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Beasley Neighbourhood Discusses Concerns

As in any neighbourhood that does double duty as a centre of business activity while providing a desirable place for people to live out their daily lives, tensions can build over the speed of commerce.

By Michael Borrelli
Published November 02, 2011

In advance of next Thursday's Evening with Jason Farr at City Hall, Town Halls Hamilton has been working with local neighbourhood associations to highlight some of the issues important to them. These and topics from the other five neighbourhood associations will inform the agenda for the event on November 10.

If a walk down James Street North to Barton Street doesn't remind you, Hamilton's downtown is steeped in history, and home to some of the city's oldest neighbourhoods.

If you continued down Barton to Hamilton General, then went south to the Wellington Gates, you'd encircle most of the Beasley Neighbourhood by the time you made it back to Jackson Square.

One of the four founding neighbourhoods of Hamilton, Beasley is named after Richard Beasley, a soldier, businessman and politician who came here in 1777. A large landholder, Beasley once owned the spot where Sir Alan MacNab built Dundurn Castle.

Now Beasley's stomping grounds are the urban park that still bears his name, and the quadrant of business towers and residential parks that surrounds it.

As in any neighbourhood that does double duty as a centre of business activity while providing a desirable place for people to live out their daily lives, tensions can build over the speed of commerce.

To many Hamiltonians, Cannon Street is just another quick way to get across the city, but Paul Sousa says many residents feel it's a dangerous, noisy car and truck highway not far from their doorsteps.

Sousa is Chair of the Beasley Neighbourhood Association. At an October 26 BNA meeting, members discussed ways to make Cannon Street safer for pedestrians, especially the children that cross it to get to the new Dr. Davey School. (Full disclosure: I am a member of the BNA.)

The school actually sits on Wilson Street, a former one-way street that was converted to two-way late last year.

In the view of BNA Secretary Paul Elia, the transformation has been a success. "It turned the area in front of the school and the Community Centre into a much more child-friendly and walkable street."

But even among this group of friendly neighbours, not everyone agrees that Cannon needs to suffer the same fate as Wilson. "The comments we received from the meeting show that people are pretty evenly divided. Some wanted to keep Cannon one-way, and said they learned to live with the noise and vibrations. But even they agreed that the street is simply too fast and busy."

Attendees suggested a combination of volume and speed reduction measures, including removing a lane of traffic, adding bike lanes, and finding ways of slowing traffic through de-syncing stoplights.

Regardless of their opinions on the best way of calming the mighty Cannon, the neighbours all agree that making the downtown more livable and walkable is something the City should continue to work with citizens to promote.

Hamilton has begun a Pedestrian Mobility Master Plan study process that aims to improve pedestrian safety along with building a "culture of walking."

The final report is due early next year, and in the meantime Sousa and Elia are ready to start the conversation with Councilor Farr next Thursday and get the ball rolling.

Michael Borrelli is a social researcher living with his family in Hamilton's North End. He tweets @BaysideBadger.

22 Comments

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 02, 2011 at 09:45:38

Great job by all involved. Goes to show that education and helping people see a huge safety problem right under their noses is an important part of this task. My only complaint about the Wilson conversion is that the planned bike lanes didn't make it, and there's no street parking on curb lanes. Still, it's better than it used to be. Good to hear of organization taking place in Beasley.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 02, 2011 at 10:13:56

Honestly, synched stoplights are half the point of a one-way street. Once you ditch the green wave, you may as well finish the job and make the street two-way.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted November 02, 2011 at 11:10:24 in reply to Comment 70999

I'm still learning about the intricacies of traffic calming, Pxtl, but in talking to those who use Cannon daily as drivers (like my partner), the synching makes it pretty hard to speed.

But in reviewing some of the written comments submitted on the 26th, the real concern seems to be about those few blatant scofflaws who try to ride the wave in such a way that they push hard and fast through yellows, and can get going quite a bit faster than the current synching allows.

Not sure if tweaking the synching might fix this, but it's something to be aware of and may lend itself to other fixes like fixed red-light cameras.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 02, 2011 at 11:16:55 in reply to Comment 71000

The problem with Cannon is that, even if you don't exceed the speed limit, you're still driving at 50-60 km/h through an urban neighbourhood. It's dangerous by design.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted November 02, 2011 at 12:51:37 in reply to Comment 71001

Cannon's average setback must be something like 3 feet. Does any (predominantly residential) street in town have less?

