Sunday, September 24, 2023
September 24, 2023

Ganges Hill upgrades detailed

This may be the last year pedestrians and cyclists take their lives in their own hands by choosing to head up or down Salt Spring’s Ganges Hill.  

Sharing the narrow roadway with vehicle traffic will be a safer proposition by next fall, according to Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Rob Fleming, because the Ganges Hill project — to widen and improve shoulders along the first stretch of Fulford-Ganges Road south of town — is a go.   

Design of the project will be completed by the end of June, Fleming announced, with construction activity starting this fall and full completion before winter 2024. Fleming delivered the news, appropriately enough, during a GoByBikeBC Week event held Friday, June 2 at the Mouat Park meadow by the Lions Bike Park on Seaview Avenue.   

Fleming joined Saanich North and the Islands MLA Adam Olsen, who had biked to the event from the Fulford ferry along with dozens of islanders to take part in a safer cycling rally organized by Island Pathways.  

The rally brought Salt Spring families — and active transportation advocates — to the meadow by wheel and on foot. Younger riders enjoyed a Strider-bike course, and enthusiasts passed out cake and bicycle-blender-made smoothies. Island Pathways also had stickers and enough tall orange bike flags to equip everyone who wanted better visibility on the road.   

There was also an opportunity to push for better infrastructure, as well as for the completion of the Salish Sea Trail Network — with Salt Spring’s uneven shoulder from Fulford to Vesuvius considered the “missing link” on the popular 250-kilometre south Vancouver Island cycling route. Olsen shared a microphone with Fleming as the rally transitioned into the weekly ASK Salt Spring question-and-answer event. Fleming said he knew islanders were concerned about Ganges Hill from a safety perspective, but that the construction needed to be “climate resilient.”  

“The scope of this project keeps getting bigger,” said Fleming, “because the drainage challenges are significant.”  

Open ditches are generally off the table, according to Fleming and Michael Pearson, the transportation ministry’s Vancouver Island district director, not just for this project but for most going forward. Pearson said the increasing likelihood of heavy rainfalls due to climate change meant closed systems for stormwater are necessary — to avoid the kinds of infrastructure failures Salt Spring Island and much of the province saw during the atmospheric river events in late 2021.  

Pearson pointed to the section of Fulford-Ganges Road near Blackburn that washed out during those storms.   

“That was from a culvert that was already there, that was over capacity and failed,” said Pearson. “When we take into account climate change and 200-year storm events, what the engineering dictates is that more often than not we should use bridges rather than culverts.”   

“It’s going to be a significant investment,” added Fleming. “We don’t have the final contract amounts, but it’s going to be in the tens of millions, not just in the millions.”  

The finally progressing plan calls for 1.5 kilometres of “paved and protected” bike shoulder, said Fleming — including the full 1.2 metres that has become standard for bicycles.  

“It will be properly lined, it will be safe, and it will be visible,” said Fleming. “I know you’ve been waiting a long time for this investment.”  

Fleming also said the line markings along the entire roadway from Fulford to Ganges would be re-painted; Olsen said that would be happening this summer.  

“It’s going to be compliant with Bill 23,” said Fleming, referring to the bill he tabled in April that, among other measures, implements a one-metre minimum safe-passing distance and a three-metre minimum following distance that drivers of motor vehicles must observe when sharing roadways with pedestrians, cyclists, e-bikes and other similar devices.  

“We heard from your committee members and your local officials who want some signage to go with it as well,” said Fleming, “so we’ll do that.”  

Most questions from participants surrounded safety issues and tended toward the very specific. There were comments requesting a lower speed limit through Ganges and asking for an easier public reporting system for traffic offenders; one cyclist begged for a less abrupt transition from the new road surfaces to the inevitable gravel covering the bulk of the Fulford-Ganges Road shoulder. Potholes were mentioned, and both officials and several members of the public chimed in to promote — and celebrate — the effectiveness of Emcon’s road hazard reporting form and phone line. 

“Emcon’s hazard reporting line has been fabulous every time I’ve called them,” agreed ASK organizer Gayle Baker. “They even call me back when something’s getting done.” 

Emcon’s reporting number is 866-353-3136. 


  1. Thank you for posting the completion date for the Ganges Hill upgrade, just one correction though, the standard for bicycles is not 1.2 m as mentioned here but it rather is 1.5m. It is very good that cyclists and vulnerable road users will have a safe shoulder to be on in the foreseeable future but 1.2 m is unfortunately less than the standard of 1.5m that is needed to make it safe.


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