Whatever is the SSI Active Transportation Plan and Why Should You Care?
Although it took a while for all to gather, 14 joined this ASK Salt Spring conversation welcoming CRD’s Transportation Manager, John Hicks. He came to tell us about the soon-to-be-released SSI Active Transportation Plan as well as listening to our concerns about cycling and pedestrian safety in our village. After our Territorial Acknowledgement, we began to learn about this plan.
John is the perfect one to help us to better understand it for a variety of reasons:
He knows Salt Spring well and has worked here on CRD transportation issues for a number of years.
Approximately five years ago, he managed a Ganges parking study: (https://www.crd.bc.ca/docs/default-source/crd-document-library/committeedocuments/saltspringislandtransportationcommission/20181128/2018-11-28minutes.pdf?sfvrsn=bb22c0ca_2).
He wrote the BC Infrastructure grant which awarded Salt Spring $30,000 (matched with Community Works money) to fund this study.
He has supervised the consultant, Watt Consulting, throughout the year-long process of completing this study.
We learned that the goal of this plan is to offer clear, actionable recommendations to improve the safety for pedestrians and cyclists in Ganges. John told us that consultants began by thoroughly understanding the plethora of existing studies that we have created over the years. Community engagement has also been gathered from a day at the Saturday Market as well as the just-completed survey, with satisfying numbers participating: (https://getinvolved.crd.bc.ca/ssi-active-transportation-network).
While we were told that the consultants were not yet ready to offer firm recommendations, we learned from John that some common issues heard through consultation include inadequate crosswalks, poor lighting, no traffic calming within the village, and too few sidewalks/pathways to allow pedestrians to walk everywhere in Ganges safely.
Ganges Hill, the entrance to Ganges from the south, is the site of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) repaving project, expected to be completed in the next few years. While this repaving is very good news, this entrance to our village from the south was identified as a concern. Participants spoke about the Saturday Market shoppers who park on both sides of Ganges Hill, causing danger to drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists alike. One cyclist spoke of her extreme fear entering Ganges from the south due to the combined dangers of too many cars, no bike/pedestrian lanes, no safe refuge from speeding cars, and the natural danger of entering the crowded village at accelerated speeds due to the steep hill.
We learned from John that it is important that folks entering Ganges from the south clearly realize that they are entering a village and that they should slow down. In his experience, if we can transform this area into a clearly-defined village entrance, drivers will be more likely to drive more slowly in Ganges as well.
Participants also spoke of the danger of the traditional ride share spot on the hill near Embe Bakery. Clearly a dangerous area to stop, our bus will only stop up the hill at Drake Road. There was hope that this dangerous area would be addressed when MoTI repaves Ganges Hill. And, if not, it may need to be added to the long list of CRD project priorities.
Many spoke about changing/adding crosswalks, fearful that many do not have adequate visibility, especially with the speed of traffic in Ganges. Others focused on traffic calming options that could include:
reduced (and enforced) speed limits,
refuges for pedestrians in the middle of some roads, and the ideas flowed freely.
Everyone, it seemed, had serous concerns as well as solutions to enhance the safety of our village streets. One idea that got a lot of support was adding stop signs at Ganges intersections. Not only would pedestrians and cyclists be safer but cars would be forced to slow throughout Ganges.
Nearly all of the suggestions about traffic calming, crosswalks, and stop signs would require MoTI approval. While getting this approval is complicated, requiring adherence to strict engineering guidelines, the recommendations in this study are expected to be very helpful as we advocate with MoTI for identified safety improvements.
Taking a more longterm vision, several participants spoke enthusiastically about a relatively car-free Ganges with traffic routed away using Seaview and Jackson or even via Atkins and through Mouats Park to Drake Road.
One participant told us of such a relatively car-free town: Port Townsend. We learned that town leaders simply lowered the speed limits to 20 mph and enforced it. The surprising result was that folks soon began to realize that, with such stringently-enforced speed limits, it was easier to get around town by walking and cycling. Quite quickly, and without millions of dollars spent in infrastructure, Port Townsend became a walking/cycling community in which their town centre was filled with pedestrians, dog walkers, and cyclists instead of cars. And, this newly-vibrant town centre was quieter, a peace only broken by laughter, conversations, children playing and dogs frolicking. Sounds pretty idyllic, yes?
