Walkability Fail

Do We Need a Slutwalk for Pedestrians?

By John Neary
Published June 24, 2011

The Hamilton Police Service carried out a "traffic blitz" on Thursday morning. According to the Spectator, police aimed to penalize "drivers failing to stop completely at red lights and stop signs, pedestrians crossing against lights, and cyclists riding through intersections", the stated purpose being to "increase safety and reduce congestion on city streets."

Cracking down on bylaw infractions by pedestrians and cyclists does nothing to promote public safety. Pedestrians do not travel with enough kinetic energy to pose a danger to other users of the road and even cyclists rarely cause serious harm to others in a collision.

In principle, the crackdown might deter a foolhardy pedestrian or cyclist from getting killed by stepping or riding into the path of an automobile, but the "reduce congestion" phrase suggests that the real purpose of this action is simply to drive everyone but motorists off our streets.

The three dangerous road accidents in our city in the past four days all involved people being injured by collisions with automobiles.

Why are the police "cracking down" on pedestrians and cyclists in the name of safety? When was the last time a Hamiltonian was seriously injured by a collision with a pedestrian or cyclist who was disobeying traffic bylaws?

It's no surprise that the Spectator hasn't raised these questions. After all, when a woman crashed her car on Hwy 401 on Wednesday, got out of the car, and was then hit by another car, the headline read, "Pedestrian causes 401 mayhem".

The message from the police seems to be that people should avoid traveling like roadkill in order not to be victimized. Perhaps we need a pedestrian equivalent of SlutWalk to teach the police to stop blaming the victims.

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 June 24, 2011 at 09:46:46

Wow. I'm glad you wrote this. I rarely read the Spec anymore, but I saw that 'pedestrian causes 401 mayhem' headline online somewhere. I just assumed someone was trying to run across the highway or something. Amazing that there were two car accidents. I would have never known that.

You're right- car accidents pose a major threat to safety, not joggers or cyclists.

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By Pliny (anonymous) | Posted June 24, 2011 at 09:52:16

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

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By GROW UP (anonymous) | Posted June 24, 2011 at 10:00:08 in reply to Comment 65141

For God's sake, can we just stop with the stupid insults? Please GROW UP PEOPLE! Would you say that to Jason's face? Of course not. Why do you think it's okay to say it from behind the cover of an anonymous screen name?

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By Nord Blanc (anonymous) | Posted June 24, 2011 at 11:48:00

This "blitz" is old news, no?

April 12, 2011:

Police in the core have launched a safety strategy to deter pedestrians from disobeying traffic signals or failing to use a crosswalk.

The program started at the beginning of the month and continues to Dec. 1, focusing on the Division One patrol area bordered by Sherman Avenue to the Dundas/Ancaster border and from the bay to the Escarpment.

“The overall goal … of this initiative is to reduce those numbers of collisions involving pedestrians, at the same time educating and enforcing the rules of the Highway Traffic Act as it relates to pedestrians in the community,” said Sergeant Terri-Lynn Collings.

The “pedestrian safety enforcement strategy” is being conducted by patrol officers in Division One, who will observe a zero-tolerance policy for those they catch disobeying the regulations, Collings warned.

According to Ontario's Highway Traffic Act, pedestrians failing to use a crosswalk or disobeying a “don't walk” signal can face a maximum fine of $50, she said.


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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 24, 2011 at 12:31:19 in reply to Comment 65144

It's a refrain we know all too well. As I wrote back in April:

It's past time that our municipal public safety services start looking beyond a narrow focus on enforcement of the rules and consider the more fundamental role that street design and engineering plays in creating spaces that are either safe and accommodating or dangerous and hostile.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2011-06-24 12:31:34

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By trevorlikesbikes (registered) - website | Posted June 24, 2011 at 12:10:17

Already done: Slutwalk for Pedestrians/cyclists in hamilton = Zombiewalk

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 24, 2011 at 12:43:34

I read the piece about the "pedestrian" who "caused" the 401 accident, too. Once again, I suspect the title was added to it later, by someone with a little more of a flair or the dramatic. Exactly what are you supposed to do when you have a breakdown along the side of the 401? Waive a white handkerchief out the window and wait for rescue? Or perhaps she should have been wearing a helmet?

