Now is the time to bring balance and complete streets to our major one-way corridors through our urban neighbourhoods and through the heart of our downtown commercial district.
By Jason Leach
Published October 18, 2012
I recently returned from a week in Portland, Oregon. Despite all the press that city receives for its major planning initiatives and LRT projects (and it deserves every ounce of press), I was really struck by the little things it does right.
While there, I realized that we can turn our own Cannon Street (and Main St too) from an ugly, barren urban expressway into a complete, liveable street quite easily.
Portland is loaded with one-way streets. I would venture to guess it has many more than Hamilton. Yet I didn't see any that were barren, urban expressways. They were all complete streets allowing for easy traffic flow along with easy cycling activity, street parking and safe pedestrian design.
Cannon Street has space for its sidewalks to go from this:
12th Avenue, Portland (Image credit: Flickr)
The space is there. We simply need to make green infrastructure a priority. And we can sell this easily in Hamilton. Here's how.
Look at the above picture and notice the cuts in the garden curbs. You can't see from this angle, but in the middle of each planter box there is a grate like this:
12th Avenue storm-water runoff box (Image credit: Flickr)
These are storm-water runoff boxes, or bioswales. They use them all through Portland where there has been flooding issues in recent years as the city has grown and overtaxed its water system. Sound familiar, Hamilton?
These sidewalk planters are everywhere now. What an amazingly cheap way to deal with storm water runoff and add needed greenery to hard urban streets.
Imagine how much rainwater we could divert if we built these all through lower Hamilton: killing two birds with one stone, and saving capacity in our sewer system for years to come.
I've done the measurements and Cannon Street in its current form with its current sidewalks and road width can be transformed to add bioswale planting areas along with a road design like this:
Separated bike lanes in Portland (Image credit: Flickr)
My personal suggestions: Move the protected bike lane to the south curb of Cannon, then have two live traffic lanes, then curb parking on the north lane. This protects pedestrians on both sidewalks from live traffic and it prevents any conflicts between parking cars, stopping buses and bikes.
A left side protected bike lane would look like this:
No major reconstruction is needed. No expropriation. The only real 'construction' work would involve the planting boxes on the sidewalks, which would do wonders for the streetscape, property values. pedestrian safety and rainwater retention.
Cannon Street can become one of Hamilton's safest, greenest, accessible streets and would surely see a surge in cycling activity and new streetfront business due to its location as a straight line connection through the heart of downtown Hamilton and the new James Street arts district from Strathcona/York Boulevard in the west to the new Pan Am Stadium and Ottawa Street neighbourhood in the east.
Even as a one-way street, the cycle lanes can be two-way and cyclists are instructed to obey the already existing crosswalk signals that eastbound pedestrians would use.
Two-way cycle lanes (Image credit: Brooklyn Paper)
Alternatively, we can leave the bike lane as a one-way lane and give Wilson Street from James to Sherman the same treatment in order to create the return bike lane headed east. Sherman has ample road space between King and Cannon to connect these three streets with safe bike lanes.
East of Sherman Avenue, Cannon can be redesigned to continue the bike path by simply moving the parking lane from the north curb to the south curb:
Two-way cycletracks street section (Image credit: Streetsblog)
Measurements will be different in Hamilton, but you get the idea: bike path, westbound lane, eastbound lane, curb parking.
I'd love to see Cannon become a new example of what can be done with one-way streets in lower Hamilton. And now is the time. I'm in the midst of comparing 1999 traffic volumes with new numbers from 2009 and as one example, Upper James near Limeridge carries 43,000 cars per day on its four lanes.
Cannon Street at James carries less than 19,000 on its four lanes. The traffic volume on Cannon is the same as it was a decade earlier. Upper James and other suburban, two-way streets have seen an increase.
The industrial heyday is behind us. Now is the time to bring balance and complete streets to our major one-way corridors through our urban neighbourhoods and through the heart of our downtown commercial district.
Adding greenery and safe travel options will be a huge boost to city attempts to create mixed-income neighbourhoods throughout the lower city. It can be done without a huge reconstruction cost too. It simply needs to be seen as a priority.
Please contact your councillor and respectfully add your name to the growing list of individuals, neighbourhood associations and transportation advocates desiring to see positive change come to Cannon Street.
Complete street in New York City (Image credit: Flickr)