Where are my Protected Walking Lanes?
According to the 2016 Census Victorians choose to walk or bike to work more than anywhere else in Canada. You can likely attribute that to the density of the city and the weather, of course. Currently, 16.9 percent of Victorians are actively commuting (census term for the combination of walking and cycling). It doesn't sound like that impressive number until you hear that Vancouver is only at 9.1 percent and Toronto is at a mere 6.7 percent.
While not a popular position in the city right now necessarily, I am very supportive of the new protected bike lanes that are being built (though I do think the City is doing them in a weird way). I can only imagine that by the time of the next census, we will see an even larger number of people riding their bikes to work. According to the Biketoria Website, the budget is for the routes to cost $7.75 million. It will be a pretty impressive network when its done. I think it is great and will be a positive benefit to Victoria for the decades to come.
What does kind of seem unfair though, is when you break down the active transportation numbers a little more you will see that 6.6 percent of commuters are riding their bikes to work compared to 10.3 percent of the population that is walking to work. Those that walk are just slightly less than the 10.9 percent of people that are riding transit. Given the lower bar to access, walking seems to be an area where Victoria can easily increase its share of commuters. There is no bus pass, no parking spot to pay for, no bike to buy or know how to ride. Yet when compared with the work done on cycling infrastructure the investment has been minimal to encourage people walking to work.
What needs to be done is not much different to what has been done for the Biketoria plan, identify a network that will connect nearby population areas, have the identified network be safe and inviting and let people know about the work.
Certain downtown areas have been made inviting for pedestrians. Yates and Douglas Streets as examples have had their sidewalks widened and in some places provided a sense of barrier between the roads and the sidewalks. Get out of the downtown core however and the routes to get there feel anything but safe. As an example one can look at North Park Village, while the City has recently added new crosswalks, the sidewalks themselves are narrow with pedestrians being squeezed between the road and the buildings. Even new buildings are being built with minimal sidewalks in front of them such as the ones along Cook between Johnson Street and Pandora Avenue.
Especially noticeable at this time a year is another area where the City could invest to improve the experience for walkers and that is with lighting. Get out of the downtown core and again lighting along the sidewalks is minimal. If the sidewalks were well maintained it might be okay but with uneven pavement and holes, the darkness can make it quite dangerous.
If I were to focus on a couple of stretches to start a Walktoria, I would suggest Quadra Street Stretching from Quadra Village to Beacon Hill Park and Pandora from Fernwood into downtown.
Where would you place a walking route into downtown?