Walkability Fail

We Value Drivers' Time More Than Pedestrians' Time

By Ryan McGreal
Published December 09, 2010

this blog entry has been updated

In a recent conversation with Nicholas Kevlahan about the walkability fail at Aberdeen Ave and Kent St, he pointed out that at a normal walking speed, a 400 m detour (200 m each way to Locke or Queen Street) represents a five-minute walk on average - and much longer if the person walking is a young child or elderly.

He asked, "Can you imagine the uproar if we told drivers to go several minutes out of their way just to convenience pedestrians?"

So why do we place a higher value on motorists' time than we place on pedestrians' time? Is it an assumption that someone who is driving is by definition more important and busy than someone who is walking? What about those people most likely to be walking instead of driving, the very young and the very old (and the people taking care of them)?

What does it say about our public values that we would make pedestrians walk between five and twelve minutes out of their way so that a driver doesn't have to sit at a stop for 30 seconds?

It's not just at Aberdeen and Kent, either. The other day I found myself at the northwest corner of King St. and Dundurn St. and wanted to cross to the northeast corner, which has a Fortino's supermarket and several other stores.

Of course, it's illegal to cross north-south on the west side of the intersection - lest a motorist racing from Dundurn toward Hwy 403 have to wait thirty seconds for a pedestrian.

A sign on the northwest corner of King and Dundurn prohibits pedestrian crossings
A sign on the northwest corner of King and Dundurn prohibits pedestrian crossings

Doubtless the prohibition has been couched in terms of protecting pedestrian safety, as if so outrageous an act as crossing the street at a signalized intersection were akin to swimming with Great White Sharks.

The result is that the only legal way to cross is to walk from the northwest corner to the northeast corner, from the northeast corner to the southeast corner, and from the southeast corner to the southwest corner. That means waiting through three traffic light changes, plus advanced-green turn signals.

All of this so that motorists don't have to wait 30 seconds for a pedestrian to cross the street at a crosswalk. Once again, we place a higher value on drivers' time than we do on pedestrians' time.

Incidentally, the west side of the corner at King Street and Locke Street also prohibits north-south pedestrian crossings. Are you starting to see a pattern? In both cases, the prohibition blocks pedestrians from getting in the way of north- or south-facing motorists turning west onto the one-way King.

Given that City staff have abandoned their plan to convert King Street to two-way traffic, I don't see any evidence that the City is changing its mind about the relative priorities of motorists vs. everyone else.


Update: the first paragraph originally read, "...he pointed out that at a normal walking speed, a 400 m detour (200 m each way to Locke or Queen Street) represents an eight-minute walk on average." In fact, a fit adult can walk this distance in about five minutes.

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 Kate (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 08:16:13

The visibility on the west side of King & Locke is poor for driver's, who can't turn on a red, only on a green. Safety should be key when talking about pedestrians, and crossing there just wouldn't be safe. I think the rules are (and should be) a little different about where pedestrians cross when there are multiple lane roads - King & Main act more like highways when they 4+ lanes wide.
I live in the Aberdeen & Kent area - 8 min to walk around seems on the high side, but I don't think putting in a pedestrian crosswalk would be that much trouble. I lived out west for awhile, and it always struck me that there, the respect for pedestrians is very high. If you want to cross a road in Calgary, you just stop, wait, and 90% of the time, traffic will stop for you. An amazing concept to Ontarians, eh?!
I think Hamilton is on the way to making the city a better place for non-vehicle travelers - bike routes have been added in a lot of places, which is a great start that a lot of cities have yet to take. If only the bicycles I see out riding actually used them...

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2010 at 08:24:42

Safety should be key when talking about pedestrians, and crossing there just wouldn't be safe.

Exactly! But the problem is in the way we address it. Rather than making it safer for pedestrians at these problem areas (namely, by slowing traffic down), we simply ban the pedestrians.

A grossly exaggerated example of this would be finding that lots of people who get shot tend to die - so we make it illegal to get shot instead of restricting the use of guns.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 08:24:55

King & Main act more like highways when they 4+ lanes wide.

And THAT's the real problem.

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By hamiltonthisis (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2010 at 08:26:49

I'm with you RTH on all the pedestrian initiatives that you put forward for Hamilton to consider, especially the walkability issues that come up recently and I appreciate the efforts. I have to say that adding a crosswalk on the west side of Dundurn to allow access to cross King, will save a couple of people, maybe a couple dozen, 5 mins each ways. Getting away from rush, rush, rush is part of the appeal of the non-car culture. so let's not add to the environmental woes by increasing the idle time of cars attempting to leave the city of Hamilton.

Slow down. It's 5 mins.

ps, that's a major strip mall, with many busy stores. Trucks load from the north of the mall, and seeing as they have been banned from Dundurn, turning left on King off Dundurn is the only option, and I wouldn't advise my family to traverse that.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2010 at 08:37:23

adding a crosswalk on the west side of Dundurn to allow access to cross King, will save a couple of people, maybe a couple dozen, 5 mins each ways.

That assumes a static model of pedestrian traffic. When it's harder / slower / more dangerous / less comfortable to walk, that in itself deters people from walking. If it were easier / faster / safer / more pleasant to walk, more people would walk longer distances more frequently.

so let's not add to the environmental woes by increasing the idle time of cars attempting to leave the city of Hamilton.

That assumes a static model of automobile traffic. When it's faster / easier / more comfortale to drive, more people drive longer distances more frequently, which increases the overall vehicle emissions and air pollution.

