Comment 26126

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 31, 2008 at 08:48:46

g. wrote:

in case anyone is wondering how i justify such a malice filled post ...

I can see that you are frustrated, but there's really no justification for insults and personal invective. You write that you consider Councillor Whitehead's comments a "personal attack" because they contradict your values, but that's just not a constructive way to approach dissent. Let's please try to keep the discussion civil and respectful on a personal basis and stick to the issues.

Councillor Terry Whitehead wrote:

one way is more efficient to move traffic

It's a false economy. By optimizing a sub-system - increasing traffic flow on an indivual road - you end up pessimizing the whole system - by encouraging more people to drive longer distances more often.

(For more on optimizing sub-systems vs. whole systems, see Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute before he went off the deep end with his "Hypercar".)

If it wasn't so easy to drive long distances quickly, people would make different decisions about where to live and where to shop. Entrepreneurs would make different decisions about where to invest and businesses would make different decisions about where and how to locate.

There's a reason more than half of Hamilton's air pollution comes from automobiles, despite a traffic system designed to minimize idling: our one-way expressway system has made us a city of people who typically drive long distances between destinations.

This or that individual street may run "efficiently", but the system as a whole produces far more driving and far more air pollution than if individual streets were less "efficient".

That may seem counterintuitive, but it's borne out by numerous traffic studies across North America and Europe.

I don't think you were at the Public Works Department's Transportation Summit in April, but one of the speakers was a traffic engineer who explained this principle very eloquently using numerous examples from cities his firm had worked on.

I challenge those that believe that the issue of speed is only a one way traffic phenominom

You're right that speed is a huge issue. In fact, a linear increase in vehicle speed results in a geometric increase in risk for pedestrians.

A major study conducted in Britain found that when a vehicle moving 32 km/h hits a pedestrian, the likelihood of death is 5%. At 48 km/h it increases to 50%, and at 64 km/h (the "green wave" on Main), it increases to 95%.

Speed is not only a one-way traffic phenomenon, but it's unquestionably a factor on the wide, multi-lane thoroughfares running through downtown.

On the Mountain, streets act as expressways by having wide, multiple lanes, turn lanes, no curbside parking, on- and off-ramps into malls, and so on (not to mention an actual expressway running east-west).

Again, what we advocate is not simply converting streets to two-way, but converting them, widening sidewalks, planting street trees, encouraging curbside parking, and so on - all of which make it psychologically more difficult to speed.

I see congestion not as a problem to be avoided, but as a side-effect of the successful revitalization of urban neighbourhoods.

Again, as others have suggested, spend an afternoon walking along Main St., York Blvd., Cannon St. etc. and simply observe your experience as a pedestrian. It's deeply, profoundly unsettling. I wrote about such an experience a few years ago:

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