Special Report: Tactical Urbanism

City Crackdown on Tactical Urbanism

A memo by Public Works general manager Gerry Davis calls calls acts of tactical urbanism 'illegal, potentially unsafe' and 'vandalism'.

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 09, 2013

this article has been updated

Public Works General Manager Gerry Davis sent a memo on May 7, 2013 to Council warning about "unauthorized activities on our city streets" related to the recent workshop and public lecture on tactical urbanism.

According to Mike Lydon, a principal at The Street Plans Collaborative and author of the Tactical Urbanism e-book, tactical urbanism is the principle that citizens can undertake direct low-cost, high-reward actions that immediately improve some aspect of a community's public life and demonstrate to city leaders that there are opportunities for easy, successful changes to the status quo.

Lydon emphasized that the essence of tactical urbanism is to take short-term action that precipitates long-term change and are informed by vision, local context, agility, value, and community engagement. He noted that most cities welcome tactical urbanism and are inspired by demonstrations of change to invest in more permanent transformations informed by the lessons learned.

'Illegal, Potentially Unsafe'

However, the City of Hamilton does not appear to see it that way. In Davis' memo, he warns:

These changes to City streets are illegal, potentially unsafe and adding to the City's costs of maintenance and repair. The City can consider this as vandalism, with the potential for serious health and safety consequences for citizens, particularly pedestrians. There is potential liability and risk management claims to both the City and the individuals involved.

Of course, left unmentioned is the ongoing danger to individuals and liability to the city from Hamilton's status quo of pedestrian- and cyclist-unfriendly automobile oriented streets, a shameful legacy that has continued unimpeded for decades despite the overwhelming weight of evidence, expert testimonial, and even official policy.

If citizens are taking street design into their own hands, it is out of extreme frustration with the failure, year after year after year, of city leaders on Council and in senior management, to make the necessary changes themselves.

City workers have already removed the painted crosswalk at Cannon and Mary and the bumpout pylons that were installed at the corner of Herkimer and Locke to make pedestrian crossings there safer and more comfortable.

Guerilla Bumpouts at Herkimer and Locke before they were removed (RTH file photo)
Guerilla Bumpouts at Herkimer and Locke before they were removed (RTH file photo)

On Friday I asked the long-time crossing guard what she thought of the project. With immediate enthusiasm, she said, "I like it!" The guard did not know who had installed the cones or why, but she was highly supportive, saying it makes the corner a lot safer.

The traffic calming "really controls the traffic. It was getting scary," she said, noting that the bumpouts forced the cars to slow down instead of racing aggressively through the intersection.

Institutional Obstruction

If Davis is serious about being "willing to work cooperatively with citizens and citizen groups to address their traffic concerns and suggested improvements," he can start by directing his staff to replace the bumpouts at Herkimer and Locke.

Of course, this is the same traffic department that delayed the installation of a crosswalk at the nearby intersection of Aberdeen and Kent for years because, as they argued, it was simultaneously too dangerous for pedestrians to cross and safe enough that it did not warrant a crosswalk.

When the crosswalk was finally installed after years of advocacy, a petition with hundreds of signatures, a presentation to the Public Works Committee and another delay of more than a year before it was installed over a period of three months, it was programmed to provide "minimum service level to pedestrians".

The button-activated crosswalk routinely waited between 40 seconds and nearly two minutes before changing the traffic signals, and another city traffic engineer eventually acknowledged that the crosswalk had been designed explicitly to be as non-useful to pedestrians as possible.

To his credit, he had the crosswalk reprogrammed so that it now works properly, but there is no reason why the traffic department should have been so persistently hostile to a crosswalk in an urban residential neighbourhood in the first place.

This was in an affluent neighbourhood in which several highly educated volunteers were willing and able to undertake an extended campaign of organizing and advocacy. How many other simple, basic features of civic infrastructure have not been built and will not be built because the community resources to force the City to act are missing?

The Symptom, Not the Problem

Tactical urbanism is not the problem here. It is the symptom of a deeper problem in which the city's stated commitment to citizen engagement, innovation, diverse economic opportunities and being "the best place to raise a child" are not really governing principles but are only words on paper.

In an essay I published earlier today, I included the following graphic of the circle of tactical urbanism from Lydon's talk with the cheeky subtext, "in Hamilton, this is a U-shape".

The circle tactical urbanism
The circle tactical urbanism

Little did I know just how quickly my cheeky remark would be proven correct.

Despite two decades of plans and policies dating back to Vision 2020, despite mountains of evidence from other cities, despite being told by literally dozens of urban planning experts what we need to do, our leaders remain implacably opposed to the most basic transformations that would make our streets tamer, safer, more equitable and more successful for everyone.

Text of the Memo

Here is the full text of the memo:

Hamilton Information Update
TO: Mayor R. Bratina, Members of City Council
DATE: May 7, 2013
SUBJECT: Tactical Urbanism
General Manager
Public Works Department

Since yesterday, Traffic Operations staff has noticed the following unauthorized activities on our city streets:

  • Traffic signage posted at Upper James and Mohawk Road
  • Crosswalk painted at Mary and Cannon Streets
  • Applied tape to mark a crosswalk at Cannon and Elgin Streets
  • Screwed down pylons to simulate a corner bump out at Herkimer and Locke Streets.

These changes to City streets are illegal, potentially unsafe and adding to the City's costs of maintenance and repair. The City can consider this as vandalism, with the potential for serious health and safety consequences for citizens, particularly pedestrians.

There is potential liability and risk management claims to both the City and the individuals involved. Examples of potential liability to the City could include claims from individuals who may be negatively affected by one of these installations. (i.e. trip and fall claims, paint damage claims etc.)

Traffic Operations staff are immediately repairing and/or removing the work that has been noted and are tracking the costs of these activities. Staff has also filed a report on this issue with the Hamilton Police Department.

Public Works staff is willing to work cooperatively with citizens and citizen groups to address their traffic concerns and suggested improvements, but these unauthorized activities present serious health, safety and liability concerns for the Corporation.

As some members of Council are aware, staff are currently preparing a report updating the status of the Transportation Master Plan and are also working on a report that will review policies related to traffic calming and pedestrian crossing treatments.

We are also actively working with the North End Traffic Management Implementation team to implement a five year pilot program for the North End Neighborhood, which will model opportunities for the use of innovative traffic calming measures, pedestrian crossing improvements and speed limit reductions.

You may have also noticed this article in the Hamilton Spectator last week about various City's experiences with 'Tactical Urbanism", which appears to be an activity similar to what Hamilton is now experiencing.

http://www.thespec.com/news-story/2 550515-mahoney-how-active-imaginations-are-reinventing-hamilton/

If you have any questions about this issue, please feel free to contact Geoff Lupton at [...].

Copy to:

Chris Murray, City Manager and Members of Senior Management Team
Janice Atwood-Petkovski, City Solicitor
Ron Sabo, Assistant City Solicitor
Rose Caterini, City Clerk
Andy Grozelle, Legislative Coordinator
John McLennan, Manager of Risk Management
John Mater, Director of Corporate Assets & Strategic Planning
Gary Moore, Director of Engineering Services
Craig Murdoch, Director of Environmental Services
Dan McKinnon, Director of Hamilton Water
Bryan Shynal, Director of Operations
Don Hull, Director of Transportation
Kelly Anderson, Public Affairs Coordinator, Public Works

Bonus feature: the footer for each page includes the following:

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

OUR Mission: WE provide quality public service that contribute to a healthy, safe and prosperous community, in a sustainable manner.

