Special Report: Walkable Streets

Two Lanes Closed on Main, No Gridlock

Surely there must be some low-cost options to 'share' the excess space on Main Street and make it more accessible to everyone.

By Bob Berberick
Published July 30, 2014

Here is a photograph looking east from Main Street East and Victoria Avenue, taken at 3:45 PM on Tuesday, July 29.

Looking east from Main Street East and Victoria Avenue
Looking east from Main Street East and Victoria Avenue

I would like to draw your attention to the construction on Main Street between East Avenue and Emerald Avenue where two (2) middle lanes were closed to traffic.

The following video clearly shows that there was no impact on the traffic flow. It also shows a number of cyclists, pedestrians, and a lady with her young family on the sidewalk perilously close to the traffic.

Clearly, five lanes are a luxury, not a necessity.

Council over the past few years has recognized and made positive changes to the city's transportation culture. I applaud that but there is still much work to do to make this space safe and efficient for everyone.

I ask that Council please do something about the horrible conditions on Main Street, a street that is currently friendly only to motorists.

I suggest spending just 15 minutes any day on Main Street to watch the pedestrian and cycling traffic. There is a lot of it in spite of these inhospitable, even dangerous, conditions.

I'm not suggesting major infrastructure changes. Surely there must be some low-cost options) available to "share" this space, making it a safer, more complete environment for everyone to enjoy.

See also:

Bob Berberick has lived in Hamilton for all of his 65 years. For most of that time he lived on the mountain. Since moving to the core five years ago he has a newfound love of his city. Walking and cycling was re-started and he can only hope that the conditions improve so he can continue to explore the hidden beauty here.

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By war on cars (anonymous) | Posted July 30, 2014 at 20:28:53

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted July 31, 2014 at 13:39:04 in reply to Comment 103631

As a Canadian Army veteran, I regard these remarks as profoundly ignorant. It is my sincere prayer that this anonymous person will never find himself in a real war zone so that he truly realizes how foolish and ignorant he has been.

Car drivers poison and kill an average of 93 people in Hamilton every year, and crush and kill an average of an additional 19.2 people every year. I would suggest that criminal, not military, sanctions are the appropriate response to these vicious killings.

Since I am not anonymous, I will sign myself as:

K40592576 Captain (retired) Kevin C. Love, CD

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted July 31, 2014 at 10:22:56 in reply to Comment 103631

When you are driving, all the cars are around you because the lights are timed... but that doesn't mean the majority of the road is not empty.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted July 31, 2014 at 09:46:47 in reply to Comment 103631

So how many casualties has the War On Cars claimed? Because Hamilton is #2 in Ontario for killing pedestrians. Cars are the leading preventable cause of death in people under 30.

So yeah, who's fighting a war on who?

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By getwithit (anonymous) | Posted July 31, 2014 at 09:06:02 in reply to Comment 103631

You say "war on cars" like it's a bad thing. We need to wage war on cars. Get with the program, you ignorante ischrooge!

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By Sheep (anonymous) | Posted July 31, 2014 at 05:45:00 in reply to Comment 103631

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By j.servus (registered) | Posted July 31, 2014 at 09:58:46 in reply to Comment 103647

I live in the same area just off Main. I see it at all hours and cycle it frequently. I could get pictures at rush hour and they would tell the same story: two, maybe three lanes worth of traffic distributed over five. The only purpose of the curb lanes, besides turning, is to get to the front of the green wave. It is easy to observe that, most of the time, two lanes would be quite adequate for the traffic on Main east of Wellington. What is easy to observe for oneself is also confirmed by the city's traffic counts. That stretch of Main carries on average about 4200 vehicles per lane. The industry standard for North American cities is 8-9000 vehicles per lane. We could convert a lane into a two way bike track and the remaining lanes would still be well below capacity per industry standard. I am pretty sure most businesses on Main would love that.

Main east is basically a hostile street with insultingly narrow sidewalks. It is not pleasant to cycle on. However, it does have the signal advantage, for a cyclist, of surplus lanes. It is easy to grab a lane for oneself without affecting traffic flow in the least. This is no less true at 4:30 than at any other time.

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By reality check (anonymous) | Posted July 31, 2014 at 09:20:23 in reply to Comment 103647

Rush hour in hamiton = you encounter THREE red lights driving across the entire city instead of just one.

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted July 31, 2014 at 08:51:45 in reply to Comment 103647

Yeah. That is called Rush Hour. All normal major cities have it. Just because Hamilton built a road network that sacrifices entire neighhourhoods to accommodate 2 hours of daily congestion doesn't make this city "normal". Quite abnormal is what we are.

