Walking and cycling groups are rallying for immediate improvements to Shelbourne Street in Saanich, with traffic lessened due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Greater Victoria Pedestrian Advocacy Organization and the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition want to see temporary barriers installed for protected bike lanes, and wider sidewalks along the corridor. They hope such changes could be adopted permanently as part of the District of Saanich’s ongoing improvements along Shelbourne Street.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have faced a lifestyle change,” said Amanda Macdonald, Chair of Walk On, Victoria in a press release. “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 groups noted that with many people working from home and the University of Victoria and Camosun College suspending most on-campus activity, traffic along Shelbourne has significantly decreased. They believe the wider sidewalks will create a safer environment for pedestrians, not only by creating more space between vehicle traffic, but allowing more room for people to social distance.
“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,” the release stated. “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.”
Making changes now, they say, would also help in the push for more residents to use alternative modes of transportation, and in turn, create a “healthier travel environment on this heavily travelled street.”
“Saanich has declared a climate emergency,” Macdonald said. “This proposal will keep with Saanich’s goals to reduce greenhouse gases and be a jump start toward already established environmental targets.”