John was asked if he and the consultants were taking into account the eventual community acquisition of the current firehall as well as safety issues on Drake Road. Answering in the affirmative, it was clear to participants that John had a clear understanding of our safety concerns.
The SSI Active Transportation Plan is one of several plans being created concurrently. In addition to this village-centre one, MoTI has hired Urban Systems to do a cycling safety study of our three ferry terminals and the roads connecting them. This report is expected to be released this year. Additionally, Islands Pathways has been awarded a $50,000 federal grant to coordinate a plan for the completion of the Salish Sea Trail, from Fulford to Vesuvius.
While we tried to keep the conversation on Ganges, other areas of concern were briefly discussed, like the danger to pedestrians and cyclists created by parked cars jamming the streets at the Vesuvius and Fulford terminals. We were told that as soon as the results of the Urban Systems’s study are released, an interagency working group, comprised of representatives of BC Ferries, CRD Transportation Commission, MoTI, and, possibly, Fulford Water District, will be convened to address Fulford Hill safety projects that would not interfere with BC Ferries’ terminal expansion plans.
Another concern is busy, curvy, narrow Vesuvius Bay Road. While plans call for it to be a CRD Regional Parks trail, there is worry that their model of separated bike lanes on Vesuvius Bay Road will be too costly. Conversations are underway to encourage CRD Regional Parks to move forward on a bike trail on Vesuvius Bay Road that is not separated.
We also learned that the long-delayed project of signing an alternate Vesuvius Bay Road cycling route, beginning at the first Mobrae, has been completed! This route would take cyclists and pedestrians off Vesuvius Bay Road, winding through quieter residential streets. Although a longer route than remaining on Vesuvius Bay Road, it is hoped that it will be used by families as a safer alternate and by experienced cyclists desiring a more hilly terrain. Though a small step toward making Vesuvius Bay Road safer, it is a beginning.
Bothered by our congested Ganges, one participant pointed out that the simple solution is to simply not drive. Unfortunately, many do still drive: Of the fourteen at this gathering, with the exception of two cyclists and one everyday bus rider, all the rest of us had - alas - driven our cars! We learned that the average family makes 6.5 vehicle trips each and every day.
As 1:00 approached, most participants seemed to agree that, while we may not be able to get everyone out of their cars, it seemed pretty clear that some changes - some even as simple as lowering the speed limit, adding stop signs, crosswalks, and refuges - could significantly-improve the safety of our village. And, what about a shuttle bringing folks from outlying parking into a walkable Ganges?
While we would have loved to know exactly what this SSI Active Transportation Plan would recommend, we left confident that John knew exactly what he was doing, the plan would be focused on actionable recommendations, and we would know all the details very soon. Watch for the news and email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want an update.
As we prepared to leave, we gave John a round of applause, appreciative that he had taken his day to come to Salt Spring to be with us, confident that he understood our needs and concerns, and very interested in seeing the recommendations in this soon-to-be-released study. (Thanks, John!)
Please join us at our NEW LOCATION - the *Lobby of the Middle School on Friday, November 4 to welcome MLA Adam Olsen.
*From Rainbow Road, turn right just after the School Board building and drive up the hill where you can park. (If the parking lot is full, you may have to park lower on the hill near Mahon Hall. You can also park on Park Drive.)
Enter the building on the left as you look at it, and you will see the Lobby to the right as soon as you enter.
See you Friday, November 4, 11-1 in the Middle School Lobby to welcome Adam!
What would you like to ask Adam?
What do you hope to accomplish in the last months of 2022 and into 2023?
Are there particular bills that we should understand?
Do you think the requested Islands Trust Act review will be approved?
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the province?
How can you see addressing them?
And. . . ?
Please join us this Friday, November 4 for a rich conversation with Adam. Remember: the Middle School Lobby!
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