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By Core-B (registered) | Posted July 30, 2014 at 23:34:36 in reply to Comment 103631

Sorry to burst your bubble "war on cars" but it was a surprise video. I live in the area and was walking to Canadian Tire when I noticed that 2 lanes were closed and traffic was still moving swiftly. I decided to take a video for a few minutes, and what you see is what happened. Nothing staged, no waiting just real life on Main Street.

Comment edited by Core-B on 2014-07-30 23:35:07

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By bort (registered) | Posted July 30, 2014 at 22:04:38 in reply to Comment 103631

"Little war on cars"

LOL. You're the resident troll aren't you?

I just arrived in Hamilton after living in Vancouver for 8 years and before that Toronto. Even to a recent transplant it's obvious this city LOVES cars. If you think there's a war on cars here you need to look beyond your front yard. Hamilton has a mere speck of the cycling infrastructure Vancouver does (and by global standards, Vancouver's investment in cycling infrastructure is paltry). Some folks were up in arms when Vancouver reclaimed lanes for bicycle traffic (Burrard bridge, Dunsmuir viaduct) but the benefits – to me – were clear. In the 8 years I spent there I witnessed a huge increase in the number of people commuting to work. When commuting from East Van to downtown on warm summer days I was often riding in a pack of 20 - 30 cyclists. And that was just one group out of hundreds, on one bike path. It was a beautiful thing and I miss it.

I applaud the work people are doing here to help Hamilton evolve. It's a great city with friendly people and beautiful surroundings. So much potential.

Comment edited by bort on 2014-07-30 22:05:41

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By Cool post jason jr (anonymous) | Posted July 31, 2014 at 05:43:55 in reply to Comment 103638

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By j.servus (registered) | Posted July 31, 2014 at 09:41:38 in reply to Comment 103646

"...because they have lived elsewhere..." Ah, yes, that strange experience called "learning from other people." You know, it was an American consultant who gave Hamilton the idea for its signature one-way urban freeways. We're the last ones dreaming his dream.

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 30, 2014 at 23:33:31 in reply to Comment 103638

great post, and welcome to the Hammer. You're right - beautiful surroundings and great potential. The more urban transplants we can land from progressive cities should start to finally have an impact at the ballot box eventually. These are the 'in-between' years. Still have the 70's folks running the show, but slowly losing their grip as the next generation pushes for us to play some major catch-up. I love the Vancouver example because it is consistently ranked one of the top cities in the world. Tough for any respectable Hamiltonian to make the case that we know better than Vancouver. We have lots to learn. Glad you're here and joining the conversation!

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By Moniz (registered) - website | Posted July 30, 2014 at 21:40:58 in reply to Comment 103631

You mean the crap you're perpetuating that Main is SO busy that a lane can not be spared? Traffic study after traffic study has shown we have excess lane capacity in several areas, but city staff and a few Councillors(like one who lives Ancaster particularly!) still keep planning for this huge influx of car/truck traffic that supposed to come with our industrialized economic development. You know, the same plan we've had since the late 50's!! Since then, the heavy manufacturing base in this city has contracted to a minor part of our overall economic mix of our city's economy and a serious rethink is in order to make our transportation systems more realistic and useable for ALL, not just single vehicle trips.

But who really believes crap like that when the status quo suits you just fine "war on cars".

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By war on logic (anonymous) | Posted July 30, 2014 at 21:07:03 in reply to Comment 103631

Right. We have a war on cars in Hamilton. Give me a break.

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 30, 2014 at 21:54:37

Main was also down to 3 lanes west of Bay last week for a couple of days. Was still a freeway. Traffic volumes clearly show that it only carries enough traffic to warrant 3 lanes from Queen to Bay and 2 east of Bay. But why right-size a street when you're a filthy rich city like Hamilton that can afford to pay 2x the maintenance, snow clearing, pot-hole, lane striping costs for decades unnecessarily. Only a post-industrial city struggling financially would look for obviously easy ways to save millions of taxpayer $.

I've shared this idea before and will continue to pound it, especially with the 5-year cycling plan review happening.

Main St currently has a two-way protected bike lane on it's south lane west of the 403. I suggest we extend that lane to Longwood Road (Innovation Park/ high school/ longwood bike lanes) and also extend it east to Dundurn. The ramp to Main East from 403 can easily lead to the 2nd lane from the curb instead of south curb lane there and cyclists will be instructed (of course, being the Hammer) to wait for a gap similar to what we do on King when crossing the 403 ramp. At Dundurn we add a bike box to the intersection, along with zebra crossings and scramble intersection (both King/Main at Dundurn deserve this treatment). The bike box shifts riders to the north curb of Main. The north car lane west of Dundurn becomes a left-turn only lane.

