Dear Jim Gillatly, I Need Personal Reasons To Visit Ancaster

By Adrian Duyzer
Published December 07, 2013

Dear Jim,

I'm writing this in response to your letter to the editor in today's Hamilton Spectator. You started that letter by writing,

With all due respect to Jennifer Keesmaat, after living here in the Ancaster area for over 30 years, I can tell you that I need personal reasons to travel down into the city of Hamilton.

I find the one-way street grid very easy to navigate to the places and businesses that draw me there.

I believe that spending what will undoubtedly run into millions of dollars for a consultant's report on traffic will be a total waste of money.

Jim, I feel your pain.

Except I feel it about Ancaster - and especially Wilson Street.

Like you, I find that "slowing me up from my destinations" makes me "upset". You can imagine my anger when Lloyd Ferguson officiated at a special ceremony to celebrate Wilson Street's reconstruction where he celebrated its "pedestrian-friendly streetscape"! The street has new crosswalks, benches, landscaping, two-way even has bike lanes, for Pete's sake! What kind of a main street has bike lanes?

The end result is that I have to drive slower and I can tell you right now that doesn't just make me upset. It fills me with rage. So you can see how counter-productive this reconstruction really was: far from making Wilson Street safer for pedestrians and cyclists, these people now have to contend with drivers like me who are filled with a hot, righteous and entirely justifiable road rage.

Like you, I believe that "one-way streets are an excellent and efficient way to get to my destinations." As such, Ancaster is completely devoid of excellent and efficient ways to get to my destinations. Does this upset me? You're damn right it upsets me. And it slows me up. And that is not acceptable.

Jim, let's work together. You know what's right for Hamilton's downtown. Let's make it happen in Ancaster too.

Let's get rid of the bike lanes, narrow the sidewalks, and put some one-way thoroughfares with timed lights through the centre of your community. Then maybe I'll see you when I'm driving through at 70 km/hr.

But if you're on foot or on a bicycle, please move to the side. I'll have personal reasons to be there and destinations to visit and if you slow me up, it will make me upset.

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz


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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2013 at 10:09:26

I really, really, really, hope this gets in the Spectator.

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By jedbrown (registered) | Posted December 07, 2013 at 10:17:26

Adrian, well said!

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By 1234 (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2013 at 14:20:19

Christopher Hume wrote an article with a similar idea. It goes to show how comical this subject is becoming. Of course our streets are for people first and not cars.

I wonder if the people that are in favour of the car culture really believe in that or are they just obtuse.

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By ViennaCafe (registered) | Posted December 07, 2013 at 15:21:01

Great response.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted December 07, 2013 at 16:00:15

Hope this link works for you, 1234

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By Core-B (registered) | Posted December 07, 2013 at 16:18:39

Adrian, please, please send that to the spec. I don't like to beg but beg I will!

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By SCRAP (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2013 at 18:25:27

Hey management, can you please explain what is considered spam?????, I am at a loss!!!!!

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By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted December 29, 2013 at 12:16:32 in reply to Comment 95680

Whatever Ryan wants it to be. Disagree at your own peril.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 07, 2013 at 20:11:48 in reply to Comment 95680

The site has been deluged in anonymous spam comments for the past few months. If you register an RTH user account, your comments will not be filtered for likely spam words.

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By PearlStreet (registered) | Posted December 08, 2013 at 04:21:24

Please make it to the Spectator! In all fairness

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By adrian (registered) | Posted December 08, 2013 at 09:07:33

Thanks for the kind words, everyone. As requested, I have sent this to the Spec.

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By spear (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2013 at 09:47:05

All one-way streets should lead into Ancaster. Because it's so great, you won't ever need to leave!

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By joejoe (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2013 at 11:02:16

I remember booking a B&B in Ancaster because I'd heard so many great things about the place. I turned up and was very disappointed - there was nothing there. Wilson Street was devoid of any pedestrians or decent shops. There was a strip mall at each end and not much else. I pretended I'd had an emergency and bailed on the poor B&B lady. No way I was wasting my money staying there. To this day I can't understand what residents like about the place. I'm not surprised this letter writer shows such an obvious ignorance about what makes somewhere nice to live.

I'm glad to hear they've spruced up the main street though.

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By AlHuizenga (registered) | Posted December 09, 2013 at 11:21:06 in reply to Comment 95734

Bashing Ancaster doesn't help. Ancaster is nice. I think Adrian is satirizing a particular kind of smug parochialism that certainly isn't exclusive to Ancaster residents.

