Special Report: Walkable Streets

Pedestrian Nonfrastructure on Fennell at West 5th

It's hard to believe this situation exists so close to Mohawk College, a giant new hospital development, and right in front of the Auchmar property.

By Bob Berberick
Published February 08, 2016

You may already be well aware of the area of West 5th and Fennell but I wasn't. I recently went for a walk around Mohawk College and the surrounding residential area, and was stunned by this horrible stretch. There is no sidewalk on the northeast corner (where Auchmar stands), even though the street was just reconstructed.

The sidewalk on West 5th ends before Fennell
The sidewalk on West 5th ends before Fennell

There is no continuous sidewalk on the north side of Fennell for a block east of West 5th.

Sidewalk not continuous on Fennell east of West 5th
Sidewalk not continuous on Fennell east of West 5th

(To be fair, there is a sidewalk on the other side of the street.)

I guess the pole in the middle of the sidewalk right before it ends is no big deal, because who in their right mind would walk there?

Pole in the middle of the sidewalk
Pole in the middle of the sidewalk

But after the sidewalk ends, a deep desire path continuous to the corner.

It's hard to believe this situation exists so close to Mohawk College, a giant new hospital development, and right in front of the Auchmar property.

At least the dirt path was soft underfoot.

Desire path on Fennell
Desire path on Fennell

Bob Berberick has lived in Hamilton for all of his 65 years. For most of that time he lived on the mountain. Since moving to the core five years ago he has a newfound love of his city. Walking and cycling was re-started and he can only hope that the conditions improve so he can continue to explore the hidden beauty here.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted February 08, 2016 at 10:30:19

Enrique Peñalosa is famous for saying

A bikeway is a symbol that shows that a citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally important as a citizen on a $30,000 car.

Hamilton's version of this is that not providing sidewalks means that if you are getting around on a $30 pair of shoes instead of a $30,000 car, you are not worthy of respect by the city government.

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2016-02-08 10:34:14

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By mountain66 (registered) | Posted February 08, 2016 at 10:32:52

Thanks Bob, we live in the area & that corner has been a topic of conversation between ourselves & Councillor Whitehead for some time. So here is what we have been told, the entire Auchmar property is a Heritage property and has many easements. That means the trees on the south side can't be cut or the side resloped without approval. For example even the pole you show was involved. We have been told there are utilities under the embankment that would cost $2 million to move, we actually were invited to look at the drawings. My wife once said to Councillor Whitehead that it was a lawsuit waiting to happen if someone fell in front of a car, he would later parrot that in the Mountain News. Before the reconstruction there were actually no sideways in front of Mohawk College & the area on the north side is going to be a new HSR hub. Also there was actually a path worn at the very top along the fence (I know it was unintended but it's almost black humour to say people would have to be out of their minds when the hospital is a psychiatric one) I haven't measured it but we are told the lanes have already been narrowed. Considering that many of the houses in that area are now student rentals it is hard to get community involvement. One of those curious things on the Mountain.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 08, 2016 at 11:00:39 in reply to Comment 116451

I fail to see why the City couldn't have slightly narrowed the lanes on Fennell - four wide lanes expanding to five and an island at the intersection - and used that space to add a sidewalk beside the embankment.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted February 08, 2016 at 10:37:53 in reply to Comment 116451

And yet there seem to be two wide lanes for cars. There is plenty of road space for a sidewalk in the space currently dedicated to cars.

This is not a question of easements. That is a red herring. This is 100% an issue of contempt for human beings that do not drive cars.

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By mountain66 (registered) | Posted February 08, 2016 at 11:11:44 in reply to Comment 116452

The easements are city hall's story & they have been sticking to it. We were at the meeting in the Lister building on Auchmar with the Heritage committee & brought up the sidewalk issue. They repeated the same arguments right down to the $2 million dollar figure. People are using the "half sidewalk" around the pole now, especially Mohawk college students getting off at the bus stop. In my opinion it's just a matter of time before someone gets hurt or worse. The city & the province have allowed the student rentals but made no improvements in pedestrian traffic around the college.

Comment edited by mountain66 on 2016-02-08 11:13:11

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted February 08, 2016 at 13:48:35

Streets that carry 2 lanes worth of traffic have 4 and 5 lanes, and in the case of West 5th, giant lanes similar to what you see on Hwy 401. Both streets would be designed like this in any normal city:

http://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/safeHe...

But we value speeding, dangerous conditions for walking/cycling, awful transit and more speeding. These streets simply mirror the priorities at city hall.

