Viewpoint: Down that same safety road

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By Dal Brickenden

Last week, a very well thought out editorial and article about road safety were published.

Both pieces are “bang on” in their review of the subject and both referenced ICBC road safety statistics. That is exactly the kind of process one should go through when one has both authority and an appropriate budget. Oh, but umm, the Salt Spring Island Transportation Commission has no authority and the CRD has no road building budget. 

Nevertheless, when applying that logical process, I believe another few qualifications should be considered. Using layperson’s terms, one should not be looking only at where accidents happen. One should also review the likelihood of fatality. One should also look at the cost of threat mitigation. Lastly, (and this is really the challenge) what is the likely outcome in our community of following “the process.”

In assessing risk of fatality, one considers both the likely cumulative speed and the potential angle of impact of vehicles involved. Some locations combine a very high potential for fatality and very low cost of mitigation. I’ll call that “low hanging fruit.” That is the kind of situation found at Booth Canal Road and Rainbow Road, the location I recommended for what I’ll describe as a request for an informal review by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. Three other locations came to the SSITC via delegation.

I couldn’t find any location that, based upon angle of attack and cumulative velocity, offered a greater risk of fatality that could be avoided at a lower cost of mitigation than the example above. It was hoped that an informal look through the professional eyes of MoTI and their selection of two out of the four locations proposed would lead to road safety actually being enhanced promptly in one or two locations. This approach would not incur any cost for any study.

The “full review process” would demand the SSITC call for a preliminary study funded by the CRD, to pay CRD staff to execute. Less than a year ago, the CRD engineering department reported that they had two and a half years of work on their desk for the coming year. They have just suffered a significant resignation. Those facts make me believe that we’d be waiting years to see the outcome of just the first study above. 

This first study would lead sequentially to a further, larger, time-consuming and very costly second study to be funded and executed by MoTI. It would identify, prioritize and quantify work needed at a great many locations. Many more years would then go into identifying and accessing budgets. Typically, years and even decades can pass before work begins anywhere.

Island-wide road safety is an effort several times larger than the two examples immediately above combined. Following the full review process and realizing its recommendations will not occur in our lifetime.

The question becomes “Shall we eat the elephant a few bites at a time or decide not to eat elephants at all?”

A motion was passed at the last SSITC meeting to make a realistic ask of MoTI at a level they might actually be able to grant in the short term: to choose a couple of locations that make as much sense as Booth Canal and Rainbow. Let’s see if we can’t just get something done this year.

The writer is a SSITC member.

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