Special Report: Walkable Streets

City Bolsters Crosswalks at Multiple Locations

The City has undertaken crosswalk improvements at several locations around Hamilton, suggesting a new commitment to maintaining and improving walkable infrastructure.

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 07, 2013

Here's a roundup of some work city crews did this week on bolstering crosswalks at several locations around Hamilton.

Knockdown Sticks at Herkimer and Locke

The City recently painted bumpouts and zebra crossings at the corner of Herkimer and Locke. According to Kelly Anderson, spokesperson for the Public Works department, the next step is to install "knockdown sticks", or flexible bollards, along the bumpout lines.

[Knockdown sticks] are retro reflective silver on a white stick and are about three feet high. They can be knocked down by a vehicle or by hand and will stand back up by themselves.

The total cost to paint the crossings and bumpouts and install the knockdown sticks is approximately $6,000. If the City determines that this is a successful strategy to make intersections safer and more accommodating for pedestrians, this is a very affordable method to apply to other intersections.

It should be noted that the City already has painted bumpouts marked by bollards in on Sterling Street Westdale. The following photo is from the City's Cycling web page.

Painted bumpouts with bollards on Sterling Street (Image Credit: City of Hamilton)
Painted bumpouts with bollards on Sterling Street (Image Credit: City of Hamilton)

This raises the question: how many more times does the City need to pilot bumpouts and bollards before determining that this is a good policy to adopt more widely?

Block Crosswalk at Sterling and Forsyth

Also in Westdale, the City is "experimenting" with a block crosswalk at Sterling Street and Forsyth Avenue North, just outside the Sterling Street entrance to McMaster University.

In partnership with McMaster, the City has painted zebra crossings at the intersection to make the crosswalk more visible to pedestrians, drivers and cyclists alike. The City was gracious enough to take a photo of the intersection and send it to us.

Zebra crossings at Sterling and Forsyth (Image Credit: City of Hamilton)
Zebra crossings at Sterling and Forsyth (Image Credit: City of Hamilton)

The work on that intersection was completed earlier this week. It would be great to see zebra stripes applied to crosswalks more generally.

Cumberland Crosswalks Repainted

Also this week, Public Works re-painted several crosswalks on Cumberland Avenue in the Hamilton's St. Clair neighbourhood. According to Anderson, the lines were re-painted as part of the City's annual maintenance program.

Newly painted crosswalks at Cumberland and Norway (Image Credit: Jason Leach)
Newly painted crosswalks at Cumberland and Norway (Image Credit: Jason Leach)

Newly painted crosswalks at Cumberland and Prospect (Image Credit: Jason Leach)
Newly painted crosswalks at Cumberland and Prospect (Image Credit: Jason Leach)

Not all the crosswalks have been repainted, however. The crosswalk at Cumberland and Sherman is still faded.

Faded crosswalk markings at Cumberland and Sherman (Image Credit: Jason Leach)
Faded crosswalk markings at Cumberland and Sherman (Image Credit: Jason Leach)

City Changing Stance on Ghost Crosswalks?

It is not yet entirely clear whether the Traffic Department has rethought the stance, held since at least 2002, that an intersection without a signalized pedestrian crosswalk provides no protection to pedestrians under the Highway Traffic Act and should therefore be discouraged.

As a result of this policy, the department has allowed painted crosswalks at unsignalized intersections across the City to fade into 'ghost crosswalks' that make it unclear to pedestrians and motorists alike whether pedestrians have the right of way.

However, the Act clearly defines a "crosswalk" as any intersection of two streets, regardless of whether it is marked, stop-signed or signalized or even has curbs. It also defines a "crosswalk" as a portion of a roadway marked as a pedestrian crossing "by signs or by lines or other markings on the surface".

For this reason, it is particularly interesting to note that the City has also repainted the crosswalks at Maplewood and Maplewood, where there is not a stop sign.

Painted crosswalks with yellow crosswalk sign at Springer and Maplewood (Image Credit: Jason Leach)
Painted crosswalks with yellow crosswalk sign at Springer and Maplewood (Image Credit: Jason Leach)

According to the Traffic department's previous policy on crosswalks, they would have refused to repaint it since there are neither stop signs nor signals to control the intersection.

with files from Jason Leach

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 mrgrande (registered) | Posted June 07, 2013 at 14:44:37

Is there someone new in charge of the traffic department? None of this is huge, but they're all positive signs that things are starting to move in the right direction at City Hall.