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By Jeremy_S (registered) | Posted February 08, 2016 at 17:32:32

This post reminds me of a pet-peeve I have with Hamilton's sidewalks. Why are all the sidewalks here right next to the road? Why no grassy or paved median? I grew up in St. Catharines and almost all the sidewalks there are a few feet away from the road. Major streets and neighbourhood streets alike, with few exceptions. This design is superior because:

1) When you're walking, you're not one swerve away from death.

2) It snows in Ontario, and the snow has to go somewhere. In Hamilton the snow gets pushed to the edge of the road (which demonstrates how over-wide the lanes are) and then work crews will go out with machinery and truck away the snow which costs taxpayers a lot of money every single year. This, in a city with a $200 million infrastructure maintenance deficit. Put a median between the sidewalk and road and you solve 2 problems. Just sayin'

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted February 09, 2016 at 06:15:48 in reply to Comment 116459

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By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted February 09, 2016 at 23:53:50 in reply to Comment 116470

The route is only dangerous because it was stupidly built that way. There is no excuse for this crap. Stop trying to make exceptions for it.

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted February 09, 2016 at 08:47:10 in reply to Comment 116470

if only we could get all those college students and staff to be airlifted to new bus stops on Brucedale or Queensdale. How dare those selfish, entitled students all congregate for the bus and walk back to their apartments along West 5th and Fennell. Don't they receive training in college about how the very survival of humanity depends on our ability to build roads 2x as wide as we need them so we can speed like psychos whenever we want, and then blame them for trying to take the lazy, convenient route to the bus stop??
Bunch of commies, this next generation.

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2016 at 05:31:57 in reply to Comment 116473

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By Hippy (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2016 at 10:53:28 in reply to Comment 116521

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted February 11, 2016 at 05:44:04 in reply to Comment 116473

and now you want to move the buses to the only streets where Jeremy feels safe? You truly are dangerous foolish and small minded. Don't forget your helmet

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted February 09, 2016 at 22:33:11 in reply to Comment 116473

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By Aww (anonymous) | Posted February 10, 2016 at 07:52:46 in reply to Comment 116487

You are lonely and need attention. Can you try getting it in some other way?

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted February 11, 2016 at 05:35:43 in reply to Comment 116492

only if you promise to stop by for a visit, so lonely

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By zzz (anonymous) | Posted February 10, 2016 at 01:43:05 in reply to Comment 116487

Take a look at the desire lines

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted February 17, 2016 at 20:17:05 in reply to Comment 116490

So if there's a desire path through my lawn so that people don't have to walk around the corner, the city should put in a sidewalk?

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By slimjim (anonymous) | Posted February 09, 2016 at 06:57:29 in reply to Comment 116470

Yeah Jeremy! Why are you bothering trying to improve your neighborhood? Don't you know, only some parts of the city deserve to be nice and safe. If you're living in a sacrifice zone the answer is to escape if you can and to hell with the people who can't.

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted February 08, 2016 at 18:59:29 in reply to Comment 116459

totally agree. Also, it provides a buffer from not getting drenched from puddles or slush. And it allows trees to be planted which adds a whole host of benefits to urban areas in the form of aesthetics, air quality, greenery, shade and again, a buffer between the sidewalk and road.

Which street would you, I or anyone at city hall rather walk on? (and I guarantee you almost all of council live on the obvious option)

https://goo.gl/EqIJtS

https://goo.gl/DutrUy

Comment edited by JasonL on 2016-02-08 18:59:41

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By AP (registered) | Posted February 08, 2016 at 21:31:41 in reply to Comment 116461

Please don't put those pictures together, Jason. It makes the inequity and absurdity far too apparent.

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By Mark Coakley, Ainslie Wood (anonymous) | Posted February 09, 2016 at 08:15:39

Great, infuriating article and photos. I've dealt with David Ferguson, Hamilton's manager of traffic services, about pedestrian safety problems on Main St. W. and it was like dealing with a spokesman for NASCAR -- total dismissal of, and contempt for, pedestrians. City Staff has zero credibility on pedestrian issues. I applaud Matt Green's "Vision Zero" motion, which could help remove Hamilton's ranking as The Worst Place To Raise A Child (in terms of road safety). Again, great article and photos.

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By Core-B (registered) | Posted February 12, 2016 at 20:53:11 in reply to Comment 116472

Did you see where Gerry Davis, head of Public Works aid that they are already doing Vision Zero, they just don't call it that!