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By Hydnew (registered) | Posted December 10, 2013 at 13:28:35

One-way streets can be efficient for those visiting the downtown, but can be detrimental to the communities contained within. Large cities all over seem to be thriving despite one-way streets (Toronto, Montreal, New York City, etc.), so is it more than street directions? Hamilton needs to develop more places where people want to visit -- it's not the street directions. Locke street, James North, Westdale, etc. aren't thriving because of the conversion to two-way streets, it's because what's there is desirable. Parts of Barton are two-way and I won't be going down there to visit anytime soon. Hamilton needs to get its priorities straight and stop bickering about streets.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted December 10, 2013 at 17:22:24 in reply to Comment 95774

Note sure what "properly planning for the future" means exactly, since different people have different interpretations of proper. But on whole, I don't think Hamilton has a problem spending time planning.

We have plans up the wazoo (that's a fancy technical anatomical term) for everything from bike lanes, two way street conversions, downtown master plans, pedestrian mobility plans, vision 2020, setting sail, etc. etc.

The problem in Hamilton is implementation. Even when we have a really good plan (for example, the plan to convert our one way streets into two way streets) it takes the better part of a decade to convert only a handful of the recommended streets (John, James...York?) and in some cases the end result is implemented in a questionable manner (York, while two way, prohibits turning onto York westbound from most intersections).

So, while I might agree with you that Hamilton needs to spend more time "properly planning" for the future, I think that generally Hamilton does not need to spend more time "planning" but rather needs to spend more time "implementing".

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By Hydnew1 (anonymous) | Posted December 10, 2013 at 21:59:54 in reply to Comment 95781

My emphasis was more on "properly" and less on "planning"; however part of planning is implementation. I should have specified.

It seems as though poor choices are often made for Hamilton, and instead of fixing major problems - such as delinquent landlords, empty store fronts in prime locations, etc. - they simply debate.

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By AlHuizenga (registered) | Posted December 11, 2013 at 14:27:32 in reply to Comment 95791

Agreed, council should stop debating and tell the city to convert all streets to two-way immediately.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted December 10, 2013 at 15:28:41 in reply to Comment 95774

One-way streets can be efficient for those visiting the downtown...

Actually, some of the biggest complaints I've heard about our one-way streets have been from visitors who find them difficult and frustrating, as they have to circle back to get to their destination, often either wasting time by overshooting it and going several blocks out of their way, or under-shooting it and having to circle around again. It's a great way to welcome people to our city; pissing them off before they even get out of their cars.

The one-ways benefit one type of driver and one type only - people who are trying to get THROUGH the downtown as quickly as possible. They are inefficient and frustrating for everyone else - locals and visitors alike.

Comment edited by highwater on 2013-12-10 15:50:52

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2013 at 15:15:36 in reply to Comment 95774

Large cities all over seem to be thriving despite one-way streets (Toronto, Montreal, New York City, etc.),

Toronto has mostly two-way streets. Its few one-way streets are comparatively desolate, and many advocates in Toronto have been asking for them to be converted back to two-way. Meanwhile, advocates for easy driving (like Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong) are calling for thriving two-way streets like Yonge to be converted into paired one-ways. (!?!)

Montreal does have some one-way streets, but those streets notably have wide sidewalks, canopies of street trees, dedicated bike lanes and dedicated transit lanes.

New York has one-way streets in Manhattan, but it's important to remember a few things: 1) Manhattan has the highest population density in North America with 1.6 million people living on 59 square kilometres, a number that balloons to a staggering 3.9 million during the workday; 2) Almost no one drives in Manhattan, and the streets are mostly given over to taxis and buses; 3) Manhattan has excellent transit, wide sidewalks and a tremendously tall, dense, diverse streetwall of mixed uses in close proximity.

Outside of Manhattan, New York's other boroughs have mostly two-way streets. In Brooklyn, residents are campaigning to convert pedestrian-unfriendly one-way streets to two-way.

Locke street, James North, Westdale, etc. aren't thriving because of the conversion to two-way streets, it's because what's there is desirable.

Locke Street and James North did not begin their revitalization until after the streets were made more pedestrian-friendly. On James, which was being written off as a dump just a decade ago, the taming entailed converting traffic flow to two-way with curbside parking, bumpouts and so on. On Locke, which barely supported marginal retail businesses in the early 1990s, the taming entailed allowing all-day curbside parking and adding several controlled intersections.

In both cases, the changes had the effect of both slowing automobile traffic and creating safer, more comfortable space for pedestrians.

As far as I can tell, Westdale has always been two-way, with slow automobile traffic and walkable streets surrounded by a fairly dense, walkable residential neighbourhood.

There are several necessary conditions for a successful urban place:

  • Pedestrian-friendly - people have to feel comfortable and safe walking around

  • Streetwall - buildings should be built to the sidewalk with open/retail uses on the main floor

  • Density - the built form must bring a critical mass of people in close proximity

  • Diversity - buildings must be allowed to serve a wide variety of different uses

With all of these characteristics, and especially when you include good transit and a public policy that supports healthy urban development, a place has a good chance of becoming successful and prosperous.

