The Pandemic Pedestrian – Phase Two

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 Bit of May Magic: A walk for wee ones to celebrate Jane’s Walks 2020

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.

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How Walkable is your Neighbourhood? A Virtual Walking Audit in Honour of Jane’s Walk, 2020

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:

Virtual Jane’s Walk Audit Richmond Rd., Saanich

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?

Picture 3B

  • 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?

Picture 6A

  • 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?

Picture 7C

  • 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?

Picture 7A

  • 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?Picture 3C
  • 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?

Picture 4A

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.

James Bay History in a Box: A walk to celebrate Jane’s Walks 2020, presented by Walk On, Victoria

Victoria’s James Bay neighbourhood is home to many historic buildings and a fine selection of late 19th century and early 20th century residences.  Not all of the original buildings are still standing but many have been “preserved” in black and white wrap-around photographs on large utility boxes.

Join Walk On, Victoria (virtually) by strolling through history on May 2nd or 3rd, or any time this spring or summer.  Just look for the large utility boxes, remember to be mindful of other pedestrians and physical distancing, and enjoy your walk!

This walk covers approximately 5 kilometres and takes just over one hour as it rambles along quiet streets.   The route is a loop so it is possible to begin at any of the numbered stopping points.

Download a printable version of this walk here: https://walkonvictoria.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Janes-Walk-2020.pdf

Here is the map of the route: Joint - US 1

  1. King’s Printer, northwest corner of Superior Street and Government Street, kitty-corner from the Queen’s Printer (same building).  Photo 1935.  Notice the photo of the old printing presses.

Continue east on Superior Street to the next corner at Douglas Street.  Turn right to cross Douglas Street.

Continue reading James Bay History in a Box: A walk to celebrate Jane’s Walks 2020, presented by Walk On, Victoria

Winter weather & multimodal transportation

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.

Britta is on the Walk On steering committee. She walks both for transportation and for recreation with local Volkssport walking clubs. When not walking, she can be found working on a novel or travelling to far-flung locales.

Walk On, Victoria’s 2018 Year in Review

We are already well underway into January, 2019, and with the New Year comes a time to reflect on the past year, and set goals for the year to come. Walk On, Victoria had a busy 2018, and already planning exciting things for 2019.

Every year, our Steering Committee has a Strategic Planning session, where we reflect on our achievements and challenges, and determine our organizational priorities.  Our 2018 Strategic Plan is found here. Below is a summary of what we achieved in 2018 based on the goals set out in the Strategic Plan.

Continue reading Walk On, Victoria’s 2018 Year in Review

Walktober 2018

 

In 2016 and 2017, Walk On, Victoria was able to host the Walktober Challenge with the help of a two-year People Power grant provided by the Capital Regional District.

This year, there is no step-counting challenge, but we’re planning two walks to help you to continue the Walktober traditions. Walks are free and last about 1.5-2 hours.

Walktober Theme Walks

Join Walk On, Victoria members for a free walk to see parts of region from a new angle:

Saturday, October 13, 1:00pm: Planning for affordability

Image result for cook st village victoria bc

This walk will explore why and how to make our community more affordable by increasing compact development in walkable urban neighborhoods. It will discuss factors that affect housing  development costs, and the types of housing that are most affordable to build and occupy. We will look at various housing types   including secondary suites, multiplexes, townhouses, mid-rise and high-rise apartments, ranging from heritage buildings to new developments. Led by Todd Litman.

Meet at the Beacon Hill Park playground at Cook and Leonard Street, across from Hampton Court.

Sunday, October 21, 2018, 10:00 am:  The Harbour and History

Take an easy stroll around Victoria’s Inner Harbour and back through downtown, looking at various points of historic interest and searching for the often-missed but unique Hands of Time sculptures.  The walk will take approximately 90 minutes and will return to the starting point. Led by Britta Gundersen-Bryden.

10:00 am start.   Meet at Fisherman’s Wharf Park, James Bay, on the grass behind the bus stop.  Start point is accessible by foot, bike (rack across the street in front of Imagine Cafe), or by the #2 bus (James Bay). There is some street parking in the area and pay parking at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Social Media Challenge

We encourage you to post your photos on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, of favourite walking spots in Greater Victoria and use the hashtag #WalktoberYYJ. We will profile our favourite shots on our social media.

