Special Report: Walkable Streets

Pedestrian Killed at Highway 8 and Green Road

We need to transform all our streets into accessible, inclusive public places that bring people into contact safely and accommodate a variety of ways of getting around.

By Ryan McGreal
Published September 10, 2014

Hamilton Police have reported the city's eighth traffic fatality afer a driver struck a pedestrian crossing Highway 8 at Green Road in Stoney Creek.

The 60-year-old man was crossing southbound on the west side at 6:15 AM yesterday when a 2014 Dodge Ram heading northbound on Green road turned left into him. He was taken to hospital but died from his injuries. The driver, a 75-year-old man, remained on the scene to wait for police.

The collision investigation is ongoing. Anyone who has information is asked to contact Detective Niblock at 905-546-4753.

Stroads

Highway 8 through Stoney Creek is a classic "stroad" - an ugly, dangerous five-lane amalgam of city street and rural road that manages to struggle at both moving traffic efficiently between macro-destinations and serving local uses.

Charles Marohn of Strong Towns posted an excellent video that explains and pillories this grim transportation design, which has become ubiquitous around North American cities over the past several decades.

Marohn's essay "Confessions of a Recovering Engineer" detailed his gradual realization that the standard rules of traffic engineering make streets more dangerous and inhospitable.

Dangerous Stroads in Hamilton

In Hamilton, pedestrian collisions, injuries and deaths are taking place disproportionately on our stroads: bloated, overbuilt suburban roadways like Rymal, Stone Church and Mohawk, where barely-accommodated pedestrians must walk long distances to controlled crossings and scamper across wide roadways with fast-moving traffic.

Such collisions also disproportionately involve senior citizens - both the drivers and victims. The real culprit is the way we have been designing our arterials. Our downtown one-way arterials are horrible, community-destroying expressways, but our suburban stroads are, if anything, even more isolating for people who don't drive.

As more Baby Boomers move into retirement and Hamilton's population continues to age, our dangerous streets will consign an increasing share of residents to social isolation, misery and even early death.

Beware anyone who tries to turn this into some kind of Downtown-vs-Suburbs culture war. It's a basic quality of life issue that affects the entire city.

The time to act is now. We need to transform all our streets into accessible, inclusive public places that bring people into contact safely and accommodate a variety of ways of getting around.

We know what we need to do. Will our new Council have the vision and leadership to guide us through this transformation, or will we continue to let opportunities slip away?

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.

34 Comments

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Read Comments

[ - ]

By byron zorzos (anonymous) | Posted September 10, 2014 at 09:49:08

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

By ViennaCafe (registered) | Posted September 10, 2014 at 13:18:32 in reply to Comment 104405

Byron, If you were to read the article again with an open mind and comment on the substance, rather then the perceived subtext, you comments may be taken more seriously. In your comment you manage to take a well balanced critique of urban roads and somehow turn it back into the political wedge issue championed by your political mentor. It is important to remember, Byron, the role of wedge issues: To win elections by dividing people. It may be one way to win an election, certainly not a positive way, but nothing has ever been built on the anger of a divided community.

Comment edited by ViennaCafe on 2014-09-10 13:19:28

Permalink | Context

By Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness (anonymous) | Posted September 10, 2014 at 10:30:36 in reply to Comment 104405

Respectfully, the unmitigated exercise of a Brobdingnagian lexicon, done imprudently, can result in the unintended aftereffect of obscuring the pontificator's endeavour to disseminate philippic jeremiads effectively.

Seriously, though, that is the most pretentious concern-trolling I've ever seen.

Permalink | Context

By byron zorzos (anonymous) | Posted September 10, 2014 at 10:39:29 in reply to Comment 104408

O.K. then. How about; Feigning concern for the fate of old farts crossing the street and slipping in a behind-the-back finger at Brad Clark. Plain enough for you S.L.?

Permalink | Context

By zorro (anonymous) | Posted September 10, 2014 at 10:07:15 in reply to Comment 104405

wat

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By ItJustIs (registered) | Posted September 10, 2014 at 10:20:08

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

By DissenterOfThings (registered) | Posted September 10, 2014 at 13:15:14 in reply to Comment 104407

You don't really find that fascinating, you just like trolling.

Permalink | Context

By nobrainer (registered) | Posted September 10, 2014 at 11:34:16 in reply to Comment 104407

Congrats on turning this right back into a downtown-vs-suburbs thing. I don't know what article you read but the one I just read was all about how suburban streets are dangerous for pedestrians and need to be made safer and this is NOT just a downtown issue.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 10, 2014 at 11:03:51

As much as I don't like the design of that road, I don't know what could have been done to prevent this tragedy. The pedestrian was crossing at the light, the road provides wide grassy boulevards to keep pedestrians away from high-speed traffic.