OUR Values: Accountability, Cost Consciousness, Equity, Excellence, Honesty, Innovation, Leadership, Respect and Teamwork.

Update: The Hamilton-Burlington Society of Architects (HBSA), who organized the tactical urbanism workshop and public lecture, have sent a response to Council to try and explain what tactical urbanism is and why the City should not be afraid of it.

The letter argues that tactical urbanism "holds great promise" and "need not be seen as an adversarial relationship between the City and the citizens."

Specifically, Tactical Urbanism takes the approach that short term action can lead to long term change while building social capital between neighbours, neighbourhoods, local associations, organizations, and City staff and Councillors.

It also notes that the traffic plans Davis mentioned in his memo date have been on the books for several years but have no implementation details. In contrast, tactical urbanism is "about doing."

Here is the text of the HBSA letter:

May 8, 2013

Dear Council -

We, the Hamilton Burlington Society of Architects Architecture, organizers of the Tactical Urbanism lecture that occurred on May 2nd to kick off Doors Open Hamilton, we would like to respond to the Information Update Memo prepared by City staff in regard to the recent Tactical Urbanism events around the City.

Our event, which was very well attended, presented Mike Lydon of the Street Plans Collaborative in Brooklyn, New York. His publication about Tactical Urbanism is available free on his website - streetplans.org. We are excited that citizens of our city have taken it upon themselves to try to make the city a better place.

Tactical Urbanism holds great promise in the City and need not be seen as an adversarial relationship between the City and the citizens.

What these actions have made clear is that a concentrated effort by a few people can bring positive change to the City.

The memo regarding Tactical Urbanism prepared by City staff notes a few items that are currently in progress in the City, namely “the North End Traffic Management Implementation team” and the “Transportation Master Plan”. We would like to point out that the North End Traffic initiative has been in the works since 2006.

Also, while the Transportation Master Plan contains hundreds of pages, we have so far been unable to find those sections that deal with how the City will physically achieve the goal of improving the pedestrian experience.

In stark contrast to these programs, a few concern citizens have made significant improvements to their city in just a few days.

A crossing guard at the Herkimer and Locke intersection was quoted on Raise the Hammer today.

On Friday [RTH] asked the long-time crossing guard what she thought of the project. With immediate enthusiasm, she said, "I like it!" The guard did not know who had installed the cones or why, but she was highly supportive, saying it makes the corner a lot safer.

The traffic calming "really controls the traffic. It was getting scary," she said, noting that the bumpouts force the cars to slow down instead of racing aggressively through the intersection.

The ideas around Tactical Urbanism are not only about spontaneous actions on the streets. The ideas and methods are part of a philosophy that can be incorporated into the way that the City does business. Specifically, Tactical Urbanism takes the approach that short term action can lead to long term change while building social capital between neighbours, neighbourhoods, local associations, organizations, and City staff and Councillors.

Perhaps the most important part of Tactical Urbanism, however, is that it is about doing. We would welcome any opportunity to sit down with interested Councilors and staff to discuss how Tactical Urbanism can improve our City.

A hard copy of this letter along with a copy of Tactical Urbanism Volume 2 by the Street Plans Collaborative will be delivered to the offices of all council members tomorrow.

Best regards,

The Hamilton Burlington Society of Architects

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 wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By outraged (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 02:05:39

This is an outrage!! Not removing the pylons, I guess we figured that would happen sooner or later, but the Over The Top letter from Gerry Davis full of threats against citizens doing his freaking job for him. I was at the tactical urbanism talk and the speaker talked about another city where the transport department had to take out bike lane posts some citizens put in. But they were totally polite about it, thanked them for caring, said it was the right thing to do, it just had to be done properly. I'm not holding my breath for that treatment here.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 09, 2013 at 02:12:08

I don't think anybody imagined the city would be okay with this.

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By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 02:20:12

Humans are extraordinarily immature creatures - nobody likes being told they're doing their job poorly and yet that's exactly what something like tactical urbanism illustrates (I don't particularly like the name, by the way - obviously an American creation). A city like Hamilton, in all of its incompetence, will fight this every step of the way.

I wish all of our budding tactical urbanists the best of luck and hope to take part at some point myself.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 02:41:28

the fact that city hall doesn't like it proves that Tactical Urbanism is absolutely necessary in Hamilton. If the old boys think everyone is just going to sit back and live in a dangerous, unsustainable city just because none of them live here, they have another thing coming.

I love this line:

"unauthorized activities on our city streets"

Exactly the point. Authorized activity includes speeding cars, no cyclists, no pedestrians, no business, no kids, no patio living. We're trying to bring Hamilton out of the 60's and see our streets become safe places for everyone, full of business, kids, families, vibrancy etc.....

I love the "potentially unsafe" line too. Yea, and 5-lanes of screaming traffic with timed lights, skinny sidewalks and no bike lanes is super safe.....

Comment edited by jason on 2013-05-09 02:50:31

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 03:07:56

If you're going to stage guerrilla interventions that challenge the design of public spaces and change road markings, I'm thinking it's best if you don't publicize your intention in advance via social media with semaphores, hold a fairly well-publicized community design charrette or entertain media profile in your daily newspaper. (This is a city that became paralytic at the thought of liability exposure over bike rentals, after all.)

Two thoughts from Sun Tsu:

"All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.“


"Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”

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By anomalous canard (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 08:44:54 in reply to Comment 88473

In this vein, probably the best way to do these things is to publicize them as an after-action report. Install something nice, let it ride for a week or two and collect comments and observations in-person. *then* publish it online and the City will finally notice it exists and rip it out.

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By thelonious canary (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 08:53:03 in reply to Comment 88501

So, exactly what happened with the bumpouts on Locke St.

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By SFB (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 03:11:53

Tactical Urbanism or vandalism. Graffiti or Street Art. Where you draw the line in either case really depends on your politics. Tactical Urbanism is civil disobedience. You shouldn't expect any awards from City Hall for practicing Tactical Urbanim. But that isn't the point is it? It's about raising awareness.

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By grahamm (registered) | Posted May 08, 2013 at 22:37:20 in reply to Comment 88474

The premise of tactical urbanism is, in a few words, "Cheap and Quick". That doesn't mean that it has to be "civil disobedience" like what we have seen.

What would be great would be to see the City embrace the idea that ideas can be temporarily tested and get on board the 'Short Term Action, Long Term Change'.

In other Cities, similar unsanctioned installations were removed by the City only to be replaced in a week later by the City in a permanent manner.

The installations so far have all demonstrated specific locations where improvements to our streets can quickly be implemented. The City should recognize the value of the small scale insights citizens have to the needs of our streets and find a way to quickly implement improvement while the larger planning goes on in the background.

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By movedtohamilton (registered) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 11:05:47 in reply to Comment 88481

The City will only embrace it's own ideas, of which it has exactly none. To do otherwise would be a disaster for The City.

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted May 08, 2013 at 23:32:01 in reply to Comment 88481

Thing is, the city has done all kinds of planning already, in extensive study and community consultation around humanizing the urban core and neighbourhoods across this city. Then they've intentionally ignored it, lost political will after phased pilot projects, wasted budget resources elsewhere or some combination thereof. This isn't a matter of securing an iterative placeholder. It's a matter of compelling our leaders to do as they planned to, 15 or 20 years ago.

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By movedtohamilton (registered) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 11:13:36 in reply to Comment 88485

The consistent result of these fake consulations and studies is amnesia. They go on so long that they are forgotten. The City has been studying a "Welcome to Hamilton" sign since 2007.

The City is now "studying downtown alleys".

