Walkability Fail

Main-Dundurn, Aberdeen-Dundurn, Aberdeen-Queen: A Trifecta of Fail

By Graham McNally
Published March 22, 2010

Main and Dundurn

The right turn from Main St. W. to Dundurn Ave. is great - no light to stop traffic for pedestrians, and a tiny little traffic island if you don't make it across main before the light changes.

When the bus lets a bunch of people out, there is a great moment where there are 10+ people crammed onto this thing.

Aberdeen and Dundurn

Planner: I know - we'll make the lights at this intersection unlike any other in the world!

This is a category unto itself - a category of intersections where the good people in the traffic department of the city had a bit too much fun with their ability to set up the traffic lights.

Nearly all four directions of traffic at this intersection have their own green lights. Actually, I think there are three - eastbound, westbound, and then north and south get the short end of the stick and are forced to go through the intersection at the same time.

The effect is that people stand on the corner waiting for three cycles of lights to cross. Cars that don't know the intersection and can't decipher the signs about which light is green when end up confused - "Opposite traffic moves separately?" - I should hope traffic remains separated!

Aberdeen and Queen

I think this one should be called 'Ole Faithful' since it is basically a "fill in the blank" fail. It's clearly more important that cars be able to get up the mountain or from Queen St. to Aberdeen Ave. (and out of the city) than that people be able to cross.

While traffic has an advance green to turn left after coming down the mountain, there is a green light for right-hand turners. Cars do not slow down as they make this turn.

Then there is a merge lane to go from southbound on Queen right to Aberdeen. Again, no lights for pedestrians, so good luck there, too!

Drive-Thru Fail

And while we're on a fail tangent, check out this drive-thru fail: two Tim Horton's literally within a stone's throw of each other, each with a drive-thru.

You'll note that the next building over is a Harvey's/Swiss Chalet - and of course, it has a drive-thru and the parking lots connect.

Why get out and walk when you can drive? If the road is too busy, don't worry - we've also connected the parking lots just to make sure that you won't have to get out of your car.

Graham is a partner in the firm, Toms + McNally Design. In addition to his firm's work, he has a particular interest in Hamilton's urban design and issues.


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By Locke and King (anonymous) | Posted March 22, 2010 at 15:28:57

Hey even crossing Main from the corner at Taco Bell to the south East corner (not the corner with the wedge) is brutal. People turning left from Dundurn on to Main always have to sneak through on the turn signal even after it has changed, leaving pedestrians with a very short window to cross the street before the "don't walk" sign starts flashing. And even if you're already midway across the street it is not uncommon for someone wanting to turn to be impatient (that is as polite as I could say it).

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By Street Scents (anonymous) | Posted March 22, 2010 at 15:30:09

Big meeting on this slice of town tonight! Dundurn Street: from National Historic Site to World Biosphere Reserve (from York Boulevard to Aberdeen Avenue) will be held at 7pm at St. Joseph’s Church Parish Hall (at Locke & Herkimer). The all-star cast of speakers includes Councillor Brian McHattie, City of Hamilton urban designer Khaldoon Ahmad, David Cumming of heritage and urban design, planning's Al Fletcher, Daryl Bender from City of Hamilton Alternative Transportation and Innovation Park CEO Zach Douglas.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 22, 2010 at 15:54:21

Dundurn at King and at Main are two of the most horrendous intersections anywhere. All of these streets where pedestrians aren't allowed to cross on the 'right' are embarrassing. I see people get hit by cars all the time at Locke and King crossing the sidewalk while walking east on King. Thankfully I've never seen anyone seriously hurt, not that anything would be done about it had someone been badly hurt or killed.

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By matthewsweet (registered) | Posted March 22, 2010 at 16:22:06

With respect to the author: Three phase signals like the set at Aberdeen and Dundurn are a well known if rarely used intersection treatment. There's another one on Garth between Mohawk and the Linc. I don't see any huge problem with them, except that the intersection can take a bit longer for a pedestrian to get across.

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By alrathbone (registered) | Posted March 22, 2010 at 18:12:04

Experienced Main and Dundurn today with other people coming off my bus. That damned island can barely fit one person.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted March 22, 2010 at 20:45:31

I don't see any huge problem with them, except that the intersection can take a bit longer for a pedestrian to get across.

That's precisely the point. This is a walkability fail article.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted March 22, 2010 at 21:01:46

King and Dundurn in my favourite pedestrian fustercluck. Walking from Westdale to Fortino's at Dundurn Plaza - a short if unpleasant walk over the bridge - means going East across Dundurn, South across Main, then West back across Dundurn, followed by a walk through a parking lot. Charming. Encouraging.

Biking is just as bad - the only legal way to get from the bike lanes on King is to switch to pedestrian mode and do the same thing. Or dart across the five (or is it six?) lanes of traffic.

Comment edited by moylek on 2010-03-22 20:02:19

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By zookeeper (registered) | Posted March 22, 2010 at 21:07:07

That's precisely the point.

Also, it's not just a bit longer. It's a lot longer - three times as long in fact. Pedestrians should never in a city be that inconvenienced just to make things a bit easier for drivers.

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By kevin (registered) | Posted March 22, 2010 at 21:23:41

It seems like extreme j-walking is a government sanctioned event along King and Main. However, even if you're following the lights and rules, there are so many cars flying around these intersections, pedestrains are still risking their lives. No wonder people drive. You may have an accident, but you won't be killed. It's ridiculous.

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By TheAuthor (anonymous) | Posted March 23, 2010 at 09:09:22

@transitstudent - You're right - 3 phase lights are standard practice. In this case, however, it seems clear that their use prioritizes cars to the detriment of the neighbourhood. This is a straightforward intersection - a four lane road meeting a two lane road. A three phase light helps cars get around, but does little for people wanting to walk anywhere. And I think that's the wrong approach to creating a healthy neighbourhood (and by healthy, I mean vibrant, with stores on the streets that people want to walk to.)

With the addition of bike lanes to Dundurn, many businesses were decrying the lost parking spaces. I think that by improving walkability along that street, people would go to these businesses and not need parking (ie walk) - but currently, its just not a walk that feels safe and convenient.

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By Lane Turner (anonymous) | Posted March 23, 2010 at 10:10:00

The trouble runs from Macklin to Dundurn as well. Both Main/Dundurn and King/Dundurn are 150 meters from a pair of 400 series onramps (what's the term for a half-cloverleaf?). Cars close that distance in no time flat, and at Main/Dundurn, they're not just merging with traffic but often trying to cross lanes. Pedestrians need adequate safety measures but like Aberdeen/Longwood, I suspect that vehicles will always have the upper hand.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 20, 2010 at 11:03:51

@Lane Turner

Notice they _did_ put a pedestrian crossing on Longwood between Aberdeen and King... to connect the Mac Innovation Centre to its parking lot. Apparently pedestrian crossings are good for motorists, but not pedestrians. WTF?

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