I mean, maybe if the driver had other options than his pickup to get around he might not have hit the pedestrian, and that would be good. Obviously a more walkable plan for eastern Stoney Creek could have saved this man's life. But it's hard to point to anything specific about the Stroad design that caused this. The pedestrian didn't cross mid-block out of frustration at the long spans between lights. They didn't slip and fall onto the road because of poor sidewalk conditions.

A driver failed to look for pedestrians properly when turning left. That's all. A more walkable neighborhood might have made pedestrians a more familiar sight, or might have made the driver less likely to drive... but I can't see what specifically could have been done with the road to make it more considerate of pedestrians that would prevent this.

It's not the "stroad" in particular that leads to these accidents, but the overarching design of suburban sprawl itself. This accident could have happened at any major intersection in suburbia.

Permalink | Context

By RobF (registered) | Posted September 10, 2014 at 23:11:18 in reply to Comment 104410

Even with "good" design and lower speeds fatalities will happen where collisions between cars and pedestrians/cyclists are possible. They just happen far less often.

Permalink | Context

By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted September 10, 2014 at 21:43:54 in reply to Comment 104410

But wait a minute, someone died on the street so obviously it has to be the design fault, isn't it always? It is on this site. How could it possibly be a simple accident involving a couple of seniors who may not be as capable of what they once where.

We have to shit on the design of the city streets cause that's what this site does. Shit on the streets no matter how effectively and safely they do exactly what they were designed to do and push for more changes and LRT. This entire site in a nutshell.

Permalink | Context

By DissenterOfThings (registered) | Posted September 11, 2014 at 09:10:04 in reply to Comment 104419

The fact that you can even suggest that the design of Hamilton streets is in anyway effective ruins any argument you care to make.

Permalink | Context

By KevinLove (registered) | Posted September 11, 2014 at 01:32:30 in reply to Comment 104419

A man is dead. Please, some more maturity. There are ways of proven effectiveness to prevent this sort of thing from ever occurring again. These range from the Dutch “Sustainable Safety” to the Swedish “Vision Zero” to adopting for street safety the industrial safety methods of Ontario’s Ministry of Labour.

Although, quite frankly, if one takes a close look at all three, they share some common characteristics. The most important characteristic is recognizing that human beings are inherently fallible and are susceptible to such failings as being distracted, careless, fatigued, sick, under the influence of emotions such as anger or depression or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

It is therefore necessary to mistake-proof the infrastructure to ensure that even when human beings are being human their capability of harming others has been removed. There are two fundamental ways of doing this, which are prevention and mitigation.

Prevention means preventing dangerous incidents so that they do not happen in the first place. For street safety, this includes mode shift policies to replace car driving with walking, cycling and public transit. Other prevention methods include separating human beings in time or space from car drivers by unravelling of modes, and by creating and steadily expanding car-free zones.

Mitigation includes things like stout steel and concrete barriers so that when car drivers crash, they do not kill or injure other people.

Right now, the 10 year average of people being crushed and killed by motorists in Hamilton is 19.2 people every year. And of being poisoned and killed by motorists is 94 people per year in Hamilton. For a total body count of over 113 people killed by motorists every year in Hamilton.

I have zero tolerance of this threat to myself and my family. This threat can be ended. It is just a matter of doing so.

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2014-09-11 01:37:03

Permalink | Context

By Joshua (registered) | Posted September 19, 2014 at 16:33:43 in reply to Comment 104426

Permalink | Context

By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted September 10, 2014 at 11:46:32 in reply to Comment 104410

Some ideas:

  • Tighter corner radii, forcing drivers to slow down at intersections.
  • Slower traffic speeds, so that drivers are already going slower (and I don't mean only posted speeds, also a matter of designing lane widths, number of lanes, parking, trees, transit and land use policy around the road).
  • raised cross walk so the driver has to slow down anyways
  • Faster light cycles to reduce the time penalty for missing a green light.
  • Sidewalk bump-outs to make the crossing distance shorter for pedestrians.

The thing is, all these ideas would be non-starters in suburban areas because they make driving a lot more inconvenient. Stroads exist because they make suburban living easier. The very fact that the road needs "wide grassy boulevards to keep pedestrians away from high-speed traffic" explains why this is such a bad road design - and yet the land use in the immediate vicinity makes it hard to move away from such a design.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By mountain man (anonymous) | Posted September 10, 2014 at 11:05:22

Trying to ignore the trolls....... I live on the mountain and am annoyed that my councilor doesn't seem to care about whether I can walk to the store or ride my bike to work. He pours our area rating money into pot holes instead of making streets safer because he says that's what most people are asking for. All I know is, I see old folks trying to shuffle across Stonechurch all the time and it's only a matter of time until someone else slips or misjudges and another grandparent gets hospitalized or worse.

