New project aims to make Duncan more pedestrian-friendly

Making Cowichan’s core more pedestrian- and bike-friendly is the aim of a sweeping Active Transportation Plan being shared by four local governments.

Ways of getting folks out of their cars and into walking and biking shoes in the four square kilometres in and around Duncan is the focus of the $40,000 plan.

It’s being funded by taxpayers in Duncan, North Cowichan, regional areas and on the Cowichan Tribes reserve, explained city planner James van Hemert.

“The lion’s share is Duncan’s — we drove the project.”

The tab includes detailed work to connect key walking and riding corridors. They’re being probed by transportation and public-feedback consultants Alta Planning & Design of Portland, and Bunt & Associates engineers of Victoria.

“We hope to have completion by the end of November,” said van Hemert. “More time needed for public engagement is usually what draws it out.”

Dates for more ATP input sessions were unavailable, but that process leaped forward at last Saturday’s project booth during the Duncan Farmer’s Market, he reported.

“There was a tremendous amount of feedback.

“We got stickers on a map about concerns (spots) for cycling and walking — that was the major kickoff.”

More community meetings plus one-on-one interviews will also occur between plan stakeholders such as the Duncan Business Improvement Area Society, Safer Futures, and Cycle Cowichan, he said.

“We want to provide a safe network for pedestrians and cyclists, and a byproduct will be a healthier, more active population,” he said, impressed by a rising number of muscle-powered trips. “We have a demographic of older and poorer folks that don’t own cars.

“Some even use the train bridges to walk around, but we need a safer way for people to move around this region.”

The plan could connect dots between corridors such as the new Cowichan Commons Trail.

“It will help tie together initiatives,” said van Hemert. “We want a connected, multi-use trail, and an integrated system for cycling.”

That system will reach across Duncan, VIU, the community centre, Duncan Mall, Chances casino and elsewhere.

Key roads include Allenby, Tzouhalem and the Island Highway southbound.

“Those four square kilometers are the most important for active transportation in this valley.

“Downtown Duncan is one of the most pedestrian- and bike-friendly places.”

But the ATP will pinpoint dangerous spots, risky intersections needing crosswalks, sketchy signal sites and more.

Residents with ideas can call city hall at 250-746-6126.

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