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Eight Saanich cycling and pedestrian projects set for completion in months, not years

Changes include making a section of Tillicum Road safer and more welcoming for pedestrians. Check the map, showing where crosswalks will be improved, cycling lanes built, and walkways made more hospitable.

The District of Saanich has been quick off the mark in implementing eight transportation projects that address pedestrian and cycling safety.

Unlike typical municipal infrastructure projects, which can take years of planning and often require tearing up roads to perform underground utility upgrades at the same time, the eight Quick Build Active Transportation projects are meant to be completed in a matter of months.

“This pilot project represents a bit of a departure — a different approach — as we build out the municipality’s infrastructure over the next 25 years,” said Coun. Rebecca Mersereau, chair of Saanich’s active transportation advisory committee.

The project, approved by council in March, includes improved crosswalks at 10 intersections, five kilometres of protected bicycle lanes, high-visibility road markings in school zones, and five kilometres of pedestrian walkways on 15 streets. The walkways will use existing pavement, with parking restricted to the other side of the street.

The work is the result of consultation with Saanich residents, who are represented on the committee, Mersereau said. Some elements, such as the streets where the pedestrian walkways will be introduced, were based on criteria laid down by staff, such as the volume of pedestrians in the area and routes leading to schools, parks or community centres.

“Long-term infrastructure projects can take one to three years to design and can be extremely costly,” Mersereau said. This project responds to residents’ concerns in a more timely manner, with the money coming from the operating budget.

“We will see how it works on the ground,” she said. “If we find limitations, we can act appropriately.”

The Saanich engineering department released a progress report on the eight projects in July. Some, like the school zone markings and signs, are complete.

Others, including the reallocation of space on Tillicum Road for protected bike lanes, are proceeding as planned.

Mersereau describes the 800-metre stretch, between Arena Road near Tillicum Centre to Gorge Road, as “harsh and uninviting” for pedestrians and cyclists.

Two of the existing five motor vehicle lanes will be removed and replaced with protected cycling lanes. When completed, the lanes will qualify as an all ages and abilities — AAA — bike route.

Residents won’t have to wait long to see results of the project, budgeted to cost $500,000. Subject to contractor availability and weather, paving is expected to start at the end of August with pavement markings and signs installed in September.

Concrete barriers between motorists and cyclists will be installed later in the year, depending on the availability of materials and workers.

“The project addresses an important gap in road safety in the municipality,” Mersereau said. “I am encouraged that it will soon be much friendlier to walk and bike around that neighbourhood.”

The speed of the project and the bike lanes have drawn accolades from bicycling advocates.

“This project is really a game-changer as the area has long been known for its terrible bike connectivity,” said Corey Burger, policy and infrastructure chair for Capital Bike. “It’s fantastic news for cyclists travelling north to south in the region, especially as there are no AAA bike routes in the Gorge-Tillicum area of Saanich.”

He said the new section will join up with the City of Victoria’s planned extension of its AAA network along Gorge Road from the intersection with Government Street to Tillicum Road, and a further section along Gorge Road, from Tillicum Road to Admirals Road, with work expected to start in September.

The latter project is expected to take 12 to 18 months to complete due to underground infrastructure work.

“We are happy to see the municipality accelerate their 25-year active transportation plan with these quick-builds,” Burger said.

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