I really can't see mountain residents putting up with this state of affairs.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted November 02, 2011 at 20:19:28 in reply to Comment 71003

Wilson has less setback than Cannon. East of Victoria, there are a few blocks of houses whose doors nearly open into the street.

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By County Mountie (anonymous) | Posted November 02, 2011 at 16:45:52 in reply to Comment 71003

Cannon runs through the city's most electorally disengaged, economically depressed and demographically diverse real estate in the city. If it was filled with professional property owners and high-profile business, it would probably be a lot easier to get the city's ear and institute some two-way boulevard up in that joint.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 02, 2011 at 22:45:14 in reply to Comment 71008

A GO bus pulled up beside me at a red light on Cannon today and upon turning green the bus sped for several blocks. I attempted to keep up, but bailed once I hit 65. This was 3:30. Kids walking home from school, tiny sidewalks and a bus doing 70ish, changing lanes, roaring past in the curb lane mere inches from kids. Nowhere else in Hamilton would this be allowed. This is why I'm heartened to hear of a community organization taking shape in Beasley. They've been dumped on for far too long because of the points made by County Mountie.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 02, 2011 at 13:16:39 in reply to Comment 71003

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By JM (registered) | Posted November 02, 2011 at 13:23:03

sure the one way street can remain... its a simple as removing a lane (or two in places), widening the sidewalks and adding a boulevard to make it safe for pedestrians. the problem is the sidewalk is right next to high speed traffic - any minor slip and a pedestrian could easily be taken out!

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By County Mountie (anonymous) | Posted November 02, 2011 at 16:48:16

Also: Curbside parking.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 05, 2011 at 09:24:21 in reply to Comment 71009

I don't think that would help without bump-outs. Many spots along Cannon et al are pretty barren for any actual reason to park, like along Sir John A. Also, some businesses have like half their frontage in the form of curb ramps. No reason or ability to park there.

The curb ramps are their own problem, since it stinks to walk on a surface that's tilting into traffic like that, much less push a stroller.

My solution boulevards and a bike lane. While I'm normally all for more curbside parking, that's more of a solution on King and Main where there's more stuff to need curbside parking.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted November 02, 2011 at 18:41:28

comment from banned user deleted

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By TnT (registered) | Posted November 03, 2011 at 00:38:57

I live on Cannon (I sleep about 15 feet from the road) and find it to be the least dangerous street around here. Victoria is the real enemy. I would be fine with a Cannon two way conversion, but Victoria is a nightmare!

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 05, 2011 at 11:14:23 in reply to Comment 71015

Victoria/Wellington are the really depressing ones because they're

a) Two streets that have the most reason to be one-way - they hook Burlington street up to the King/Cannon/Main 1-ways and over to the Clairmont access. So the city will never rehabilitate them.

b) Crammed with beautiful old homes crowded right to the curb. Lots of other 1-ways have this problem but Victoria/Wellington take it to the extreme.

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By The Undisputed Truce (anonymous) | Posted November 03, 2011 at 12:49:31

http://artlistpro.wordpress.com/2011/05/14/whose-community-is-it-anyways-art-installation-in-hamilton-swiftly-removed-and-rebuked/#comments

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By kendall (registered) - website | Posted November 03, 2011 at 13:26:52

I share the same concerns as those living along Cannon as I live on Sherman N. The noise from trucks running with loose chains, hitting every pothole and idiot commuters doing excess of sixty towards Burlington and the Skyway because they are late for whatever. There is school buses loading, kids on bikes every where. The two neibourhoods also have councilors who do to much talking and not enough listening and doing. Sorry, that's how I feel.

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By metoo (anonymous) | Posted November 03, 2011 at 16:59:31

While you're at it, City Hall, mayor Bob, councillor Jason, PLEASE make John st and Macnab north of Barton TWO-WAY streets--PLEASE. No reason not to. Will modify speeding behaviour. Will make it safer to get around--no need to go way out of way to go "around the block," as they say. Will help civilize the area.
I know, plans are in effect to do this and that here and there in the "North end", but two-way really needs to be a start--NOW--and by its nature will slow traffic even without major speed limit reductions. Put a yellow line down the middle of the 'new' 2-way roads: even that helps "calm" (slow down) drivers. Two Way Now, not soon, not later, on those streets.

Comment edited by metoo on 2011-11-03 17:02:15

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted November 08, 2011 at 17:26:03

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