Permalink | Context

By Joshua (registered) | Posted September 19, 2014 at 16:41:00 in reply to Comment 104412

I have a feeling that one of the reasons I dislike automobiles is connected to my grandparents' death from a head-on collision by a drunk driver. The other reason is my three- and one-year-old daughters. That's why I posted a link, above, to Bruce Cockburn's song, Different When It Comes To You. I long for the day when one can walk, unhindered, down a main street without the fear of arrest from impeding a high-way, under the Highway Traffic Act, or the fading frisson of excitement that happens from infrequent marches, protests, and rallies on Hamilton's streets.

Permalink | Context

By DissenterOfThings (registered) | Posted September 10, 2014 at 13:14:50 in reply to Comment 104412

Once you're addicted to something (gambling, drugs, whatever) it's really hard to change and stop. Collectively the people in North America are addicted to the suburban way of life, trying to change that is like poking an angry bear.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By kevinlove (registered) | Posted September 10, 2014 at 13:23:01

It is, of course, easily possible to have suburbs with safe streets. All it takes is proper design.

Here is an example, the city of Zwolle, named Dutch cycling city of the year for 2014. It is easy to see why. I predict that the person who was just killed by a car driver would still be alive if he lived in Zwolle. Please take a look at the video here:

http://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2014/0...

Permalink | Context

By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted September 10, 2014 at 21:59:04 in reply to Comment 104418

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

By Dare as we compare milk to aero! (anonymous) | Posted September 10, 2014 at 23:26:22 in reply to Comment 104420

^Not sure what the point is. Are you saying that Zwolle is both too small (25% pop. of Hamilton) and too important (capitol[sic] of the province)to be relevant to the discussion of Hamilton street design? If we had the same mindset, it would be much less interesting to compare. Imagine a comparison between Mississauga's Heartland Town Centre and Ancaster's Meadowlands. I am sure the developers build this way because of our non-European car-centric mindset and not because it is infinitely cheaper for the developer to build this way.

Permalink | Context

By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted September 11, 2014 at 20:00:42 in reply to Comment 104424

The point is that Zwolle and Hamilton are completely different cities. What works in one doesn't necessarily work in the other.

Sorry I didn't think it was that difficult to grasp.

Permalink | Context

By RobF (registered) | Posted September 10, 2014 at 23:22:05 in reply to Comment 104420

So you are arguing we should become more compact and denser? Improve the design of our streets? Or just pointing out the obvious and ignoring the problem?

Permalink | Context

By KevinLove (registered) | Posted September 11, 2014 at 01:47:19 in reply to Comment 104423

The German city of Hamburg is planning to go car-free over the next 20 years. But Hamburg is so much bigger than Hamilton, so we really can't compare...

www.bbc.com/future/story/20140204-can-a-city-really-go-car-free

Feb 4, 2014 - The German city of Hamburg plans to be car-free within 20 years.

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2014-09-11 01:47:51

Permalink | Context

By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted September 11, 2014 at 20:07:45 in reply to Comment 104428

Let's see what do Hamburg and Hamilton have in common, anything? Nope not at all.

I would love to see you, someone, anyone propose a serious plan to make Hamilton car free in 20 years. The fallout would be hilarious. Absolutely stunning.

i can't believe that you have ever been to Hamburg or even another old German city. Once you've been there and seen how they are so different from Hamilton and almost all North American cities maybe then you'll start to appreciate that what works there does not and cannot work here.

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2014 at 09:22:25 in reply to Comment 104463

In case anyone might be tempted to be persuaded by your exceptionalist nonsense, I offer this:

Some North Americans may dismiss the French approach at “face value” without really knowing what it is, because they may think French cities are so unlike those in North America, and that the French solutions to urban problems are meaningless in the American context.

From visits and movies our images of France are of beautiful cities and architecturally-rich towns hundreds of years old. We tend to conclude that most French people live, work, and shop in these areas. We likely also feel that the French do not embrace driving like Americans do, and that the French have for years had far superior transit systems to those in North America.

The reality is quite different. French cities face many of the same problems as those in North America, and some policies crafted for addressing problems in French cities are applicable to their North American counterparts. There are a number of similarities:

  • Most French people live, work, shop, study, and recreate in modern, auto-oriented suburbs rather than in quaint old towns. Auto ownership and use in France is approaching that of the United States and Canada. Shopping mostly takes place in big box stores and malls with ample free parking; most college students attend American-style suburban campuses, many workers drive their cars to free parking surrounding high rise suburban office towers.

