Letters: Wrong priorities for roads

Sooke's proposed roundabout will be unsafe says letter writer

Your report (Feb 18, 2015) on the presentation made by Bill Jones and Carol Mallett to Sooke Council highlights one of the main reasons that the installation of a roundabout on Sooke Road at the Evergreen Mall entrance is such a bad idea – it will make pedestrian travel on the north side of Sooke road much more dangerous, particularly for those who can’t nimbly jump out of the way of moving vehicles, such as people on scooters, in wheelchairs or pushing strollers.

The main reason for putting in a roundabout is to ensure a nice, steady traffic flow from all directions. Currently, vehicles leaving Evergreen Mall must stop and wait for a break in traffic and for pedestrian traffic on the north side of the road to clear before proceeding. With the roundabout, cars are expected to continue straight into the traffic flow within the roundabout, without stopping. Pity on the poor pedestrian who steps out onto the road expecting the cars to stop for them, as they always have before.

Similarly, vehicles turning left into the mall have to stop, wait for a break in the traffic, and for pedestrian traffic to clear before proceeding. With the new roundabout, eastbound cars going into the mall will go into and stay in the circle until they turn left into the mall.  These vehicles in the circle have the right-of-way and so it’s traffic on Sooke Road that has to slow down to let them proceed.  The last thing a car in the circle wants to do is to stop halfway through to let a pedestrian cross. A slow moving pedestrian, such as one with a mobility aid is placed in extreme danger.

But , I think, this issue represents a much bigger concern – what kind of community are we trying to be? Carol Mallett said it as well as it could be said, “If you make the town good for people with disabilities, you make a town good for everyone.” The accessibility issues in the downtown area have been known for at least seven years. The proposed solutions have always had strong community support. Yet council after council has done diddly-squat to start solving these problems, preferring instead to spend millions of dollars on connector roads and on a roundabout that will make the problems worse, not better. All of these other projects are intended to reduce the commuter time for a relatively small number of car drivers. There is not now, nor has there ever been, a demonstrated show of support for these expensive road projects, yet they continue to get funded ahead of  smaller, cheaper projects that will make life easier, safer and more pleasant for pedestrians and people with mobility aids.

Hopefully it’s not too late for council to realize that a new roundabout that will only expedite traffic movement into and out of a mall is not a high priority at this time, and that more attention must be paid to making Sooke a much safer, more pleasant place to be for those who choose to walk or have to get about in in something other than the ubiquitous automobile.

Rick Gates

Sooke