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.