With the highway into downtown Victoria often clogged up with vehicle traffic, it’s no surprise that West Shore communities rank low on the Walk Score scale.
The Walk Score website, which promotes walkable neighbourhoods, ranks communities on a score between zero to 100 by analyzing walking routes to nearby amenities. It also measures pedestrian friendliness by analyzing population density and road metrics like the length of a block and intersection density.
View Royal, Langford and Colwood all received low scores and were marked as car-dependent by the website with scores of 47, 48 and 42, respectively.
Mayors David Screech of View Royal, Stew Young of Langford and Rob Martin of Colwood have all said improving walkability and transportation in their respective municipalities is important.
“It’s right in our Official Community Plan that all modes of transportation are to be supported,” Screech said. “In fact, if anything, I would say we tend to focus more on multi-modal transportation like bikes and pedestrians.”
Screech said View Royal’s community plan also calls for more community centres like Eagle Creek Village near Victoria General Hospital. He said creating spaces like that for residences and businesses increase walkability in neighbourhoods.
Additionally, Screech noted the E&N Rail Trail expansion is a benefit to View Royal’s walkability as well, as it gives community members a safe place to walk or bike away from vehicles on roads.
Young said Langford is increasing walkability through the addition of sidewalks and improving safety with more well-lit areas.
“Our downtown core 15 years ago didn’t even have sidewalks,” Young said. “People will walk more in their community when they feel safer so you’re starting to see more sidewalks, walking trails and bike trails in Langford.”
Young said connecting to downtown via the E&N Rail Trail also improves the walkability of the city, giving people the option to commute to work. However, he said he would still like to see government offices moved out to the West Shore.
“That’s what’s kind of missing in a downtown core,” Young said. “You want to have that opportunity to work, live and play…if you can live close to work you’re walking.”
With the number of blue-collar jobs in Langford that require vehicles due to equipment and moving from job site to job site, Young said he thinks adding government offices in the city would encourage people who don’t need their vehicles to walk.
The City of Colwood also includes adding more opportunities for walking and cycling in its community plan through enhancing walking networks, improving sidewalk design and prioritizing schools, centres and transit areas. Improved public spaces with pedestrian-friendly streets, buildings and plazas is part of the Official Community Plan as well.
The city also seeks to improve transit service in order to help take vehicles off the roads.
“There’s a real recognition with BC Transit as well as BC Ferries about the needs that are occurring here in the West Shore,” Martin said. “I believe we’re shifting culturally and we’re starting to understand that we don’t necessarily have to have a vehicle for everything.”
Martin said he thinks improving transit will encourage people to commute on foot to transit hubs where they can then take a bus or commuter ferry to work downtown.
“We need to understand that we can’t look at traditional models from the 1970s in how we move people around,” Martin said.