Special Report: Walkable Streets

Another Day, Another Serious Collision on Aberdeen Speedway

It's Groundhog Day at the intersection of two horribly dangerous urban arterials that Council has steadfastly refused to fix, year after year.

By Ryan McGreal
Published April 06, 2018

The stately house at the southwest corner of Queen Street South and Aberdeen Avenue seems to come up for sale a lot. For as long as I can remember, my wife has been half-joking that Hamilton Health Sciences should buy the property next time it's on the market and convert it into a triage centre.

Collision at Aberdeen and Queen this morning (Image Credit: Tadhg Taylor-McGreal)
Collision at Aberdeen and Queen this morning (Image Credit: Tadhg Taylor-McGreal)

This morning delivered the latest in a seemingly unending succession of nasty collisions on Queen and Aberdeen. It comes only a week after the City installed a mobile speed radar on Aberdeen just west of Queen - a curious location, since most of the dangerous speeding on Aberdeen occurs farther away from the intersection.

Mobile speed radar on Aberdeen west of Queen
Mobile speed radar on Aberdeen west of Queen

Collision Data Not Publicly Available

Needless to say, this is not a rare occurrence along the absurdly dangerous Aberdeen and Queen South arterials, with particular emphasis on the intersection. But we really don't know for sure just how many collisions happen here or how it compares to other hot spots across the city.

For years, road safety advocates have been asking for access to the City's traffic collision data, only to be told repeatedly that the data are not stored in an easily accessible manner and cannot be shared publicly.

Last December, I received an email response from David Ferguson, Superintendent of Traffic Engineering with the Public Works Department, to advise that the City is moving to a new collision database system this year. Staff are currently populating the new system with ten years of historical collision data.

Ferguson committed to providing an annual collision report, with the first one scheduled to be made public this coming September. He wrote that this will also include some sort of open data component "similar to what other municipalities are doing".

Meanwhile, we rely on local witness reports to try and build at least an anecdotal sense of how common these collsions actually are.

Queen and Aberdeen

On October 11, 2017, emergency responders were called to a high-speed collision at the same intersection.

Serious collision at Aberdeen and Queen on October 11, 2017 (Image Credit: Terry Cooke)
Serious collision at Aberdeen and Queen on October 11, 2017 (Image Credit: Terry Cooke)

And another serious collision at exactly the same location just a couple of weeks before that on September 29, 2017.

Serious collision at Aberdeen and Queen on September 19, 2017 (Image Credit: Maureen Wilson)
Serious collision at Aberdeen and Queen on September 19, 2017 (Image Credit: Maureen Wilson)

Students waiting at the bus shelter on the island at Aberdeen and Queen need to contend with the possibility that they will be obliterated along with the shelter, as drivers periodically jump off the street and crash into it.

Aberdeen and Queen bus shelter destroyed on October 12, 2016 (Image Credit: Maureen Wilson)
Aberdeen and Queen bus shelter destroyed on October 12, 2016 (Image Credit: Maureen Wilson)

Aberdeen and Queen bus shelter destroyed on may 28, 2016 (Image Credit: Maureen Wilson)
Aberdeen and Queen bus shelter destroyed on may 28, 2016 (Image Credit: Maureen Wilson)

These are just collisions we know about because people in the community were there, took photos and wrote about them on social media.

Queen South

The intersection of Queen and Aberdeen is a focus point for high-speed collisions, but Queen is a dangerous speedway along its entire length. Over just the past few months:

On March 28, a collision on Queen Street near Stanley Avenue drove one car right off the street and across the sidewalk.

Car sitting across Queen Street sidewalk on march 28, 2018 (Image Credit: Tom Flood)
Car sitting across Queen Street sidewalk on march 28, 2018 (Image Credit: Tom Flood)

And on February 6, a morning collision on Queen Street near Stanley Avenue drove one car right off the street and across the sidewalk.

Car sitting across Queen Street sidewalk on February 6, 2018 (Image Credit: Maureen Wilson)
Car sitting across Queen Street sidewalk on February 6, 2018 (Image Credit: Maureen Wilson)

That's not a typo. Essentially the exact same collision occurred twice in two months at the same location.

