Walkability Fail

Beasley Walkability Fail

By John Neary
Published March 23, 2010

Let's try a thought experiment. Suppose you are a truck driver and you want to drive from the west end to Burlington Street across the lower city. (Because it's not like we have highways that bypass the urban core.)

So you start driving eastbound on Main, expecting to fly across the city without stopping. But you find out that the city has changed the streets around a bit. Instead of Main Street being eastbound the whole way and King Street being westbound, they swap directions at Queen, James, Wellington, and Wentworth, so you have to keep jogging back and forth between the two.

You'd think that this is a pretty idiotic system, wouldn't you?

Well, that's exactly the system you'd find if you tried to walk from north to south across Beasley anywhere between Catharine and Wellington streets.

You start in the North End and have to cross the CN tracks. There are two bridges: Mary St. and Ferguson Ave. (We'll rule out walking on Wellington because we don't want to develop pneumonia, an asthma exacerbation, or a heart attack, or get hit by a truck.)

You'll start on Mary or Ferguson. You then walk to Barton. If you're on Ferguson, you will have to walk over to Mary to cross, because apparently our "safe and convenient connection for pedestrians and cyclists to travel from the Mountain to our beautiful waterfront" doesn't need traffic lights at five-lane streets. So you cross Barton at Mary and keep walking south.

You then reach Cannon Street, and there's no traffic light. You could jaywalk across Cannon, although you might get fined. You might think that the synchronized lights would guarantee a break in traffic from time to time, but there are almost always cars turning onto Cannon from cross streets.

The cars tend to accelerate up to 70 km/h in an effort to catch up with the wave of traffic, which is usually unsuccessful, but at least it's good business for the auto shops on Cannon that end up repairing their brakes.

You wonder why there aren't more pedestrian crossings on Cannon. Since the lights are all synchronized anyway, they wouldn't even slow down traffic.

Looking in either direction, you see that there are lights at Catharine St. and Ferguson Ave. So you'll reluctantly walk down Cannon St. to one of the lights.

Or if you feel like the guy who created these signs, you might prefer to double back to Robert St. and then walk east or west. However, if you had planned to walk east, you will find your path blocked: Robert St. ends at Elgin, so you've got to walk all the way back to Barton to get over to Ferguson.

In either event, you cross Cannon, and then Wilson, which also has lights at its intersections with Catharine and Ferguson. If you're on Ferguson, you'd better double back to Walnut when you reach Main St., because there's no traffic light at Ferguson and Main.

If you're on Catharine, you actually have traffic lights the rest of the way, although the streetscape consists mostly of parking lots.

But good luck if your return trip is by bike: Catharine is southbound only. In that case, your best route is to start at Walnut and Main, cycle north to King, west to Mary, north to King William, east to Ferguson, north to Barton, then walk your bike west to Mary, and then cycle north again.

I can't stand it when people cycle on the sidewalk, but is it any surprise?

John Neary lives in Beasley Neighbourhood and practices general internal medicine at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton. He would like Hamilton to develop an urban environment that creates less gainful employment for his profession.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 23, 2010 at 09:01:42

awesome piece John. It really is idiotic how our city has been damaged over the past 5 decades to satisfy out of town trucks over local residents who may actually spend money in our community.

I must say, however, this is a brilliant idea:

So you start driving eastbound on Main, expecting to fly across the city without stopping. But you find out that the city has changed the streets around a bit. Instead of King St. being eastbound the whole way and Main St. being westbound, they swap directions at Queen, James, Wellington, and Wentworth, so you have to keep jogging back and forth between the two.

This might be the only way we'll ever get rid of the shortcutting trucks. As you've mentioned, the highway network is complete and despite political lies, I mean promises, we haven't made a single change to our trucking routes.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted March 23, 2010 at 09:18:43

Instead of King St. being eastbound the whole way and Main St. being westbound

Er, that should be "Main St. being eastbound the whole way and King St. being westbound." Ryan, can you fix that for me if you have a chance?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 23, 2010 at 09:45:13

Oops... fixed.

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