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On the hunt for Greater Victoria's worst sidewalks

Public invited to nominate worst sidewalks and places without sidewalks
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Amanda Macdonald, left, and Sally Reid of Walk On, Victoria, a pedestrian advocacy group, cross the street at Blanshard Street and Burdett Avenue. The group is hosting a contest inviting pictures of the worst sidewalks in Greater Victoria. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

A pedestrian-advocacy group wants you to help them find Greater Victoria’s worst sidewalks.

Walk On, Victoria, formed in September 2014, would also like to hear about the poorest examples of streets without ­sidewalks.

Suggestions are welcome throughout the month in a photo contest called Janky June — janky being a slang term for poor quality.

The idea is to promote the need for a safe, comfortable pedestrian infrastructure around the region — an area where the City of Victoria has made ­considerable gains in recent years, said group founder Sally Reid.

She said one of the positive things Victoria has done is to install bulb-outs, or curb extensions, at corners — making for shorter crossing times for pedestrians. They also have the effect of slowing vehicles as they turn, Reid said.

Pedestrians are also more visible to drivers at the bulb-outs, several of which have been added recently to Vancouver Street, she said, noting amenities for pedestrians often accompany the addition of bike lanes.

“We’ve advocated to try to make sure as bike lanes get built that they’re built alongside good pedestrian infrastructure.”

Reid said that includes having good crossing areas through the bike lanes, as seen on Wharf Street. “We write a lot of letters to council, both positive and critical,” Reid said. “We try to encourage our broader membership to report issues and to participate in public forums.”

She expects the Janky June contest to yield a range of concerns, from giant puddles to tripping hazards and tree obstructions — the kinds of problems posted on Instagram by group members.

“I’m hoping we get lots of entries and hoping the entries really show the variety of problems out there.”

One of the reasons good sidewalks are emerging in Victoria is the amount of development going on, Reid said. “As a block gets redone and there’s condos being built, that’s an opportunity to widen the sidewalk and make sure it’s free of barriers.”

She said she started the group out of frustration with having to “scamper across the road” or manoeuvre around impediments while walking from her home to the grocery store, first in Saanich and later James Bay.

Ray Straatsma, who chairs the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network, which promotes vibrant public spaces, said he likes the idea of the contest.

Straatsma, an urban-­transportation instructor in the geography department at the University of Victoria, said people travelling on foot “see the city at a different level” and notice things they wouldn’t ­otherwise.

He said he has been impressed with some of ­Victoria’s more recent intersection upgrades for pedestrians, especially at the confluence of Wharf, Government and Humboldt streets.

The signal timing is good there and pedestrians can cross on the diagonal, Straatsma said.

He said more attention is also being paid around the region to people with mobility challenges, with Saanich providing a good example through its addition of tactile elements in the ground at curbs that help people with poor vision know where they are.

Some neighbouring municipalities seem to be following Victoria’s lead in making pedestrian improvements, Straatsma said.

“They have somewhat ­different challenges, their road networks are different, they tend to be a bit more spread out,” he said. “It’s not as compact as Victoria.”

Saanich, for example, is making a concerted effort to build more sidewalks in neighbourhoods where there are none because of the way the area developed historically, in the 1940s and 1950s, Straatsma said.

He said Saanich has developed an active-transportation plan and is incrementally putting in more cycling and walking infrastructure.

To take part in Janky June, post a photo to Instagram or Facebook with the location and the hashtag #JankyJune and tag @walkonvictoria (make sure the posting is visible to everyone), or email the photo to walkonvictoria@gmail.com. Two cash prizes of $50 are up for grabs for Greater Victoria’s most shameful sidewalk, or lack thereof. The maximum is five entries per person, with voting to take place in July.

jbell@timescolonist.com