I am writing today to urge everyone to do more to ensure that Saanich’s streets are safe for active transportation, children, and those with disabilities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused additional issues on our streets, as we do not have the space to distance on many sidewalks, but the solutions are the same. I have lived in Saanich for nearly six years with my young family, and I am writing to encourage mayor and council to take the issues of road safety seriously and take much swifter action than the proposals included in the Active Transportation Plan (ATP) and other existing proposals. I do not want to see my beloved neighbourhood become safe in time for my grandchildren to walk and ride in peace here — I want to see this in my kids’ childhoods.
Before I provide you with some details about what I think Saanich could do, based on best practices, I want to illustrate why you must do this and do it quickly with just two of many stories. I live on Davida Avenue near the corner with Tillicum Road, and I will tell you a story about my own family, and another from my next-door neighbour and dear friend.
My son normally attends Tillicum school and my daughter attends Almost Home Childcare Centre on Tillicum at Walter Avenue. My husband worries so much about the proximity and speed of traffic on Tillicum and the narrow sidewalks, that he has begged me to drive the kids to school and daycare.
To have residents drive three blocks to school because we feel our children are unsafe is an unacceptable failure on the part of local government. My next door neighbour’s mother, a senior who suffers from mild vertigo, has also told me that she feels so unsafe she tries to avoid ever walking on Tillicum Road. Unfortunately, her other option, Davida Avenue, does not have a sidewalk at all, and she cannot walk safely there either. On bad days, she has been completely trapped in her house until her daughter or son-in-law can drive her somewhere. Often, she simply needs to go one block to Tillicum Mall, Pearkes, or one of our many beautiful, local parks where she likes to exercise.
It is my belief that closing many of our side streets to non-local traffic would strike a balance between creating a safe road environment for shared use, while not incurring excessive cost and having to work on unacceptably long timelines.
As an example from my neighbourhood, Ker Avenue is closed to Tillicum Road, although it is still accessible to local motor vehicle traffic via Bodega. While my six-year-old has yet to learn to ride a bike, because we do not have easy access to a safe environment for him to practise, I see children riding on their bikes and playing on Ker Avenue every day.
You cannot delay any longer and you must commit to finding action that Saanich can take now to allow us all to live here safely. I love my neighbourhood, and I love this municipality, but I live with a constant tension and fear caused by raising young children on streets that do not have basic road safety measures in place. You cannot justify a lack of action now with the backlog caused by lack of action in the past.