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 13:06:01 in reply to Comment 88522

On the upside, I understand that the resistance to two-way conversion is not as fierce.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 08, 2013 at 22:33:19 in reply to Comment 88474

raising awareness

And safety.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 00:11:05

Just once I'd like both sides to cut the bull.

First off, we all know making your own crosswalks, bike lanes and imitation bump outs is mischief and civil disobedience. Perhaps well intentioned, but it is none the less, it shouldn't be romanticized and pretend it's ok, because it's not. As regrettable as it is (and it is overwhelmingly regrettable) the city is liable if they let these cones sit for too long and someone trips over them, or gets into an accident because of bogus signage. This is certainly not ok if the individuals didn't at least try to use the system in the first place to see these changes made. All's they've done is made it harder to push these changes and overcome the public works obstinate attitude, and given them a scapegoat for their own poor quality of work.

which brings us to the public works.

Calling all of these additions serious health and safety hazards is overblown. Starting a police investigation in regards to it (which I sincerely hope they must only do as a matter of policy) strikes me as likely a waste of time and police resources. However, to even bring up an initiative that has made little to no progress at all since 2006 to claim due diligence is pure absurdity.

A painted corner crosswalk (assuming they didn't paint a thick stop bar), at a non-signalized intersection, isn't a safety concern, it's a redundant guideline at best. A set of pylons is ridiculous to call a risk, given how much the city uses them during normal construction. As far as the sign, well it would depend on what the sign was, I don't think anyone would argue that putting up a 80kph speed limit sign on Upper James is cool or safe and the memo may have a point on this one, but I have my doubts given the other examples. The point is, this is pure hyperbole.

Had this memo said "This is a liability risk if we don't get rid of them quick as other civil cases have risen from this, it's an annoyance that we wish we didn't have to deal with, they might have a point but they are going about this in the completely wrong way, if you have people wanting to voice changes, here's how they can do so if any party is interested" I could respect the position and memo. However, instead it pretty much is huffing and puffing about little to nothing to make it seem like he's doing something behind his desk. To not even provide information to Councillors or other members of staff in regards to direction on how citizens could actually petition to make changes to the traffic system, serves only to compliment the arrogant tone of this memo. It regrettably furthers my belief that the city's bureaucracy is in desperate need of a clean out due to the overwhelming egotism and cronyism that plagues it.

I would also like to add, that it's funny that city staff are able go about "immediately repairing and/or removing the work" of some trivial mischief, and yet can't, over the course of several years and several reports as being rated by the CAA as one of the worst streets in the country, can't seem to find time or money to fix Burlington St, or...make ANY motion of this supposed North End traffic reorganization or one way street conversion, or anything else besides building new streets for new suburbs on the mountain.

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By Chris Angel (registered) | Posted May 10, 2013 at 18:30:36 in reply to Comment 88487

You are exactly right in your assessment. Having concurred with what you have said the onus in now on the city to step up to the plate and start "doing" or risk the embarassment of having citizens show how it can be done. A highly educated and motivated citizenry is only a threat to the incompetent and corrupt. All others will welcome the change in civic engagement. Tactical Urbanism has great potential the panicky arrogant letter by Gerry Davis is evidence of that. If it wasn't a threat to the status quo he would not have his gitch in such a twist. I look forward to seeing the changes this strategy will produce if employed wisely.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted May 10, 2013 at 11:29:42 in reply to Comment 88487

Just once I'd like both sides to cut the bull.

Hear, hear!

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By Gored (anonymous) | Posted May 10, 2013 at 12:15:56 in reply to Comment 88596

Faux equivalence leading to status quo maintenance, how very Hamilton.

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By hshields (registered) - website | Posted May 09, 2013 at 14:15:21 in reply to Comment 88487

Well put Hammer.

Another dimmension to this whole fiasco is Hamilton Public Works is coming off some rather scandalous activity and there is a very fresh, public and highly embarrassing record of mismanagement, ineptitude and downright corruption still lingering in the public's mind and very much front and centre at the Municipal Garage.

This kind of "attack" will be viewed as such from an embattled Public Works department that has suffered some serious PR blows.

Bad timing to rub the Public Works Department's nose into their lack of proactive infrastructure.

That may explain the motives for the letter but come on, the tone is really unbecoming of a civil official. Although the logic is, reluctantly, sound (liability issues, civil order etc..) he could have really made an effort to be polite and explain that position. Directing issues to police as vandalism is just more taxpayer money being wasted.

I thought that was the very idea the Public Works Department wanted to avoid.

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By AlHuizenga (registered) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 11:47:23 in reply to Comment 88487

First off, we all know making your own crosswalks, bike lanes and imitation bump outs is mischief and civil disobedience. Perhaps well intentioned, but it is none the less, it shouldn't be romanticized and pretend it's ok, because it's not.

Section 430 of the Criminal Code describes mischief as either destroying property, rendering it dangerous somehow, or "obstructing, interrupting or interfering" with it's "lawful use, enjoyment or operation."

If I make a few changes to a street to make it safer and more enjoyable for everybody, how am I committing mischief?

And whether or not you think civil disobedience is OK depends a great deal on where you land on the authoritarian scale.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 14:07:07 in reply to Comment 88525

It's interfering with it's lawful use, which may entail not having Pylon's to obstruct wheelchairs and car traffic, both who probably don't find navigating pylons enjoyable, rather an annoyance.

Weather or not they are beneficial to the street is mute. It's not the way it's designed, it's not the way it's intented to operate, and it's not an individual citizen's right to arbitrarily decide how our streets are designed. It's duty of the city bureaucracy who are directed by our elected officials.

It would be the same thing if someone started digging up city sidewalks without a permit or started blacking out bike lanes, or installing their own 80kph signs along Main St.

Make no mistake, I'm not saying that these are serious life threatening dangers like the Public Works memo is stating, because they aren't. I also do agree, yes these changes are beneficial (although I know there was a previous post about the Delta I did disagree with). I'm also not saying "throw the book at these lawbreakers" if only because we can't even seem to do that for known, problem, graffiti painters.

What I'm saying is there are better, legal ways of going about this and while this is a minor, fairly harmless excersise and the attention to these issues/movement isn't entirely posistive, espcially in a a city as stubborn and polarized as Hamilton.

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By ENBertussi (registered) - website | Posted May 09, 2013 at 18:42:33 in reply to Comment 88542

moot, not mute.


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By AlHuizenga (registered) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 17:24:29 in reply to Comment 88542

It would be the same thing if someone started digging up city sidewalks without a permit or started blacking out bike lanes, or installing their own 80kph signs along Main St.

But digging up sidewalks would damage them. Blacking out bike lanes would prevent people from using them. Installing 80KPH signs along Main Street would render it (even more) dangerous. All obviously acts of mischief.

Making a street safer and more enjoyable for all users in no way damages property, makes it dangerous, or interferes with it's lawful use, enjoyment, or operation. Therefore, not an act of mischief.

(Staging a mass protest on Main Street and shutting the whole damn thing down for an hour, on the other hand, could reasonably be construed as both mischief and civil disobedience. Which, IMO, makes it a really excellent idea.)

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 18:06:39 in reply to Comment 88557

Digging up a sidewalk to expand a park would be beneficial for the area, or add lawnspace to a normally unused sidewalk that has fallen into disrepair and boasts offensive graffiti.

Blacking out a bikelane could result in uncongesting a street serves to lower idling/environmental smog and allow for parking that would be an economic boon for local shops/residents.

Installing an 80kph sign would certainly benefit someone fighting a speeding ticket on that street and potentially speed up people's access to work, cutting down commuting time.

