At Raise the Hammer, we love Hamilton, warts and all. There's plenty to get angry about, but there's also plenty to celebrate.
By Ryan McGreal
Published December 14, 2004
A few months ago, we saw a deer in Hamilton.
We walked out of the house and rode our bikes to the Radial Trail that runs through the Niagara Escarpment toward Ancaster. Twenty-five minutes into our ride, the deer crashed across our path and disappeared into the dogwood, hawthorn, and black walnut trees that line the trail.
It's not the first time we've encountered deer on a bike ride that started at our front porch, and with a little luck it won't be the last time.
The next day, I rode with my younger son deep into Stoney Creek. We navigated side streets without problem until Centennial Parkway at Barton St., where we were stymied by high-speed traffic and had to walk across the QEW overpass to the Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail. (In retrospect, I realize we could have ridden straight up Bay to Pier 4 and picked up the Waterfront Trail there, avoiding car traffic altogether.)
Now, I'm as susceptible as any cyclist to self-righteous grumbling about the lack of decent infrastructure. However, once we entered The Creek – that bike lane forswearing, sidewalk eschewing suburban wonderland – I realized just how good we have it in the core.
The grueling Main-King Expressway notwithstanding, downtown Hamilton is both walkable and cycle-able. Sidewalks are reasonably wide and the streets themselves can generally accommodate cars and bikes even where bike lanes aren't specifically marked.
Jen Dawson is active with Transportation for Liveable Communities (TLC). When September rolled around, she told my partner and me that TLC was sponsoring Street Parties to celebrate Car Free Day. Jen thought our street would make a good location.
We floated the idea up and down the street, and twenty-five enthusiastic neighbours pledged encouragement and support.
Lacking two million dollars in liability insurance, we opted for a "virtual" street closure and observed street hockey etiquette. Let Mayor Larry grumble.
The party was a huge success. We had a street hockey game (naturally), an awesome Rodent Petting Zoo organized by the children, Plasma Car races courtesy of Explora-Toy in Dundurn Plaza, face painting, cookie decorating, assorted games and activities, food and drinks donated by residents, and a contest to soak Max, our gregarious neighbour who volunteered to be the target of a water balloon launcher. The night ended with a wonderful yoga session led by Maureen Corcoran of Yoga With Ona on Locke St. S. (On my personal web site, I've written a more detailed account of the experience in an article on How to Throw a Street Party.)
I'm deeply grateful, not only to the people who helped organize it, but also to everyone who came out and made it such a great evening.
These episodes in urban life speak volumes about what's right with our city: abundant green space, great transportation potential, and a healthy sense of community.
At Raise the Hammer, we love Hamilton, warts and all. There's plenty to get angry about, but there's also plenty to celebrate, and we want this magazine to be as much a place to share successes as a place to identify and challenge problems.
If we do get angry sometimes, it's because we're passionate about this city and its potential, and it breaks our hearts when that potential is squandered through mismanagement, greed, and petty politics.
When the Hamilton Spectator buries a suburban murder in the back pages but splashes a downtown murder across the front page in large bold type, we cry foul.
When city council approves a big-box development in a low-density suburb without consulting the public – and defends the approval on community development grounds, no less – we call them on it.
And when a group of passionate citizens throws caution to the wind and takes the streets back for the people, even if it's just for a day, we're there to celebrate beside them.
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