Transportation

How Many Dead Pedestrians Will It Take?

By Jason Leach
Published April 03, 2007

Hamilton City Councillors can no longer keep their heads buried and try to pretend that Hamilton doesn't have a traffic speed problem.

We've seen six people killed trying to cross Hamilton's freeway-style roads in the past three months. How long will city hall continue to put the rights (please let me know what they are) of our pieces of "metal on tires" ahead of human beings?

Today's accident on Main East was directly in front of my office. There are several blocks of residential street and bus stops with no stoplights for many, many blocks. The street is four lanes, one-way and still has timed lights.

Two way streets, fewer lanes and first and foremost, the simple task of flipping the switches to de-synchronize the lights are essential to the health of our city neighbourhoods.

It's time for Hamilton's residents who are still lucky enough to be alive to make their voices heard. Email every councillor and the mayor's office until something is done. Not talked about, but actually done.

I'm sick and tired of seeing all the bouquets of flowers taped onto street poles. And we wonder why businesses in our urban lower city don't survive or thrive.

People have to take their life into their hands just to walk down the street.

Governments have a responsibility to do the right thing and protect their citizens. People can call it "too much government" but the last time I checked, automobiles don't have rights in the Canadian Charter. People do.

Mayor Eisenberger and City Council: the buck stops with you. Ban through trucks from lower Hamilton and give us a real balanced transportation system.

Highways are for speeding cars. Retail and local neighbourhood streets are for people.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

23 Comments

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Read Comments

[ - ]

By A Robot (anonymous) | Posted April 04, 2007 at 00:35:26

Oh look, oil prices are falling. Good thing too, as I was just about to start conserving fuel again. How silly of me to think it'll ever be too expensive to drive.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By adrian (registered) | Posted April 04, 2007 at 08:42:58

There's no doubt that these stretches of highway running through the core are a major problem. But it's incredible how many people you'll find roaring down my little single lane one-way street, punching it to 60 between stop signs on a two block (small blocks!) stretch of road. I'm turning into that old dude that gesticulates wildly at speeders in the neighbourhood. It drives me nuts.

Oddly enough, it's kind of Main Street that is to blame once again. I live on Jackson, which is the first street south of Main. It runs the opposite way to Main, so I think that all the drivers who want to travel west but can't because Main is one-way, take roads like Jackson instead. Because they are trying to get someplace else - maybe someplace far away - they want to get through Jackson as fast as possible.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted April 04, 2007 at 09:09:10

amazing..I just came to work (my office is directly in front of where the pedestrian was killed last night) and almost got hit walking on the sidewalk. A lady was pulling out of Hortons at Prospect and I was walking by...she inched right up to my kneecaps and stared at me as if to say "get out of the way roadkill". I stared back and almost went over to her window and said "you know someone was killed walking here last night right? I wonder why?" People just don't think. Nobody ever thinks they'll be the one to kill someone. Nor do they worry about it when most of the time the media blames the person for not using a crosswalk. While walking to my office I came across Main at Springer (look it up on google maps). I stood there and squinted my eyes trying to see the next light. It is at Main and Gage. From Springer you can barely see it. There were school kids walking everywhere, people coming and going from the Hortons. There needs to be a pedestrian light at Prospect.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By seancb (registered) - website | Posted April 04, 2007 at 10:19:30

Here is the second-to-worst part (the worst part of course being the loss of life)... Whenever this happens the coverage is something along the lines of this (quote from the spec): "The rise in fatalities has Hamilton police concerned pedestrians are not using controlled intersections to cross streets."

It is just me, or is it much more unreasonable to ask that pedestrians use their own muscles to go a block out of their way (and back) in order to cross at a light instead of asking motorists to yield to pedestrians? We have a serious problem of "motorist rule" in this hemisphere, and our city seems to be the poster child for it.

I also notice that even the smaller streets here become highways, because people are used to driving like maniacs everywhere in this city.

We need shared spaces downtown (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shared_space) and calming measures EVERYWHERE (http://www.walkinginfo.org/de/curb1.cfm?codename=d&CM_maingroup=Traffic%20Calming)

There are some side streets where the city has slapped a bunch of stop signs down in order to "calm" the traffic, but this just creates a false sense of security -- security which gets breached with every rolling stop performed by a motorist. Not to mention the drag-race mentality between stop signs and the excruciating slowing-effect on cyclists (http://ist-socrates.berkeley.edu/~fajans/pub/pdffiles/StopSignsAccess.pdf -- PDF link).

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 04, 2007 at 10:46:39

I was riding home from work yesterday on a side street that was about to cross a major street (my street had a two-way stop and the cross street had the right of way). Just as I was about to reach an intersection, the driver behind me slammed on the gas and veered right into me to cut me off so, presumably so he wouldn't have to wait behind me to turn.

I swerved hard to the right to avoid being hit, and came to a stop. I turned to look at the driver, and he was scowling at me through the windshield, waving his arms for me to get out of his way. He was still edging forward bit by bit to run me off the road.