Edit: Also, Ryan, I'm really liking the new design!

Comment edited by mrgrande on 2013-06-07 14:45:05

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By feathers 51 (anonymous) | Posted June 07, 2013 at 17:32:08 in reply to Comment 89396

Hamilton is great city to raise a family. Safe pedestrian cross walks are key to ensuring our children make it to adult hood. Whatever steps are taken to improve safety are valuable.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 07, 2013 at 14:57:12

Great stuff. The little things matter, especially in regards to walkability and safe cycling. We've said this for year: these modes of transportation can be bolstered and improved for very little money. I think we need to continue to work with city hall and see the zebra crossings become the standard across the city. Many cities use these extensively. They are so much bolder and more visible.

And yes, for $6,000 to create painted bumpouts and safer crossings, I'd love to see that approach taken all the way down Locke, James, Cannon, King, Main etc..... Eventually we can start converting some into proper bumpouts with trees and pavement, but at least get the framework in place. NYC has become famous for using 'pilot projects' all over the place as a low-cost means of increasing urban safety.


Comment edited by jason on 2013-06-07 14:57:33

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted June 07, 2013 at 17:22:34

One exception to the City's position is crosswalks with school crossing guards. In this case they do permit painted lines and signs (without a stop sign or traffic light), but presumably this is because crossing guards carry their own little stop signs and so these are considered to be de facto signalized crosswalks, at least when the crossing guard is there.

I suspect this is the case for the last photo, which is signed for a school crosswalk, not a general pedestrian crosswalk.

Maybe we should just equip intersections with crossing guard stop signs, that pedestrians can use themselves when they want to cross the street! There could be sign holders on each side of the street...

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2013-06-07 17:23:15

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By rednic (registered) | Posted June 08, 2013 at 07:54:32 in reply to Comment 89399

problem is the stop sign will always be on the on the wrong side of the street.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted June 07, 2013 at 17:28:14

Following up on my previous post, this is City policy, as described on a FAQ from the website several years ago:

"7. How do I get a crosswalk painted on a street?

The Highway Traffic Act provides no protection for pedestrians crossing without signal or stop sign protection. Painting lines at locations other than at signals and stop signs, except under very special controlled circumstances, is to be discouraged as it may actually mislead the pedestrian into thinking they have some right of way over traffic. The City currently paints intersections controlled by a traffic signal, a limited number of stop controlled locations, intersections in designated school areas, and locations controlled by an adult crossing guard."

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By Kevin Love (anonymous) | Posted June 07, 2013 at 23:01:25 in reply to Comment 89400

That is simply not true. The Highway Traffic Act gives right of way to a pedestrian at all pedestrian crossovers, whether or not there is a traffic light or a stop sign. Read for yourself Section 140 of The Highway Traffic Act:

Pedestrian crossover, duties of driver
140. (1) Subject to subsection (2), when a pedestrian or a person in a wheelchair crossing a roadway within a pedestrian crossover,
(a) is upon the half of the roadway upon which a vehicle or street car is travelling; or
(b) is upon half of the roadway and is approaching the other half of the roadway on which a vehicle or street car is approaching so closely to the pedestrian crossover as to endanger him or her,
the driver of the vehicle or street car shall yield the right of way to the pedestrian or a person in a wheelchair by slowing down or stopping if necessary. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 140 (1).
Where vehicle stopped at pedestrian crossover
(2) When a vehicle or street car is stopped at a pedestrian crossover, the driver of any other vehicle or street car overtaking the stopped vehicle or street car shall bring the vehicle or street car to a full stop before entering the crossover and shall yield the right of way to a pedestrian or a person in a wheelchair,
(a) who is within the crossover upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle or street car is stopped; or
(b) who is within the crossover and is approaching the half of the roadway from the other half of the roadway so closely to the vehicle or street car that he or she is in danger if the vehicle or street car were to proceed. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 140



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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted June 08, 2013 at 12:19:21 in reply to Comment 89410

And the same act defines a crosswalk as follows:

“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”)

The duty of drivers to yield at a crosswalk are also set out clearly:

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).

Reference: http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statute... ('Interpretations, General Definitions').

I don't know how this could be any clearer, but apparently most people in Ontario are ignorant of this law!

The law is essentially the same in Ontario as in BC, but somehow it has become conventional for both motorists and police officers to ignore the duty of a driver to yield to a pedestrian crossing at any intersection. Most pedestrians also do not know what their rights are.