  • Other than Paris, with its comprehensive Metro and regional rail systems, most French cities for decades have relied on buses to meet their public transportation needs. As in the U.S., the French gave up on traditional streetcars years ago, even before World War II for Paris. After the war and reconstruction, bus ridership was falling in most French cities.

  • Pervasive and increasing auto use in French cities and suburbs has led to severe air pollution while compromising national policy to lessen reliance on petroleum energy. To address these problems the French resolved to resuscitate public transportation by installing fixed infrastructure in the form of modern light rail and bus rapid transit (BRT) in cities throughout France. In each city, high quality public transport services have been patterned as a framework directly serving work places, university campuses, hospital campuses, big box stores, and malls throughout the urban conglomeration. The high quality framework is superior to local buses in terms of speed, capacity, and attractiveness. Local bus routes are reconfigured to feed riders to and from the framework stations and fill in the gaps. Park-and-ride offers an important access mode, too. The bicycles, which had gone out of fashion, now figure prominently as an access and egress mode, as well as a mode in its own right.

Now please go peddle your hokum somewhere else.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted September 11, 2014 at 06:29:02

While few details are ever released when these incidents happen, I've said this before and I'll say it again. Whether human error or consequence of bad design, vehicles WILL run you over. Walking, cycling, it is imperative for a person to be proactive, to the extent possible. Turns in particular - when I'm stepping out onto the street on foot, I'm glancing around for carelessly turning vehicles. When I'm biking, if it even looks like a car will right-hook across the bike lane, it will. If a car is pulling out of a driveway, and eye contact with the driver fails, I'm already braking.

While a few of these incidents were impatience and aggression, most were accidental on the driver's part. But like many, I too have been crossing on foot, with the light, and had a car continue its turn inappropriately. Like many, I've done everything correctly, only for a car to suddenly pull across the bike lane, and my hardest possible squeeze of the disc brakes stops me an inch away from collision.

This stuff happens all the time.

What actually makes me angry, is the probable leniency. This pedestrian, despite a green light, will be found at fault for wearing a navy blue sweater. Or perhaps there was a raindrop on the windshield. Driver will get a new paint job for the truck, their license back, maybe a small fine. Zoom Zoom, keep motorin' and murderin'. In an hour or two, the next fatality will likely show up on the spec website.

It is a damn same we have to treat the insides of our cities, the same as industrial factory floors with unguarded heavy machinery. But that's how it's built, so we pretty much do.

Permalink | Context

By KevinLove (registered) | Posted September 11, 2014 at 10:07:26 in reply to Comment 104429

I work as a professional Accountant for a factory in Hamilton. Trust me, the Ministry of Labour very much does not tolerate unguarded heavy machinery on the factory floor.

Instead, the goal is zero tolerance of industrial casualties. A goal that is achieved by mistake-proofing the workplace against human error. So it does not matter if human beings are distracted, tired, sick, under the influence of emotions such as anger or depression, or just plain careless: all possible sources of danger have been systematically removed or guarded against.

It is possible to do exactly the same with street safety. Cars can be systematically removed from our streets or guarded against with protective steel and concrete barriers. In the 1970’s, Dutch cities were car-clogged dangerous hell-holes just like Hamilton today. They changed. We can too.

Permalink | Context

By jeffzuk (registered) | Posted September 11, 2014 at 15:48:34 in reply to Comment 104431

You make excellent points. Why we accept zero-tolerance on a worksite and not on city streets is beyond me.

Permalink | Context

By Charles Ball (anonymous) | Posted September 11, 2014 at 12:50:04 in reply to Comment 104431

Well at least some people on this site are honest and admit they are very anti car and in fact are engaged in a war against the automobile that others say does not exist.

Permalink | Context

By KevinLove (registered) | Posted September 11, 2014 at 13:40:40 in reply to Comment 104441

I have not run into anyone on this site who is anti-car. Many are anti-cancer, many are against heart and lung disease, many are against people being crushed to death and many are against children being terrorized off the streets. Many are pro-health, pro economic prosperity, pro child safety and pro livable cities.

Perhaps you are confusing means with ends.

Permalink | Context

By nobrainer (registered) | Posted September 11, 2014 at 13:44:22 in reply to Comment 104445

Don'tcha know? it's anti-car to point out facts about cars that don't make cars look good.

Permalink | Context

By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 11, 2014 at 12:54:23 in reply to Comment 104441

it's almost like we're individuals instead of some Borg-like collective intelligence.

Permalink | Context

By KevinLove (registered) | Posted September 11, 2014 at 20:45:37 in reply to Comment 104443

Resistance is futile!

Permalink | Context

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to comment.

Events Calendar

Recent Articles

Article Archives

Blog Archives

Site Tools

Feeds