If any characteristics are missing, the street is going to suffer. For example, John Street has not enjoyed as much revitalization as James, mainly because much of the built form was demolished and sits vacant as surface parking. Without existing buildings to bootstrap reinvestment, the depopulated area around John will have to wait until property values rise enough to support new construction (as is currently happening at James and Vine).

The of John whose streetwall is still more or less intact - between King William and Young - has seen some decent recovery, but even this is hampered by all the low-value pavement where buildings should be, e.g. the mostly-demolished block bounded by John, Jackson, Catharine and Hunter.

As for Barton, it has a lot going against it - including the fact that most of the street is four or five lanes wide and dedicated to fast automobile traffic (only six short blocks have streetscaping - between Victoria and William). The neighbourhoods around Barton are among the poorest in Hamilton, the buildings are not the best quality and are in poor repair, and several big bites are missing from the streetwall (e.g. between Mary and East Ave).

Again, a lot of necessary conditions have to be in place for a street to thrive. Walkable streets are a necessary condition but not, in themselves, a sufficient one in the absence of the other characteristics.

The important thing to understand is that desirable destinations follow those necessary conditions, not the other way around. As Jennifer Keesmaat, Chief Planner for the City of Toronto, said last week in a talk at Liuna Station, public policy has to lead, and private investment will follow.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 10, 2013 at 19:53:04 in reply to Comment 95778

One of the great things about Barton St and it's current road width is the opportunity to widen sidewalks, plant trees, flower gardens and 24-7 curb parking on both sides with 1 traffic lane each way. http://roncesvallesrenewed.files.wordpre...

These moves alone would go a long way towards humanizing and beautifying the street. Ditto for Parkdale and Kenilworth. They would all benefit from the same treatment as King St in Westdale:

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By Hydnew (registered) | Posted December 10, 2013 at 16:13:58 in reply to Comment 95778

I'm not picking a side -- one-way vs. two-way. It really depends upon the city itself. Just as you said, NYC thrives in one-way because of the infrastructure in place. What I'm saying that that Hamilton needs infrastructure more than it needs two-way streets. Yes, it would be nice to have two-way streets -- I believe they are safer and do encourage walkability, etc. However, if Hamilton spent as much time properly planning for the future as they do debating one-way vs. two-way, we may be further along in revitalization than we are.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted December 10, 2013 at 18:47:37 in reply to Comment 95780

What I'm saying that that Hamilton needs infrastructure more than it needs two-way streets.

Two-way streets ARE infrastructure. As part of an overall move toward complete streets and a more balanced transportation system, they are a proven economic catalyst. I'm really not sure what you are arguing exactly. One thing is certain; as Robert D notes below, if we spent as much time implementing two-way streets as we do debating them, we would be further along in revitalization than we are.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted December 10, 2013 at 21:53:18

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 Brandon (registered) | Posted December 11, 2013 at 16:13:50 in reply to Comment 95789

For the record, the 401 is two way. Just saying...

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 11, 2013 at 16:00:14 in reply to Comment 95789

haha...'an emotional argument'...

But the well-researched response of "I'm used to one-ways" ISN'T an emotional argument?

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By AlHuizenga (registered) | Posted December 11, 2013 at 14:25:06 in reply to Comment 95789

The one way street network downtown is a safe effective way to move the traffic that a small city generates.

That's a lie. Hamilton is the second most dangerous city in Ontario for pedestrians.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2013 at 17:17:54 in reply to Comment 95804

(TORONTO - NOVEMBER 13, 2013) Five Ontario municipalities have been recognized by an expert panel for their walkability....

Ottawa and Hamilton received silver designations while Richmond Hill, London and Wasaga Beach achieved bronze. Honourable mentions were also given to Ajax, Aurora, Kingston and Markham for their efforts to be walk friendly.

The application for the designation requires communities to report their progress on more than 200 key walkability indicators including sidewalk policies and networks of connected walking infrastructure, progressive design standards, street festivals, public art, staff training, and citizen engagement to name just a few of the criteria. All applications are reviewed and scored by a panel of experts.

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By LOL@LOL (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2013 at 14:55:25 in reply to Comment 95804

As long as it's safe for the people who matter i.e. drivers, that's good enough for psychopaths like LOL.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 11, 2013 at 10:11:07 in reply to Comment 95789

The 401 is not a neighbourhood where people live and work. Downtown Hamilton is.

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2013 at 07:23:40

The false dichotomy is dead. Long live the false dichotomy.

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