In Hamilton, more than half the total air pollution comes from automobiles. The Clean Air Hamilton report understands this:

[G]reater street connectivity and increasing the 'walkability' of neighbourhoods decreases driving, and decreases the amount of air pollution associated with automobile emissions.

As long as we continue to optimize our roads for fast driving instead of walking, we will continue to incentivize driving, deter walking, and suffer the one-two punch of bad air quality and depressed local economies.

Slow down. It's 5 mins.

Let's switch that around and direct it to drivers: Slow down. It's 30 seconds.

Why is it more important to save a driver 30 seconds than it is to save a pedestrian 5 minutes?

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 08:49:18

The City of Hamilton needs to prove that it is serious about making downtown an attractive place in which to live over the long term.

When deciding on a place to live, most people will choose not to live beside a highway. Walkability is also important to most people.

The one-way streets in Hamilton are de facto highways and the pedestrian is often viewed as an obstacle thwarting maximum vehicle speed.

The hybrid system of one way and two way streets now utilized in downtown Hamilton is more confusing and more dangerous to locals and out-of-towners than having all two-way streets or all one way streets.

Very few new residential housing and hotel developments have been built in downtown Hamilton over the past fifty years relative to other Canadian cities of a similar size. In fact, the venerable landmark Royal Connaught Hotel struggled mightily for decades prior to its demise in 2004. The status quo is obviously not working for downtown Hamilton. Why not try two way streets to see whether they can help to increase residency in the downtown Hamilton area?

The economic impact to downtown Hamilton of one new downtown resident is many times greater than the economic impact of a person who works downtown or occasionally shops downtown and hundreds of times greater than a person who drives through downtown Hamilton to go somewhere else.

Encouraging more people to live downtown Hamilton should be a top priority. Making downtown Hamilton more pedestrian friendly is a large step toward making it more resident friendly.

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2010-12-09 07:49:51

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By hamiltonthisis (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2010 at 09:04:06

@Ryan, it's not just that corner that will be affected.

Sure, let's let Granny stroll across King on the west side of Dundurn. Only takes 30 secs. Come rush hour, this will line up cars on Dundurn, between King and Main, and potentially turn the North Crosswalk on Main St into a death trap, as a congested roadway is filled with steel and rubber, and motorists who can't turn off Main St potentially risk someone's life trying to squeeze left onto Dundurn. I see it now, and the traffic flows smoothly with the way things are.

I agree, @RW, we are helping with that attitude, and RTH goes a long way to promote that, but in this instance, King and Dundurn isn't downtown. It's just the wrong corner to put your stool.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2010 at 09:14:24

Hamiltonthisis, you're missing the point. We have as many drivers as we have because the city is designed to encourage driving. As long as we continue to defend road design that punishes pedestrians because the alternative would be backed-up traffic, we will continue to have a city in which most people drive long distances most of the time.

Your mental model of traffic is static: you assume that if we make it harder to drive, we'll still have the same number of drivers - but that's empirically false. Whenever a city reduces the total vehicle capacity of a street, a significant percentage of car trips simply disappear because people make different choices about where to go and how to get there.

Combine that with more pedestrian-friendly streets, better transit and a regulatory structure that encourages reinvestment and adaptive reuse, and you transform the local economy.

As long as Hamilton tinkers around the margins without giving up its overarching commitment to easy motoring at the expense of everything else, we will never achieve the transformation we need.

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By Tartan Triton (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 09:32:16

Ryan: "Combine that with more pedestrian-friendly streets, better transit and a regulatory structure that encourages reinvestment and adaptive reuse, and you transform the local economy."

Judging from today's LRT news, I think the snag is that the deciders may well deem the latter two out of three a sufficiently substantial achievement. Will that fall short of the perfect transformation scenario? Perhaps. Will it prevent transformation entirely? Of course not. Measured against the ideal, it's a wet blanket. Measured against the status quo of the last half-century, it's a watershed event.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 09:47:18

as someone who lives in the King/Locke, King/Dundurn neighbourhood allow me to share my two cents. There is quite a bit of pedestrian traffic in the area, despite great efforts by the city and flunky engineers over the years to turn this into a mega-freeway extension of the 403. A recent Durand neighbourhood meeting revealed the following stat from the local police officer who attended: King and Dundurn has the highest accident rate in the city. Guess which intersection is number 2? Main and Dundurn.

Anyone suggesting (with a straight face) that these two intersections work fine, is clueless. The only reason I can see for restricting pedestrian crossings is so that drivers can just scream around the corner onto King without having to look right. I've seen MANY pedestrians hit since living in this neighbourhood while legally crossing Locke or Dundurn on the north side. People headed south on Locke or Dundurn never look right while making their legal 'right turn on red'.

My solution is ultra cheap and ultra simple. Look no further than Montreal.

BAN all right turns on red. And allow pedestrians to cross all 4 directions. Let it sink in. I know it's a really radical idea.

Hamilton is so far behind and so backward in our thinking still it's baffling. The odd good change doesn't make up for the non-stop parade of bad decisions in the face of clear evidence.

As I stated in a different blog, I want a refund on all these 'economic summits' and conferences we constantly hold. Don't hold another single summit until we've pulled our heads out of the sand and followed through on the smart ideas presented during the previous conferences.

Ryan, your entry above discussing the 8 minute walk is very important.
City studies have found that the two-way conversion of James and John has added 2-3 minutes on a drivers trip on James from the north end to the escarpment.
Now, we're abandoning the King, Main, Cannon two-way plan presumable for the sole purpose of saving that 2.5 minutes for car drivers once again. The city has no problem asking pedestrians to walk 8 minutes out of their way, but won't follow through on THEIR OWN document called "Putting People First" because it may result in cars slowing down to the tune of 2 and a half minutes.