Comment edited by Core-B on 2016-02-12 20:53:31

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By Xavier (anonymous) | Posted February 09, 2016 at 09:58:56

How do these defiant brazen imbeciles in government keep getting elected? What do we need to do to make sure next time around Whitehead, Collins, Ferguson, etc. see their way to the exit. This website is great but for all the people who aren't on it, how do we reach out to them?

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By Bruce (anonymous) | Posted February 09, 2016 at 10:03:14 in reply to Comment 116474

The constituents of those wards to need to see a benefit in improving wards they normally just drive through. Requires growing their empathy to the extent they would be willing to give up some of their own benefits.

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted February 09, 2016 at 10:35:48

Re-designate the land and put in a sidewalk? Would this not be a normal intersection as noted above if this was not Auchmar?

Comment edited by CharlesBall on 2016-02-09 10:38:40

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted February 09, 2016 at 11:13:35

It's not clear if they even considered reallocating some of the street allowance to sidewalk from the vehicle lanes. There is certainly lots of space available with four lanes and a turning lane at the intersection. And this wouldn't impact Auchmar at all.

According to google maps the vehicle lanes total about 17.2 m. That would allow for two 3m lanes and two 3.5m lanes at the curb (to allow for snow to be plowed to the side) and still leave 4.2 m for a sidewalk (say a 2 m sidewalk and 2.2m buffer)! In fact you might even be able to keep a 3m turning lane at the intersection where the road is a bit wider.

The street is narrower, about 12.4m, near west 2nd, but that would still allow for one 1.5m sidewalk and three 3.6m lanes. Or the sidewalk could just be put where the desire paths are now except in front of Auchmar.

It shouldn't be a problem to put the sidewalk on part of what is now vehicle lanes ... and it would cost nowhere near $2 million dollars! (Barrie quotes the cost of a 1.5m concrete sidewalk at $144 per metre on both sides of a new road ... or about $72 per metre

http://www.barrie.ca/assets/engineering/...

$2 million is about 28km of sidewalk! This 250m stretch should cost something like $18000 if it were new construction. It might indeed be more expensive on an existing road, but not that much more.)

But even if we had to lose the lane, shouldn't the response be: "there is not enough space for four or five lanes of traffic here", not "there is not enough space for a sidewalk".

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2016-02-09 11:46:08

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By mountain66 (registered) | Posted February 09, 2016 at 11:36:38 in reply to Comment 116477

The corner of Fennell in front of Auchmar has been one of my pet peeves for a long time, the most infuriating part for me is that solutions that seem logical to most get poo-pooed as not possible when presented to our Ward Councillor. The fact is you could easily fit a sidewalk in where the desired path is now without modifying the road surface at all. The only problem is the short stretch at Auchmar, The question I have not asked is do we really need the island on Fennell? Would an overhead light work? In my opinion maybe we don't need a bike lane there but I do believe there should be a safe sidewalk on both sides of a major street that will only get more traffic when the HSR hub opens..

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 09, 2016 at 13:17:33 in reply to Comment 116478

It's getting hard to escape the conclusion that maintaining streets with no sidewalks is a tactical advantage for the Ward 8 Councillor, since he can then refer to them as an excuse to oppose spending any money to make streets safer and more inclusive in the lower city.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2016-02-09 13:17:57

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By mountain66 (registered) | Posted February 09, 2016 at 17:54:35 in reply to Comment 116479

Bingo, the lack of sidewalks in front of Mohawk College was once used as an example before they were put in last year.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted February 09, 2016 at 15:20:27 in reply to Comment 116479

Would it help to emphasize to him that residents in other wards (like those residents along Aberdeen) would almost certainly support his efforts to have a sidewalk installed on Fennell, even if it reduced lane capacity? Why doesn't he try?

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted February 09, 2016 at 14:11:02 in reply to Comment 116479

not to mention, it bolsters his case that we don't need sidewalks there since nobody ever walks there....

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted February 17, 2016 at 20:18:34 in reply to Comment 116480

Jason, if a sidewalk does not get used, should it in turn be torn out?

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By mountain66 (registered) | Posted February 09, 2016 at 17:42:37 in reply to Comment 116480

The really curious part is they have just put in a sidewalk on the north side of Fennell connecting Juravinski Drive (real name) to Auchmar Rd.,it used to have just a worn path as well. They also point out that they have finally put a sidewalk in front of Mohawk College and the new St. Joeseph's pych. hospital. It is a mystery to me why they won't finish the sidewalk on Fennell when they have acknowledged themselves that it is a hazard and they can't say people aren't using it because of the well worn path.

Comment edited by mountain66 on 2016-02-09 17:43:51

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