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  • Gayle Baker

Slow Down, Salt Spring!

August 27

A total of 16 ASK Salt Spring participants gathered in the United Church Meadow to focus on strategies to slow traffic on our rural roads. We welcomed three hard-working volunteers from Saanich who represent the advocacy group, Livable Roads for Rural Saanich (LRRS): Pam Harrison, Leo Polowich and John Potter.

After offering a meaningful Territorial Acknowledgement, these LRRS volunteers began by telling us a bit about the origin of their group: Prospect Lake District Community Association and neighbourhood groups had been advocating for over a decade for safer, slower rural Saanich roads with little success. LRRS was born as a result of a 2017 public meeting of concerned citizens. At this meeting, it was clear that focused, consistent, and strategic advocacy efforts were needed if success were to be achieved.

A goal of LRRS is that no one should be scared when on the road: Drivers need to share and other users should not feel threatened while also traveling these rural roads.One issue that needed to be addressed immediately by LRRS was the inappropriate use of rural roads as commuter cut throughs, too often crowded with hurried drivers anxious to get somewhere else quickly.

A small, committed group with a mailing list of over 150, LRRS volunteers have learned a great deal in their years working together. (To subscribe to their monthly bulletin, please contact: lrrscontact@gmail.com.) Established to work with the municipality of Saanich, a foundation of this group is to support the already-approved Saanich planning documents that state a vision for safe roads while also maintaining their rural character. They align with others, such as bike, mobility, and equestrian advocacy groups, to magnify their voice.

They soon discovered that it was critical that residents of the threatened rural roads be core members of LRRS. They were successful, and residents of the rural roads being threatened work together, both advocating for their roads as well as those of others. Among the suggestions by LRRS volunteers to calm traffic are official speed reductions, mini traffic circles at rural intersections, and the use of single travel lanes on curves, proven methods to slow traffic and reduce serious accidents to minor accidents.

Always seeking avenues for advocacy, LRRS volunteers routinely write letters as well as presenting to the Mayor, Council, Traffic/Active Transportation Committees, and Saanich's Engineering Staff. Always respectful and collaborative, they use the approved, rural-friendly, municipal documents to remind their elected officials to keep their published commitments.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that all decision-makers agree in principle, the goals of LRRS are too-often dwarfed, lost in the plethora of issues buffeting the large municipality. The rural road safety issues are too often set aside with neither the will nor the budget to implement the infrastructure needed to make rural Saanich both livable and safe.

The sad news is that it took a fatality to finally convince the municipality to undertake a traffic safety review, ultimately resulting in speed reduction to 30k/h, rumble strips, and a single-traffic lane with a yield to calm traffic on one of the dangerous stretches of Prospect Lake Road.*

  • Not sure how a single-traffic lane with a yield could work? Basically, a dangerous stretch of the road is narrowed to a single lane plus shoulders (for active transportation needs) using paint and barriers. Traffic going one direction is required to yield until the road segment is clear, similar to that of a single lane bridge. Traffic proceeding in the other direction does not need to stop.While some education was needed - as well as some enlightening horn-honking directed at those proceeding without yielding - the LRRS volunteers are pleased with the increased safety of this option, successfully slowing traffic significantly.

Similarities between Prospect Lake Road and our Cusheon Lake Road were identified; LRRS volunteers suggested that Salt Spring consider a similar single-traffic lane with a yield for a section of this dangerous residential road.

LRRS volunteers are strong advocates of slower speed limits. While enforcement is an important component of slower limits, traffic calming infrastructure may be a more cost effective way to lower speeds, allowing travelers to drive at the posted speed without as much tailgating pressure to drive faster. Saanich is intending to apply for the Ministry’s project piloting lower speed limits. A clear victory for LRRS and other advocacy groups is that the proposal will pilot 30k/h speeds rather than the originally-proposed 40k/h limit. (NOTE: It is highly-likely that Salt Spring will also apply to participate in this pilot project, with a Request for Proposal expected to be released this fall.)

Concerning enforcement, LRRS volunteers have been told that the provincial government does not support widespread use of photo radar technology to identify and ticket speeders. They were interested in Salt Spring’s soon to be initiated Speed Watch Program, a joint effort between our RCMP and ICBC. They were especially interested in our Sergeant Clive’s plan to ask volunteers to record the licence plate numbers of excessive speeders, following-up with a gentle, yet cautionary, RCMP letter to the owners of speeding vehicles. Stay tuned. . . .

When LRRS volunteers were asked whether they had considered unauthorized rogue action - such as creating speed humps and posting signage - our guests cautioned against such rogue action. It had been their experience that unauthorized signs were taken down immediately. It is their belief that actions like creating unsupported infrastructure (like speed humps) would make it very hard to maintain the collaborative, respectful relationship with decision-makers, a core value of LRRS.

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) was briefly discussed as an extremely-valuable resource for BC-recommended traffic calming options. A treasure trove of great ideas, enthusiasm is slightly tempered by this cautionary statement throughout the Design Guide: Note that (one of many safety suggestions here) . . . .are not permitted on roadways under provincial jurisdiction.

We learned about road designations. Of particular concern to LRRS is the too-common habit of designating certain roads as collector roads, (the accepted route from one area to another), based upon their current function rather than established safety criteria, such as width and shoulders. As a result, too many narrow, shoulder less, rural Saanich roads are incorrectly designated - and used - as collectors. LRRS volunteers are endeavouring to convince their municipality (as well as the Ministry with different safety criteria for collector roads) to adhere to safety standards rather than following current usage.

LRRS volunteers are working hard to instill safety and livability standards rather than depending solely upon accident statistics. They have found that the BC Road Safety Toolkit (https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/transportation/driving-and-cycling/road-safety-rules-and-consequences/bc-community-road-safety-toolkit) has been very helpful.

A recent LRRS victory involves shoulder rumble strips, strongly-disliked by both equestrians as well as cyclists. After aligning forces with others, they were able to have planned rumble strips for the shoulders on a rural road removed from the road's design.

One unexpected message was loud and clear: Working with a municipality was not as simple as we often suppose. Instead, similar challenges deter progress in both incorporated and unincorporated areas. And we thought everything to do with roads would be far easier were we incorporated. . . .

As the time for us to disperse approached, our special guests reminded us of the advocacy lessons that they had learned:

  • Be unified,

  • Have a mandate,

  • Be confident,

  • Be respectful and accurate,

  • Develop a name that reflects your goals,

  • Communicate regularly,

  • Employ social media, letter-writing, and

  • Be persistent and consistent.

With a round of applause, we said a fond farewell to our new partners, united in determination to retain the rural character of our roads while also enhancing the safety of all users.

Please join us next Friday, September 3, to welcome MLA Adam Olsen to the United Church Meadow, 11-1. (Portlock Picnic Pavilion if it is raining at 10:30 a.m. Friday morning.)

What would you like to learn from him?

  • What legislation is exciting and delighting you?

  • What can you tell us about the Salish Sea Working Group?

  • Can you tell us anything about provincial BC Housing money for Salt Spring?

  • Do you have any initial thoughts about a possible Speculation and Vacancy Tax?

  • Is there any plan to address our doctor shortage?

  • Is there any news about the Police Act Review Committee?

  • And. . . .?

Come to the Meadow to ask your questions, listen to those of others, and participate in rich, respectful conversations.

Bring your favorite beverage and a smile.

Chairs and chocolate chip cookies provided.

See you at the Meadow!

Any question, anytime: ask@asksaltspring.com

Want to see reports from all the ASK Salt Spring gatherings?

asksaltspring.com

Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer.

We would love your receipts! Remember: #15


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