Pictures and notes from the East Saanich Rd. open house

Mayor and councillor talk at open house
North Saanich Mayor Alice Findall and Councillor Peter Chandler at open house

I had heard the rumours of bike lanes and sidewalks on East Saanich Rd., so when I learnt that North Saanich was hosting an open house to display the plans, I decided to check it out. The open house took place over three hours in room just off the lobby in the Panorama Rec. Centre. With 60 people trickling through over the course of the evening, it was well attended event, always good for getting as much feedback as possible. On hand to answer questions and take comments North Saanich engineering staff, engineering staff from Declan, the consultant, as well as Councillor Peter Chandler. Mayor Alice Findall also stopped in for a few moments in the early parts of the evening.

Display from People for a Pedestrian-Friendly Dean Park
Suzanne Mophet with display from People for a Pedestrian-Friendly Dean Park

Outside the map room was the People for a Pedestrian Dean Park, a group seeking to make the Dean Park neighbourhood safer for walkers and bikers. Suzanne Mophet, who founded the group, had setup a large board with a map of the neighbourhood and was asking people about where they would like to see pedestrian paths, sidewalks and other amenities. She and I ended up having a long conversation about the challenges of traffic calming in the newer suburbs, especially with regards to getting political and popular support.

While I got a sense during the night that most people were supportive, I was confirmed with I spoke to Baohua Duan, one of the North Saanich Municipality’s engineering techs the next day. She is responsible for compiling all the myriad feedback from the 37 response forms. She confirmed that the overwhelming impression was very positive.

All in all, it was a very well run event. Kudos to North Saanich for giving the public the opportunity to give feedback. The Declan and North Saanich engineering staff were great at answering nearly any question and having a councillor on hand was a nice bonus. I am looking forward to early fall when all the construction (North and Central Saanich) should be done.

Rainbows & Raindrops from the community fair

At the Community Fair yesterday we put out two piece of bristol board, sticky notes and pens and then we asked people who came by to tell us about biking in Oak Bay, both what they loved and what they would like to see changed or disliked. We got some great feedback, as I have transcribed below:


  • Healthier and environmentally better way to travel. Oak Bay is awesome for biking
  • Riding along the waterfront (Dallas Rd.)
  • Path along the water
  • New bike lanes on Henderson
  • love riding on Oak Bay’s quiet streets
  • Part of Foul Bay Bike lane
  • Slow traffic in Oak Bay
  • Lanes
  • Quiet bike lanes. Sidelanes and back alleys
  • Bike lanes
  • Roads that are generally quiet
  • Bike lanes. Secure locking ???. beach dr & oak bay avenue
  • Quiet streets for making long traverses across the community
  • Fresh air and exercise
  • New bike parking at municipal hall
  • close to community, parking easy, fresh air, calories burned

Of course, life is not all roses. Sometimes there are thorns:

  • Disrespect by cyclists and motorists for each other
  • bicyclists who ride in the middle of the road instead of the cycle lane! 🙂
  • cars parked on Beach Drive
  • No road bike lane by Marina and Glenlyon
  • Need more bike trails
  • Roads where there is not enough room for bikes + car (McNeil Ave)
  • Lack of bike trails and lanes
  • Access to Galloping Goose from Oak Bay
  • Cyclists who ignore the rules of the road
  • Need bike lane on Foul Bay
  • Oak Bay needs more bike lanes
  • nervous of traffic
  • Parking along Cedar Hill X Rd up to Uvic is very dangerous!
  • Oak Bay needs more bike lane & bike racks
  • Potholes
  • traffic calming devices. potholes in street
  • Not enough bike racks in the village!
  • Cyclists who don’t follow the rules of the road. Cyclists who don’t have lights.
  • Foul Bay & Oak Bay intersection
  • not much bike parking on the avenue
  • clear glass from bike lanes
  • –> Please signal –> Wear helmets

Each line is a single note. Where possible I have tried to preserve the formatting/spelling/etc.

We also got a few comments about the pedestrian experience:


  • For wheelchair: Good in the village, Foul Bay rather rough
  • Safe, clean sidewalks that have been redone


  • More attention to care of sidewalks on non-busy roads
  • crosswalk at Brighton + Foul Bay to fit with the Brighton Ave Centennial path

Thanks again to Jill Croft and the whole OB Comm. Association for organizing the event, the OB Emergency Preparedness people for being so kind as to share their space and time and to Jane and David who came out and peopled the SCOB booth with me. Here’s looking forward to next years.

Jaywalking and pedestrian space

There is a minor little stink going on in downtown Victoria over a recent crackdown on jaywalking. The Downtown Victoria Business Association is quite annoyed, feeling it will drive people out of downtown. Jack Knox quite correctly points out that ICBC, who funds this work, and the writing of tickets themselves makes lots of money for the municipalities. Jaywalking, as defined by Wikipedia is:

an informal term used to refer to illegal or reckless pedestrian crossing of a roadway

The core concept behind jaywalking as a crime is that there needs to be separate spaces for cars, pedestrians, bikes, etc. All well and good, until you realize that one of the areas they targeted for enforcement was Government Street. For reference, a picture of Gov’t St: Government Street

It didn’t always used to look like this. Until a reconstruction in the 20th century, Government St. was a four lane road like Douglas St.:

The Government Street of today is about as close to a pedestrianized street as you can get without actually closing it to cars. If they lowered the speed limit to 7km/h, it would easily classify as a woonerf, or living street. The whole point of these types of streets is that various travel modes, especially pedestrians, are supposed to mix.

