The CRD is building a new bike and pedestrian master plan and to get the ball rolling, they hosted a launch & lunch party yesterday and they were kind enough to invite myself, Lesley Ewing and Gerald Smeltzer, all of us on the core team of the Oak Bay bike master plan. The event was well attended, with staff from every municipality save Colwood there, lots of CRD staff, and community activists from the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition, the Saanich Bike/Ped Committee, the sadly non-defunct Parent Advisory Committee for the Safer School Travel Plan as well as us. (Update: Michael Baxter, the engineer from Colwood on the comm., was out of town)
We started off with an excellent lunch in the 6th floor boardroom of the CRD building. You can quite literally see for miles up there. To kick off the presentation portion, Tracey Corbett of CRD’s Regional Planning and View Royal Mayor Graham Hill both spoke briefly. Tracey spoke about how this grew out of the CRD’s Travel Choices work a few years back and Graham gave an excellent overview of the challenges we face, with the “perfect storm” of peak oil, climate change and growing health issues).
After Tracey and Graham, Mira Birk and the Alta Planning + Design team out of Portland, OR, Urban Systems from Vancouver and John Luton, their local advisor, got up to talk about what they were going to do and what tools they brought to the table. They spoke about some of the GIS tools they have developed over the years to look at quality of bike and pedestrian infrastructure and make it easier to plan a complete street. For more information about these tools, Birk gave a talk on the cycle portion at the 2008 ProWalk/ProBike conference.
She went on to make some interesting points of the challenges of planning for bikes and pedestrians, in that most models of transportation don’t yet account for how new bike lanes or sidewalks change travel habits or factor in the health and societal benefits to more people walking and biking. This makes it hard to “sell” these improvements to people educated in the old school of planning for cars and single family homes. She also pointed that until recently few universities in their planning depts had people that could teach the next generation about how to plan for bikes, walking or mixed use development.
So where do we go from here? Hopefully the website will be appearing online shortly, so that most people can learn about the project. There will also be a citizen’s advisory committee and a planners/engineers from each municipality committee. Alta is hoping to finish the 1st phase by the Fall of 2009, with the 2nd and 3rd phases late spring/early summer 2010.