Traffic Assumptions Premature

By Ryan McGreal
Published October 27, 2008

Today the Spectator published a letter to the editor that I wrote last week just after a pedestrian was killed at the corner of Main St. and James St.

At the time, it looked as through the pedestrian stepped out in front of traffic, and I was appalled at all the people saying things like, "Well, she should have been more careful."

I wrote the letter in response to this tendency to blame the pedestrian for her own irresponsibility by arguing that the practice of assigning blame draws attention away from the larger issue that high-speed traffic kills many more pedestrians than low-speed traffic.

That analysis turns out to have been somewhat premature. Now it appears that the vehicle was turning right from James onto Main, and the police might lay charges.

It appears we 'jumped the gun' on interpreting a tragic incident in the context of Hamilton's system of downtown expressways. I think the broad point about high speed thoroughfares still stands, but may not be as applicable to this incident as I had assumed.

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 seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 27, 2008 at 15:43:43

I think that the analysis is still valid - these physics should be at the forefront of our minds when we consider road design.

And the speedy one-way arteries encourages bad habits on side streets as well. Turning on to main often results in people looking only one way before jumping into the fray, and encourages it all to happen at much higher speeds so that the turning vehicle can match the Main st traffic flow more quickly.

It all amounts to a recipe for disaster.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 27, 2008 at 15:47:03

I've seen a ton of people get hit by drivers turning onto one-way streets and only looking one way, not to mention the high speed turns that are possible and normal when people roar into whichever of 5 lanes they deem acceptable instead of slowly making a normal turn.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2008 at 09:19:56


Shame on you for exploiting this tragedy to further your agenda.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 28, 2008 at 09:37:53

haha...that's rich coming from capitalist.

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By Hamiltonist (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2008 at 09:56:54


Shame on you for trying to cheapen an important debate with false accusations of interest- especially when the RTH folks are a hell of a lot more honest about admitting error than you have been in your anonymous comments here.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 28, 2008 at 12:13:06

Oh the underhanded, dark, seedy agenda of "road safety" rears its ugly head yet again. When will safety proponents realize that the only true way of life is lighting-fast danger?

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By Jer (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2008 at 17:01:52

Our municipal government wants you to break the speed limit. The traffic lights on Main and King throughout downtown are synchronized perfectly so that you have to drive 60 km/h in order to avoid getting a red light. There would be fewer high-speed drivers downtown if this was fixed, but the city doesn't care.

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