Here is where it gets good, and is quite mind-boggling that we have the ability to add such a dramatic piece of safe infrastructure without disrupting the city one bit:

From Dundurn all the way to the Delta we have a two-way parking-protected bike lane like this:

Protected Cycle Track

The bike lanes plus 2-3 foot buffer plus parking lane equals 2 current lanes of Main. So we maintain 3 full vehicle lanes from Dundurn to Sherman and 2 from Sherman to the Delta.

At the odd intersection where the city's car zealous 'planners' feel a left turn lane is necessary, they simply remove the couple car parking spots approaching an intersection - say Bay St - and add a left turn lane.

Also, at many intersections we have the opportunity to add bumpouts with tree planters and thus begin adding a much needed tree canopy to this brutal street.

Cycle Track with bumpouts and tree planters

This not only enhances the quality of life and visual appeal along Main, it serves to drastically shorten the distance pedestrians need to cross at a light.

Along most of the sidewalks along Main they are surprisingly wide enough to add regular tree basins like this:

Tree basins

Fast forward a few years and the street goes from drab, dead, dangerous and hot to this:

Complete street on Main

Cities all over the continent are doing exactly this, even if it means drastic traffic congestion and slowdowns. We are probably the only large city in North American that can transform a street like this along an urban distance like Longwood to the Delta without congesting or slowing down traffic. It's a win-win.

Of course, there's that finicky little thing about needing to be a privileged suburban or Mountain resident pointing out fast, dangerous streets in Hamilton to be given any attention at city hall:

http://www.hamiltonnews.com/news/mountai...

So, if any of you reading this live on the Mountain or Ancaster, feel free to pitch my idea to Councillors Jackson or Ferguson. If I do it, we'll have to endure another speech about how the Main St freeway is our 'competitive advantage over Toronto'.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted July 31, 2014 at 08:02:08 in reply to Comment 103637

Agreed. If there's one thing we've established beyond a shadow of a doubt is that chronic congestion is not a problem in Hamilton, particularly across the lower city.

Despite this, there appears to be enough road widening to go around.

hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/D6D32922-1C42-4210-A63C-6A01D35D9AFE/0/UHOPVol1SchC2FutureRoadWideningsSept2013.pdf

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 31, 2014 at 08:41:33 in reply to Comment 103653

You cannot make this stuff up:

There is a requirement for all new developments along Cannon (and other one-way streets) to be setback further from the street than existing buildings to allow for a further expansion of the four-lane urban highway.

This is the same insanity that sunk the Hamilton Grand on Main Street a few years ago. I can't even.

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 31, 2014 at 08:43:30 in reply to Comment 103655

But have no fear. Wilson St in Ancaster is a nice safe complete street even with the resulting car slowdowns during rush hour. Don't take it personally. You just happen to live in the poorer dumping ground part of the city. So, take it personally.

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted July 31, 2014 at 09:13:31

Main St. is a joke, but no one is laughing. I drove it twice during the evening "rush" hour this week. By car, it was a free flowing, non-stop pleasure cruise. I also went once by bicycle and after taking the whole right lane, cars whizzed past in waves at the normal 50-60 km/h. I am sure vacations and summer traffic are lighter than usual, but I can't ever say I have encountered traffic on Main St., unless there was an accident, in the last 20 years of driving.

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By Megan (registered) | Posted July 31, 2014 at 11:51:09

I drive west to east and back again during both the morning and afternoon rush hour and rarely have any issues with traffic.

I can leave my house on John St. and make two stops to drop off children (one on either side of Gage park) and then drive to work at York and Dundurn. This whole trip (including drop offs, shoe changes, hugs and high fives) can be done in 35 minutes. I usually take Main from Catharine to Ottawa and come west on either King or Cannon depending on my mood.

The setback requirement for the one-way arterial roads is only justified if they will be used for sidewalk widening, bike lanes and other measures which would make these streets more complete.

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By arienc (registered) | Posted July 31, 2014 at 13:39:29 in reply to Comment 103668

The setback requirement for the one-way arterial roads is only justified if they will be used for sidewalk widening, bike lanes and other measures which would make these streets more complete.

Exactly. The issue is the fact that we are actually willing to chase away business (something that most of us who are capitalists want to see) in order to protect these setback requirements. If we are willing to stop people from investing in the core, we had better have a really good reason to do so.

The prospect of more car lanes on a road that already has far more than could concievably be required is not a good enough reason to turn down investments that will benefit every taxpayer in the city.

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