Special Report: Walkable Streets

Concerns About Longwood Road Preferred Alternative

Despite calls for better pedestrian and cycling access, the Longwood Road plan prioritizes automobile flow-through over other modes.

By Transportation for Liveable Communities
Published April 04, 2012

Editor's Note: Transportation for Liveable Communities submitted this letter to the City as part of the Longwood Road Class Environmental Assessment process.

Residents have until Thursday, April 5, 2012 to submit comments to the process. Here is the contact information:

Lorissa Skrypniak, MCIP, RPP
Senior Project Manager
Transportation Planning
Strategic Planning & Rapid Transit
Environment & Sustainable Infrastructure Division
Public Works
77 James Street North, Suite 320
Hamilton, L8R 2K3
Phone: 905-546-2424 ext 2732
Fax: 905-546-4435
Email: tplanning@hamilton.ca


Transportation for Liveable Communities (TLC) is a citizen advocacy group established in 2000 to address sustainable transportation in Hamilton Ontario. TLC is very concerned with the Longwood Road "Preferred Alternative" presented at the Public Information Centre Wednesday, March 21, 2012.

Beginning with the "Problem and Opportunity Statement" referencing the Kirkendall Traffic Management Plan's statement that "Community concerns indicated a need for enhanced pedestrian and bicycle access and improved safety along the existing corridor," the trajectory seems clear enough.

Yet we are next informed that because the city will not pursue an on-ramp to Highway 403 westbound from Main at Columbia College, "the implication...is that four general purpose lanes will be required between Aberdeen Avenue and Main Street."

So, it is clear that any changes that would address the prime problem and opportunity statement to "enhance pedestrian and bicycle access" begins with the core assumption that Longwood road will act as an extended on/off ramp to Highway 403 westbound (and eastbound), requiring 4 lanes for cars.

This is a surprising turn of events, especially considering the main objective began as an effort to make the street safer and friendlier for cyclists and pedestrians.

Cyclists are especially aggrieved after seeing the Shifting Gears Cycling Plan for this stretch of road crumble: project number 196 in that plan for Longwood has: "Bike Lane with Road Diet, Longwood, Main to Aberdeen."

Continuous connection is an important consideration when building a comprehensive bike network. As it is, the preferred option of the city planners seems to suggest cyclists using the new southbound bike lane between King and Main will have to dismount at Main, cross in a crosswalk to the east side of Longwood to continue through another crosswalk to the south side of Main where there will be a bike path on the east side of Longwood.

At the same time, cars will continue to have two lanes in each direction, ensuring the status quo of a hostile environment for cyclists and pedestrians. This is entirely unacceptable to TLC.

TLC instead strongly supports bicycle lanes on each side of Longwood, which would create a continuous connected cycling route from Aberdeen to King Street (and eventually all the way to Princess Point) - it is our position that the road diet planned in the Shifting Gears Cycling plan should be implemented to help calm traffic and create the space required for cycling lanes.

With three lanes of traffic, rather than four, the city could consider using the centre lane as a morning southbound, evening northbound lane (Jarvis Street in Toronto has used this method to adopt to demands of flow at peak times), which would maintain two-lanes when required.

However, TLC adamantly insists that the priority should return to improving pedestrian, cycling and transit opportunities.

A pedestrian sidewalk on the east side of Longwood will have to suffice until the City decides to improve the pedestrian crossing on the west side of Longwood at Main.

The "preferred option" of a bike path only on the east side of Longwood will, at Aberdeen, isolate cyclists on the north side of Aberdeen, which means another disconnected crossing to get to the bike path south of Aberdeen by the Chedoke golf course.

Therefore, TLC supports the recommended roundabout at Longwood and Aberdeen, but with cyclists and pedestrians given proper consideration for safe access.

We hope you will take our concerns seriously, since we see the emphasis of the "preferred alternative" wrongly placed on maintaining automobile traffic flow at the expense of an integrated cycling and pedestrian environment.