Anyone who thinks Hamilton 'gets it' is delusional. Disconnected bike lanes and the odd, over-engineered two-way conversion does not turn a backwards hick town into a bastion of progressive idea. Go live in Portland, Montreal, Vancouver or Amsterdam for a few years and see what it's like to live in a real progressive city. We're light years away, sadly.

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By Tartan Triton (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 10:12:07

Maybe the solution involves both petitioning those in decision-making offices as well as inhabiting the corridors of power. Advocacy and protests are effective but politicians and policymakers still have greater influence per capita.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2010 at 10:18:19

I am starting to think that a huge problem is staff, moreso than council. In the end, staff has to do the work and staff comes up with the recommendations. It is way too easy to just keep doing the same thing you always have. It certainly leaves more time for surfing the internet at work if you don't have to do any extra research or other work toward changing the status quo.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2010 at 10:32:38

Go live in Portland, Montreal, Vancouver or Amsterdam for a few years and see what it's like to live in a real progressive city.

Sadly (for we who live in and even love this battered old city), this is a little backwards: Hamilton is a very progressive city. From the 50s to through the 80s, all sorts of bold new transformations were implemented here far more thoroughly than in bass-akwards places like Montreal or Amerstam which clung to old architecture, old streets and old ways of thinking.

  • One way streets for fast cross-town access!
  • The visual clutter of little old shops with the signs and windows replaced by a clean down-town mall!
  • Raised plazas for pedestrian enjoyment!
  • Concrete and brick art gallery and convention centre without all those pesky, heat-and-A/C leaking windows!
  • Crazy little streets at the centre of town replaced with a nice, big block of climate-controlled buildings!
  • The hulking Victorian embarrassment that was the old city hall at James N and Market pulled down and replaced by a shiny new marble building for the ages!
  • Spindly overwrought fountain and messy trees in the centre of town replaced by the honest lines and modern forms of an open expanse of concrete!

That's ambitious progressivism for you. What Hamilton needs is a little more regressivism ...

  • streets designed for people, not cars
  • a downtown geared for living and shopping, not driving
  • development which respects and loves its environment instead of thumbing its nose at it

And, in fits and starts, we're getting there. I think.

Comment edited by moylek on 2010-12-09 09:46:50

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2010 at 10:34:47

Well played, Kenneth; but in fairness, all those great cities we love today did all the same dumb 'progressive' things Hamilton did starting in mid-century.

The difference is that those cities stopped doing those dumb things when it was obvious they didn't work, whereas we kept doing them and indeed continue to do them today.

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By joejoe (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 10:42:02

This is where we're all heading ;)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6HAA_tVdwM

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2010 at 10:42:44

@Kate

They could put in a push-button that gives a no-left-turn window for the pedestrians to cross, or converts the left arrow into a flashing yellow, or put up a warning for drivers, or something rather than simply shirking the problem with a dead crossing. Again, I've said it before: if the city wants to run expressways through the heart of town, it has a responsibility not to cheap out on it. If the one-way network has created an unsafe crossing, then the solution is not simply to remove the crossing but to secure it. If Locke or King were 2-way, that left-turn wouldn't be blind. Notice how the LRT will fix the problem, since it sounds like they're going to run it on the South side... this means that Lock St. drivers will have to pull into the intersection (and thus not be blind) before they can turn left.

We can always see the logic here... the frustrating fact though is that this city is filled with incredibly creative solutions for vehicular traffic, but when it comes to pedestrian traffic their solution is simply "don't cross here".

I can totally understand why there's no crossing at the West side of King and Dundurn. It makes perfect sense - you have drivers filtering onto the bridge from 3 directions all the time, including the painfully overcrowded Dundurn. Fine. I disagree with some of the logic, but I can see where they're coming from. But the city shouldn't throw up their hands and say "screw you, pedestrians". The city should be coming up with a solution, like adding a push-button signalized crossing at Bredalbane (taking pedestrians directly to the pedestrian-friendly part of the Fortinos plaza, rather than across the parking lot) or at the 403 Eastbound ramp (so you could protect pedestrians necessarily crossing the ramp where drivers are going at highway speeds and you have to play a game of "guess which lane the oncoming driver is going to be in"). Hell, we're talking about creative solutions to traffic and uncreative solutions to pedestrians: here's a creative one: 3 crosswalks, 1 red light. Make use of this 1-way mayhem in a positive way. Put a crosswalk across the King St. bridge at the Eastbound ramp, a crosswalk across the ramp itself, and a push-button at each end of those. Any of those buttons gives you a red over the Breadalbane crossing. Boom. Ainsliewood and Bredalbane pedestrians get access to the Cricket park on the overflow tank, Fortinos plaza, etc. with one red light.

To me, the problem with the crossings is self-perpetuating. The city doesn't bother with crossings because it's not worth the time to slow a hundred or a thousand drivers for one hypothetical occasional pedestrian... but at the same time, that means that pedestrians will avoid the crossing (or even the area) and so there will never be more than one occasional pedestrian rather than it being a normal pedestrian pathway.

If the city wants to create these high-speed corridors for drivers... well, that's their decision, and we obviously seem outvoted on stopping them. However, that means the city can't just tell pedestrians "go somewhere else".

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2010-12-09 09:53:53

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2010 at 10:55:32

when it comes to pedestrian traffic their solution is simply "don't cross here".

The City of Hamilton's Vision Statement is:

To be the best city in Canada to raise a child, promote innovation, engage citizens and provide diverse economic opportunities.

