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Community walks set pace for more accessible Oak Bay Avenue

Walkability advocates champion better sidewalk network, pedestrian experience
Oak Bay Avenue resident Tony Shelton, left, encounters a pinch point for people with accessibility needs along the sidewalk near Carlton House. (Courtesy of Tom Newton)

Two walkability advocates are encouraging community members to pace together along Oak Bay Avenue in one of two hour-long strolls aimed at finding cracks, pinch points and soft spots in the village’s sidewalk network.

Jean and Tom Newton, members of pedestrian advocacy group Walk On, Victoria, will host a Community Association of Oak Bay-sponsored walk from 10 to 11 a.m. Tuesday (Aug. 9) and Saturday (Aug. 13) to take the pulse of people who navigate the avenue with an array of accessibility needs.

Participants may join at the rendezvous in front of Oak Bay Municipal Hall or tag along at any point in the walk. The group will gradually proceed eastward, crossing at Monterey Avenue, heading west to Mitchell Street and crossing the avenue again to finish back at municipal hall.

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Passionate lifelong walkers at age 77, the Newtons hope to inform and engage sidewalk users on accessibility improvement strategies with these events.

“This is where almost everyone in the municipality comes to shop,” Jean noted.

Tom explained poles, trash cans and narrow, slated and broken pavement can especially impede wheelchairs, while curbed sidewalk edges may prove problematic for others.

“If you have any kind of visual impairment, you can’t see these and it’s a tripping hazard,” he said.

Based in an Oak Bay Avenue condo, the Newtons deemed the district particularly receptive to mobility needs.

“Oak Bay is exceptionally good compared to most of the CRD,” said Jean, who’s organized past walks in communities like Saanich and Langford.

The Jane’s Walk approach, inspired by the principles of American-Canadian urbanist Jane Jacobs, serves as a model for these next two strolls. The Newtons have also completed climate action training through the Oak Bay Coolkit program and want to promote active transportation in the district and reduce the need to navigate the village in a car.

They provided multiple dates to give participants an alternative to a busy Saturday, and starting at 10 a.m. means more seniors will already be out along Oak Bay Avenue and cooler air will be flowing amid the summer heat. Jean said participants shouldn’t feel obliged to exceed their comfort zone during the walk and are welcome to leave at any point.

“If there’s someone who’s struggling with a walker or scooter, they’re welcome to say, ‘This is as far as I can go.’”

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Oak Bay is working toward a master plan to enhance the district’s sidewalk network and pedestrian experience for all ages, abilities and socioeconomic levels, following an initial public survey sent out in February. The Newtons hope to see the post-walk report they submit to council incorporated into the district’s ongoing second survey.

“It’s very timely right now and some of the older people don’t do online surveys,” Jean said.

Those still interested in sharing their feedback have until Aug. 24 to complete the pedestrian and sidewalk master plan survey at


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