Transportation for Liveable Communities is an all-volunteer Sustainable Transportation advocacy group, founded in Hamilton in 2000. TLC supports walking, cycling, transit and other alternatives to single-occupancy vehicle use.

18 Comments

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted April 04, 2012 at 06:54:14

I imagine that cyclists and pedestrians will get the same consideration they would near other highway offramps, taking into account the relative volume of usage. The MTO will probably also have to sign off on this plan. Not sure what their track record is like as far as bike lanes is concerned.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 04, 2012 at 08:38:01

Here's the letter I just sent:

To: Lorissa Skrypniak, MCIP, RPP
Re: Longwood Road Class EA

Dear Ms. Skrypniak,

It is deeply disappointing to see the City once again give top priority to automobile traffic flow-through in its road planning - and particularly on a street intended to host a dense, mixed-use innovation park designed specifically around walkability and accessibility.

The City's own Class EA page notes, "The design and function of [Longwood] road is integral to the implementation of [the West Hamilton Innovation Dictrict] Secondary Plan" - yet the preferred plan is antithetical to the goal of multi-modal access:

  • No curbside parking on Longwood
  • Four general-purpose vehicular traffic lanes plus turn lanes
  • No continuous bike lanes

At some point, we are going to have to stop talking about "aggressively targeting transportation mode use and ... emphasizing that persons walk more" and actually put walkability into practice on our streets, even if that means compromising maximum automobile flow-through.

If we can't design Longwood Road to be a "complete street", as this year's Transportation Summit extols, how can we expect to do it on any of the other Hamilton streets that overwhelmingly cater to the automobile and actively deter pedestrians and cyclists?

Why is automobile traffic inviolate, while pedestrian and cycling traffic is merely an added bonus if there's enough room left over after maximizing the number of automobile lanes?

This is not an engineering problem; after all, a road can be engineered for any combination of objectives and "traffic" means more than just automobiles. Rather, it is a problem of priorities.

Respectfully,

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By Wondering (anonymous) | Posted April 04, 2012 at 09:46:58

Was there any assessment of whether four lanes would be needed for cars if a roundabout were used? It seems to me that the roundabout's ability to more smoothly stream the traffic flow might reduce the demands for lanes that you have when traffic comes in pulses.

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By TerryCooke (registered) | Posted April 04, 2012 at 09:51:17

Good work Ryan, I agree completely.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 04, 2012 at 09:54:08 in reply to Comment 75689

The credit definitely goes to TLC for raising awareness of this issue.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted April 04, 2012 at 10:16:16

So the only 403 off ramp that terminates at a light instead of a ramp onto city streets is going to have the light removed. Great. The city of Hamilton... going nowhere fast.

Innovation indeed.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 04, 2012 at 10:18:08 in reply to Comment 75693

Be sure to write a letter and send it to tplanning@hamilton.ca.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted April 04, 2012 at 12:15:26 in reply to Comment 75694

I studied the alternatives presented for Longwood road and they are all absolutely unacceptable.

Longwood has been a problem for pedestrians and cyclists for a very long time. With the announcement of the 7 phase plan for the innovation park, we were finally promised a new Longwood road with a balanced transportation infrastructure. Now it is being ripped away again.

It is time that we stop treating road engineering as a project solely meant to move cars faster. There are several problems with this new plan - one of which is the traffic circle. Traffic circles are one of the worst control means for cyclists to navigate. In addition, we already treat all of the off ramps from the 403 as uncontrolled on ramps at city streets (403->main, 403->york). All of the entrances to the city from the highway should be signalized in order to slow cars down and give the drivers a hint that they are no longer on the highway. These principles are fundamental to traffic engineering but we violate them without a second thought. Removing a signal at the entrance to the city is the absolute wrong move.

May I recommend that we get a little more creative with this project? If the MTO will not co operate with a ramp at Columbia college, we could solve this problem in other ways. If Paradise was made two way, and the King Street bridge was made two way, we could install a light on the King Street bridge where the 403 ramps intersect it. This would allow traffic to enter the 403 in either direction from the east and from the west. It would also solve problems with access to homes and businesses on King between Dundurn and Paradise and would relieve pressure at Dundurn/King and Dundurn/Main - two intersections that have been identified by the city as problematic for all users.

