Open Letter to the Traffic Crippling Task Force

Dear Messrs Dhillon and Coté,

I want to lodge my opinion with regard to the proposed Two-Laning/Traffic Crippling of 800 Block Esquimalt Road (Dominion to Head Street). In short, this plan is a mistake.

Other examples of two-laning and the addition of bike lines (namely, 2800-3000 blocks Quadra St.; Fort St. above Cook; and Bay St. from the Point Ellice Bridge to Government) does not “calm” traffic. It creates traffic density. The addition of bike lanes does not provide a safe place for bicycles and small engine motorcycles (mopeds, scooters, electric bikes, etc.) to travel. The majority of the bicyclists continue to use the sidewalks and force pedestrians to dodge the vehicles. As the number of electric bikes and mopeds has climbed in the last year, I have seen their numbers on the sidewalks. In many of these incidents, the bicyclists are using sidewalks adjacent to bike lanes. In some cases, I have seen bicyclists using bike lanes and running counter to the flow of traffic creating a hazard for those bicyclists who do use the lanes as intended. I would call on organizations like the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition to use information campaigns to urge their membership to follow good practices, but I feel they dismiss this majority of bicyclists who disobey almost every law and bylaw as the exception and not the rule.

As is it now: Esquimalt Road is a heavily used route. The Navy base and the population density coupled with the route as an alternative feeder route to the Western Communities means that it is always in heavy use. I live near 700 block Esquimalt and I have observed that traffic falls to single lane usage only between the hours of midnight and 6 AM. Motorists using the road for the other 16 hours per day will be crippled by this proposed move. By forcing drivers to use a single lane it will raise the level of frustration. It will require an extraordinary amount of attention versus regular vehicles and industrial vehicles entering the flow of traffic; and force users to find pull-over points when emergency vehicles come through (see below). The occasion traffic lulls that currently happen will cease. As it is, motorists ignore the designated pedestrian crossings—as evidenced by the number of fatalities seen at the pedestrian controlled crossing in the 800 block area. As a parent who has to hurry my daughter across these crossing, I do not see a window when this problem will lessen and I feel that the two-laning will only make it worse.

Esquimalt Road serves as the emergency route into and out of Esquimalt. In our estimation, we see 30 or more emergency vehicles per day using their lights and sirens to speed through this stretch of road. I have to assume that this is because Esquimalt Road is the fastest route through the area. Do we really want to calm the flow of emergency vehicles? Isn’t urgency implied? If we remove two lanes, emergency vehicles will likely be stuck behind traffic that has nowhere to go. The move in the Esquimalt-Victoria make-up to remove services from Esquimalt and that means that services have to come into the region via 800-block Esquimalt Road.

Through a directed effort at traffic crippling, the Esquimalt municipality now has only two stretches of four lane roads: Esquimalt Rd. and Admirals Road. This is why the traffic density appears to be desperate: motorists don’t have an alternative route. I would applaud and support some move to allow higher densities along Wilson/Old Esquimalt Rd; Craigflower Rd; Head St.; and/or other roads that lie between the Western Communities, Downtown and Esquimalt.

Options that promote higher traffic density without increased risks to motorists and pedestrians:

- Increase in the number of lanes when the road will allow it (e.g. Head St.) to lower traffic frustration and promote usage. In the Bay St. example, the reduction of lanes means near perpetual gridlock. In that example, cars are stuck for long periods behind large, slow industrial vehicles turning off of Bay Street.

- Additional roads. From Dominion to Head St., there is no way to exit Esquimalt Road. That’s a 520-meter stretch, when most stretches see side streets every 160 meters. If you’re on Esquimalt Road and you want to be one of the other nearby roads, you are locked into a half-kilometer stretch. Purchasing parking lots and green space, connecting them and turning them into thoroughfares means that motorists and pedestrians can find their own shortest route to a destination. The sooner that a vehicle, the sooner it ends its contribution to traffic density.

- Traffic lights to control traffic flow (e.g. a traffic light at Wilson and Catherine).

- Park & Go in areas where traffic flow, parking capacity and transit can accommodate them. (e.g. long-term parking in Vic-West at he large lot and Bay and Tyee that is currently used to store cars) with free or subsidized bussing for motorists who would otherwise be destined for large employers in Esquimalt (e.g. CFB Esquimalt and Dockyard). This concept would be much less expensive than the lane changes and resulting fallout. During high capacity hours (e.g. 6AM – 9AM and 3PM to 6PM), an “express” route could move motorists from the Park & Go locations to Admirals/Esquimalt or Admirals/Colville.

While I applaud the concept of beautifying this region, I feel this may be little more than lipstick on a pig. This area has a lot of street prostitution, IV drug use, drug dealing, public drunkenness, assaults and property theft. Planters and picturesque lamp posts will not address these problems.

Largely, Vic-West and Esquimalt is serving as a dumping ground for the problems we would rather not show off to the tourists. Victoria has become a magnet for visiting vagrants. Our economy is very active with lots of open employment in entry-level positions. Our “homeless” population climbs in step with tourist season and the upsurge is made up largely of people from outside of the CRD who arrive with the intention of using our social services for as long as we will tolerant them. Housing prices and availability contribute to this problem and the lower rents in Vic-West and Esquimalt mean that these problem elements congregate in our area. We now have an ecology of people who make our streets unsafe. In an example walk from our home, along Esquimalt Road and up Head Street, we counted more than 20 used hypodermics. The area is unsafe.

Bingo parlors, bars, bottle depots, pawnshops, cheque cashing: these are not ideal destination locations. I think this is a chicken-and-egg question: do businesses cater to the local residents; or do people move to an area that has the services they would use? People are moving through this stretch of road, because of its not a spot where people want to stop. The Esquimalt municipality rescinded the business license for 822 Esquimalt Road and I think that is great. Businesses are profiting from the dynamic of this region. Esquimalt and Victoria have to use business licensing as leverage to promote change in this area. If an apartment building or a business has a lot of police calls—or an emergency response team call—the municipality has to pass on a bill for services rendered to the business owner. If buildings or businesses serve high-risk individuals, they have to pay for their choices. When a business applies for licensing in this area, their approval should not be a fait complii: they should have to be approved contingent on whether or not their business would be of benefit to the make-up of the area. I would look at the percentages of business sectors in municipalities and neighbourhoods where crime and social problems are low. Then, business licensing can follow those numbers: approve prospective businesses and would comply with this model; refuse business licensing to businesses that do not comply and let attrition work in our favour.

In closing, I would like to thank you for your efforts in addressing this area. I think all problems have solutions and I would like to help in whatever capacity I can. Due to a prior commitment, I will not be able to attend the information session Wednesday, November 8th, but I look forward to participating on future occasions.


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