#WalktothePolls

Municipal election day is October 20. Get out and #WalktothePolls and make sure to ask your candidates:

Do you support making walking safer and more enjoyable in your municipality?

What specific policies, projects and expenditures would you support in the next four years to make walking safer and more pleasant in your municipality?

CRD Walk and Wheel to School Week

 Walk and Wheel to School Week is a fun and free week-long campaign that celebrates and encourages students and their families to choose active travel for all or part of their usual commute to school. The campaign includes events, travel tracking, resources and support for schools and parents, including information on the benefits of active travel and prizes for participation.

Walk and Wheel to School Week will be held October 1 – 5, 2018.

If you know of any other events happening in October, please share them with us!

Think about Pedestrian issues when you VOTE in your Municipal election

On October 20, 2018, municipalities across British Columbia will hold local government elections. This includes the 13 municipalities in the Greater Victoria Area, which will hold elections for local government officials, including Mayor and Council.

Walk On, Victoria is asking our community to consider where candidates stand on pedestrian issues when making an informed decision on Election Day.

When thinking about walkability in Greater Victoria, there are a number of ways to approach the issue. To really focus municipal candidates on the issue, we have come up with a two-part question.

Do you support making walking safer and more enjoyable in your municipality?

What specific policies, projects and expenditures would you support in the next four years to make walking safer and more pleasant in your municipality?

There are a number of events and debates happening in the area leading up to the election on October 20. We encourage our members to get out to these events and ask the candidates these questions. Or, next time you see your local candidate in your neighbourhood, take the opportunity to engage with them about walkability.

Victorians for Transportation Choice

 Walk On, Victoria recently joined up with a collection of like-minded groups who work for better transportation solutions for all, to launch Victorians for Transportation Choice (VTC).

VTC launched a candidate questionnaire for the October 20th municipal elections. The VTC hopes to inform the voting public about candidates’ ideas and platforms on a range of sustainable transportation questions.

We encourage you to visit www.transportchoicevic.ca, where you can view the full questionnaire and candidate answers. We hope this will help inform you of where the candidates stand on pedestrian issues, as well as transportation issues more broadly.

“Victorians for Transportation Choice represents people in the greater Victoria area who want their transportation options to be safe, convenient and effective, while minimizing harm such as carbon pollution that drives climate change,” said Tom Hackney, VTC spokesperson and Victoria Chapter Co-Chair of the BC Sustainable Energy Association. “Many people in greater Victoria want to be part of a positive revolution in transportation, and we want our municipal governments to lead in building solutions.”

The VTC’s member groups — Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition; Greater Victoria Placemaking Network; British Columbia Sustainable Energy Association; Walk On, Victoria; Island Transformations Organization and Better Transit Alliance of Greater Victoria — want our communities to shift to more transit, walking and biking, as a means to meet transportation needs while improving livability,  while reducing carbon pollution and other harm. As the Victoria Transit Future Plan says, “Major investments in expanding the road network to accommodate the private automobile do not align with local, regional and provincial planning aspirations.” The Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate change commits provincial and federal governments to shift spending from higher to lower emitting types of transportation.

The full questionnaire is available at www.transportchoicevic.ca and candidates answers will be available for the general voting public. All candidates are invited to fill out the survey. VTC will not be endorsing any candidates.

Finally, remember to get out there and VOTE on October 20!

It’s that time of year again!

May 4th is legendary urban activist Jane Jacob’s birthday, and Greater Victoria will be celebrating with cities all around the world.

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.

Walk On is excited to join the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network and theDock in hosting a fun launch event to this year’s Jane’s Walks festivities.  Here’s the details:

What: Screening of “Citizen Jane: Battle for the City” and social
Where: theDock, 722 Cormorant Street, 3rd floor
When: Thursday, May 3rd at 7pm
Cost: $7.00
Snacks and non-alcoholic beverages will be served

Buy a ticket to the movie screening/social here!

Thanks to our event sponsors: ReThink Urban, Watershed Moment, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, and Market on Yates.

2018 Survey Results

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.”
Pedestrian-only streets:
  • “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.”
Other input:
  • “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!