Sure some of these arguements are assisnine, but the point is, it doesn't matter. Mischief isn't defined by make deterimental interuptions, it's defined by making ANY interuptions that inteference with it's use.

The section of road, drivers now can't use, which normally they are lawfully and legally entitled to use. That's an interference of it's normal lawful use. If you paint a line on the road or any peice of public property without authorization, it's graffiti and ergo, you have damaged that property. You don't own the street, the city collectively owns the street. It can be argued (albiet poorly IMO) as a visual distraction for drivers and a misrepresentation of a crossing for pedestrians.

I'm not saying it's right. I'm not saying the improvements don't make sense because they do. I'm saying it's technically against the law.

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By Chris Angel (registered) | Posted May 10, 2013 at 19:05:34 in reply to Comment 88559

If it is only "technically" against the law then it is not against the spirit of the law. That is what matters especially when the spirit of the law has been subverted purely for the convenience of a bureaucracy. The most outrageous injustices are those that uphold the veneer of a law while willfully ignoring its spirit the very reason for its being. I have to disagree with your assertions it just sounds like you are saying we will descend into chaos if citizens employ such tactics. As if somehow anyone is obligated to follow an established process even when this process clearly protects the status quo as its primary function and only incidentally provides service to the public. You know your supporting examples are weak. Self absorbed asshats may want 80Kph signs on Upper James but are very unlikely to actually do so. Oddly or not it seems those who are concerned with their neighborhoods are vastly more inclined to take public safety into their own hands and commit an act of tactical urbanism. Intent and careful implementation mean everything with regard to its legality. This is not something to be undertaken lightly.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 21:12:08 in reply to Comment 88559

Good lord. We are talking about some chalk paint and a few plastic cones. No permanent damage, no harm to anyone, and not analogous to digging holes or putting up misleading street signs in any way. What is your real problem here? Because none of your criticisms so far are making any sense

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 22:17:16 in reply to Comment 88569

I made the point on the first post.

After that it was really just arguing/clearing up the definition of mischief.

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By AlHuizenga (registered) | Posted May 10, 2013 at 08:12:39 in reply to Comment 88573

To be clear, I'm not just objecting to your mis-characterization of tactical urbanism as mischief. I call bull on pretty much everything you've added to this conversation. Your purse- lipped disapproval of activism, the way you try to claim some kind of baloney middle ground that obviously makes you feel serious and adult, is not only aggravating - it's a big recipe for nothing.

The idea is to make small, positive, inspirational changes to our common urban environment as a way to influence an apathetic community and a hostile city government. Your response to that idea is to admonish its proponents for not playing by the rules. How do you explain that response? Either:

  1. You've been unconsciously co-opted. You're so worn down by the obstinacy and contempt of the status quo that you've allowed it to undermine your sense of the possible. In which case, my sympathies. Take a break, get your head on straight, and then get back into the game.

  2. You actually don't care. You cluck about how rude the city is, and express some surface sympathy for the cause. But only because it gives you an opportunity to chastise and admonish fellow travellers for getting over-excited and misbehaving. In which case, you know, bugger off.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted May 10, 2013 at 11:48:20 in reply to Comment 88585

the way you try to claim some kind of baloney middle ground

Only the polarized and entrenched can't see the middle. World used to be black and white for me too... in my teens and twenties. As time goes by you see past the flags and labels of partisanship and realise there is way more grey. The conditioned and polarizing “no middle” approach is really just a method of control akin to divide and conquer… but I digress.

IMO, Hammer's opinions are frank and often accurate, although I do not always agree with him I do not question the personal honesty or conviction of his views. You may not like what he says but that is your issue and your high and mighty retort of assumptions rankles.

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By Gored (anonymous) | Posted May 10, 2013 at 12:18:18 in reply to Comment 88599


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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted May 10, 2013 at 09:38:23 in reply to Comment 88585

  1. Quite the opposite, it's a case of still having faith in our system of government and accepting that as a society we all have to play by the rules, even when we don't agree with them, and that by breaking said rules you do more to alienate and hurt the cause.

By the way, we seem to actually be cleaning out the city bureaucracy at public works if this article is any indication. We still got to get rid of the head of the snake, but progress is being made.


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By AlHuizenga (registered) | Posted May 10, 2013 at 14:57:06 in reply to Comment 88589

Which rules? Why? Who says? We should usually (but not always) obey laws, sure, but rules? That completely depends on who sets them, and why.

Also: I do not like what you say. Moreover, I find your views far less than frank, and consistently inaccurate. And while I have no opinion about your personal honesty, the honesty of your arguments is questionable at best. And I definitely harbor serious doubts about the conviction of your views.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted May 10, 2013 at 09:41:18 in reply to Comment 88589

I should clairify, having faith that we CAN make changes to our local government for the better through the normal channels.

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By Active Democracy (anonymous) | Posted May 10, 2013 at 13:12:43 in reply to Comment 88590

I don't know what country you've been living in but in Canada "the normal channels" includes activism including "non-sanctioned activities" or what you might call "civil disobedience" to raise awareness, get people thinking and show governments that other options are possible.

Activism is EVERY BIT as much a part of democracy as voting and historically has been one of the only things that has made a difference for things everyone supports nowadays. Activism is if anything even more democratic than voting because voting happens once every 4 years and activism can happen everyday.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 23:18:08 in reply to Comment 88573

Except you failed to make the case that any of this was mischief as no one was harmed and no permanent damage was done. You obviously have a problem with these activities that you either can't or won't articulate, but one thing is for certain - the problem is yours, not the tactical urbanists'.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 14:53:19 in reply to Comment 88542

I see what your saying, but I have two pushbacks:

  1. What are the 'better, legal ways of going about this'? Residents have in the past campaigned for over a year in order to have a simple crosswalk installed. All the examples that Public Works gives of projects on the books are in fact multi-year plans that don't necessarily show any indication of materializing. What should we do to get the corners at Locke and Herkimer bumped out? I'm just not sure its really that easy to accomplish through legitimate channels (i.e. public works).

  2. It is true that these make-shift road features might not be properly planned or thought through - as you mentioned, the cones for example might be hard to navigate if you are in a wheelchair (although lets be honest, it wouldn't be that hard to do so that they were not a problem). However, it is blatantly obvious that the streets of Hamilton have serious flaws in terms of safety as well as flexibility of design - guess who is responsible for this? Public Works. The fact of the matter is that the road features we have currently can be attributed to the last 50+ years of Hamilton Public Works purposely designing and building them, and they are not safe...so if Tactical Urbanism is unsafe, than maybe we should be calling the cops on our public works department while we are at it?

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 16:15:15 in reply to Comment 88548

  1. I would assume petitioning your local councillor, preferably via petitions, or in forms of legal protest to raise awareness to press for said changes. I guess you could petition public works directly, but I don't think they would be to condusive to such efforts. Of course raising electoral awareness helps. I have no doubt it's not easy, but nothing worthwhile is. However we do have a perfectly good website to organize such efforts.

  2. Oh, there is no question about that. The public works dept. of the city is a consistent disappointment, hence my earlier comments ripping into them for both their ego and ineptitude. However I think you would be hard pressed to have the cops and courts go after the city for reckless endangerment based on street design. Not to say it's not possible, it's just...well much harder and certainly takes a swath of legal and monetary resources.

As a side note, what should be done is the city corp (IE Council) should be aggressively cleaning out and pursuing these parts of the city bureaucracy, which sadly is VERY hard to do given the strength of the public sector union. Not being anti-union, I'm in one myself, but there is no question city staff has/continues to get away with a lot. Also next election, politely convincing people beyond to choir through awareness to vote for urban voices in couldn't hurt either.

