Walkability Fail

City Seeks Input on Walkability Issues

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 09, 2011

The City of Hamilton has launched a Pedestrian Master Plan process that will, when completed, compile and finalize "pedestrian safety, policies, design guidelines, standards, programs, and list of capital improvement projects including an implementation schedule with costs and anticipated funding needs."

Whether this Pedestrian Master Plan will produce a real, tangible shift in the City's transportation priorities away from traffic-flow-at-all-costs remains to be seen. Until now, real walkability in Hamilton has taken a back seat to what we must call driveability.

In the meantime, staff have produced an interactive map in which residents can identify and describe pedestrian problem areas and opportunities for improvement:

The text pane on the left side of the map explains how to log in and help complete the picture. If you need inspiration, RTH has been compiling walkability failures over the past year.

If you're not sold on the relationship between walkability and livability - and the corrosive role of heavy automobile traffic in making streets livable - be sure to watch this introduction to Donald Appleyard's Liveable Streets research, produced by the always-impressive Streetfilms:

(h/t to Metrohamilton for finding the video)

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 Brian Berneker (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2011 at 11:08:19

As someone recently injured and requiring crutches, I have become very aware of accessibility issues in general. Though it's easy to overlook when well, many very common and necessary activities have next to zero accessibility for people with special needs.

While road-accessible areas are a bit less of a nuisance for such people wanting to get around, walking only areas deserve extra consideration. Walking on crutches and other means of self-transport can be difficult and/or tiresome in cramped spaces or those without rest areas or other accessibility features.

Such matters are of concern not only to "handicapped" individuals, but also to those who are otherwise able-bodied, but may be elderly or have other health issues making it difficult to traverse large areas such as those proposed.

With an ambitious project like a walking-only area downtown, it is critical that accessibility measures be put into place.

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By thrillhouse (registered) | Posted March 09, 2011 at 12:24:27 in reply to Comment 60823

Coming from a city in Canada that gets large amounts of snow, I was shocked at how poor snow removal is on Hamilton sidewalks, and realized how badly disabled people get screwed over because of it -- and not just for a day, but for weeks at a time.

Case in point: the sidewalk on the north side of King, east of Queen, was covered in snow for weeks. It was hard even for me to walk down, but would be impossible for anyone with less mobility. Yet snow remained there until it melted.

To their credit, the HSR ensured that snow was removed around their bus stops. But they /only/ removed it around their bus stops: people with less mobility could therefore get off the bus there, and... um... wait for the next bus. They certainly couldn't travel east or west on the sidewalk.

Comment edited by thrillhouse on 2011-03-09 12:28:09

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By JonC (registered) | Posted March 09, 2011 at 12:42:04 in reply to Comment 60832

I used to live in Timmins, where a portion of the property tax goes to snow removal. In Hamilton it's the property owner's responsibility, with the city taking a pretty laid back approach to enforcing it. They could really have someone drive around two days after every significant snowfall and issue warnings and if not followed up on, they get plowed at significant cost to the owner.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 09, 2011 at 13:06:52 in reply to Comment 60835

Skip the warnings. 2 days of snow in front of your house is enough warning.

Drive around and flag houses for enforcement. Bill high enough to pay for the cost of the enforcement.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted March 09, 2011 at 11:15:04 in reply to Comment 60823

Also people with strollers, they're a bit more manuverable then wheelchairs but still hard to get around inaccessible places, it's always extra frustrating in winter when people don't shovel there snow...I hate to think how much worse it is for someone with real mobility issues.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted March 09, 2011 at 11:26:12 in reply to Comment 60826

Strollers on buses is getting to be a serious pain. It's not uncommon to have 4 or 5 of them crowded around the front of a Barton bus at rush hour. Throw in the scooters and wheelchairs and you're really gonna get some problems.

The most insane thing I ever saw was 6 or 7 strollers on an articulated King bus on a Sunday. They were all giant SUV strollers, of course and at least a few of the kids looked old enough to walk.

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By longshanks (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2011 at 11:34:09 in reply to Comment 60828

"Old enough to walk" doesn't mean "old enough to walk as far as we need to go". /tiredparent

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 09, 2011 at 11:41:24 in reply to Comment 60829

It also doesn't mean "old enough that I trust him not to go darting into King or Main street traffic and get obliterated by a passing car".