But beyond Government Street, I disagree with ticking for jaywalking in general. The term was only invented by auto-owners, tired of people walking all over the streets and blocking their cars. So they decided that if only they could confine pedestrians to the sidewalks. It has worked well, as can be seen on Oak Bay Avenue: From a pedestrians perspective, most of the road is unusable, coloured red. Only the narrow strips of the sidewalks are clear green, with crosswalks in yellow: pedestrian Yet from the car’s perspective, the world is very very green: car

(Aerial photo from CRD’s Natural Areas Atlas, colour added by me)

It all boils down to what sort of city we want to live in. If we want one where cars keep pedestrians penned up on sidewalks, by all means, enforcing the rules around jaywalking is a great idea. But if we want a city that celebrates walking, we need to tame the car, not punish pedestrians for daring to try and take back space which should be theirs.

Cars kill 300 year old tree

500 block of Victoria St, centred on large tree
2007 air photo of the 500 block of Victoria St, centred on a large tree, likely the removed Garry Oak.

Another piece of Oak Bay’s urban forest was lost this week. A large Garry Oak in the 500 block of Victoria Avenue was removed because it was diseased and thus was a potential risk to falling over. Given it was around 300 years old, age does tend to catch up to even the best of us. But this tree did not really die of old age. It was felled by root rot. What caused the root rot? Well, the story in the Oak Bay News lays it all out:

A younger Garry oak might have been able to fend off the disease, but the Victoria Avenue tree’s age and damage done to it when the street was widened in the 1970s weakened the root system left the oak vulnerable to disease. (emphasis added)

Thats right. It was killed because the road needed to be wider. What can clearly be seen from the photo to the right above is that the road and sidewalk ran almost right against the trunk. As evidenced by this case, driving on a trees roots damages them via soil compaction. But how far out do they extend? A good rule of thumb is the that the roots extend at least as far as the branches or crown does, often further in urban areas. (The Southern Nevada Water Authority has a good graphic and explanation).

Parking lot at Camosun's Lansdowne Campus
Parking lot at Camosun's Lansdowne Campus. 2007 air photo from the CRD.

Of course, Oak Bay is not the only offender. Parking lots are great places to see just how bad it can get for these poor trees. Case in point; the parking lot at Camosun’s Lansdowne Campus as seen to the left. Formerly a Garry Oak meadow, the trees remain but the grass is now concrete.

The Garry Oak ecosystem is amongst the most endangered in the world and its centerpiece species, the Garry Oak, the only native oak west of Manitoba.

Coincidentally, a lady from the Garry Oak Ecosystem Recovery Team was at Oak Bay council on Monday night looking for some funding to help print their book, The Garry Oak Gardener’s Handbook (PDF link).Thankfully council was able to give them about $200 for 40 copies. She also had a few on hand, so I picked one up and having read through, I highly recommend it. I am looking forward to the newer, larger, edition coming out later this year.

Photo credits: CRD’s Natural Areas Atlas

TC’s special on Rebuilding Canada

The Times Colonist (and presumably the whole Canwest newspaper chain) has a special entitled “Rebuilding Canada”. That they are running such a piece now isn’t really a surprise, given the massive number of stories talking about an “infrastructure stimulus“. What really gets me is the focus on rebuilding and adding new roads. One of the choicer quotes comes from a story titled “The scramble to make our highways safe“:

Elsewhere, Edmonton has a $260-million interchange project to unclog a bottleneck on a ring road.

Twinned Port Mann bridge
Twinned Port Mann bridge. Notice the lie of the mostly empty lanes

You can’t build your way out of congestion. This is the hard lesson Boston is discovering, after their giant “Big Dig” project. Aside from all the well documented problems with quality of the construction, what they have found is that the faster traffic flow in the core has simply pushed bottlenecks outwards. The traditional answer to this would be to “fix” the new bottlenecks with more roads, which would just be perpetuating the cycle of endless construction, which is how we ended up here in the first place. We need to build less roads and reduce the number we already have, not be adding more.

But where is the talk about using transit to solve some of these bottlenecks? The problem is that planners and governments fail to look at mobility holistically. Essentially, we need to be planning how to move people more efficiently, not cars. Some organizations get it, such as Washington States Department of Transportation and their page on bottlenecks and chokepoints. Others, well, just don’t.

Seattle Street Edge Alternative
Seattle's Street Edge Alternative program. Photo credit CRD

Of course, roads are not the only piece of infrastructure that is crumbling. Recreational facilities and housing, garbage disposal, sewers and public transit are all covered as well. Sewers are an interesting one. Apparently the City of Victoria has some of the oldest sewer pipes in Canada, at almost 100 years old. All well and good, but where is the discussion of using bioswales (CRD on bioswales) and green roofs (Ecogeeks has a good photo-filled FAQ on green roofs) to reduce runoff into our sewers? As the CRD plans to charge municipalities based on flow, reducing runoff means less tax dollars wasted.

Overall, I am deeply disappointed with this whole series. It is typical tired journalism. Given the recent cuts in the Canwest newsrooms, I am not surprised they are failing to produce good, innovative stories. I guess that leaves it up to the poor bloggers to tell the story.

Silly pedestrian, sidewalks are for cars!

Today while walking back from Camosun, I saw no less than three trucks parked on the sidewalk. Frustrating.

This looks like a contractors truck, given the construction in the house right at this location.


This Cadillac Escalade is owned by somebody who lives here. I see this car here nearly everyday, usually parked on the curb to some degree on another.

Tomorrow is my first final of three. I hope to get back into the blogging spirit as we roll closer to Christmas.