The raising-a-child implications of a street system that prohibits walking are obvious, but note the second part. How does a "Pedestrian Crossings Prohibited" sign on the intersection connecting a residential neighbourhood and a grocery store "promote innovation"? For that matter, how does it "engage citizens"?

As Graham Crawford eloquently argued in an H Mag essay, a Vision Statement is not some abstract feel-good message that doesn't impact day-to-day decisions. Its purpose is to provide the direction under which people make actual decisions; or in Graham's words, the vision statement "should always be a meaningful and powerful way of focusing the hearts and minds of every single person who offers to help achieve the vision of this City."

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 11:01:46

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.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2010 at 11:02:26

Yup. How can you have a "best place to raise a child" that's pedestrian-hostile when kids can't drive? Single income households seem to generally also be single-car. My wife is on mat-leave so right now she's driving a Phil & Ted double-stroller... and she walks the Dundurn bridge often.

@Mr. Meister

I'm not even arguing that the city should slow down traffic (I think it should, but I don't expect it to happen). All I'm asking for is that the city show the same creativity and financial commitment to pedestrians as it does to drivers, rather than just telling them "don't cross here".

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2010-12-09 10:04:49

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By PseudonymousCoward (registered) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 11:03:14

A vision statement is a statement of values. Hamilton's vision statement is a lie, for the City does not truly value any of the four key themes - least of all the theme of engaging citizens.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 11:05:56

We have a large number of drivers because this city spreads out over 1,100 Km2.

So let me get this straight, we have to have five lane expressways that ban pedestrians in the lower city because of empty space in Ancaster and Glanbrook? Do you even care that most of the people in the city are concentrated in a small part of the total area?

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By PseudonymousCoward (registered) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 11:06:49

Nobrainer, Mr Meister's pathological opposition to transformational change is impervious to logic. Don't waste your time.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2010 at 11:10:54

Why is it more important to save a driver 30 seconds than it is to save a pedestrian 5 minutes?

Because this is part of the car-centric culture we've predicated our society on. And it's a very, very difficult paradigm to change, in the main.

I'm a pedestrian. I've long remarked that as an adult, I've spent far more time on my feet than behind the wheel of a car getting to where I've needed to get. Additionally, I've accumulated tons of miles using public transit, far more than in an automobile. However...

Recently, I was discussing the 'arrogance of drivers' with my dad, whose independence as a senior is undeniably anchored to his car. Full credit to him that he can look at the issue of 'car vs pedestrian' in a reasonable fashion; maybe because he does spend time travelling by foot as an admittedly vulnerable member of society, he's become a little more 'aware' of the inequities.

Following on our discussion, I had to do some driving. In his car. Specifically, from one end of the city to the other. And I was a little...well, 'struck' by how quicksilver-like the change in mindset was, from arch pedestrian to driver: it's as if something descends, a kind of sanctification, one that has a (figurative) little voice whispering 'All that matters is you getting from Point A to Point B in as expedient a fashion possible'. This means that any impediment at all...lights changing, another vehicle making an inconvenient-for-me turn, or a pedestrian...seem like an insult.

I was driving, I was carrying on at the speed limit, and I was very aware of this voice. And as I examined the suggested truth...one that I'd bet a ton of money is the default for just about any driver on any road at any given time...as I say, I was struck. (In retrospect, maybe the best analogy is 'The Mask', the Jim Carrey film.)

It was sobering, being reminded of just how great a gulf there is between 'the driver' and 'the pedestrian'...and I'm wholeheartedly a card-carrying member of the latter group, not the former. So what's it like for those who are the reverse? How much more entrenched is this 'arrogance' with them? (Please; this is a rhetorical question. All one has to do to witness proof is to take a look at the comments made by the general car-driving population when the subject of 'How We Get Around' is broached.)

I salute Ryan's continued efforts to present opportunities to discuss this basic quality of Life issue. It's only through increased dialogue, heightened engagement that we're going to find a gradual shifting to something far more humane than what we currently see in our city.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2010 at 11:18:32

@mystoneycreek

Sixty year old children's cartoon, still relevant:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZgiVicpZ...

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2010 at 11:25:53

ha! I was just about to post that same video :-)

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 12:11:25

That was hilarious! I love the stuffed garage and the cross-hair hood ornament!

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By thrillhouse (registered) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 12:21:24

Why not push for a pedestrian underpass at/near Breadalbane St.? Seems it would make far more sense than a crosswalk, inasmuch as no one would be able to complain about slowing down traffic.

Comment edited by thrillhouse on 2010-12-09 11:23:28

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 12:26:15

why not put a vehicle underpass at Breadalbane?
This is a downtown neighbourhood with thousands of people living, cycling and walking these routes. I don't understand why people flying out to the suburbs deserve more say in how my neighbourhood functions than I do? I don't have a say in their neighbourhoods, and really could care less what they do out there with roundabouts or two-way etc.....

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By highwater (registered) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 12:26:40

This is where we're all heading ;)

OT, but this animated short put me in mind of the playstation ad that's been showing on tv lately. The one where "you are the controller", showing scene after scene of people jogging on the spot in their living rooms. It just makes me want to scream "go outside!" It seems having control over a game console has become a substitute for having control over our public spaces. We're so screwed.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2010 at 12:29:25

@thrillhouse

1) Pedestrian underpasses are not wheelchair or stroller accessible. "Best place to raise a child", remember?

2) In any place but the densest of urban environments, those things inevitably become a tunnel of graffiti, bodily fluids, and sexual assault. The only bright side is that FAQ, Menses, and Keenur may all be raped and peed upon.

