
Many of the Haultain curb-side gardens were still in flower; some householders had even put excess produce out for neighbours to take home.
Along Shelbourne, single-family houses, well-past their primes and never candidates for heritage designation, continue to give way to multiplexes and townhouses. Nonetheless, there were pockets of colour along this busy corridor.
On the way “back”, I took residential streets in Oaklands, skirted Jubilee and passed through Fernwood. I saw freshly-painted fences, new backyard benches and families enjoying playgrounds and the outdoor plaza on Gladstone.
When I finally returned to James Bay I paused to reflect; other than the lack of downtown tourists, the “new normal” isn’t so different from the “old normal” and our city is going to be okay.
Notes and photos by Britta Gundersen-Bryden
Today was one of those glorious early autumn days: warm – not hot; breezy – not windy; fresh – not humid. I began my trek at the Oak Bay Rec Centre and had a glorious stroll. Oak Bay, with its heritage homes, manicured lawns, tailored gardens and thick arboreal canopy, was the perfect place to walk. Add in Willows Beach and the marina plus the green of the golf course and the attraction for this walker is obvious.
But there are two hidden gems in Oak Bay that make walking here more than special. The first is the network of back alleys. The alleys of Oak Bay are not overwhelmed by trash cans, discarded mattresses or derelict vehicles; they are lined with painted bird houses, twirling whirly-gigs and vegetable gardens (I saw a spaghetti squash just ripe for picking). Some alleys end in a “T”, giving walkers the choice of turning right or left. Others are home to artists’ studios, workshops, old-fashioned carriage houses with haylofts up-top or proper garages housing classic cars. Each alley is a jewel on its own; together they form a beaded necklace, wound through Oak Bay.
And the biggest gemstone hanging from that necklace is Anderson Hill. My favourite approach to Anderson Hill is up an obscured little path leading off Transit Road. As I climbed up, the path narrowed and squeezed between old, lichen-covered rocks. I walked through grasses that were pale yellow and dry; the fallen, leaves crackled under foot. I walked past Garry oaks that have been stunted and twisted from frequent winds. In a few minutes I reached the top and there – before me – was a West Coast panorama of sea and mountains. I took a deep breath and marveled at the wonderful walking adventures we can have here on Southern Vancouver Island.
Notes and photos by Britta Gundersen-Bryden
View from Anderson Hill, looking south.
View from Anderson Hill, looking east.
October – what a wonderful month to wander around Great Victoria!
Oct. 2: no wind 18C and high-level haze. The best possible walk place to was the Ogden Point breakwater.
Added bonus #1: seeing two sea lions heading toward Clover Point and one heron floating on a kelp bed.
Added Bonus #2: the Dallas Road multi-use path is almost finished – and pedestrians are already enjoying it.
Every October, Walk On, Victoria celebrates what makes walking great in our communities. This year looks a little different than previous years, as our community is facing many challenges due to the covid-19 pandemic. Many of us are working from home, distance learning, and have had our daily routines upended. Where our members may have walked to work or school, this has been replaced by a short commute between rooms. This has given us a new opportunity to explore the benefits of walking in other contexts, such as walking for exercise, stress relief, or just a way to get out of the house! Areas of our cities have been turned over the streets to pedestrians and our local businesses have taken advantage of this by creating patios.
This Walktober, we encourage you to reflect on what walking means to you, especially during this particularly difficult year. Have you been walking more or less than your normal routine? Have you found any unexpected benefits of walking? Most of all, we encourage you to get out and walk!
Stay tuned to our social medial channels for details on how you can win great prizes! Each week, we will post a challenge on our social media channels and will do a prize draw. Make sure to follow us to find out how you can win:
Facebook “Walk On, Victoria”
Where to walk
While in the past, we have hosted some in-person walks, the pandemic has made this challenging. We have some suggestions for guided walks up on our Blog and will post additional walks during Walktober.
Check out our resources page for some local recreational walks (if you know of any others, please let us know!)
Count your steps
In previous years, we held a step-counting contest as part of Walktober but we are not able to host it this year. We have learned that ParticipACTION has launched a team challenge, running all October and featuring $20,000 in prizes. Some Walk On members have created our team, and we challenge you to an informal step challenge! https://www.participaction.com/en-ca/programs/app
How to make your neighbourhood more walkable
Residents and visitors alike have consistently rated the walkability of the area as one of the best things about Greater Victoria. However, we know that there are many challenges that pedestrians face- whether it is narrow sidewalks (or no sidewalks at all!), lack of crosswalks, debris, lighting, etc. At Walk On, Victoria, we advocate for pedestrians at all levels of government to make Greater Victoria a safer and more enjoyable place to walk.