Hamiltonians have seized the streets on more than a few occasions for pedestrian and cyclist rights in the last few years, and it's high time it happens again. Now all we need is a clever name - "The Foot-walk"? "Jay-Walk"? The "Asphalt Crawl"?

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By WRCU2 (registered) - website | Posted June 24, 2011 at 12:54:03 in reply to Comment 65149

Excellent suggestions Undustrial, although Ryan may be partial to a Little Foot Long Foot Walk.

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2011-06-24 12:54:30

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By JM (registered) | Posted June 24, 2011 at 13:39:04

it should be a walk along Cannon Street (or Main to City Hall), but cannon seems appropriate due to the speeding trucks issue. the walk should start with a large crowd across along lanes, walking in the same direction as traffic (of course). think you could get enough people to make a decent size crowd to stop traffic?

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 24, 2011 at 14:12:57 in reply to Comment 65153

I'm in.

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By concerned driver (anonymous) | Posted June 24, 2011 at 15:48:14

As a driver/pedestrian/cyclist I have to say that to ignore the fact that distracted or ignorant pedestrians and cyclists are almost as dangerous as distracted drivers is wrong. Pedestrians/cyclists step or bike directly into the path of my car (a daily occurance I can assure you) even though I am driving carefully and watching for them. I have nightmares about killing someone who steps into my path and having no time to react. I cannot tell you how many people's lives I've saved by paying close attention to these people. I would be shattered if I hurt someone, even if it wasn't my fault but I'm getting tired of getting flipped the bird because I was driving on the road, following the rules of the road while they go wherever they want, whenever they want.
I'm not anti-pedestrian, just anti-idiot.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 24, 2011 at 21:40:17 in reply to Comment 65169

I hear this all the time from drivers, and even occasionally experience it (especially while biking, which is silent).

The question is:

a) What exactly constitutes an "idiotic" move? b) What percentage of accidents are actually caused by this kind of behavior? c) How many times does this kind of behavior end without an accident? d) How often, when accident do happen caused by "idoiocy" on the part of pedestrians are other factors also at play (driver error, intoxication or road design)?

Most importantly, how do we deal with people making bad decisions as pedestrians without killing anyone?

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By Steve (registered) | Posted June 24, 2011 at 18:43:27 in reply to Comment 65169

I also yell at pedestrians who I can only assume are using their ears not their eyes when crossing mid-block. At least the woman I yelled heads up to yesterday had the courtesy to thank me. I yell and sometimes sit up tall in the saddle and point directly at car drivers.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted June 25, 2011 at 09:07:20

Yes, that was a remarkable headline fail in the spec.

In good news: we've gotten two of those portable LED signs that tell drivers how fast they are traveling, on the side of Lawrence Rd. at the south end of our neighbourhood, so it seems someone is finally acknowledging that this road has become a problem since it became a shortcut to the Red Hill Expressway.

If people can't walk places safely, it really ruins the heart of a city, by taking away opportunities for the soul-feeding adventure of discovery, large and small.

Comment edited by Michelle Martin on 2011-06-25 09:18:20

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By Steve (registered) | Posted June 25, 2011 at 21:56:12

Went past the one on Lawrence today, and proudly registered between 47kmh & 49kmh in a 50 zone. No flashing on my drive-by.

Earlier this week, I was talking to a friend from Toronto who grew up in Rosedale and marveled how he could drive from Toronto to his parents via QEW, Red Hill & Lawrence an hit only one light. Yes a short to the Red Hill...

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted June 26, 2011 at 11:16:05

The battle rages on across the pond...


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By joe average (anonymous) | Posted June 27, 2011 at 10:07:16

"Slut walk"? Might be what is required, the "sluts just hanging around on corners waiting for the johns to come to them" which is what seems to happen most of the time on King and Barton does not seem to be achieving much neighbourhood improvement

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