It would be interesting to know why the actual enforcement and driver behaviour has diverged so much between BC and Ontario, despite similar laws. I would guess the vast majority of drivers, and most police officers, don't even know that drivers must yield to crossing pedestrians. The courts also share much of the blame, since they have set the bar so high for conviction for motorists running down pedestrians in crosswalks.

Of course, there are many case of laws not being enforced, or interpreted very leniently, but this is such a basic and common case with terrible consequences that it really is surprising.

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By ottawabound (anonymous) | Posted June 27, 2013 at 12:05:27 in reply to Comment 89420

(7) Yielding to pedestrians is under Section 144: Traffic control signals and pedestrian control signals. This only applies where there are traffic control signals. The only pedestrian crossings in the regulations are for school crossings (with a guard) and pedestrian crossovers (and signalized walking ppl) See http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/regs/english/elaws_regs_900615_e.htm

The province is working on updating the rules and adding a new PXO sign that could be used for mid-block crossings etc but it's been taking a while. See the proposed Ontario Traffic Manual 15 update.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 08, 2013 at 21:18:12 in reply to Comment 89420

Wow...I've lived here my whole life and had no clue we had this law. I've always been jealous of places like Portland and Vancouver who yield to pedestrians. Turns out we have the same laws, but totally different levels of respect for pedestrians. Time to change that.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 07, 2013 at 17:32:05

This could be the case, but today I snapped pics at maplewood and Blake and Maplewood and Springer (shown above). Both had the signs and lines with no stop-signs. I would like Ontario to enact the crosswalk law like other provinces and states have where cars must stop when someone is in the crosswalk.

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By Charlie Mattina (anonymous) | Posted June 07, 2013 at 20:07:56

In The Beasley Neighbourhood Surrounded by contaminated properties, abandon buildings ,empty lots, and one way streets, green space comes with a premium. The BNA ,as part of the neighbourhood plan, will be a under taking a Green alley project, the pilot will the notorious" Listerine Alley". http://www.thespec.com/news/article/7606--facing-the-day-in-listerineland.
The project will create a green corridor from Beasley Park to the Mary street pedestrian Bridge.And yes this will include the great Food Basics heat desert.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted June 09, 2013 at 00:04:16 in reply to Comment 89406

This is the kind of case which makes me wish that we applied what Norway does in their penal system to rehabilitate people with these kinds of addictions and drug related offenses. Short locked prison stays followed by prison farm/house building/restoration work and education that lets them reintegrate into society and lets the work and get money for their life after prison.

Of course, I don't like how it applies to felons like murders and rapists, but that's another debate.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-06-09 00:04:59

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 07, 2013 at 20:57:13 in reply to Comment 89406

fantastic stuff! I look forward to hearing more about this alley greenway you are planning. Very good idea.

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By charlie Mattina (anonymous) | Posted June 07, 2013 at 20:42:46

oops the above statement should have went to the Following "Neighbourhood Greenways for Hamilton"

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted June 08, 2013 at 08:37:06

This is fantastic, not only does it make it safer for all pedestrians, it also improves accessibility for travellers with developmental disabilities or visual impairment. Score one for universal design!

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2013 at 12:08:23

The car’s status is so established that many question those who get in its way.

But after a century-long reign by the automobile, Chicago has overthrown its primacy.

The city, whose history and size often leads to comparisons with Toronto, unveiled a new policy this year which says explicitly that pedestrians are most important. Their needs are to be given default priority in the planning, building and maintenance of the city’s streetscape. The formal hierarchy puts transit second and bicycles third. Motor vehicles come last.

In Toronto – where huge transit plans threaten to overshadow simpler solutions for moving people, the mayor trumpets a pro-car line, and pedestrian collisions have been largely consistent for years – walking advocates and city staff are watching Chicago’s example keenly.

Prioritizing pedestrians is an innovative idea based on a simple reality: Nearly all residents walk.

“We’re committing to put the pedestrian first,” explains Gabe Klein, Chicago’s commissioner of transportation. “And that’s not just any pedestrian. That’s children, the elderly and disabled people. You design for them, it’ll inherently be safe for the rest of us.”


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By jimh (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2013 at 22:24:41

This new rth design doesn't. Fit on mobiles. Can't see scroll over to the blog entries.

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By Tingle (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2013 at 23:58:19

I'm starting to be Hopeful again. I hope it doesn't hurt this time.

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