One way you can learn more about the walkability of your neighbourhood is by doing a walk audit! A couple of our members did one for a Saanich neighbourhood in honour of Jane’s Walks:
We encourage you to report any issues you see to your local government. You can use our handy reporting tool to find out where to report issues (this tool directs you to the correct place to report and does not make a report on behalf of you).
A note about accessibility…
Walk On, Victoria uses the word “walking” when referring to pedestrians (it’s even in our name!) To us, walking more than just moving on two feet, it includes all pedestrians, regardless of mobility. We aim to advocate for all pedestrians.
We’ve partnered with the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition to call for improvements to Shelbourne Street in Saanich during the Covid-19 pandemic. You can read our full press release below.
Walk On, Victoria (Greater Victoria’s pedestrian advocacy organization) and the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition (GVCC) are calling on the District of Saanich to use suitable barriers (bollards, traffic cones, etc.) to temporarily create wider sidewalk space and protected bike lanes along Shelbourne Street. The idea is that this pattern will then become permanent when construction on the Shelbourne Street Improvements Project is completed by 2023.
Planning for Shelbourne had been ongoing for over 10 years, during which time public interest and support for Active Transportation has steadily increased. The Covid-19 pandemic, which has resulted in significant changes in peoples’ work, school and recreation behaviours, has furthered public interest in finding ways to be active, get outdoors and use walking and cycling as a means of transportation.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic, many people have faced a lifestyle change,” says Amanda Macdonald, Chair of Walk On, Victoria, “there is now the opportunity to re-evaluate our streets and public spaces to implement measures for health and safety and to facilitate active transportation.”
The rationale for making these changes on Shelbourne street now is:
- Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in people working from home and most on-campus courses at the University of Victoria and Camosun College have been suspended until at least January 2021. These work and education changes mean that traffic volume on Shelbourne is reduced because fewer people are driving to get to work and school.
- A lot of people say they like the decrease in auto traffic that has occurred due to Covid-19. Public awareness about the urgent need to protect the environment has increased, and more people are choosing to walk and bike for exercise and as a means of transportation.
- If our proposal is implemented now, the bike lanes and widened sidewalks that are temporarily created will give people an opportunity to increase travel on foot and by bike while it is summer, days are long, the weather is good, and people of all ages want to get outdoors. Families who want to introduce their children to cycling for transportation will have a safe, protected bike lane to use. Automobile drivers will get used to the new street configuration while fewer cars are on the road. The timing is perfect.
- Additional sidewalk space and the separation of pedestrians from automobile traffic will make walking safer for everyone. Approximately 22% of residents in the Shelbourne Valley are older adults, some of whom no longer drive and rely on walking as their main mode of transportation. This is especially the case for older people living in shared residences on Cedar Hill X-Road, Church Street and at Berwick House and the Kensington. Older people are at greatest risk if they contract Covid-19, and wider sidewalks will allow for more social distancing. This is a measure Saanich can take to protect its most vulnerable citizens.
“Saanich has declared a climate emergency”, says Macdonald, “this proposal will keep with Saanich’s goals to reduce greenhouse gases and be a jump start toward already established environmental targets.”
Shelbourne has many pedestrians and cyclists who have endured unsafe, noisy, polluted transportation conditions for decades. A positive change that can come from the pandemic should be a healthier travel environment on this heavily travelled street.
Early in BC’s Phase Two, things don’t seem all that different.
Once-busy downtown intersections still have few vehicles or pedestrians.
Tourists (plus the Coho and the Clipper) have not returned.
People and their pooches are still out for mid-morning strolls.
Back alleys are still great places to be able to maintain two metres between pedestrians.
Construction never stopped. The Dallas Road pathway may soon be open.
And wildlife is still enjoying the peace and quiet.
But things are gradually “opening up” – though walkways, farmers’ markets and patio spaces all have a different look and feel this year. Pedestrians, like everyone else in BC, are still being asked to “be kind, be calm and stay safe.”