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By Gored (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 11:54:37 in reply to Comment 88525

City policy for years is to let the crosswalk markings of non signalized crosswalks fade away to nothing instead of repainting and maintaining them. Alot of drivers think it isn't even a crosswalk (though by law it still is) and pedestrians don't know whether they're allowed to cross or who has to yield to who.

Now that's a mischievous act. Maybe we need to file criminal charges against the public works department.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 09, 2013 at 08:42:39 in reply to Comment 88487

On the subject of the pylons, I only see those little short pylons on a soccer field or during emergency situations... I think the city exclusively uses the tall ones.

From a safety perspective, I can see why. A short pylon is a tripping hazard, and tripping next to active traffic is probably a bad thing. The tall red-and-black ones you really can't trip over.

Still, I have to laugh whenever the city starts claiming any concern about "safety".

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 17:10:08 in reply to Comment 88500

I get why they are using the language. I mean, if someone on the off chance did slip and break a hip, and it ever did go to court and the plaintiff had a memo in hand saying "Yeah, it's there, it's not a big issue" it's shows a lack of due diligence on the behalf of the city.

Doesn't change the fact the note certainly carries an unprofessional, angry tone to it, and it doesn't change the fact that it's ridculous, but regretably needed.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 14:56:20 in reply to Comment 88500

Orange pylons are tripping hazards, but not the grey curbs beside them?

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 17:12:19 in reply to Comment 88549

Technically, the curb has ramplike lips...so yeah...in a sense. I mean, if I was in a wheelchair or using a walker, I'd be far more inclined to use the ramped corner then trying to overcome the curb. I'll reiterate again though, it's ridiculous.

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By Pulleez (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 22:24:08 in reply to Comment 88555

Your posts are ridiculous.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 08:44:59 in reply to Comment 88500

Noted: soccer fields are tripping hazards. Better keep your kids indoors this summer.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 09:03:48 in reply to Comment 88502

yes. People aren't as dumb as city hall thinks. Amazingly we all managed to cross the street without tripping over a pylon into the front of a bus.

And let's be real - these days citizens can plan the city far better than the 'trained professionals'. Citizens see everything. Our professionals only see high speed car/truck traffic.

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted May 09, 2013 at 05:27:22

I understand the questions about what is vandalism versus civil disobedience. It's not as clear cut as even I would like to make it. Having said that, using the same tools used by the City itself (plastic cones and white paint on asphalt - at least so far) to illustrate the execution of street design plans that have been developed but not implemented for years is worthy of discussion.

But, instead of discussing the root cause of the citizen actions, Gerry Davis, GM of Public Works, begins by reacting to the symptom by calling the police and sending a letter to dad. The fact that Chris Murray signed off on this letter from Mr. Davis is bad enough.

Gerry Davis has absolutely no idea what Tactical Urbanism is, or why it seems to be gaining some traction in Hamilton. He's the guy who is still piloting flower boxes for a second year in one third of Gore Park as part of the Gore Master Plan Pilot Program. Exactly what are we testing? Not only that, but he can't provide a Public Works employee to unlock the café chairs and tables on Monday's or Friday's. Uh huh, the same guy who fires 29 employees for alleged time and materials theft while he makes no comment whatsoever about management's role in the alleged theft.

No, but he's got time to lash out about Tactical Urbanism efforts within days of them appearing. With all due respect Mr Davis, if you focused on getting positive stuff done, there would be no need for Tactical Urbanism. As always, the answer lies in understanding the root cause, not in attacking the symptoms.

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By Gored (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 07:44:48

SOOO typical of this city. I know the argument about 'exceptionalism' but I'm seriously starting to wonder if maybe Hamilton IS different than other cities. Different because our government is so broken.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted May 10, 2013 at 11:54:48 in reply to Comment 88494

Different because our government is so broken.

Government is a reflection of the people.

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By Blurry Vision (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 08:15:43

Here's the REAL Hamilton vision: To be the best place in Canada to raze a neighbourhood, discourage innovation, disengage citizens and provide narrow economic opportunities.

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 08:17:38

It's significant that one of the presenters of the Tactical Urbanism series was Ken Coit, in his extracurricular role as VP of local heritage figureheads ACO -- not in his career capacity as senior urban designer with the City of Hamilton, where he presumably holds a measure of power over issues related to urban design. (Maybe I'm reading too much into the title and the term is meant in the decorative sense.)

Ditto for the HBSA, whose member firms are not exactly unacquainted with public projects. That embeddedness strikes me as a potential liability where incursive innovation is concerned.

As I said in an earlier TU thread, part of me thinks this is really neat. The other half thinks that this is a symptom of change-averse city compelling architects and urbanists to play dress-up because efforts at substantial change are habitually vetoed by their employers.

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By lamb (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 08:40:44 in reply to Comment 88498

You picked an apt user name...Why so much snark for people just trying whatever they can to do their job of making this city great again?

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 09:00:43 in reply to Comment 88499

Sorry if it comes off as snarky. If it's worded sharply it's probably down to my sense of frustration with our palsied body politic.

I've made my enthusiasm for these unsanctioned projects clear in earlier TU entries. I admire the energy and creativity and the sense of possibility. You can't follow these events and not feel oxygenated. True, there are risk involved in stepping over a line, but we're all grown-ups and can accept that the same dynamic that necessitates the direct action is likely to result in petulant/punitive reaction.

At the same time as I expressed a admiration, I also noted that one could the actors involved are prevented from doing anything like this in their day jobs, which is the arena they're ultimately seeking to influence.

Architects engineer public spaces, and in that sense they are part of the system.

Local architects have cultivated relationships with the policymakers and planners in this city, and they put forward the concepts that the city and powerful local institutions (health care/education) has bought again and again, going back generations. Yet for some reason these same professionals have become incidental to the urban experiment. That is the narrative I find most interesting in this case.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 13:09:10 in reply to Comment 88504

Sometimes architects like to dress up and feel pretty. I don't think this means that they have become in any way incidental to the urban experiment. Quite the opposite, in fact.

One of the most powerful things that strikes me about Tactical Urbanism is the sense of play. Acting like grown-ups all the time doesn't seem to be getting us anywhere fast, so why not break out and play in the streets for a day or two? I think you're setting up a bit of a false dichotomy to suggest that you can't do this and still be part of the 'system'.

Architects are artists after all. It is wonderful that some of them are taking a leading role in the burgeoning Tactical Urbanism movement in this city, but as much as I think their expertise is an invaluable guide for the movement, I can also see how the playfulness, joy, and on-the-street engagement can and should in turn inform their work within the 'system'.

Doubtless they realize this, which is why they have chosen to be a hands-on part of the renewed love affair with cities that is giving rise to the Tactical Urbanist movement. They shouldn't have to risk being taken less seriously, or making themselves 'incidental' to the grown-up planning and design processes that they continue to be a part of.

Free the architects! Play in the streets! Go TU!

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 14:29:39 in reply to Comment 88533

All valid points. I just can't shake the sense that something is holding them back in their practices, and that this is them letting off steam -- the solo project using up the music that the rest of the band refuses to play. As you say, it doesn't seem to be getting us anywhere fast. Which is weird, because in a lot of other cities, that role can be catalytic. Especially when there is clearly a shared sense that Something Must Change.

I would have thought that as creative workers, architects were free to dream every time they put forward a proposal to a client. And on institutional projects, they're actively redefining public space with every choice they make, so there is enrmous potential to use that campus to change the conversation. Maybe I'm missing something.