Sometimes I can be a little bit stubborn. Normally, when I get to this corner, I make sure to stop so that motorists behind me turning right have room to pass; but on this occasion I walked my bike right in front of him so he didn't have room to pass, and I made him wait behind me until it was safe for me to cross.

Not the most mature or conciliatory approach, I admit, but in my defence I didn't swear, yell, or make obscene hand gestures. He ended up in the middle of the street at a 45 degree angle through his own assholery.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 04, 2007 at 10:49:32

seancb wrote: "t is just me, or is it much more unreasonable to ask that pedestrians use their own muscles to go a block out of their way (and back) in order to cross at a light instead of asking motorists to yield to pedestrians?"

It's even simpler than that. If a car is moving at 32 km/h and hits a pedestrian, the pedestrian has a five percent chance of dying from the collision. At 64 km/h, the pedestrian has an 85 percent chance of dying.

Also bear in mind that a motorist is much more likely to be able to avoid hitting a pedestrian at 32 km/h than at 64 km/h.

Ordering either motorists or pedestrians to change their behaviour will fail every time. The only thing that will work is changing the street so that it is nearly impossible to speed.

That means: two-way conversion, narrower lanes, wider sidewalks, more curbside parking, and more street trees.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted April 04, 2007 at 12:27:00

This morning I was driving behind a green minivan taking its sweet time. He stopped to wave three cars on Stanley to cross Locke Street. Fair enough you say, we need more considerate drivers like this.

Well, I was mortified, because unlike our minivan driver, I noticed some pedestrians about to cross Stanley on the west side of Locke. The cars he was about to let in front of him could not see these kids (his minivan blocked their view, a car wouldn’t have) or vice versa until the first car was halfway across Locke. Fortunately, it reacted quickly enough that nobody was hurt.

Moral: drivers notice cars but ignore pedestrians. You see this every day.

We are one death short of last year’s total and there are still 271 days left in the year. Not surprisingly, the Spectator and Hamilton Police just can’t help blaming the pedestrians. The carnage will continue.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By adrian (registered) | Posted April 04, 2007 at 13:56:24

Re. seancb's comment about drivers yielding to pedestrians - in Rome (and perhaps in other Italian cities as well) it is commonplace for pedestrians to cross wherever they like. Pedestrians simply step out into the road, and cars stop.

At crosswalks - which often have no lights - when a pedestrian steps onto the crosswalk, the entire street of cars halts. The presence of a person on foot is like a red light.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By highwater (registered) | Posted April 04, 2007 at 14:05:40

That spec quote ticked me off too. It implies that this latest victim was at fault even though they admit that they don't know where she was crossing and it's still under investigation. Pedestrians - guilty until proven innocent.

Ryan, two-way conversions, narrower lanes, etc. are all good and necessary, but you left out a quicker, cheaper fix that could be applied in the short term. I've been house hunting with my sister in my old neighbourhood in Toronto and I'm amazed at all the speed bumps that have gone up. Most residential streets in the Annex/Seaton Village neighbourhoods seem to have them, not to mention on-street parking on both sides. Slows traffic to a crawl. It would be the perfect solution for a street like Jackson, but can't you just hear the howling?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted April 04, 2007 at 14:12:03

ha! Jackson? Let's get some speed bumps on Main. That would be quite a sight eh?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 04, 2007 at 14:19:46

That is a good idea, highwater, and I think it would be an important part of the solution for residential side streets in conjunction with structural traffic slowing.

Ultimately, I find myself leaning more and more toward Hans Mondermann's "naked streets" concept, but I think Hamilton drivers would need a conceptual nudge before they're mature enough to handle a road system with hardly any rules.

http://www.google.ca/search?q=naked+...

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By ** (anonymous) | Posted April 04, 2007 at 15:01:40

Does anyone know who in city hall would actually make a change? I sent an email to Mayor Fred only to get a reply that my email would be forwarded to the chief of police.

Well at least someone who's sift acting will receive it (as if!)

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted April 04, 2007 at 17:20:45

as far as I know, any councilor can bring forth a motion to recommend a change and develop a plan of action. None of them do, probably because they know it will get defeated. After all, outlying councilors don't want 4 minutes added to their trip to work.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By mark (registered) | Posted April 05, 2007 at 09:58:15

CHML once again describes the latest killed pedestrian with the usual 'speed, alcohol, weather not a factor'. Then what was? The item goes on to describe the accident as occurring when the pedestrian crossed at an intersection without a traffic light and crosswalk. Why is the pedestrian always inferred as the cause of his/her own demise? This city is terribly lacking in pedestrian crosswalks, all in the name of fast-moving traffic. If anyone is at fault where 'speed, alcohol and weather' is not a factor, then the traffic planning department should be held accountable.

