Walkability in Oak Bay is an issue routinely revisited over coffee and keyboards in the community.
Having no gas station of its own – there is one just a hop over the border with Victoria – is a symbol of how strong cycling and walking remain as key transportation choices for many of the nearly 18,000 residents.
Concerns over sidewalks and pedestrian allowances hit the spotlight early in the COVID-19 pandemic. Oak Bay started looking at accessibility for those walking or wheeling of any kind – strollers, wheelchairs you name it – not long after.
Last year, the district embarked on developing a pedestrian and sidewalk master plan, hiring Bunt and Associates Engineering.
The goal is to identify barriers; develop strategies to address them; recommend new sidewalk locations and missing links; develop a sidewalk priority index; and create pedestrian and sidewalk design standards.
The project started in earnest with establishing baseline conditions last spring.
Early this year, information gathering included stakeholder meetings – everyone from schools to community associations – and an online survey.
According to the community engagement report released earlier this month, it saw 1,300 views on social media, and 983 people visited the project website.
The same report identifies the top seven themes from the feedback as a desire for better quality sidewalks, concern over vehicle driver behaviour, desire for better quality crosswalks, need for removal of obstructions, more sidewalks, concern over conflicts between the different modes of transportation, and issues with vehicle parking.
Of those who answered the survey, 86 per cent did not report limitations impacting their ability to get around Oak Bay and 73 said they drive a vehicle for that purpose. A total of 59 per cent said they walk or roll daily and an even higher number, 67 per cent, said they felt mostly to very safe walking or rolling in the community.
With info in hand, the contractor will develop recommendations to improve the sidewalk and pedestrian experience in Oak Bay. The next round of engagement is expected this spring or summer.
Follow the project and sign up for updates at connect.oakbay.ca.
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