Out of curiosity, does anyone know how many certified urbanists or urban planners were on board to this exercise, compared to the corresponding number on the city's side?

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By lamb (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 14:45:44 in reply to Comment 88545

Appreciate the comments, but re "I would have thought that as creative workers, architects were free to dream every time they put forward a proposal to a client" clearly you've never had to present a project to a group of bureaucrats. Or you're just taking the mickey in which case I salute you.

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By Logical one (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 09:27:24

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 C (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 14:29:32 in reply to Comment 88507

Pedestrians ALWAYS have the right of way!

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 09:43:50 in reply to Comment 88507

trust me bro, no pedestrian in Hamilton steps off a sidewalk thinking they have the right of way. We wish.

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By dsafire (registered) - website | Posted May 09, 2013 at 11:05:18 in reply to Comment 88511

Well, some of us know that by right of law we do.

By right of not-getting-hit-by-an-audi you let drivers do whatever the heck they want.

it's funny, in NY it's common knowledge that pedestrians always have the right of way.

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By adrian (registered) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 09:28:35

I love the whole concept of Tactical Urbanism and the fact it received this reaction (which is unfortunate but by no means surprising) just demonstrates that these activities are on the right track. If the people involved in these projects would like some technological assistance (e.g. website, secure means of group communication, etc.), please contact me at adrianduyzer@gmail.com, I'd be happy to help.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 09:32:54

The frustration is that, as Ryan points out, when residents spend years trying to engage with the traffic department on their own terms to get vital improvements for pedestrians and cyclists at street level they face nothing but delay, opposition and passive-aggressive concern trolling subterfuge.

A prime example is the Walk and Bike for Life Workshop the City asked the Durand Neighbourhood Association to help organize and sponsor back in February 2009. This was part of a series of workshops run by Gil Penalosa of 8-80 cities aimed at exactly this sort of tactical intervention at street level.

On the basis of resident and expert input 8-80 wrote a detailed report that recommended both cheap short term (less than 2 years) "tactical" changes at street level and longer term more fundamental changes. The report was ignored by the traffic department for over a year, until our councillor finally forced them to at least respond.

And their response? They rejected each and every recommendation that involved actual change at street level, even the most minor.

And now they wonder why people are trying to make very small simple changes themselves to improve conditions for pedestrians!

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By mkuplens (registered) - website | Posted May 09, 2013 at 09:44:17

I'm assuming they painted markings across Cannon, from curb to curb. Pedestrians crossing there already have right of way, whether it's marked or not.

From the HTA:

“crosswalk” means, (a) that part of a highway at an intersection that is included within the connections of the lateral lines of the sidewalks on opposite sides of the highway measured from the curbs or, in the absence of curbs, from the edges of the roadway, or (b) any portion of a roadway at an intersection or elsewhere distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by signs or by lines or other markings on the surface; (“passage protégé pour piétons”)

“pedestrian crossover” means any portion of a roadway, designated by by-law of a municipality, at an intersection or elsewhere, distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by signs on the highway and lines or other markings on the surface of the roadway as prescribed by the regulations; (“passage pour piétons”)

Yielding to pedestrians (7) When under this section a driver is permitted to proceed, the driver shall yield the right of way to pedestrians lawfully within a crosswalk. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 144 (7).

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By NoSugarAdded (registered) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 10:34:40

Keanin Loomis, incoming Hamilton Chamber CEO

Here is an interesting statement made by the new CEO of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.


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By movedtohamilton (registered) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 10:53:33

Hard to avoid hyperbole. "The City" is at war with with its own residents...those residents that want the deployment of simple effective solutions to obvious problems. At the extreme end, The City's message is "everything would be fine if it wasn't for the fact that people live here".

The City has fine-tuned a pacification programme, and it's a well-oiled machine: endless phony consultations with neighbourhoods; meaningless Mission Statements that fly in the face of reality on the ground; endless "studies" that drag on so long that their original purpose is lost; 24/7 passive-agressive behaviour guaranteed to grind down any sharp-edged ideas and momentum; fake "partnerships" with earnest groups of residents with various causes which ultimately have little real impactful results.

Even when The City does something, it's a screw-up. HWDSB's Scott Park fiasco comes to mind.

Dare step up and do something visible? (painted crosswalks; traffic cones) The City will threaten you with the police and paint you as The Enemy.

The City will out-bureaucratize and out-process the residents any day of the week.

What is to be done? Election 2014 is a potential focal-point.

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By Rational Optimist (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 12:03:48

I am ambivalent about this. On the one hand, I experienced the pilons at Locke and Herkimer, and believed that they did make a difference. I am generally of the mind that such a feature would improve a lot of intersections, and that this city has far too many intersections designed like on-ramps. Additionally, I really respect someone who perceives a problem in his or her neighbourhood, and tries a solution. I am especially in favour of the quick and inexpensive nature of the changes that these individuals made. I believe that we should in a lot of cases choose small, incremental changes, and frequent experimentation (government is for a lot of reasons not usually good at this).

On the other hand, the environment you inhabit is not only inhabited by you. Public space is used by everyone, and we collectively decide what restrictions are best to put in place. Flouting the democratic will of citizens (even if that will is expressed imperfectly) seems wrong to me, and just because I think these individuals did so for productive reasons does not mean it is an unalloyed good decision. I can imagine someone breaking the law for much more dubious reasons, all the while believing that he is doing the right thing.

We live in an imperfect democracy. The complaints about our municipal government (both what they do and how they go about doing it), I mostly agree with. So, it's pretty clear that changing our municipal government is a good thing to do. Let's do that. What's the best way to go about doing that?

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 13:10:26 in reply to Comment 88527

It would be interesting to see what would happen if we replaced traffic engineers with crowd-sourced solutions for a budget cycle.

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By Irrational Exuberant (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 12:28:47 in reply to Comment 88527

Democratic will is expressed lots of ways, one way is elections, another is engagement and activism. Residents trying to take their public space back for common use is highly democratic, after all most people in the lower city strongly support making streets safer for pedestrians, it's the suburban councillors (and their car-loving cut-through constituents) who defy local democratic will.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 12:25:46 in reply to Comment 88527

You might have a stronger case if these had been permanent changes, but I have a hard time seeing chalk, pilons, and temporary signage as 'flouting the democratic will of citizens".

It seems to me that temporary demonstrations like the above are one of many ways we can go about making the kind of changes in our local government we would all like to see.

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By Rational Optimist (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 13:28:30 in reply to Comment 88528

I have no case: I have conflicting feelings about this sort of thing, like I said. You make a very good point when you point out that these modifications (or whatever they should be called) were temporary. I do note that no one seems to be surprised that they were removed, and the general feeling seems to be that the reaction (specifically the letter) is the outrageous part, not simply the fact that city employees removed the changes.

I'm not sure what in my initial comment would cause someone to downvote, so I hope that this will be taken in the spirit in which it is intended. It is hard for me to see how these types of demonstrations will affect change, but you make a good point again in saying that there are many ways that can and should be used.

Maybe I was interpreting the principal motivation incorrectly: my initial understanding that these changes were intended to be improvements to the urban environment. I am unsure whether it is correct for individuals to take decisions unilaterally that a change be made, when others are effected. If they are primarily demonstrations of what someone thinks might be a good idea, I think that there's no better way to convince others that a change should be made than by showing them the benefits of it through a practical experiment.

