Special Report: Tactical Urbanism

City Paints Crosswalks, Bumpouts at Herkimer and Locke

The City has already begun installing the one-year pilot project at Herkimer and Locke to create a more pedestrian-friendly design, after City staff met with Tactical Urbanism representatives.

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 28, 2013

The City has painted ladder-style crosswalks and bumpouts at Herkimer and Locke as part of a pilot project to give the intersection a more pedestrian-friendly design.

Crosswalk hatches and painted bumpouts at Locke and Herkimer
Crosswalk hatches and painted bumpouts at Locke and Herkimer (Image Credit: Jason Leach)

The pilot follows an act of tactical urbanism in which local residents used pylons to create bumpouts at the southwest and northeast corners. Senior City staff met with representatives from the city's Tactical Urbanism movement and agreed to implement the changes more officially.

The next step is to install bollards to protect pedestrians from automobiles in the busy, aggressive intersection. After a year, the City will review the pilot and decide whether to make it permanent.

A similar pilot is also planned on Longwood Avenue.

Tactical Urbanism

Tactical urbanism is a movement based around the principle that citizens can kick-start neighbourhood transformation through low-cost, low-risk actions that make immediate changes, can be measured for impact, and can provide lessons learned for an iterative process of making the changes more permanent.

The concept came to Hamilton in a workshop and public talk by Mike Lydon that was organized by the Hamilton Burlington Society of Architects.

The act of "intersection repair" at Herkimer and Locke was one of the actions that came out of that workshop. Other actions were painted crosswalks at Cannon and Mary, an outreach project at the Delta and a friendly demonstration at Upper James and Mohawk.

Guerrilla bumpouts at Herkimer and Locke, removed by City workers (RTH file photo)
Guerrilla bumpouts at Herkimer and Locke, removed by City workers (RTH file photo)

However, the pylons were removed within a week, and on May 7, Public Works General Manager Gerry Davis circulated a memo calling the actions "illegal, potentially unsafe ad adding to the City's costs of maintenance and repair." He notified the police of the citizen acts and warned that they carry "potential liability and risk management claims to both the City and the individuals involved."

But Davis also wrote that the City is "willing to work cooperatively with citizens and citizen groups to address their traffic concerns and suggested improvements," and this pilot project is an encouraging step in that direction.

When the "guerrilla bumpouts" were still in place, I asked the long-time crossing guard what she thought of the project. With immediate enthusiasm, she said, "I like it!" The guard did not know who had installed the cones or why, but she was highly supportive, saying it makes the corner a lot safer.

The traffic calming "really controls the traffic. It was getting scary," she said, noting that the bumpouts force the cars to slow down instead of racing aggressively through the intersection.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Several of his essays have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. Ryan also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on twitter.

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted May 28, 2013 at 10:59:34

Very nice Ryan , but I actuly think painted bumpout are not going to work soon or on the long hall they need real cement bumpout

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 28, 2013 at 14:00:05 in reply to Comment 89057

Call it a pilot. A low-effort experiment that, if it turns out successful they'll convert it into concrete the next time they're out doing real road-work there. The city has a policy of breaking ground for many jobs at the same time in the same spot.

That's perfectly in line with the ideals of tactical urbanism - the whole principle is to just get out there and see if there's a quick-and-dirty way to fix something.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 28, 2013 at 14:10:11 in reply to Comment 89079

Also, as the article notes, the City still plans to bolster the bumpouts with bollards.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 28, 2013 at 14:50:14 in reply to Comment 89081

... I worry how the snowplows will interact with that.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 28, 2013 at 16:01:36 in reply to Comment 89088

Hamilton is not the first city in the world to install bollards. I'm sure we'll figure it out.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 28, 2013 at 17:50:17 in reply to Comment 89093

we might have to hire an out of town consultant to study how snowplows can interact with bollards before proceeding with any more of these pilot projects. We'll report back in 5-25 years with the results.

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By HamiltonBrian (registered) | Posted May 28, 2013 at 11:04:04

They could definitely use one at Dundurn and Main heading east. I hate that intersection.

