Special Report: Walkable Streets

Celebrating a Small Victory in the Campaign to Recall Our Streets

The City responded to a request to lower the speed limit on King Street near Dundurn, reducing a needless 400-metre freeway effect.

By Andrew Pettit
Published April 18, 2014

You can look at something a thousand times, and still see something totally new on your next visit.

I started riding my bike from Durand to McMaster every work day back in 2008. I've taken a handful of different routes over the years, but one more than any other, and nearly every day, rain, shine or snow: Across Locke, west on Melbourne to Dundurn, head north on Dundurn across Main and try to pedal hard enough to catch the advanced green to turn left at King, heading over the Highway 403 bridge into Westdale.

I also drive that same stretch along King once or twice a week. Whether in a car or on a bike, we all know the six lanes of traffic - seven if you count the bike lane, and I do - and two highway on-ramps make for some hair-raising moments (the joys and perils of Breadalbane have been well documented), so much so that it took thousands of trips for me to see something new that had always been there:

Google Street View of 60 km/h sign on King Street at Breadalbane, just west of Dundurn
Google Street View of 60 km/h sign on King Street at Breadalbane, just west of Dundurn

60 km/h sign close-up
60 km/h sign close-up

Yes, I refer to that 60 KM/H BEGINS sign on the right. I suppose I had seen it many times before. It's not that remarkable. But back in October 2013, I saw it for the first time in a new context, as I noted in an email to Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie:

In an area that includes a pedestrian and cyclist crossing of a highway on-ramp, speed limits go from...

  • At Breadalbane: 60 KM/H MAXIMUM BEGINS sign
  • 50 meters later at Highway 403 on-ramp: 40 KM/H sign for turn (just past pedestrian / cyclist crossing)
  • 100 meters later at other side of bridge, 50 meters short of Macklin: 50 KM/H MAXIMUM BEGINS sign

Why do we change to 60 km/h for a stretch of ~200 meters that includes an already risky pedestrian / cyclist crossing? Seems silly.

A trip along the stretch via Google's Street View documents the dynamic, and anyone who has travelled that section of King Street knows all too well how it works.

It's a strange thing, how easily we can all just go along with the status quo, even when we know it's not serving us. If there was any doubt that speed of traffic was a concern through that stretch heading into Westdale, the regular presence of police officers waving people over to share tickets is evidence enough, and truly smacks of the need for better design over enforcement.

Councillor McHattie replied to my email and included Martin White, the City's Manager of Traffic Operations and Engineering, who then brought David Ferguson, the City's Superintendent of Traffic Engineering, into the loop.

David promptly responded, indicating he had reviewed the location and was in agreement with my observation. He indicated the recommendation - to reduce the 60km/h zone to 50km/h to bring it in line with surrounding limits - would be taken to Council in January as part of the Delegated Authority Bylaw.

The whole exchange took place within the month. I was pleased, and prepared to be patient - and also persistent.

With my daily commute came a daily reminder - once seen, I couldn't 'unsee' the peculiarities of the speed limits across that stretch.

On April 8, 2014, two weeks ago, the signs had yet to change. I sent a follow-up email to Ferguson, who again promptly replied indicating the change was to be reviewed later this month.

Then, this past Thursday morning, I received an email informing me that the signage had been changed. Of course, I had to stop and take some photos on my ride into work. Sure enough, there they were: two new 50 km/h signs in place of the 60 KM/H BEGINS signs that hung prior.

Caption: New 50 km/h sign on King Street at Breadalbane, installed on April 17, 2014
Caption: New 50 km/h sign on King Street at Breadalbane, installed on April 17, 2014

I emailed David to thank him for his efforts, and, encouraged by the response to my initial request and the small signs of change / change in signs, asked for one more: Additional 'NEW' signs affixed to the bottom of the in fact quite new 50 km/h signs.

As I noted in my email, without them, "I'm afraid (figuratively, and literally as someone who crosses there) that old habits will die hard, and drivers will continue to race through that stretch."

The speed limit change on the 400 metre stretch of King is not the biggest or most exciting change, and not likely to have a major impact given the overall design of the built environment there - it screams 'Go Faaaassst!' and requires / allows last-minute lane changes - but is certainly low-hanging fruit as we work to recall our streets and make them a better place to live near, drive, ride, walk and roll on.

As I celebrate the change, it's important to keep it in context: You are still faced with playing Frogger across five lanes of speeding traffic (6 with the bike lane!) if you live off Breadalbane and want to go to Fortinos.

Andrew Pettit grew up in Toronto before migrating to Hamilton to study at McMaster. Back in 2006 he noticed a change in his long-standing response when asked "Where are you from?" - Toronto was out, and Hamilton has been home since. Follow Andrew on Twitter at @4Pettit.

11 Comments

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Read Comments

[ - ]

By Mal (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2014 at 13:12:46

Nice! Thanks for this!

Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.
[ - ]

By scrap (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2014 at 16:28:23

You must walk back to dundurn, in order to cross if you are walking
It is a bad corner, should not people walking come first over cars?

Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.
[ - ]

By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 19, 2014 at 01:27:52

Still want a yield-to-pedestrians sign at that ramp, though.

Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.
[ - ]

By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted April 19, 2014 at 09:27:46

That seems like a good cheap solution. If they can put a sign telling through bike traffic to yield to merging car traffic on Main W. on ramp, then why the heck not. I don't mind welcoming the people from Ancaster and Brantford, but why should I unclip and get off my bike if I was there first? Do their brakes not work? I wouldn't mind seeing a ped activated cross walk or full traffic light on the King St on ramp. It is down right scary crossing the on ramp. I have a neighbour who uses a walker to get to Christ the King from Westdale. I can't imagine how scary it must be for her to try to cross that with cars accelerating aggressively towards that spot.

Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.
[ - ]

By rrrandy (registered) - website | Posted April 19, 2014 at 14:07:02

I never noticed that situation even though I ride and walk there all the time, so good call to get it corrected, thanks!

Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.
[ - ]

By Incomplete streeter (anonymous) | Posted April 19, 2014 at 15:44:06

Really? Who even pays attention to speed limit signs that closely? If that's a "victory" for you there are really a lot of options in life you are missing.

Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.
[ - ]

By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted April 19, 2014 at 17:25:57

I too drive that route every day, sometimes more than once. I had never noticed that the speed limit changed, the traffic flow certainly hasn't. If that changed speed limit sign is a victory in your fight then celebrate like there is no tomorrow, go nuts. If I hadn't read your post I would not have known and I bet there are thousands of drivers who drive there all the time who don't know either. If that is a victory for you and makes you all kiddy inside then please enjoy because in reality absolutely nothing has changed

Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.
[ - ]

By scrap (anonymous) | Posted April 19, 2014 at 18:58:33

It would appear that people, drivers do not heed posted signs regarding speed limits. I wonder should email the chief of police to have a blitz at that location?
The problem is that the car rules society, which really it should not.
Poeple should be asking greater questions, however, they do not seem to have the capacity to do that. If change is to happen, then people need to encompass much more info then just listening to MSM. We all need to change our ways.

Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.
[ - ]

By ye85p3j7ap (anonymous) | Posted April 20, 2014 at 04:03:01





Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.
[ - ]

By jm05b5m3kw (anonymous) | Posted April 20, 2014 at 16:21:31





Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.
[ - ]

By zc41f1m6gz (anonymous) | Posted April 21, 2014 at 02:01:02





Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.
View Comments: Nested | Flat

Post a Comment

Comment Anonymously
Screen Name
What do you get if you multiply 5 and 1?
Leave This Field Blank
Comment

Recent Articles

Article Archives

Site Tools

Feeds