Following a long history of advocacy for livable streets, the Hamilton Burlington Society of Architects has delivered a strongly written demand that Council convert downtown streets back to two-way traffic.
By Ryan McGreal
Published May 31, 2013
The Hamilton Burlington Society of Architects (HBSA) has thrown down the gauntlet in a letter to Hamilton City Council today, calling on the City to convert its one-way streets back to two-way.
The letter opens by stating, "We firmly believe that we must eliminate many of our One-Way Streets in order to bring back quality to those streets and our downtown".
After defining "great streets" as desirable public places that facilitate safe interaction and support community, the letter states, "One-way streets are designed to carry huge volumes of vehicles at high speed. One-way streets through a downtown have a huge negative impact on the quality of our urban commercial and residential neighbourhoods."
The letter blames one-way streets for deterring pedestrians, hurting businesses and creating noise and air pollution.
It specifies that both local streets like Hughson, King William and Rebecca and major arterials like Main, King and Cannon "must" be converted back to two-way "in order to promote urban commercial viability and improvements to quality of life in residential neighbourhoods."
Taking aim at opponents of two-way conversion, the letter states, "Those who oppose street conversion limit commercial success and quality of life for those living and/or working in Hamiltonls downtown core."
This is a refreshingly strong, bluntly-written letter from a professional organization, but in the case of the HBSA it follows a long history of advocacy for more livable streets in Hamilton, dating back to a design charette in 1996 that first called for two-way conversion and other pedestrian and cycling improvements.
Tactical urbanism is the principle that community transformation can come from low-cost, low-risk changes that can be measured and iteratively improved. The workshop inspired a group to install DIY bumpouts at Herkimer and Locke, and after an initial negative reaction, the City has since responded with a new pilot project to test more pedestrian-friendly infrastructure.
Following is the full text of the HBSA letter to Council on two-way conversion.
May 31, 2013
Dear Mr. Mayor and Members of Council,
The HBSA is composed of architects who very much care about our community. We firmly believe that we must eliminate many of our One-Way Streets in order to bring back quality to those streets and our downtown:
Great Streets Require Two-Way Traffic
A great city is built of great places like parks, squares, and great streets to connect our community. Great streets are places that promote walkable, stimulating, and engaging environments. A strong pedestrian presence usually supports vibrant commercial shops, cafes and restaurants. These environments support people and community interaction.
What should a great street do?
First and foremost a great street should help support community.
Facilitate safe interaction and recreation to achieve in concert what they might not achieve alone.
A great street should be a most desirable place to spend time, to live, to play, and to work - at the same time that the street markedly contributes to what a city should be.
A great street is physically comfortable and safe.
Great streets are NEVER one-way streets. One-way streets are designed to carry huge volumes of vehicles at high speed. One-way streets through a downtown have a huge negative impact on the quality of our urban commercial and residential neighbourhoods. Examples, such as King and Main Street, are poor quality environments, with limited pedestrian activity or commercial vitality with the exception of Gore Park.
One-way streets, as a consequence of fast moving traffic, are disconcerting to pedestrians, create high levels of noise pollution, and are the most significant contributor to noxious odour in our downtown. Pedestrians avoid these areas, which results in minimal street life and commercial viability.
Our downtown must have side streets like Hughson, King William, Cannon and Rebecca converted to two-way traffic. Arterial Streets such as Main and King must be converted back to two-way in order to promote urban commercial viability and improvements to quality of life in residential neighbourhoods.
Those who oppose street conversion limit commercial success and quality of life for those living and/or working in Hamilton's downtown core. Those who may oppose street conversion we would expect to be people who do not live, invest, work or play in our downtown.
There is magic to great streets. We are attracted to the best of them not because we have to go there but because we want to be there. The best are as joyful as they are utilitarian. They are symbols of a community and of its history; they represent a public memory. [Great Streets, by Alan B. Jacobs]
One-way streets detract from our downtown's quality, and reduce our standard of life. Let's create exciting memories for our next generation of Hamiltonians by recreating how people move downtown.
The Hamilton Burlington Society of Architects (HBSA) request that Council continue to support the highly successful conversion of One-Way Streets back into Two-Way Streets downtown. Our members are happy to assists in any way required to make this essential downtown renewal happen.
Members of the HBSA
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