A new year presents a new opportunity for John Higginbotham’s goal to improve accessibility in the Valley.
Calling it a “longstanding issue,” Higginbotham – on behalf of the Comox Valley Accessibility Committee (CVAC) – is highlighting the need for a multi-modal sidewalk on the north side of Ryan Road to reach the new hospital, aquatic centre and North Island College.
“I have not been able to go to the Stan Hagen Theatre, especially at night, for years,” he explains. “It’s not safe, and once the hospital came, it’s even more of an issue.”
In 2015, Higginbotham approached Courtenay council with the suggestion of a widened walkway, as he explained the sidewalk is too narrow if two scooters happen to pass each other.
At that time, staff noted the project is ambitious and complex considering the steep hill, sharp hillsides and narrow road right of way. They estimated a four-metre sidewalk on one side of Ryan would cost around $750,000.
While Higginbotham acknowledges the city’s feedback that it is a “very expensive proposition,” he believes a lot of people would benefit from the sidewalk.
“Our world is changing, and we’re trying to get away from cars, and having it safe will make it more attractive to ride a bike.”
He noted his goal is to create a widened path that can be shared with scooter users, pedestrians, wheelchair and stroller users and a wide roadway for bikes.
In addition to the path, he also suggests a safe passage across Ryan Road from the entrance of North Island College to the intersection of Cowichan and Ryan roads.
In hopes of taking his project to the next step, Higginbotham has reached out to a variety of stakeholders (including the Ministry of Transportation, Comox Valley Regional District, Island Health and various levels of government) in hopes of hosting a collaborative workshop hosted by CVAC. The focus of the workshop would be to develop possible solutions and ideas on funding of the engineering and building of a Ryan Road walkway.
“The Riverway Walkway is my personal highway in an out of town,” he said. “It’s shared with skateboarders, walkers and scooter users. I hope (that idea) it will be eventually be spread all over.”