- Gayle Baker
A Bumpy Journey Addressing our Roads
Sixteen gathered to learn and explore issues with our special guest, MLA Adam Olsen. After a heartfelt Territorial Acknowledgment, we launched into a discussion of our roads, specifically private ownership and traffic calming. While this conversation was spurred by the petitions supporting and opposing the speed bumps on the privately-owned section of Beddis Road, the conversation ranged far beyond speed bumps to our many complex road issues.
First, we learned that private ownership of a section of Beddis Road is - alas - not unusual: Many, many sections of roads on all of the Gulf Islands are privately-owned. Adam reminded us that these roads were originally wagon trails, built on farms and designed to connect farms to one another and to distribution centres. Most often, these roads and adjacent rights of ways were eventually acquired by the province. Throughout the decades, they were improved, transitioning from wagon trails to important island thoroughfares. In some cases, though, the province either could not or did not acquire these roads, leaving a disconcerting patchwork of provincial and private road ownership patterns throughout our islands.
In court cases, it has been ruled that the province owns - and is responsible for - maintaining the road surface but that the ownership of the ground underneath the surface can remain in private hands. The current dilemma on the privately-owned portion of Beddis Road stems from the fact that the province does not allow speed bumps on its rural roads. . . and the owners have placed four speed bumps. One owner, who was a participant at this ASK Salt Spring gathering, said that this was done in hopes of preserving the rural character of this heritage road rather than allowing it to become a speedway. As some petitions in support and opposition have resulted, Adam offered us the guidelines for submitting petitions:
While an important issue for some, it soon became apparent that a strategic approach to calming traffic throughout Salt Spring may be a far more promising approach than debating the validity of these four speed bumps.
Adam told us that frustration with our roads has been one of his biggest concerns during his entire time as an MLA. Issues have ranged from complaints about road maintenance and upgrades to discontent about speed limits and safety. One foundational problem is that road needs throughout the province far exceed the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s (MoTI) budget many times over. While many concerns are valid, decisions about our roads and their maintenance are often driven by the reality that there is simply not enough budgeted to address too many of them.
We learned from Adam that support for traffic calming and lowered speed limits is shared throughout his riding. He lauded an effort by the municipalities on the Saanich Peninsula that have joined to advocate for slower speed limits in their communities. He supported this, reminding us that communities that unite to advocate are more likely to succeed. He also supports consistent road rules from community to community, aware that significantly-different laws in adjacent communities are likely to add more confusion than actually addressing a problem.
He suggested that Salt Spring develop an island-wide strategy to advocate for speed limits and traffic calming. He believes that a solid strategic plan could be supported by MoTI, effectively addressing many of Salt Spring’s road concerns. As the only Gulf Island community with a CRD Transportation Commission, offering a direct relationship with MoTI, Adam believes that Salt Spring is in a very strong position to be successful. He envisions a strategy based on multiple considerations as well as community input that could have a major positive impact upon transportation issues throughout Salt Spring. As enforcement is also a key consideration, partnerships with RCMP would also be required.
To begin that exploration, Adam reminded us that, while speed bumps may not be allowed on provincial rural roads, there are a wide variety of traffic calming techniques used by the province to calm traffic. These are detailed in the Active Transportation Design Guide:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/transportation/transportation-infrastructure/engineering-standards-guidelines/traffic-engineering-safety/active-transportation-design-guide A lengthy document, suggested traffic calming devices are detailed in Appendix C
Adam also suggested reminding visitors that they should slow down, continually repeating that they are on a rural island not an urban highway.
When the conversation turned to what was going on in Adam’s world, he shared that these past few months have been his most difficult since being elected for public office 13 years ago. He spoke of a rough edge to everything, likely largely the result of COVID fears, frustration, and weariness. Where constituents might have previously asked for something, they are now demanding with a harshness Adam has never before experienced. He worries that this past year had eroded confidence in our elected officials that could take a very long time to reverse.
Diving into COVID woes, a participant alerted us to worrisome mixed messages: Those who had been vaccinated early had been told that they would need to do nothing to be in line to get their second dose, Now, the rule is that all must register for their second dose. Adam affirmed that we must all register and shared the link (https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/covid-19/vaccine/register) as well as the telephone number 1-833-838-2323. He asked us all to register as well as passing the word to others throughout our community.
In Adam’s opinion, this mixed message is only one of far too many. While the province may not have known specifics about timing, the province knew a year ago that a vaccination would be a critical component to eventually beating COVID-19. According to Adam, there is no excuse that the province had not prepared a system ready to rollout. Instead, we suffered through the confusion and technological glitches that marred the early vaccination effort. He also believes that provincial communications to its constituents have been exceptionally poor. He shared a link with us detailing this concern:
Why doesn’t the province trust us enough to give us the information we need to make the right decision? Why has provincial guidance been confusing and murky, leaving us to interpret recommended protocols in too many different ways?
In Adam’s words, the provincial vaccination rollout has been intolerable on too many levels.
Adam is concerned that what he sees to be a heavy-handed top down provincial stance may also signal that its far-reaching emergency powers are becoming a new normal. Adam fears that the longer the province retains these emergency powers, the more chance of permanently eroding the foundations of our democracy.
As 1:00 approached, Adam was asked about his work on the Police Act Review Committee. . .and our moods lifted. Adam is clearly loving his work with this important committee, sharing great respect for his other committee members who are all determined to work together to make a difference. We learned that the enormous amount of public consultation has now concluded, leaving the committee a year to recommend changes to the Police Act as well as offering significant suggestions in other areas such as training, emergency response, and mental health services. While it is still early, Adam envisions encompassing recommendations that could result in foundational legislation that will reframe public safety policy.
On that optimistic note, we all wished Adam a better month, thanking him profusely for sharing the joys and tribulations of his huge task and offering us his treasured honesty about the issues that matter most to us.
Please join us next week, May 14, 11-1, to welcome CRD’s Gary Holman.
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