We need to become activist in a push to have more marked crossings for pedestrians. Furthermore, the whole synchronized traffic light system needs to be rethought as it lends to the perception that, once you get yourself timed right, Main, King, Cannon, Wilson and York are inner-city highways. The case for removing one-way roads, reducing speed limits, and eliminating traffic light synchronization have all been made here.

The idea of speed bumps on secondary streets is a good one, but is likely to meet resistence from the usual suspects. I was thinking of how these could be incorporated into our streets, and came up with what I think is a neat idea. How about planting a speed bump at every intersection with a stop sign? I'm tired of people ignoring stop signs, or others who think a simple slowdown to 20km/h is enough of a stop. They could be painted red with reflective white 'STOP' stencilled on them.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By seancb (registered) - website | Posted April 05, 2007 at 10:46:08

The problem is, any solution that requires concrete to be poured is astronomically more expensive than just plopping down a stop sign or a useless "watch for children" sign.

Perhaps we should band together and each buy our own concrete planters and plunk 'em down in our own streets. We can make our own chicanes!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 05, 2007 at 10:50:23

I think Etobicoke councillor Rob Ford put it best when he said, "My heart bleeds when someone gets killed, but it's their own fault at the end of the day." (He was talking about cyclists, but the sentiment is the same.)

http://www.raisethehammer.org/blog/527/

In any case, as I wrote in February about a different pedestrian fatality, it's dangerous nonsense to suggest that speed was not a factor:

http://www.raisethehammer.org/article/50...

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By highwater (registered) | Posted April 05, 2007 at 11:06:41

I think you could sell speedbumps on residential streets that have a high proportion of families with young children. Parents are hyper about safety these days and might be galvanized if they saw it as a way to protect their children. I imagine that's how they've become so widespread in Toronto.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 05, 2007 at 12:25:44

Do you have any data on how the speed bumps are working in Toronto?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Rusty (registered) - website | Posted April 05, 2007 at 15:13:56

Hey Ryan,

I don't have any of that data but I can tell you that, despite the examples mentioned here, Toronto has a significant street speeding problem. Last year a mother was hit near me, at Jarvis and Esplanade, after just pushing her pushchair out of the way of a speeding motorist.

The junction nearest to me - Lower Sherbourne and Esplanade - is particularly scary. Every morning there are lines of school kids - mine included - standing by the road mere feet from the speeding tractor trailers that hurtle by.

I have had so many confrontations with drivers walking to work I wouldn't know where to begin. I've been driven at, side swiped, swore at - you name it. And every time while WALKING LEGALLY ACROSS A MARKED PEDESTRIAN CROSSING!

As to what to do I concur with your suggestions Ry - implement well-known traffic calming measures, but don't go too far. Allow a 'naked' street design to encourage the free flow of pedestrians and cars so that cars are more likely to voluntarily slow down.

As a previous post pointed out, in Europe you do indeed have jay walking chaos, but you also get a level of consideration not seen in N America. Here I find the streets are often over designed and with bylaws like Jaywalking you tend to get an attitude focused around rules and rights and not much in the way of common sense, and just generally being considerate .

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By highwater (registered) | Posted April 06, 2007 at 09:56:06

I don't have any hard data, but I'll do a little searching and see what I can find.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Frank (registered) | Posted April 06, 2007 at 12:27:20

Just to reiterate what people have said here, I think the best way to help peds is changing the roadways. I notice it everytime on the highway. Whenever there's a construction zone and the lane is blocked by jersey barriers, people ALWAYS slow down. I say lets make the lanewidths less. I'm not sure what they are but let's make them MINIMUM, not maximum. Take one of the gigantic lanes and the parking lane and make it into a diagonal parking lane with chicanes and a nice wide sidewalk with trees. Then on the other side put some nice bus bays and a wider sidewalk and we're set. Sometimes I think traffic engineers get to caught up in numbers rather than the spirit of the things they're designing. Some new, young blood in the traffic dept would definately help.... I volunteer! lol

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By D (anonymous) | Posted October 23, 2008 at 11:03:19

The traffic signal timing may be a cause, but how many Hamilton, "bicycle cops" just hang around the core park all day and do nothing to control traffic speed. Want to see some spectacular driving, watch their special constables drive inmates down Hughson St. to the courthouse and see how bad they drive. I see it daily from my window, it's pathetic.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Cautious Pedestrian (anonymous) | Posted September 28, 2009 at 15:54:03

I don't know if crosswalks are safer. Drivers make U-turns at crosswalks while the pedestrian is crossing. (They don't wait for the pedestrian to finish crossing.)

Also, traffic lights aren't safe either. Drives make left turns while pedestrians are walking (the pedestrian is walking on the green light).


Sidewalks aren't safe either -- you have bicycles and sometimes cars will come up on the sidewalk (buses even more so).


Permalink | Context

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to comment.

Events Calendar

Recent Articles

Article Archives

Blog Archives

Site Tools

Feeds