Special Report: Walkable Streets

Whitehead Withdraws Divisive Motion, Introduces Different Divisive Motion

An otherwise sensible motion to look at adding sidewalks to suburban streets without them turns into yet another attack against the lower city.

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 13, 2016

Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead's cute war against the lower city continued last week with an obnoxious notice of motion to look at closing the Beckett Drive and James Mountain Road accesses. The text of the motion mocked what Whitehead called an "aggressive urbanist movement" pushing for road safety improvements - he put the word "safety" in scare quotes - and equated traffic calming with "creat[ing] a higher levels [sic] of congestion".

The motion drew a sharp rebuke from the Kirkendall Neighbourhood Association, which decried its "divisive language", "sarcastic" tone and misleading reference to the Aberdeen traffic-calming motion that Council approved late last year.

Whitehead's motion also provoked a letter from Dr. David. A. Higgins, President of St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, to express concern. (Text of the letter is at the bottom of this article.)

The letter notes that the two accesses in question provide direct vehicular access to St. Joseph's, including access for emergency vehicles and time-sensitive patient and blood product transfers, and that the hospital would like an opportunity to provide input to any study into changing the traffic flow on the accesses.

Whitehead was going to introduce the motion at the May 11, 2016 City Council meeting but at the meeting he agreed to withdraw it and remove the "provocative language".

Honestly, the motion was so odious that I would have been surprised if he could have found anyone to second the thing.

Small victory for common sense over obnoxious anti-urbanism, but this is Councillor Whitehead we're talking about.

Notice of Motion to "Urbanize" Mountain Cross-Streets

After withdrawing his "aggressive urbanist" motion, he introduced a notice of motion to look at adding sidewalks on mountain streets within the urban boundary that lack them.

So far so good, and any reasonable person from any part of the city would support a motion to make a given street more walkable no matter where it is.

But as I wrote, this is Councillor Whitehead we're talking about, and even when he is doing the right thing he finds a way to do it wrong.

After playing lip service to the "urbanist approach to planning safer streets in our communities" that "has gained support amongst City of Hamilton Councillors, staff and citizens alike," Whitehead couldn't resist turning this into a zero-sum, us-vs-them battle.

One of the clauses states: "WHEREAS, the city has a responsibility to prioritize fundamental safety in neighbourhoods over enhancements in other areas that are already adequately urbanized".

Yes, Whitehead is using the lack of sidewalks on some mountain streets as a wedge to oppose safety improvements in the part of the city that he does not represent but loves to control.

He turned what could have been a mature acceptance of the universal value of safe, inclusive streets for everyone into yet another divisive, anti-urban attack against the lower city.

And I can't read his expression, "already adequately urbanized" without hearing Craig Burley's brilliantly cynical Hamilton slogan: "Good enough for the likes of you."

Text of Whitehead's Notice of Motion

Following is the text of Whitehead's notice of motion:

Urbanization of Rural Cross-Section Roads

WHEREAS, there are rudimentary safety issues on the road network within the urban boundary;

WHEREAS, an urbanist approach to planning safer streets in our communities has gained support amongst City of Hamilton Councillors, staff and citizens alike;

WHEREAS, there has been a great deal of community engagement and encouragement regarding initiatives that push for many enhancements in the name of safety in our streets;

WHEREAS, there are many neighbourhoods that have rural cross-section roads with no sidewalks within the urban boundary;

WHEREAS, residents are trying to walk to their churches and schools in these neighbourhoods safely;

WHEREAS, the city has a responsibility to prioritize fundamental safety in neighbourhoods over enhancements in other areas that are already adequately urbanized;

WHEREAS, crossing guards are not assigned in neighbourhoods that have no sidewalks;


(a) That staff be directed to report to the Public Works Committee with a Capital Plan to urbanize rural cross-section roads in the next 5 years; and,

(b) That staff develop a strategy for ensuring safety in neighbourhoods not yet urbanized.

Text of St. Joseph's Letter

Following is the text of the letter from Dr. David A. Higgins:

May 10, 2016

To Whom It May Concern:


It has come to our attention that there will be a proposal that will be brought before Council proposing a traffic study be done of several West Mountain roads and accesses. Specifically, we understand that thls includes investigating the feasibility of making the West 5 or Queen Street one way during rush hour or closing one of them altogether.

An excerpt of the motion to be brought to city council as it relates to the West 5th access includes the following: "That staff be directed to provide recommendations in that report to address the increased traffic loads, including a feasibility study on reverse lane control with 2 lanes down-bound in the morning rush hour and 2 lanes up-bound in the evening rush hour on both the Queen Street Hill and West 5th and/or shutting one or both accesses down.".

We are writing to confirm whether or not is correct and what the impetus is for this investigation. We would hope that any studies that take place will require the direct input from St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton and we would like to know what the process will be to gain this input.

These main access roads provide direct vehicular flow to our emergency department, provide access for emergency first responders including fire, EMS and Hamilton Police Services as well as patient, and blood product transfer between our facilities which are required within specific timeframes.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.