@highwater

Is it weird that I want the reverse? I'm waiting for the industry to make Augmented Reality headsets so that I can use to play live-action Quake in Churchill Park.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2010-12-09 11:47:02

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By highwater (registered) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 12:36:27

The only bright side is that FAQ, Menses, and Keenur may all be raped and peed upon.

I may just have to steal this for my signature.

Is it weird that I want the reverse?

Yes! :-) Pxtl, we'll have to have a chat about Churchill one of these days.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2010 at 14:02:39

The question of why drivers are privileged over pedestrians has a lot to do with broader questions of class, gender, age and other unofficial heirarchies. Most of us fit adult males have no trouble sprinting across Main, Cannon or Aberdeen. Just as we don't have much trouble walking the extra distance in under 8 minutes, or getting in a car if we need to. Disabled people, children, the elderly mothers (and increasingly fathers) with strollers - all groups that don't get a lot of consideration in a thousand different areas of life beyond traffic. The biggest reason it's being brought up now is the support of better-off types like us who have the education and privilige to bring it up. As much as I love choosing to not own a car - I have to admit that for many people, it's far from a "choice" either way.

And while it would be easy to write off these kind of issues as a symptom of poverty and other issues like it - we can't forget the role they play in perpetuating poverty. Cars cost a lot of money (directly and indirectly), and making it difficult or impossible to live and work without a car makes it a hell of a lot harder to be poor, disabled, elderly, young, or a parent.

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By thrillhouse (registered) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 19:30:27

@jason

Points well taken. I was using remote possibility of success as a criterion, but will refrain in the future.

@Pxtl

Points also well taken. Accessibility = mandatory; assault tunnels = forbidden; peeing on graffito kids = optional. I can live with this.

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 19:51:33

Wondering what the change in real estate value would be along busy roads if traffic would slow down by 10 km/h. Tens of millions I would guess.

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By arienc (registered) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 20:04:55

Following on our discussion, I had to do some driving. In his car. Specifically, from one end of the city to the other. And I was a little...well, 'struck' by how quicksilver-like the change in mindset was, from arch pedestrian to driver: it's as if something descends, a kind of sanctification, one that has a (figurative) little voice whispering 'All that matters is you getting from Point A to Point B in as expedient a fashion possible'. This means that any impediment at all...lights changing, another vehicle making an inconvenient-for-me turn, or a pedestrian...seem like an insult.

Mystoneycreek...great post. Your experience is very much the same as mine.

My theory is that it is the physical separation of the driver from those around him or her, that breeds this feeling that others are "insults" or rather, impediments to my progress. Drivers certainly don't seek to be unfriendly or anti-social every time they step behind the wheel of a car. However when so insulated from those around them, it's like being in one's living room, where there is no expectation of social niceties, no need to be polite to others who are outsiders, infringing on my personal space. This is especially true when one is alone (as the majority of drivers tend to be in their cars).

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By Richard den Otter (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 20:19:42


Is there a way to start a petition to have the crosswalk installed there?

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 20:44:22

Ted,

Look what happened to Limeridge road when the Linc went in. That road was always crazy busy, now it's a sleepy little side road.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2010 at 20:46:03

Is there a way to start a petition to have the crosswalk installed there?

Get in touch with Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie and ask him how to proceed. He may be able to help you with the wording of a petition (following the whereas ... therefore be it resolved format) and put you in contact with the applicable City staffers.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 22:19:14

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 22:37:27

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2010 at 00:29:26

Not everyone walks at an average of 4.8 km/h. And many of those who do can safely sprint across a street.

It is an issue of cars versus pedestrians. Cars kill pedestrians. The more automobile traffic flows through a route, the less hospitable it is for pedestrians. And the more pedestrians flow through, the more traffic slows down. More space/funding for highways means less for crosswalks. Unless we understand how these factors interact, we will never understand the issues at play.

"Safety" measures which impose massive inconveniences upon pedestrians in order to maintain the brisk flow of traffic are oppositional tactics. They DO make an oppositional issue out of this. We're simply pointing it out.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2010 at 06:02:27

If there was a point of interest on either side of Aberdeen at Kent

On the south side are over 40 children just on Kent between Aberdeen and Glenfern, plus dozens of children on Spruceside and Mapleside, a playground, and an easy route to the Bruce Trail.

On the north side, Kent runs straight into HAAA Park, with a football/soccer field, a regulation track, a playground, a water park, a tennis club ... and a middle school.

Kent is the only north-south street between Queen and Dundurn that runs continuously from the escarpment straight down to Charlton.

Aberdeen itself is extremely inhospitable to pedestrians, with narrow sidewalks directly abutting lanes of high speed traffic - cars routinely drive at 60-70 km/h - and pothole-riddled asphalt that sprays water on pedestrians during rainfall.

Aberdeen itself is only a thoroughfare because people living on the Mountain can get into west Hamilton two minutes faster going down Beckett Drive than they can taking Hwy 403.

Again, it's okay to inconvenience pedestrians by making them walk 400 m and several minutes out of their way along a dangerous, fast-moving thoroughfare but it's not okay to inconvenience motorists by expecting them to use actual highways as highways.

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By jasonaallen (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2010 at 08:59:57

I'm also a Locke/King resident (two RTH Jasons within a few blocks of each other - who knew?), and we are actually thinking of moving back to Kirkendall next year so our eldest son will be able to walk to school in either grade two or three. Normally, I would have no problem with him walking that distance to school in a couple of years, I really have very little concern about the modern bogyemen of 'child predators' lurking in every bush. My kids are streetproofed and sensible, so a 1.2 km walk should be no big deal. Hamilton drivers though? They scare the bejeezus out of me.