A solution like this would allow us to proceed with the multi-mode friendly design for Longwood, and would increase usability and access for many more people in the surrounding area.

I would like you to record my response to your PIC: I do not support the plan as outlined.

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By Question: (anonymous) | Posted April 04, 2012 at 12:39:10

'bikehounds' writes, "So the only 403 off ramp that terminates at a light instead of a ramp onto city streets is going to have the light removed."
Which set of traffic lights is proposed to be removed? I can't tell from the TLC letter. And Jarvis St. in Toronto has had the centre lane removed, and news yesterday is that Toronto cyclists and council will demand a legally proper enviro assessment and reconsideration by Toronto council--see Toronto Star

http://www.thestar.com/news/article/1156137--jarvis-bike-lanes-can-t-be-removed-without-environmental-assessment-cyclists-union-says
Jarvis bike lanes can’t be removed without environmental assessment, cyclists union says

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted April 04, 2012 at 13:51:09 in reply to Comment 75701

They want to remove the lights at Aberdeen/Longwood and replace it with a traffic circle.

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By traffic circle (anonymous) | Posted April 04, 2012 at 14:08:16 in reply to Comment 75705

Thanks for your reply. Hmm, in the proposed circle, there will be yield signs possibly. Who's going to have to yield to whom? If everybody has to yield all day to traffic coming east off 403 turning north on Longwood, how will that tested patience of other drivers make things safer? I dunno...And pedestrians--if any?

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 04, 2012 at 16:23:21 in reply to Comment 75707

And how successful has the city been elsewhere with yield signs? Do motorists even know that yield signs apply to pedestrians? Unless it says in big letters "YIELD TO PEDESTRIANS" with a blinking light (like they have in Brantford, of all places) I'd assume not.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 04, 2012 at 14:17:21 in reply to Comment 75707

Maybe there's a way to make a roundabout pedestrian-friendly, but I'm deeply skeptical. They take up an awful lot of space and add multiple 'hops' to the simple act of crossing the street.

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted April 04, 2012 at 14:52:35 in reply to Comment 75708

>Maybe there's a way to make a roundabout pedestrian-friendly, but I'm deeply skeptical.

Yeah. Over there in the UK, they just tell people to get in their cars instead of dealing with roundabouts on foot.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 04, 2012 at 14:57:27 in reply to Comment 75711

I braved a spankin' new roundabout in Galway, Ireland a year ago, and it was daunting. It's longer because you've got to bend around the intersection instead of just crossing it, and I had to cross four separate sets of traffic lanes . All in all, as a pedestrian I felt like an afterthought.

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By arienc (registered) | Posted April 05, 2012 at 09:12:29 in reply to Comment 75712

I think this is the key reason that traffic planners love roundabouts.

Since they are used in Europe, and relatively unfamiliar to North Americans, they can sell it politically as "doing something" to bring about more a more modern and more people-friendly environment.

In actuality, roundabouts are far more anti-pedestrian/anti-cyclist than the typical North American intersection. Most European roundabouts are used in place of freeway interchanges, or are ringed with seperate pedestrian and bicycle facilities so as not to interfere with those modes.

Now who the heck wants to cross a freeway interchange at grade...European or not?

Comment edited by arienc on 2012-04-05 09:12:52

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By Question: (anonymous) | Posted April 04, 2012 at 13:07:32

Regrets--The sequence about Jarvis St in Toronto mentioned above is wrong, but the Star article--link above-- answers the questions about this: "Nine months ago city council voted to paint over the lines and reintroduce a switchable centre vehicle lane."

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted April 04, 2012 at 21:45:56

Most of the kids from the neighbourhoods along Aberdeen, to at least Bay, Go to Westdale High School, on the other side of the Longwood St. Bridge. This generates a LOT of foot traffic on any given school day. Then there's the issue of teenagers trying to cross it on bikes...

Won't somebody please think of the children!?!

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