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2013 at 16:42:39 in reply to Comment 89058

...and on King and Dundurn. That intersection is a disgrace. When heading east toward Dundurn on the bike lanes, it ends unceremoniously at Dundurn. Dismounting and attempting to get to the plaza on foot results in agro honks and gestures from rapidly turning cars that feel the need to reach speeds in excess of 70 km/h in under 5 seconds. Also, that red light camera mocks us all as it is a cash grab designed to catch people speeding on a road designed for speed.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted May 28, 2013 at 17:13:05 in reply to Comment 89096

In the case of King and Dundurn I'd be happy just to see the standard 4 way pedestrian crossing returned. It's beyond absurd that that you can't cross King Street on the West side of the intersection.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 28, 2013 at 17:46:50 in reply to Comment 89099

The KFC corner could use a little more space. In the absense of a west-side crossing I'd take a light at Bendamere, that would also help control that ridiculous uncontrolled onramp crossing.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2013 at 11:33:14

Seeing those stripes gives me such great joy!

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By Ugh (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2013 at 12:40:51 in reply to Comment 89059

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2013 at 14:20:37 in reply to Comment 89067

An area you likely define as "not where I live".

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By rednic (registered) | Posted May 28, 2013 at 12:54:34 in reply to Comment 89067

Yes I really think that Cannon East could have used a few painted crosswalks first. Hopefully the city bought a large stock of this paint so that other areas can clamor for one now as well!

A victory no less.

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted May 28, 2013 at 15:33:32

Sorry, just sure I get the physics of the bump-outs. Do they serve to tighten the turn and give pedestrians a shorter walk?

And, of course, my opinion is that anything to slow the momentum of traffic and make our urban areas more conducive to pedestrian mobility is a smart investment. So, if it works, make it happen.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted May 28, 2013 at 17:14:40 in reply to Comment 89091

The bumpouts kind of serve a dual-purpose: traffic calming and reducing the distance a pedestrian needs to travel across the intersection.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 28, 2013 at 16:19:39 in reply to Comment 89091

The unofficial bumpouts installed by the tactical urbanists immediately improved the intersection.

  • Pedestrians were more physically separated from automobiles.
  • Pedestrians had more room to stand and congregate at the corner before crossing.
  • Pedestrians had a shorter distance to cross.
  • Vehicles moved more slowly through the intersection, especially when turning.

I asked the crossing guard about it. Even though she didn't know why the pylons were there, she immediately noticed that the intersection was easier for her to manage. Walking through it myself with a child, I also experienced it to feel much calmer and safer with the bumpouts.

Herkimer is three one-way lanes wide with narrow sidewalks, and actually widens to four one-way lanes east of Locke. Drivers tend to go through that intersection aggressively - lots of fast acceleration and sharp braking. It's downright intimidating, especially when there are so many children walking through it.

The intersection is also slightly askew, and the bumpouts on the northeast and southwest corners help to make the crosswalks more square.

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By Core-B (registered) | Posted May 28, 2013 at 17:05:27

Hopefully the pilot project will be a success and will expand city wide. Sure looks like a great inexpensive way to improve pedestrian safety. Always a good thing.

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By sylvia_nickerson (registered) - website | Posted May 28, 2013 at 19:41:01

There was a tactical urbanism intervention at Cannon and Mary street, where they painted a crosswalk at midnight. It was removed by city staff the next morning. Since then as far as I know, no one from traffic has come to talk to anyone in Beasley, or given any attention to Cannon street or pedestrian safety issues there. And might I point out that EVERY DAY a crossing guard uses a stop sign and to stop five lanes of traffic including many trucks and tractor trailers so that children can cross Cannon Street to go to Dr. Davey school. I really hope that what can happen on Locke street can happen in Beasley, because our residents who walk along Cannon street daily to walk their kids to school, or who wait on the sidewalk at this intersection to access the Good Shepard food bank, really deserve some respect.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 28, 2013 at 22:09:31 in reply to Comment 89109

I would suggest pushing really hard through your councillor right now. The last thing city hall wants is to be seen as ignoring a 'poorer' area, while falling all over themselves to paint crosswalks in a 'richer' area. I'm glad the crosswalk was painted, but let's get real - Locke St is one of the few pedestrian friendly places in the entire city.
On Cannon, might I suggest having the local urbanist group move over a block or two and focus their efforts at a signalized intersection. The city won't leave a crosswalk like this at an intersection with no stoplights. Perhaps Catharine would work??

