It’s been 26 months since a group of Grade 5 parents and students at École Willows elementary pushed for safer passage along the Cadboro Bay Road corridor from Fort Street to Estevan Road.
Yet the Willows parent advisory council is still waiting for action, says the current PAC chair.
While those Grade 5 students from 2017 and most of their parents have moved on with them to middle school, the question remains with the current parent advisory council as to when a safer route – one with wider sidewalks and protected bike lanes – will be established, said Cindy Rodier.
Parents are wondering if they’ll see any changes before their children finish elementary, middle and even high school, she said.
“We would like to see a plan for five years down the road at the very least, to see what Oak Bay is proposing,” Rodier said. “The parents are the users and should have some input and feedback [regarding] what changes are made to make it safer.”
The section of road from Foul Bay to Estavan remains prioritized for drivers despite many of the 2,000-plus students who attend St. Patrick’s elementary, École Beausoleil, Oak Bay High and Willows commuting through sustainable means. And that number is only set to grow. At approximately 1,265 and 600 students, respectively, Oak Bay High and Willows are the biggest high school and elementary school in School District 61. Beausoleil has about 80 students but will double, at least, when it’s re-established as SD61’s Bank Street School in a few years and will draw from a portion of Oak Bay, though south of the corridor.
Painted bike lanes were installed from Foul Bay to Bowker, but it may not be enough in light of two incidents of a driver striking a pedestrian in Oak Bay over the holidays, Dec. 20 and Dec. 26.
“We would like to see a protected bike lane and the sidewalks are too narrow,” Rodier said. “And it’s not just kids. There are a lot of seniors out with walkers, parents with strollers, and you can’t manage the sidewalks with hydro poles in the way. A lot of kids walk, cycle, and scoot to school, and we’re trying to encourage and promote that.”
Rodier says the PAC was told that Oak Bay’s aging sub-ground infrastructure is part of the problem as at some point, parts of Cadboro Bay Road will be torn up.
The November 2017 presentation by Willows PAC to the council predates Coun. Andrew Appleton’s arrival. However, Appleton platformed with active transportation as a focus and agreed that despite the challenges of simultaneously prioritizing the sub-ground infrastructure and active transportation, there could still be some transparency around a plan for safe routes in the corridor. That includes a possible five-year plan.
He believes there is still momentum with the issue amongst other councillors.
“I think it’s totally reasonable and is the type of conversation I’d like to pick back up and advance,” Appleton said. “Engineering is working hard on it, but it makes it a challenge to install street infrastructure in this location because we don’t have the full picture on what needs to be done there.”
Looking elsewhere at bike lanes, Appleton noted that there is also an opportunity to revisit the prospective routes in Oak Bay’s 2011 active transportation plan, which pre-date the City of Victoria’s current plan.
“If there’s an active transportation corridor, we should evaluate how it lines up with Oak Bay, because it doesn’t make sense if they’re not contiguous,” he said.