Dr. David A. Higgins, M.B., B.Sc., M.R.C.P.I., F.R.C.P.C., Dip. A.B.S.M

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 Suburbanite (anonymous) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 14:02:10

He might want to look on that shelf that holds all the old consultant's reports completed in the past which haven't been implemented. In 2008 a very detailed analysis of the roads within the urban boundary was conducted by Stantec along with a priority list given to Council. It just hasn't been followed. http://www2.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/E9DE4C21-4249-4C10-B9F2-9732D32AA9BD/0/rpt_urban_20080609.pdf

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By Suburbanite (anonymous) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 14:04:44 in reply to Comment 118541

or try this link which has the Staff Report: http://www2.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/E4D3E88E-D52F-4FE5-B779-CA68A78EDB0D/0/Nov17PW08120.pdf

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By grahamcrawford (anonymous) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 14:02:52

Thanks Ryan. Yesterday, when it was pointed out to Councillor Whitehead that a recently completed development called Eden Park was built with sidewalks on only one side of the street, the good Councillor asked where Eden Park was located. He was told it was at Garth and Rymal Road in his very own Ward 8.

When asked if he supported allowing developers to not build sidewalks, while at the same time asking taxpayers to pay to put them in afterwards, he claimed the problem was with the Official Plan that permits such practices by developers for new developments.

Somehow, the Councillor didn't see the inconsistency between approving the practice in new developments in his own Ward and his most recent creative writing exercise aka a formal motion.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 14:11:42

He turned could -> He turned what could

I hope Councillor Whitehead is feeling a little embarrassed for wasting the time of the President of Saint Joseph's Health Care who was understandably worried about the implications of this ridiculous politically motivated motion.

It would indeed be pretty embarrassing for Councillor Whitehead to have to explain to a concerned hospital president that the "the impetus is for this investigation" is the desire to get back at those residents of Ward 1 who had the audacity to suggest a complete streets review of Aberdeen Avenue. A street not even in the ward he represents.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 13, 2016 at 16:44:55

I'm betting that lower city councillors will chastise him for his absurd language (again) but will support a movement to finish out building sidewalks throughout the urban boundary, reminding us of who is thinking of the city as a whole and who is being parochial.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 17:30:13

if only Ward 8 could keep the same councillor in office for say..... 13 years. Imagine the legacy someone could leave behind in 13 years of committed leadership and planning.

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted May 14, 2016 at 05:16:03 in reply to Comment 118553

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 jason (registered) | Posted May 14, 2016 at 07:39:16 in reply to Comment 118558

evidently, getting anything done isn't one of them. 13 years and counting......

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted May 13, 2016 at 21:38:57 in reply to Comment 118553

... and imagine if the politician had, oh, I don't know ... maybe $1.5 million in a year in discretionary infrastructure funding ...

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By mountain66 (registered) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 21:49:29 in reply to Comment 118554

He could build a bocce court.

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By stone (registered) | Posted May 14, 2016 at 00:57:52

With all the comments I'm reading about the situation on here and Twitter I'm really getting the feeling that some of Council wants to know why their wards are not getting a piece of the billion dollars. I knew it was Terry but it seems to be most of them. Do they not remember the RHVP and how much it cost and how little use it provides for the downtown?

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted May 15, 2016 at 18:47:57 in reply to Comment 118557

The RHVP has done a lot for downtown. It's moved the tractor trailers out of using King and Main to cut through the city for deliveries. That alone makes the streets safer.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 18, 2016 at 08:37:16 in reply to Comment 118570

Unfortunately, there are still lots of tractor trailers travelling on Main, King and Cannon. And they are clearly not making local deliveries!

I agree that the hope was that the RHVP would reduce or eliminate cut-through heavy truck traffic through downtown, but I have not seen any evidence of a significant change. Cannon street in particular is still full of heavy trucks, and they are common on Main St.

Of course, one way to guarantee a change would be to eliminate the "truck route" designation for these streets so only the shortest route between pickup/deliveries and a designated truck route would be allowed (not cut-through traffic), but the City has refused to consider that.


In Hamilton almost every arterial street is a designated truck route.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2016-05-18 08:38:37

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 15, 2016 at 20:16:58 in reply to Comment 118570

haha....good one

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted May 17, 2016 at 20:33:38 in reply to Comment 118572

Well, we could get rid of it and have them ripping through the core again. Yep, infinitely safer.

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By Rand McNally (anonymous) | Posted May 18, 2016 at 08:10:44 in reply to Comment 118678

Sure you live here?

They still do.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 14, 2016 at 06:24:32 in reply to Comment 118557

They've also strangely forgotten the $300 million going for GO train extension to Stoney Creek which was part of the funding announcement last year.

AND the construction of the Linc and many highway interchanges new highways and widenings at a cost of hundreds of millions. For some reason many people treat investment in roads as a right and investment in transit as a luxury.

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By fun (anonymous) | Posted May 15, 2016 at 13:19:31

but it is fun to see all you people going at each other like Joey was at all them at raisetheryan.com Go GET EM JOEY!! Also I hope whitehead that he doesn't stop bothering all you, like his motions they are not going to pass anyway.

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