The fact is that in order to get there he'd have to cross King and Main - and cross at least one of them at Dundurn, and that makes a 1.2 km stroll more like running a gauntlet. We are now at the point where if we want to promote a healthy walkable lifestyle for our kids, we need to move roughly 6 blocks in order to ensure their safety.

Incidentally, has anybody seen the sign up outside of Mixed Media? And does anyone know where I could get a couple of copies to put up along King at Victoria Park?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2010 at 09:30:39

Incidentally, has anybody seen the sign up outside of Mixed Media?

I think you mean this sign:

Traffic Warning Sign

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-12-10 11:44:30

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2010 at 09:55:53

I can't help but notice that in Ainsliewood, we do see money spent on creative solutions to protect pedestrians. Camelot Towers has a push-button crossing over Main Street - not a full 4-way traffic light but a single "stop for the pedestrians" push-button lighted crossing. There's a push-button crossing in the middle of Longwood S that isn't even on an intersection - it simply connects the MIP parking lot to the MIP buildings (apparently the city is willing to spend money on a push-button stop-light when it benefits motorists). There's a "yield to pedestrians" sign on the 403 onramp that divides Columbia International College's residences from its classrooms.

Why don't we see this kinds of things on Aberdeen? A similar "yield to pedestrians" sign would be nice on the Westbound turning slit at Aberdeen and Queen. A similar crossing would be a massive (though incomplete) improvement at Aberdeen and Kent. It would be annoying in that pedestrians would only be able to cross on one side (east or west) of the intersection, but it would be better than what they have now and would only slow traffic when somebody is using the crossing.

@Ryan - I still think Aberdeen would be much more hospitable if the City would convert Queen to 2-way and complete the Frid St. extension to connect to Longwood. Then all the westbound traffic coming down Beckett Drive would be spread through several routes instead of crammed onto Aberdeen.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2010-12-10 08:57:31

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2010 at 10:47:25

I love that sign. Where do I get a copy?

There's a bit of a hiccup when it comes to the logic of drivers. On one hand, pedestrians and cyclists are told to clear out of the way because even if we're "legally right", we may still die. On the other hand, if we begin to question why so many people are dying, we get accused of "picking on drivers".

Virtually my whole time going to Ryerson Middle School (@ the HAAA grounds by Queen & Charlton). Almost daily, we were honked at and shouted at for crossing legally in the cross-walks at because drivers wanted to turn onto Queen or Charlton. And that's at a signalled intersection in the area. During that time I also knew a kid who lost his Mom crossing Herkimer @ Kent (why there's now a stop sign there).

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted December 10, 2010 at 10:53:37

That sign would be even funnier if it wasn't essentially official policy in Hamilton.

Interesting thing about the change in mindset once you get behind the wheel - look at how drivers treat other drivers at advanced greens. Last week I saw 6(six) vehicles jump the advanced left green arrow on dundurn south to main.

Granted, this is a ridiculously short advanced, but 3 sets of left turning vehicles going through it? Shameless. Not to mention this also takes away the right of way from pedestrians. Suggestion: add a few seconds to this advanced, then install a 'green light' camera.

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted December 10, 2010 at 11:07:19

Sorry fir the off topic post, but there was a good article on walkability fail back in March: http://www.raisethehammer.org/blog/1668/...

Lots of comments dissed the 3 phase lights. The reason they do this is to increase the safety of pedestrians, which apparently it does. Because it decreases the average 'green time' it slows down lane capacity from about 50 to 33% of maximum (1800 veh/hr), so there is nothing in it for the car.

The Dundurn / Aberdeen intersection certainly has lots of pedestrian traffic, mostly kids, so in absence of a better proposal I think it should remain as it is.

But never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence. There is another 3 phase intersection at Garth and Limeridge that has minimal pedestrian traffic. East/west volume on Limeridge is really low since the Linc. North south traffic builds up large queues because of it, so you can't really argue that the city is pro-car here. Why is it still 3 phase, or why was it ever thus?

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By michaelcumming (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2010 at 11:34:12

The whole design of Fortino's Plaza parking lot, the crosswalks at King and Dundurn and the treatment of pedestrians making their way to Westdale along King West are all unfortunate features of our daily landscape. As many comments have made clear, there are multiple bad design decisions here:

  1. If you want to walk west to Westdale along King you have to sprint across a highway entrance ramp at the Cathedral.
  2. If you want to leave Fortino's and go north you're out of luck - unless you sprint across the full width of King (many do).
  3. If you want to go to Fortino's west of Dundurn you have to negotiate a very pedestrian-unfriendly intersection (which is annoying every time I walk it).

All three of these features speak volumes about how Hamilton treats pedestrians. All three must be corrected for Hamilton to have any credibility as a good place to raise a child. Not just in these prominent locations but everywhere else similar features exist - as a matter of design policy.

These design policies might include: a. don't force pedestrians to sprint across lanes of accelerating cars b. have pedestrian crosswalks on all sides of every intersection c. enable motorists to leave in all directions from major shopping centres d. don't encourage motorists to do crazy stuff like sprinting across all lanes of a major street

Comment edited by michaelcumming on 2010-12-10 10:35:12

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By jasonaallen (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2010 at 11:58:20

@Undustrial - I'm working on getting a copy right now. Send me an email (it's on my profile) and when I get it, I'll forward it along.

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By DanJelly (registered) | Posted December 10, 2010 at 12:05:10

Kent is the only north-south street between Queen and Dundurn that runs continuously from the escarpment straight down to Charlton.

