Quote of the Day: Recall our streets!

Hamilton Street
CC BY 2.0 Lloyd Alter

I have written before that Hamilton, Ontario should be a great city. It has geography (a great location close to the border, a great big harbour that is now quite beautiful) topography (a nice "mountain" that keeps it from being boring) a major university and great transportation connections.

Instead, it is full of five-lane one-way streets lined with empty stores because it is so miserable to walk around. You can live in a lovely house on a quiet residential street but you can't get a quart of milk without getting in your car because what should be lively neighbourhood shopping streets are empty highways of speeding cars. Hamilton also has that "war on the car" mentality where drivers are outraged at the suggestion of a change such as a bike lane or going back to two way streets, a debate that is happening now.

But the city also has some really terrific urban activists and writers who discussing the issues of walkability and urbanism, saying things that apply anywhere. In Raise the Hammer, a local activist website, Nicholas Kevlahan compares the reaction to failures in car ignition design at GM to street design in Hamilton, and makes a point that works for New York, Toronto or London.

Recall Our Streets

In the USA, a known design flaw killed 13 people in the entire country in 13 years. That statistic can't be explained away by shifting the blame to "careless" victims. The Senators didn't say: 'Motorists should know how to deal with a power loss of their vehicle. You really can't blame GM since it would have been expensive and inconvenient to fix the problem and recall all those vehicles.'

But here in Hamilton, we accept as fatality - helplessness in the face of fate - that the known engineering design flaws in our roads have killed 61 pedestrians and injured 3,233 in a similar 13 year period. That's an average of about five deaths and 250 injuries per year, against a population of just 500,000.

Yet the most common response is to blame pedestrians and tell them they should have been more careful!


More in Raise the Hammer, including a good list of things that could be done to make our streets safer.

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

In another article, Ryan McGreal lists the obvious benefits of two way streets, especially in a city like Hamilton where the roads are way under capacity. They are safer for children and seniors, better for business, more user friendly (even for drivers) and support neighbourhood equity, " especially since Hamilton's one-way thoroughfares disproportionately run through the most vulnerable neighbourhoods in the city. (That is not a coincidence.)"

This is not just some "culture war" drama but a life-and-death struggle to make this city safe for its own citizens - and particularly its most vulnerable residents.

It's not about downtown vs. the suburbs. It's not about Millennials vs. Boomers. It's not about drivers vs. cyclists. These are all false dichotomies that drive a wedge into everyone's common interest in a city that is safe, healthy and prosperous.

More in Raise the Hammer

Tags: One Planet Living | Ontario | Urban Planning