A walk along Pilot Street in James Bay will put smiles on the faces of youngsters and the young at heart. Many locals have created magical scenes at the bases of trees or in their yards along the one-block stretch of this residential street.
Strolling up and down both sides of the block will take about 20 to 30 minutes. Be sure to check all sides of the trees (look up, too), practice physical distancing and enjoy this special walk.
The photos are a preview only; there is lots more to discover on Pilot Street.
Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) was an urban activist who advocated for preservation of urban communities where a diverse population could live, work and walk to most the services they required.
Most years members of Walk On, Victoria participate in Jane’s Walk Weekend by leading several community walks. This year, because of social distancing necessary to help control the spread of Covid-19, we are offering suggestions for alternative virtual walks.
How Walkable Is Your Neighbourhood?
One way Walk On Victoria suggests celebrating Jane’s Walk Weekend this year is that pedestrians do a walking audit to assess the walkability of your own neighbourhood. Walking audits are a recommended part of all Jane’s Walks. Jacobs believed that a walkable neighbourhood is key to building community relationships and to keeping communities safe.
To do a walking audit, take your camera and a notepad and set out to rate the walking infrastructure you encounter along your walk.
You are encouraged to choose a walk that is not only recreational but that is also en route to where you carry out daily tasks, such as grocery shopping, banking, going to a pharmacy, the library, etc. If you don’t live within walking distance of any of these amenities, then do an audit of the route you usually walk to catch a bus or for exercise and recreation.
Here is a sample walking audit that two Walk On Victoria members completed for the segment of Richmond Road between Cedar Hill X-Road and Lansdowne:
Some of the factors to consider in doing your audit are:
- Condition of the sidewalks: Is the pavement smooth or broken? Free of debris or littered with leaves, dirt, gravel, or trash? Is the pavement even or dangerously slanted? Is there room on the sidewalk (or pathway) for two people to walk side by side? Is the sidewalk wide enough that someone walking in the opposite direction is able to pass? Do obstacles such as parked cars, utility poles, signs, fire hydrants, bushes and shrubs or drains obstruct the path? Is the sidewalk wide enough for use by someone on a mobility scooter, wheelchair, or walker or someone pushing a baby stroller? What is the drainage like on the sidewalk? Are there pools of sitting water or mud that is slippery? In winter, are there places where snow and ice are not removed?
- What about areas where sidewalk is absent? Is sidewalk continuous, or do you need to cross the street to get to sidewalk when sidewalk on one side of the street abruptly ends? Do you need to walk in the street to get around parked cars that pull onto the boulevard?
- Safety of crosswalks: How many crosswalks are there on your route? What is the distance between crosswalks? Are crosswalks so far apart that pedestrians have little alternative other than to dash across the street mid-block? Are crosswalks located in a place that is clearly visible for motorists from a safe distance (not on a curve in the road)? Are the intersections wheelchair/stroller/scooter accessible?
- Does walking along your route feel safe? Is there separation for pedestrians from the street or does the street abut directly with the sidewalk? What is the traffic speed limit? Does it feel like cars are moving by too close and too fast? Are there any traffic calming features on your route?
- Bus stops: Are there crosswalks near bus stops, or does a pedestrian need to cross mid-block to get to the bus stop? What is the condition of the bus stop? Is there a bus shelter? A bench? Is the bus stop well-lighted? Is the bus stop just a sign on the edge of the road or on the front lawn of a residence?
- Walking at night and in bad weather: Walking on a nice day in May is quite different from walking in heavy rain at 9 pm in November. In bad weather, are you likely to have water splashed on you by passing cars? Is the street lighting on your route adequate to make you visible to motorists? Are you able to see the pavement well enough to avoid tripping or slipping on debris on the sidewalk?
- Places to rest: Are there any benches or places to rest along your route? If so, are they in good repair and easily accessible?
- Natural environment: Is your route attractive? Are there trees and other greenery? Is the built environment along your route in good repair, and do business owners keep the sidewalk in front of their businesses clear of debris and obstacles?
- Is there any art along your route? Any signage to help with directions?
- What are some of your other observations about the walkability on your route? What changes need to happen to make your pedestrian experience safer and more pleasant?
If you want to do your own walk audit, please share it with us! You can also send a copy of your audit results to your local municipality to point out areas for improvement.
For a formal walk audit form that some members have used as an advocacy tool in the past, please click here.