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By adam (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 13:08:44

As a public servant (Note: I don't work for the City of Hamilton), I am continually frustrated by the reaction of staff to anything against the grain. This story, and the response provided by a respectful public servant made me believe that we can do better for our citizens. http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2013/04/04/guerrilla-road-safety-group-politely-installs-illegal-bike-lane-protectors-on-cherry-street/

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By wide-eyed pedestran (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 16:30:31

Davis wants to throw around the word "liability?"
I quote from this article: "city traffic engineer eventually acknowledged that the crosswalk had been designed explicitly to be as non-useful to pedestrians as possible.'
Have any pedestrians been hit and seriously injured at this particular crosswalk? Has anyone been killed trying to cross this particular crosswalk?
If it was intentionally designed this way, that whomever took part in the design is seriously LIABLE and needs to be criminally charged as such. NOW.
This cannot be the only one either...so how many other crosswalks have intentionally been designed to be as "non-useful to pedestrians as possible?"
How many pedestrians have been seriously injured or have been killed at other crosswalks intentionally designed to be as dangerous as heck for pedestrians?

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted May 09, 2013 at 20:12:58

Here's my thoughts and two cents on the Locke St. traffic cones.

  1. Having driven by them at least ten times, I kept looking for the purpose that they were put that for.
  2. Not being able to figure that out (no construction, filming, special event etc), by the last few times, i simply ignored them.
  3. As I'm sure everyone else eventually did. They served no purpose, other than to be an oddity that people soon came to over look
  4. Pushing out the concrete sidewalk in my opinion at that interesection would not achieve any noticeable or intended goal. It has crossing guards, is heavily used by pedestrians and is in a very livable and walkable neighborhood to begin with.
  5. It was a waste of time and effort unfortunately,despite good intentions.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 10, 2013 at 11:38:21 in reply to Comment 88567

this pic will help you a little:


Notice in the distance, the parking lane along the curb. Now, imagine this street before it had the bumpout with greenery. The distance to cross the street would have been much longer than it is now with bumpouts on both sides, and clearly marked crosswalks.

Locke Street has parking on both sides of the street which means it could get bumpouts at every corner. Now, crossing the street is only a 20-24 foot walk, instead of 35 feet from curb to curb. Not to mention, it's been proven that physical "pinches" like this on a road slow down traffic. Add street trees on every bumpout and suddenly Locke becomes more human-scale, safer to walk and cycle on due to slower traffic and shorter crossing distances.

Not to mention, the addition of street trees at every corner would create a wonderful canopy on a street that is currently devoid of greenery.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted May 10, 2013 at 16:48:49 in reply to Comment 88597

Sorry. The street already works. Spending tax dollars on the types of things you are detailing in this neighborhood to my mind is a waste of money that could be desperately used to better effect in other parts of the city that would benefit to a much higher degree.

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By granny2 (anonymous) | Posted May 12, 2013 at 12:18:15 in reply to Comment 88614

Works for motorists, not for pedestrians.

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By Either Or Norm (anonymous) | Posted May 11, 2013 at 00:17:59 in reply to Comment 88614

It shouldn't be an either or on if the money's spent here or there. The pylon shown proposal for Locke and Herkimer would work there and many places elsewhere. The point is that it should be the norm wherever schools and people face wide streets not needing all the lanes.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 10, 2013 at 11:39:47 in reply to Comment 88597

Not letting me edit my comment, so here's an additional group of photos that show the benefits of bumpouts:


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By Awesome! (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 21:35:18 in reply to Comment 88567

That's the spirit!

Question: Why would you bother writing this? Does it suck so bad to be you?

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By Official RTH Comment Quality Inspector (anonymous) | Posted May 10, 2013 at 15:05:31 in reply to Comment 88571

People actually up-voted this.

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By AlHuizenga (registered) | Posted May 10, 2013 at 16:23:01 in reply to Comment 88611

Apologies, that was my comment. Downvoted it myself, sheepishly. In my defense: I'd had a few, and Shempatolla's comment really, really sucks.

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By Freiburger (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 20:31:37

Pretty ridiculous. I understand that some interventions could result in potential danger - but nothing we created was anywhere near this level of threat. Our team ended our session by affixing some cardboard signs to a handle rail. They're as much "traffic signs" as the No Frills bananas billboard at the very same corner. I'm going to go mow my lawn in a concentric circle pattern now and see if that makes the news or Council minutes too. Come friends at the City - have some humour and humanity about what you do.

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted May 10, 2013 at 06:10:09 in reply to Comment 88568

An interesting tangent, since this intervention took place on what I assume was private property. (AFAIK, the city doesn't own that parking lot, and it was a commercial developer who designed the site.) How did the response differ? Did local residents and users feel it reflected what they had intended to achieve?

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By Watch Out (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2013 at 22:11:13

I hope no one is running a creative, non-conforming business in the area because I will bet there will be a blitz of bylaw, fire and health inspections stampedeing them in the near future by "coincidence".

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By TnT (registered) | Posted May 11, 2013 at 11:14:01 in reply to Comment 88572

Did you know something, or are you an oracle?

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By ptoms (anonymous) | Posted May 10, 2013 at 00:14:13

It's worth pointing out that the bumpouts at Locke & Herkimer were one part of a comprehensive scheme to redesign the outside environment around St Joseph's School (S-W corner of Locke & Herkimer). That scheme which was designed by the "Green Tux" committee over the course of 3 years has been pretty much ignored and gutted by another bureaucracy the HWCDSB. For details on those plans go to www.greentuxproject.com.
The specifics of the bumpouts being on the S-W & N-E corners is because of the existing offset of Herkimer as it crosses Locke and because of the symbiotic relationship between St Joseph's School and St Joseph's Church

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By ptoms (anonymous) | Posted May 10, 2013 at 00:25:17

Freiburger's post about the sign at Upper James and Mohawk needs a link to the pictures of those "traffic signs". See http://www.flickr.com/photos/tacticalurbanismhamilton/

They were not even close to signs. The signs were a series of 3' x 6' panels mounted to shopping carts being wheeled across the existing crosswalks to engage motorists stopped at the intersection about a vision for how Upper James and Mohawk might be re-imagined as a shared space (for vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists) that operated more as an open plaza than as a tightly controlled funneling of cars.

The intervention was using the tactic of performance art. The never was any "traffic signage".

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By dirtyWater (anonymous) | Posted May 10, 2013 at 13:06:15

Wow, guys, keep fighting th egood fight.

Your experience makes me really glad to be living in a city where others have already fought and won it.

Remember Admiral Grace Hopper's advice: sometimes it is better to seek forgiveness than permission.

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By Jeff Tessier (anonymous) | Posted May 10, 2013 at 16:54:26

Yes, I documented the Upper James & Mohawk action, and they were not in any way 'traffic signage'.

On that point, I want to ask, were the pylons at Locke & Herkimer in fact 'nailed down' as Davis claims? There are green paint marks on the street where each pylon stood, but I don't see any evidence of anything beyond that.

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By Good Question (anonymous) | Posted May 11, 2013 at 00:22:39 in reply to Comment 88616

I was wondering the same thing. I looked for holes in the pavement to suggest the pylons had be secured tonight and could find any.

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By FenceSitter (anonymous) | Posted May 11, 2013 at 08:13:21 in reply to Comment 88624

This may answer your question (first photo on Page 3).


Installed on May 1st.

I am glad it only took Traffic Operations 5 days to notice/remove these illegal, potentially unsafe and unauthorised activities!

