Special Report: Walkable Streets

City to Conduct Traffic Safety Review on Queen Street

After two serious vehicle collisions with pedestrians in less than a month, city staff will review Queen Street to identify potential improvements.

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 31, 2014

After two serious vehicle collisions with pedestrians in less than a month, the City is going to conduct a traffic safety review of Queen Street.

No pedestrian crosswalk at Herkimer (RTH file photo)
No pedestrian crosswalk at Herkimer (RTH file photo)

David Ferguson, the city's superintendent of traffic engineering, sent the following email to Council this morning:

Traffic Engineering staff will undertake a traffic safety review for all of Queen Street and identify areas of concern. Once we have the detailed information, we will be able to identify specific patterns and begin looking at improvements. A traffic safety review for an entire roadway such as this will take me some time to complete, however I should be able to provide a response on my findings in 4 to 6 weeks.

I hope staff will take into consideration the audit report [PDF] from the One-Way-to-Two-Way Study Group that did a walkabout along Queen Street on April 6, 2013. The study group was established after council approved a motion by Councillors Jason Farr and Brian McHattie to study converting Queen Street and Cannon Street to two-way.

The Queen Street audit identified the following issues that impact safety and walkability:

The conclusions of that study include the following recommendations to make the street safer and more accommodating for all road users:

Queen Street is already two-way south of Herkimer, and of course the Beckett Drive mountain access is two-way. With just one lane in each direction, it carries 21,000 cars a day, whereas Queen at Charlton carries just over 12,000 cars a day on its three one-way lanes.

Time to Review Transportation Plan

Unfortunately, Queen Street is not particularly exceptional in its pedestrian-hostile design. Multiple wide lanes, large turning radii, highway-style on-ramps and long stretches without crosswalks are depressingly common across the city.

There is a reason Hamilton is the second-most dangerous city in Ontario for pedestrians, with a rate of pedestrian injuries in vehicle collisions almost one and a half times the provincial average.

This year, the City is expected to undertake a review [PDF] of the Transportation Master Plan, which was approved in 2007.

A major unresolved issue is the conversion of Hamilton's lower-city one-way streets back to two-way. Several streets were recommended for two-way conversion in 2001 and again in 2007 but little progress has been made to date.

Staff's ongoing anxiety over the prospect of two-way conversions is evident on one appendix [PDF] to the report, which warns, "two-way conversions have potential system-wide implications for the transportation network".

However, the Transportation Plan review will not be limited to one-way streets but rather will be concerned more broadly with the goal of making streets more safe and inclusive citywide - including two-way streets that are currently automobile-oriented and unfriendly to pedestrians, like many of the arterial roads on the Mountain.

At this Wednesday's General Issues Committee meeting, City Councillors will receive a Citizen Engagement - Two-Way/Complete Streets Conversion report from staff that recommends establishing a citizen engagement panel [PDF] to involve the public more actively in the Transportation Master Plan review.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 31, 2014 at 14:39:15

Let's PLEASE not forget Queen St, north of King too. It's horrendous. No reason it can't have curb parking on western lane, and then 1 traffic lane in each direction. The city can then block the last couple of curb parking spots approaching King to create a right turn lane.

And a stoplight is long-overdue at Napier. No lights from York to King makes this a death trap along here.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted March 31, 2014 at 14:44:11

Excellent news, but even "a traffic safety review for all of Queen Street" is too finite. Do we need a body count to drive policy on this count?

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By rednic (registered) | Posted March 31, 2014 at 15:48:54

' including passing in curb lanes' my hamilton favorite not just a problem on Queen St.

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By Nutsac (anonymous) | Posted March 31, 2014 at 16:00:14

Freking freeway outside people's door steps! Yo this city is messed up bro! Its freking nutz!

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By one way (anonymous) | Posted March 31, 2014 at 16:03:32

will any council candidate promote the rest of the central north end streets for one way? Not just Macnab, but Park St North too, e.g. Let's re-nominate streets for this humane treatment--though in truth, they've all been nominated before. AND BAY ST. PLEASE south of Main. What a drag strip--sort of like Queen.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 31, 2014 at 16:44:10 in reply to Comment 99494

Bay is the northbound leg and Queen the southbound leg of what might be the dumbest one-way paired set of streets in Hamilton. There is simply no even slightly compelling reason for either of them to remain one-way, and they certainly don't function as a paired set for the purpose of moving cars around.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 31, 2014 at 17:18:22 in reply to Comment 99500

I figured it out. Bay doesn't serve anybody driving west from Beckett Drive, because you have to go out of your way to get to Bay - at that point you may as well just take the Linc from the Mountain - most folks heading into Westdale just take Aberdeen or the Linc/403.

And it doesn't serve eastern locations of Downtown because it takes more sense to just take the Jolley Cut or the Clairmont.

There is a really narrow band where it makes sense to take Bay into downtown and Queen back, where Bay and Queen really function as "paired" streets:

If you're driving from Ward 8 to City Hall. To be fair, lots of people probably do that.

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By Kevin (registered) | Posted March 31, 2014 at 17:05:15

Dundurn between Charlton and Chatham is dangerous, too.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 01, 2014 at 10:58:51

This story got some coverage in the Spectator. It specifically cites Adrian Duyzer's excellent letter to council as an inspiration to launch the safety review.

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By disappointed re J. Farr (anonymous) | Posted April 01, 2014 at 12:16:50

As I was waiting for the weather on CHML and early for something, I listened for a moment to Bill Kelly (I know, I know) when it turns out that J Farr is on discussing the Quenn St Stop Kiilin people study. Then Kelly with time-consuming qualfctn & "apology" says pedestrians have got to take care too at places like Queen & Herkimer. So J. Farr, who has impressed a lot of people and will surely run again: does he say, well now, that Queen & Herkimer corner has barely anything like a safe (or even close) crosswalk? No. He said, where I am now near Main & Caroline [I guess he was not driving, eh] there's a girl crossing and looking at phone & wering earbuds. Now, Jason, that was not the point of your effort re Queen, or your visit to Kelly's show, eh--though it was after allKelly, and he is not hired to be a moderator--it is raelly his opinion show. But Jason! Come on! The point here is city design, to not kill or injure people, right? Serves me right for listening, but now I know J Farr reverts some times to his old 820 CHAM talk right [not left] days.

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By Bay St.--two ways everywhere (anonymous) | Posted April 01, 2014 at 12:20:25

It would be good if all of Bay Street went two ways, even north of Main all the way to York where it becomes two way--and drivers have that test your Ontario rules turn to make: both southbound & northbound drivers turning west onto York. That's what I think.

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By higgicd (registered) | Posted April 01, 2014 at 14:56:48

What worries me is that it was traffic 'engineering' that got us into this mess in the first place - viewing traffic flow as a math problem naturally results in our one-way streets. Hopefully this review team takes an approach more along the lines of transportation planning rather than traffic engineering.

Comment edited by higgicd on 2014-04-01 15:07:31

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 01, 2014 at 15:25:23 in reply to Comment 99566

That depends entirely on the engineer's definition of "traffic". A definition of "traffic" that includes people walking, people cycling, people taking transit and people driving and takes induced demand into account will tend to optimize for complete, well-balanced streets.

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