Take a few minutes to send a letter of support for Councillor McHattie's two-way implementation team before noon on Wednesday, September 5.
By Ryan McGreal
Published September 04, 2012
If you support Councillor Brian McHattie's motion to establish a one-way to two-way implementation team, take a few moments to write a letter in support of the motion and send it to City Clerk Carolyn Biggs before noon on Wednesday, September 5. Please address the letter to "Chair and Members, General Issues Committee".
When you do, kindly post a copy in the comments section below as an inspiration to others to do the same. Here's the letter I just sent:
Chair and Members, General Issues Committee,
Please give your full support to the motion by Councillor Brian McHattie to establish a one-way to two-way implementation team. Listen to what the experts keep telling us: our fast, wide one-way streets are hurting the communities they cut through and need to change so that the lower city can flourish again.
The case against one-way streets is compelling:
Children are 2.5 times more likely to be injured and killed on one-way streets, according to a peer-reviewed study published in 2000 and based on Hamilton collision data.
The fast, loud traffic on one-way streets deters pedestrians and hurts neighbourhood cohesion. Pioneering research by Donald Appleyard found that people have fewer friends and acquaintances and are less connected to their neighbourhoods when they live on streets with fast, high volume traffic flows.
Street retail suffers on one-way streets, due in part to reduced storefront visibility and a hostile pedestrian environment. Hamilton business owners were already complaining about declining sales and lost customers just months after conversion, and our one-way thoroughfares are still marked today by empty storefronts and block-busting gravel lots.
One-way traffic even hurts drivers who are trying to go directly to a destination on a one-way street. Visitors are routinely lost in our city because it is harder to make a mental map of a place when you cannot backtrack.
We need to stop letting a fear of congestion stop us from making progressive improvements to our streets. Quite simply, we have far too much automobile traffic capacity on our urban thoroughfares. Major lane reductions on Main, King and Cannon over the past year have produced no gridlock and only minimal slowdowns. We can convert our streets to two-way and make room for bike lanes, attractive sidewalks and dedicated LRT lanes.
Notwithstanding our downtown secondary plan, which is titled "Putting People First", city policy continues to prioritize fast automobile traffic flow over every other use of the street: not only walking, cycling, socializing and commerce but even driving to local destinations.
Cities all across North America converted their streets to one-way in the 1950s. Many of those cities have since given up on the experiment after having decided that the cost in danger and lost vitality was not worth the slight convenience of a faster drive. They did this despite facing the same opposition that two-way conversion faces in Hamilton. The vast majority have experienced significant positive results in terms of business and community growth.
The voices opposed to the two-way conversion of James and John streets predicted gridlock, mayhem, failing business and carnage. They were completely wrong.
James North has absolutely flourished since conversion, but James South and John have also experienced new business investment and improved fortunes as livability has increased.
This, incidentally, is what happens every time a city converts streets back to two-way: detractors predict gridlock and chaos, but gridlock and chaos do not occur and it quickly becomes clear that it was the right thing to do.
This is what we keep hearing from a steady stream of traffic engineers and planners: Dan Burden, Donald Schmitt, Richard Florida, Storm Cunningham, Christopher Leinberger, Richard Gilbert, Bronwen Thornton, Paul Young, Denis Corr, Dave Cieslewicz, Peter Lagerwey, and Ken Greenberg, among others.
It is also what we have been hearing from the International Village BIA and Downtown BIA and from the various neighbourhood associations - Durand, Central, Beasley, Corktown North End Neighbours and Stinson - that suffer the worst brunt of our one-way thoroughfares.
Similarly, the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce recently commissioned a study finding that walkable streets are "economic infrastructure that attract employment and should be invested in accordingly."
It is time to stop making excuses. It is time to stop prioritizing a few minutes' convenience over the livelihood and well-being of entire communities. It is time to stop living in the past and clinging to failed transportation models.
Let's join Berkeley CA, Calgary AB, Cedar Rapids IA, Columbus OH, Crystal City VA, Danville IL, Denver CO, Fort Collins CO, Greensboro NC, Iowa City IA, Jacksonville FL, Louisville KY, Milwaukee WI, Minneapolis MN, Oklahoma City OK, Oregon City OR, Rochester NY, Sacramento CA, San Francisco CA, St. Catharines ON, St. Petersburg FL, Texarkana AR, Vancouver WA, Wichita KA, and Wyandotte MI in reclaiming our city streets for everyone and taking part in their renewed success.