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 11, 2013 at 09:29:19 in reply to Comment 88626

Too bad they can't remove the unsafe conditions on Cannon, Wilson, Main, King, Victoria, Wellington, Sanford, Wentworth, Catharine, Queen and Sherman in 5 days.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted May 11, 2013 at 08:54:41

You rail on and on about how your aim is to make Hamilton's streets safer. By that I assume you mean to reduce the number of vehicle collisions since pedestrians colliding usually does not result in much damage. Yet you ignore the simple fact that we already have incredibly safe streets. Of course you will not want to believe me so please check out the report at


The last paragraph of page 22 sums it up quite nicely, "On the basis of total
collisions per 1,000 population, Hamilton has very close to the lowest rate in Canada (Exhibit 2.2)." Since I have pointed this out before you are already aware of it and simply choose to ignore it so you can continue on with your crusade.

But of course we both know that is not what it is all about. You simply use safety as a smoke screen to help fuel your own pet projects, two way street conversion.

We have an incredibly safe and efficient one way road network and you want to change that for personal reasons, to make the streets over into something that you like and want. Safety be damned. You remind me very much of the Maytag commercials. They kept emphasizing how the Maytag repairman had nothing to do. In reality according to every published comparison of various appliance brands the were among the worst for needing repairs.

If you cared about safety you would want to build on what we have, a safe efficient one way road network but, alas, what you want has nothing to do with safety.

Let the downvoting begin.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 11, 2013 at 11:40:58 in reply to Comment 88628

Of the total collisions, only 7.5% involved pedestrians. So the figure you quote for total collisions only shows that Hamilton is relatively safe for motorists.

This article concerns making the streets safer, more convenient and more comfortable for pedestrians.

Hamilton has a very low rate of walking overall compared to Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver and this is largely a result of a transportation policy geared towards high speed convenient roads for motorists.

This includes narrow sidewalks (leaving more space for motorist lanes), no buffers (trees etc.), very few pedestrian crossings (often several blocks with no safe crossing point on major and minor arterials), and wide turning radii (encouraging high speed turns). The pedestrian unfriendliness of one-way streets has been documented extensively here and elsewhere.

Since improving conditions for pedestrians also lowers collisions for motorists, the City could achieve even better safety for motorists by becoming more pedestrian friendly.

Like Sweden, we should be aiming for zero collisions and injuries. Even the relatively low injury rate is unacceptable (each resident has a 1% chance of being injured each year). This means that a 65 year old has a 50% chance of having suffered an injury in a traffic accident ... not negligible at all (actually the chance is much higher because the accident rate has been dropping).

p.s. if you are upset about being downvoted you could start by using a more respectful screen name...instead of one that screams 'I am a troll'. You could also register ...

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted May 12, 2013 at 22:31:40 in reply to Comment 88634

I did not dissect the stats and maybe I should have but just having that low a collision rate speaks highly about our road network. I find it hard to believe that our collision rate is that low and conversely high for vehicle vs pedestrian accidents. Possible I guess but highly unlikely in my mind. Should we aim for a zero collision rate? Absolutely. But we will never get there. Do you have any accident data for Swedish cities? Is their rate better than ours? You may think that our collision rate is unacceptable but many thousands of people are very happy with it, including me.

I see the one way network for what it is, a safe and efficient way to move traffic through the city. That is the main goal of the roads after all. I am a big fan of bike lanes and a lesser fan of some of the other ideas floated for change. But to change our roads to two way is a giant step backwards and doing a big disservice to the citizens of the city.

Please don't get the wrong impression I really do not get upset about being downvoted in fact I find it humurous and precictable. I think it speaks volumes about the character of the people on the site.

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By AlHuizenga (registered) | Posted May 13, 2013 at 09:35:32 in reply to Comment 88676

Another antidote for down-voting: Don't start a comment with "I did not dissect the stats and maybe I should have but..." Everything after that is officially dismiss-able. Also, be less enamored of how you feel about stuff. Whether you are happy or unhappy with collision levels is completely irrelevant.

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By Infinite Spasm (anonymous) | Posted May 11, 2013 at 16:27:34

Potential paint damage?

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By granny2 (anonymous) | Posted May 12, 2013 at 11:47:29

It's offensive that we have to PAY city staff while they undo the work of concerned citizens, when they wouldn't do the necessary work in the first place.

We do own the streets and all public spaces: We entrust their care to the city on our behalf. Public works Manager Davis disrespects the people he serves.

An analogy:
I entrust my yardwork to the landscape company I hire. I tell them I need a small change made, for safety reasons. They say they don't know when they can do it. I do it myself. Would they get huffy and undo it?
Would they be so foolish as to think I'm going to PAY them for undoing my work?
I'd fire them.

Manager Davis has no authority to undo the work of concerned citizens.

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By granny2 (anonymous) | Posted May 12, 2013 at 11:57:09 in reply to Comment 88652

Just to add ... Where did Manager Davis magically find the time and OUR money to undo the work, when he couldn't find time and OUR money to do it in the first place?!?!?!!!!

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By granny2 (anonymous) | Posted May 12, 2013 at 13:06:59

RE: Public Works scandal, Jan 2013

" However, the city is refusing to release public policies about how it monitors its public works staff to ensure they’re using city time and resources effectively. Kelly Anderson, spokesperson for the department, said the staff is afraid it would jeopardize an ongoing investigation into 32 public works employees.

“I have consulted with the General Manager of Public Works (Gerry Davis) and he maintains the position that we will not be providing this information at this time,” Anderson wrote in an email. “We will provide all of this information once the investigation is completed.”

Has the public yet received the promised information on how Public works ensures that public money and public time are used effectively?
If not, now is the time to do so.
Manager Davis was asleep at the wheel when his employees were stealing public time and resources,. It's way past time for him to demonstrate how he prioritizes use of our time and money, starting with justifying the UNDO of citizens' good work.

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By granny2 (anonymous) | Posted May 12, 2013 at 13:12:55 in reply to Comment 88658

Oops ... link


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By movedtohamilton (registered) | Posted May 12, 2013 at 14:32:01

I propose that Tactical Urbanism be changed to Practical Urbanism.

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By movedtohamilton (registered) | Posted May 12, 2013 at 15:07:53

A story we'd like to see:

"In an abrupt about-face, PW GM Davis confesses he was completely wrong about TU, and announces that paint and brushes are now available for free at the Works Yards. "Our crosswalks need your help, folks.""

A story we can imagine seeing:

"In response to the terrifying spread of TU, Mayor Bratina orders all residents into quarantine in fallout shelters, unused since the 1960s."


"In response to news that residents are liking the idea of TU, The City announces the sale of T-shirts with the slogan: "Hamilton doesn't need your help. Piss off.""

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By textbook (anonymous) | Posted May 14, 2013 at 10:41:40

Here's a thought...what about trying to go through this in the proper way? You can't deny that screwing pylons down on the road is illegal. Like it or not, City staff have mandates and follow best practices and guidelines set out my local, provincial, national, and international organizations. I'm not saying that they're always the best solution, but they are at least based on factual information, and typically extensive research.
As an engineering (in a non-traffic related field), I understand the constraints the City is under. So why not try and come to joint decisions...rather than just putting down the entire staff and going 'rogue'. Could you imagine if everyone did that about all aspects of life - health, education, etc...

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By movedtohamilton (registered) | Posted May 19, 2013 at 10:58:15

There's some hope of dialogue, apparently. This was posted on CBC Hamilton's site this morning.


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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted May 19, 2013 at 14:23:34 in reply to Comment 88817

Oops, TUs I meant (no edit option?)

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted May 19, 2013 at 14:19:44 in reply to Comment 88817

Dialogue is always positive. Hopefully it goes somewhere.

Got a kick out of the headline though: "Negotiate" Are the TAs terrorists? :-)

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