Last November 8, a serious collision at Queen and Charlton flipped a car onto its side while Councillors debated a motion .

Collision at Queen and Charlton on the morning of November 8, 2017 (Image Credit: Nicholas Kevlahan)
Collision at Queen and Charlton on the morning of November 8, 2017 (Image Credit: Nicholas Kevlahan)

Aberdeen

Likewise, Aberdeen is also a regular scene of carnage.

On March 22, three cars collided in a Newton's cradle on Aberdeen just west of Kent Street.

Three-car Newton's cradle on Aberdeen on March 22, 2018
Three-car Newton's cradle on Aberdeen on March 22, 2018

Last December 13, two cars sideswiped on Aberdeen during evening rush hour, veering into the oncoming lanes.

Two-car sideswipe on Aberdeen on December 13, 2017
Two-car sideswipe on Aberdeen on December 13, 2017

And on December 6, another Newton's cradle, this one involving five cars, occurred on Aberdeen and Kent Street, right across the pedestrian-activated crosswalk there.

Five car Newton's cradle on Aberdeen on December 6, 2017
Five car Newton's cradle on Aberdeen on December 6, 2017

The same day, December 6, a driver struck and knocked down a pedestrian at Aberdeen and Locke.

A few years ago, a cyclist was struck and very seriously injured while commuting home from work on Aberdeen. Devastating and life-altering injuries such as these are a routine occurrence and barely draw any official attention.

And again, none of this is even remotely new. If you look carefully, you can still see the memorial on Aberdeen at the CP Rail overpass for Tarvo Hess, the 21-year-old man who was killed when his car crashed into the median support column for the overpass.

Memorial for Tarvo Hess on Aberdeen at CP Rail overpass
Memorial for Tarvo Hess on Aberdeen at CP Rail overpass

Yes, this is a matter of life and death - and it's only a matter of time until someone else dies.

Enough is Enough

Council steadfastly refuses to approve significant, meaningful improvements to Aberdeen Avenue to make it safer and more inclusive for everyone. This refusal is driven mainly by Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead, who values the convenience of west mountain commuters short-cutting through the lower city over the safety of all road users.

Last year, City staff were allowed to make some minor changes to the slip lane at Aberdeen and Queen to narrow the ramp and slightly widen the sidewalk, and they tweaked the lane markings and traffic signal timing on Aberdeen at Dundurn.

However, any more substantive safety improvements have been punted back beyond the completion of the Transportation Master Plan review, which has been ongoing for the past two years and shows no sign of wrapping up any time soon.

Also last year, after several years of delays and rejections, Council finally approved a motion to direct staff to start planning the two-way conversion of Queen Street between Herkimer Street and Main Street.

The motion finally succeeded mainly because lower city Councillors managed to convince their mountain colleagues that the change would actually help commuters trying to get into and out of the downtown core, and it does not include Queen Street north of Main.

The residents of Mapleside Avenue, which runs south of Aberdeen just west of Queen, have had enough of the dangerous cut-through speeding in their community and have made a powerful statement by installing "Slow Down: Safety Zone" signs on nearly every single front lawn of the street.

'Slow Down: Safety Zone' signs on Mapleside Avenue
'Slow Down: Safety Zone' signs on Mapleside Avenue

In an election year, will Council finally sit up and recognize that public safety is a universal concern - indeed, their most important responsibility? Or will they continue to pander to cut-through commuters at the expense of healthy, inclusive communities.

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 SusanHill (registered) | Posted April 06, 2018 at 14:52:18

We need to slow down both Queen and Aberdeen. They are both residential streets, and should not be treated as highways. It shouldn't matter that the drive though commuters might be delayed 10 seconds. It should matter that the residents are in danger every time they step out onto the sidewalks or try to cross the street. I suppose it will take a death and subsequent lawsuit against the city before anything is done to correct the problem the city created. when they expanded these streets.

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted April 09, 2018 at 11:01:50

The problem the city created? That wold be over 57 years and counting.

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