Either way, I have 2 kids and use a Phil and Ted over-under stroller that minizes the amount of space a normally-huge double-stroller takes. My wife still gets dirty looks from bus drivers when she tries to pull the thing onto the bus (also, the driver never ever lowers the thing for her).

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By MattM (registered) | Posted March 09, 2011 at 12:47:41 in reply to Comment 60830

Fair enough. I didn't really take into consideration the distance being travelled. Even still, the majority of strollers you see are SUV size and that seems entirely un-necessary.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted March 09, 2011 at 14:24:22 in reply to Comment 60836

Unlike SUVs though, those strollers do go off road. Take an umbrella stroller, put a kid in it and try and push it over damp grass while carrying your blanket, lunch and sand toys.

Never mind snow...

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 09, 2011 at 14:32:46 in reply to Comment 60842

I think he was referring to the big plasticky Graco strollers, not a jogger.

Joggers are a must for unshoveled sidewalks.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 09, 2011 at 13:00:49 in reply to Comment 60836

Yes, those strollers are an annoyance. You go to Wal*Mart or Toys R Us and that's what they'll sell you - a big Graco stroller that collapses only vertically (so it still has the same footprint when collapsed) has cup-holders and docks with the included carseat bucket.

You go to a shop like Springy's and they'll sell you something that won't take up your entire trunk when collapsed and will get your kids around far better than the over-sized pieces of plastic people buy from the box stores.

The best strollers for bus travel are large umbrella strollers that collapse very small (my Peg Perego Si has seen the streets of Toronto, Manhattan, and Buenos Aires)... but most umbrella strollers don't recline and restrain well enough for newborns, so people always need to own a larger stroller. And larger strollers generally don't collapse as well. Smaller, cheap umbrella strollers are notoriously annoying to push.

We have a lot of strollers, obviously, because it turns out there's no silver-bullet. So no surprise that some folks end up sticking with the nasty SUV stroller that they bought as a bundle with their bucket-seat.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted March 10, 2011 at 00:22:25 in reply to Comment 60837

Don't forget the cost is radically higher for those fancy types and alot of single moms can't afford those.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted March 09, 2011 at 11:09:29

Already mucked around a bit at work but I need to do some serious work on it at home. The east end of the lower city needs some work, and I plan to populate it quite nicely. I've got some transit routes I use to add too.

Man, it's like Sim City. How do I put down a power plant? Need to take out a loan to smack a stadium down at the West Harbor, too.

Comment edited by MattM on 2011-03-09 11:10:19

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 09, 2011 at 13:07:32

City seeks input on walkability?? Here's my input - have all of council and staff walk everywhere for a month. Better yet, have them and their kids walk everywhere for a month.

More info and feedback from the rest of us will just end up in the always growing pile of studies, reports, recommendations and expert advice that gets ignored 100% of the time.

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted March 13, 2011 at 23:23:34 in reply to Comment 60839

Perfect Jason!
People who never walk, should not get the 1st & last words on "Walkability'.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted March 09, 2011 at 13:38:01

City seeks input on walkability?? Here's my input - have all of council and staff walk everywhere for a month. Better yet, have them and their kids walk everywhere for a month.

That sounds well and good, but a little unfair - after all, Burlington is not really a city geared for walking.

:) (but not really)

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By James (registered) | Posted March 09, 2011 at 16:09:03

Those who write policy for public transit should be forbidden, by law, from owning a private vehicle.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2011 at 16:57:56 in reply to Comment 60846

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 Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 09, 2011 at 17:12:39

Anybody else look at the symbol for "poor sidewalk/pavement conditions" and think "somebody doesn't pick up after the dog"?

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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted March 12, 2011 at 19:19:50 in reply to Comment 60848

thats what i thought too

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 09, 2011 at 18:26:35

anyone who thinks the city's priorities in this area have changed is out to lunch:


We take $200,000 out of the Gore pedestrianization plan, but I'm certain you won't see cuts to the roads budget. Our mayor thinks $2,400 in parking meter money from business owners feeding the meter all day long is a great vision for our downtown core?? Gore Park could be one of Canada's great urban spaces....instead we're using it for parking and helping struggling business owners save a few bucks by not having to use area parking lots. Heaven forbid we help struggling business owners get actual, you know, customers!

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2011 at 21:48:24 in reply to Comment 60849

Bratina seems to never miss an opportunity to put his foot in his mouth, or say something dumb.