What Ryan describes here is the pedestrian equivalent of an arterial road. The problem is whenever a primary pedestrian route meets a primary vehicle route, the latter seems to take priority.

Does the situation at Aberdeen and Kent not fly in the face of the City's efforts to limit the distance somebody has to travel to reach an HSR stop? One wonders if they just draw dots on a map when they make these decisions without thinking of the nature of the streets themselves.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2010 at 12:42:30

Does the situation at Aberdeen and Kent not fly in the face of the City's efforts to limit the distance somebody has to travel to reach an HSR stop?

Thanks for reminding me: both the north and the south side of Aberdeen at Kent has a bus stop right on the corner.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 10, 2010 at 13:08:54

I'm also a Locke/King resident (two RTH Jasons within a few blocks of each other - who knew?)

Howdy neighbour!!
Yea, that walk across King and Main is brutal. Last year I almost looked at a house on Strathcona between King and Main, but decided not to because:

  • I have no interest in living between two freeways with my family
  • I had no faith that the city would move forward with 2 way conversion and LRT. Looks like less than a year later I'm being proven right.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted December 10, 2010 at 13:50:22

The 8 minute time for walking 400m was a very rough estimate I did in my head while chatting to Ryan on the phone. I agree that an able-bodied adult walking briskly at 4.8km/h would cover the distance in about 5 minutes, but the elderly, disabled or the young would indeed take about 8 minutes or more (I know this from experience!). Unfortunately, most would simply avoid walking. Which is the whole problem: those who are confident and able bodied will simply dart across the unsignalized intersection (as the traffic engineers well know), while the young and elderly will simply not walk there. This is clearly not a fair or effective way to promote pedestrian safety.

In any case, even the 5 minute figure would clearly be an unacceptable delay for motorists. Imagine a motorist having to wait 5 minutes for a green light to cross an intersection, or having to make a 4km detour (assuming an average speed 10 times faster than walking). We would never put up with it! Why is my time so much less valuable when I step out of my car and onto the sidewalk?

I grew up in Vancouver, and I can confirm there are far more crosswalks (and respect for pedestrians) there. There are also, not surprisingly, far more pedestrians out walking. Even in a city as congested and full of aggressive drivers as Paris, motorists will screech to a halt when you step onto a sidewalk because the know the rules of the road and the penalties for hitting a pedestrian (even though they are highly annoyed at having to stop).

Another way of looking at fairness and safety is to consider our response to accidents. Even though Dundurn at Main and King are the number 1 and number 2 accident spots in the City, no one is suggesting that cars be banned from turning. However, pedestrians have been banned from crossing at several points there already, and was recently suggested as a solution by the traffic department for the remaining east side crossing of Main at Dundurn as well!

As I mentioned to Ryan, considering every road users time of equal value could help us rationally balance their competing interests. Remember that a crosswalk doesn't impede motorists unless someone wants to cross, so the argument about "insufficient numbers of pedestrians" is really moot. Of course, that only works if crosswalks are relatively cheap to install (paint and signs), which is why we have the problem we do in Hamilton.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2010 at 14:25:59

Even though Dundurn at Main and King are the number 1 and number 2 accident spots in the City, no one is suggesting that cars be banned from turning. However, pedestrians have been banned from crossing at several points there already, and was recently suggested as a solution by the traffic department for the remaining east side crossing of Main at Dundurn as well!

Contrast the approach of Amsterdam (which is apparently Holland's Hamilton):

[Pedaling Revolution author Jeff] Mapes takes us to even more pedal-friendly cities. In Amsterdam, 40 percent of non-walking trips are by bike. He quotes, approvingly, Jack Wolters, the city's top traffic-safety officer: "The target of the police is not to control cyclists and pedestrians. It is to control the most dangerous part, motorcar drivers." [emphasis added]

If pedestrians are in danger of being struck by motorists, the sensible answer is to regulate and restrict the source of danger - the motorists. In Hamilton, we instead punish the most vulnerable road users by prohibiting them from so fundamental a movement as crossing the street at a signalized intersection!

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-12-10 13:27:36

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By shabooga (registered) | Posted December 10, 2010 at 15:46:02

For anyone interested in the sign that is posted in front of Mixed Media: I live downtown and made the sign and other similarly themed signs. You can download the source files at:

http://www.wrecovery.com/hamiltonsigns/

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By shabooga (registered) | Posted December 10, 2010 at 16:02:59

Cannon Sign Urban Debris

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 10, 2010 at 16:10:19

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 10, 2010 at 16:18:50

I also want to point out that my intent of posting that the real average time is closer to 5 minutes than it is to 8 minutes was to point out that there is a factual inaccuracy in the first sentence of the article. Without the words "normal" and "average", it could be passed off as being misleading, but with those words persent, it's just straight up wrong. Wrong by more than 50%. It's not too late to change it Ryan.

I wasn't suggesting that the 8 minute (read 5 minute) detour is a good thing or a bad thing. I'm quite aware that a lot of people would be walking much slower than this. In fact, my job involves helping elderly people to walk. My point was just to point out the factual inaccuracy. It's things like this which happen on a consistent basis that make me question the objectiveness of RTH.

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By chill, dude (anonymous) | Posted December 10, 2010 at 17:08:02

he didn't mean "me" as in just him. he meant "me" as in "a resident"

Try reading it like this instead:

"Why does a person's time become so much less valuable when they step out of their car and onto the sidewalk"

The problem at Kent is that there is a sign specifically instructing pedestrians to walk out of their way to cross the street somewhere else. There are **not** thousands of intersections like that throughout the city (thank god)

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted December 10, 2010 at 17:09:32

Ryan, in the interests of accuracy could you please change 8 minutes to 5 minutes, since this is a better estimate for an able-bodied adult.