He's the perfect example of "old school" thinking in Hamilton, and until we get people like him out of city hall (not just as elected reps, but as city staff as well) our city will continue to struggle as people with good ideas (Pearl Company, Westside Concern theatre) who are trying to make a difference.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 09, 2011 at 22:58:46 in reply to Comment 60851

In fairness, it was Bratina who came up with the plan to save the Pearl.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted March 10, 2011 at 07:48:49 in reply to Comment 60852

How many years did they struggle and how much media attention did it get before finally a solution emerged?

I put this I'm the same basket as his "support" for the west harbour - he made a move when he thought it could get him some good publicity.

His comments on pay parking downtown, his united way cheque, his Ivor Wynne Stadium comments, his comments on the Randle Reef cleanup, suggestion of deamalgamation and his first interview with the Spec all seem more reflective of his true feelings.

Has he weighed in on area rating yet? On that topic, I'd like to hear from the suburban and rural citizens committee members, to see what they think. If the support the suggested changes they should be front and centre explaining things to their councillors and the other citizens in their wards.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted March 10, 2011 at 10:58:48 in reply to Comment 60857

The usual suburban thought process on that one is:

"I never wanted my community to become a part of Hamilton. I don't want my taxes paying for all those poor people and their social programs. I want more services near me. Why should I pay for theatres, transit, culture in the city? Move it to me, damnit."

It's pretty narrow-minded.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted March 10, 2011 at 13:21:41 in reply to Comment 60871

Oh, you can find many suburban rural opinions on the topic, and I think you're spot on.

That's why I'm interested in the suburban/rural members of the Citizens committee, because I want to know if the information they were provided with, including numbers, costs, average tax rates, etc. provided them any additional insight which changed their mind, or whether they disagreed with the suggested approach of their peers.

Personally, I'd like to think that these suburban/rural memebrs were also in agreement with their peers on the proposal put forward to council, but I don't actually know that because I don't think it was reported anywhere how these other members felt. All we saw was the final report, with no sense of whether support for it was unanimous or not.

Correct me if I'm wrong, as I'd love to find out more.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted March 10, 2011 at 00:25:46

I think Bratina is a good guy with Hamiltons intrest at heart. Just the stadium situation set a bad tone I think.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted March 10, 2011 at 18:37:35

I just wanted to encourage everyone to add comments where you wanted to flag an issue but notice it's already been raised - it's the best way to let the city know that more than one person shares that same concern.

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By FatalFourWay (anonymous) | Posted March 13, 2011 at 15:52:27

I think it is important to remember that getting people to park in Gore is helpful in increasing business there. They can use their cars to pick up furniture, or other business that can locate there.

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted March 13, 2011 at 23:38:39

If anyone is interested this is what Ancaster got- & it's Not Very walkable.

(Tell me again Why the Burbs get to make their Plans in a vacuum. without City input, except for the stamp of approval? It's not like we are part of the City..or anything..(until we chose to be on some issues.)

(You learn something new every time you read the Mountain Etc News. 'Having a center turn lane isn't perfect, but it will make it easier for pedestrians to cross the street.')
Hmmm.. I found that having cars coming at you from 4 directions is more complicated than coming at you from just the usual 2 directions.

The City got "Walkability" & Ancaster got this..."Transport".(that's all we do here. Transport ourselves.)


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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted March 14, 2011 at 12:39:10 in reply to Comment 60940

Cityjoe, I'd encourage you to put your concerns regarding ancaster on the city's Pedestrian Master Plan.

If enough people identify the area as a significant issue for pedestrians, maybe they'll look at it from a pedestrian walkability standpoint as well.

The same goes for people in Stoney Creek, Flamborough, Waterdown, any community within Hamilton - fill in the map and point out your concerns. This is a Hamilton Pedestrian Master Plan, and should reflect input from all areas of the city.

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By ignored (anonymous) | Posted March 14, 2011 at 13:36:27 in reply to Comment 60947

Ask the Citizens Forum volunteers if they think you should bother putting your concerns to the city. Talk about a slap in the face.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted March 15, 2011 at 11:01:32

Ryan - You seem to like the congestion pricing idea for cars how do you like it for transit? We have mostly empty buses at night and crowded buses during rush hours. What if we raise transit rates during peak demand. I find it incredibly humourous that your role model for Hamilton is London England. Why not use the moon? We have about as much in common with that then we do with London.

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