Spacemonkey, the big picture is that our road design puts top priority on motorists and makes life uncomfortable, dangerous and inconvenient for pedestrians and cyclists (and I do own a car so I see this from the driver's point of view as well). This is a deliberate choice, and it is a choice that, in my opinion, has negatively impacted the overall quality of life in the city compared with other cities I've lived. It is also a choice that is unfair both to those who can't drive themselves (at least 30% of the population, even in the richest neighbourhoods, according the Gil Penalaso in his presentation to the Durand pedestrian workshop), and those, like myself, who prefer to walk when possible.

It's not as if residents want crosswalks at every intersection. They want crosswalks at intersections that are dangerous and provide convenient pedestrian routes. The city installs only two or three signalized crossings a year for a city of half a million. In any case, one could just as well say "we can't plow every road in winter, we can only afford to plow the arterial streets" or, "we can't afford to pave the side streets", or "traffic lights are expensive, we'll just use stop signs". It is a question of priorities: our priorities clearly differ.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2010-12-10 16:15:58

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted December 10, 2010 at 17:34:20

shabooga,

Your awesomeness is astounding!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2010 at 22:02:15

Nicholas, I updated the entry to change the time. At this point, given his insistence on personal attacks and questioning motives, it's pretty clear that SpaceMonkey is more interested in trolling than advancing the discussion productively, notwithstanding his protestations to the contrary.

In more general terms: a city needs to design its streets to optimize for the kind of traffic it wants, not the kind of traffic it has. People respond to incentives and disincentives, and will do more of something if it is easier and more convenient, while doing less of something if it is harder and less convenient.

The City of Hamilton insists in all kinds of approved plans and documents that it wants to "put people first", make neighbourhoods safer and more livable, increase walking, cycling and transit use, and so on; but again and again our decisions continue to optimize for the status quo of fast, cross-town driving. We talk about wanting to change the status quo, but we continue optimizing for the traffic we have today.

Consider the exchange I had with Hart Solomon, the City's manager of traffic engineering, over a proposed scramble intersection on York Blvd that was added to the plan on the enthusiastic recommendations of citizen comments but then removed from the final plan because it would be "inefficient" for drivers.

Here's what Solomon had to say:

Longer-term, we have plans and strategies to change transportation behaviour, although those will be most successful if we also change how we plan and implement land use, since transportation and land use are tightly connected. ...

However, in the meantime, we have to try to operate a traffic system that is reasonably efficient, as that is the best way to minimize the use of non-renewable resources, maximize air quality and minimize motor vehicle collisions.

The problem with this reasoning is that we will never move away from the current traffic system until we actually go through with making it less easy to drive long distances quickly and at the same time more easy to walk, cycle and take transit. As long as each decision we make along the way reflects and reinforces today's transportation patterns, those patterns will never change.

The modeling programs that traffic engineers use assume that traffic is static, i.e. that the number of cars and people trying to use a street are fixed. The problem with that assumption is that it's completely false. Traffic is dynamic and demand for a given mode is induced by the availability of that mode.

Further, notwithstanding the models engineers use, the empirical evidence from real-world studies of traffic patterns clearly tells us that when cities invest in making streets more usable for pedestrians, cyclists and transit, all of those uses go up.

But in Hamilton, we determine whether an intersection needs some kind of pedestrian access based in part on how many pedstrians are observed trying to use it. Yet the number of pedestrians who try to use an intersection a function of whether the intersection is designed to accommodate pedestrians! Our current decision-making process is virtually guaranteed to lead to the conclusion that the way things are is the way things should be.

I'm more and more convinced that for all the positive noises coming out of Public Works, the traffic engineers still call the shots and their narrow definitions of "efficiency" still rule the day.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-12-10 21:09:40

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By adam2 (anonymous) | Posted December 10, 2010 at 22:58:10

How can the best place to raise a family be devoid of crosswalks at major intersections? Why would anyone in their right mind choose to raise a family here unless they wanted their kids growing up fat and with a complete disconnect of their environment?

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By adam2 (anonymous) | Posted December 10, 2010 at 23:01:18

The last post I made wasn't meant as a slight to those attempting to raise families here. Things are getting better all the time, and I sincerely hope more and more crosswalks are installed to fix the broken road system from the 1950's when cars traveled at different speeds and were designed very differently.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 10, 2010 at 23:07:02

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted December 11, 2010 at 18:05:27

It's not about you. The city doesn't have anything against you and doesn't value your time any less than anyone else's. I think people need to stop looking at things from a Me Me Me view, and think of the big picture.

When entire neighbourhoods speak up to ask for lower speed limits or crosswalks at key points (such as Aberdeen & Kent), that isn't just about "me". When activists and journalists point out very well known authors (Jacobs, etc) and citing academic papers and international examples, that's not just about "me" either. When I speak out against a danger which represents the single largest risk of death to my demographic group, that is about far more than just "me".

I cross whatever street I want whenever I want. They could fence it if they wish - I would simply jump the fence. I'm a fit, young, arrogant man, I can. When I speak up on behalf of seniors, children and the disabled - it isn't about me. It's about everybody. If that doesn't suit YOU, don't blame it on me.

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By Thom (anonymous) | Posted December 15, 2010 at 09:39:15

Why doesn't someone or better yet a couple of people (solidarity) dress up like a crossing guard and offer to shuttle people across the intersection at King and Dundurn and other problem ones? Just go out at crossing guard times. Sometimes you have to get in people's faces.

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