In fact, go paint it again at midnight, but at Catharine this time and see what happens. No argument can be made that it's not a 'real' crosswalk.

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By Flaneurbanist (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2013 at 20:49:06

Zebra crosses would be a welcome addition to [Queen, Hess, Caroline, Bay, James, Hughson, John, Caroline, Walnut, Ferguson, Wellington] and
[Herkimer, Duke, Young, Augusta, Hunter, Jackson, Main, King, York/Wilson, Cannon, Barton]. No knock on South Kirkendall/South Durand, but there are other neighbourhoods with low-hanging fruit too.

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By Keith (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2013 at 01:37:36 in reply to Comment 89111

Why not just encourage your Councillor to make it official policy to paint these crosswalks at major controlled intersections? I believe Mississauga adopted a policy like this a few years back and change is slowly coming as the City rebuilds its roads.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 28, 2013 at 22:06:08 in reply to Comment 89111

personally I think we need to get the tactical urbanist folks to organize and paint these crosswalks all through the downtown area WITHOUT announcing it and blabbing on twitter. Just quietly do it. I'm considering chatting with my contacts and suggesting we go measure the exact dimensions of the zebra stripes on Locke so that we paint the exact same thing in other locations. Let's not let one set of crosswalks signal the end of tactical urbanism.

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By TB (registered) - website | Posted May 31, 2013 at 08:24:16 in reply to Comment 89112

The city is obviously open to collaboration now. Work WITH them, not against them. If someone gets injured or killed as a result of something you've done "secretly" which could have been avoided through consultation with the city, you'll blow the whole movement, which is currently on a positive tack.

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By TacticalUrbanism2.0 (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2013 at 00:55:13

A funny look at a city trying to counter the effect of tactical urbanism:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6T3ktFRCcg

This throws up an interesting potential for tactical urbanism 2.0

Instead of painting white crosswalks on asphalt where they are much needed, why not make a series of slightly raised strips of asphalt with curved edges, in perpendicular direction to road, so that it becomes uncomfortable to drive over it at higher speeds.

No one at city would notice it for long time, except the drivers who would presume it is the city once again doing a bad job of patching cracked roads. And they will never complain knowing that the city never listens anyways. While the city staff will never notice any difference to the road, as they are used to providing roads with various state of cracks, canyons and lumpy patch work.

Where to get asphalt for this? Have a block party to raise some change. Then just stop a city truck carrying asphalt and make a deal to dump some in your neighborhood ;)

For a more permanent solution it will be a pain trying to convince your local councillor and Gerry Davis to trade city paint for a speed-bump/crosswalk combo, so this may only work as a tactical urbanism project.

And for when the city catches up and removes it, the material is totally recyclable unlike paint! so this project could even apply for mock LEED certification and garner some serious international notoriety while embarrassing the city into finally addressing the problem of local speed.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted May 29, 2013 at 11:09:15 in reply to Comment 89114

A funny look at a city trying to counter the effect of tactical urbanism

Oh God, I saw people doing that in Beijing recently! I assumed it was some form of prison labour or 'community service'. :P

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted May 29, 2013 at 21:38:01

The paint is already beginning to fade. I wonder if that's how they make sure it's a pilot project?

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted May 30, 2013 at 16:12:08

Repainted again.

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By Lights (anonymous) | Posted May 31, 2013 at 23:57:36

Okay, maybe this thread is dead but...
I'm thrilled with the bump-outs (although I'd like to see them in concrete), and love the properly painted crosswalks, but now it appears they're installing permanently flashing red lights above the intersection as well. Don't these traffic engineers understand that if you slow the traffic enuf with passive measures, you don't need to have lights always flashing into someone's window? There's a lot of other four stops run more often than Locke & Herkimer.

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By Modo (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2013 at 19:16:00

What about some bumpouts/crosswalks before the Liquor and Beer stores at Charlton and Dundurn?
I live west of Dundurn,and to cross safely I have to walk all the way to Herkimer. This is a problem for a disabled senior.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 06, 2013 at 12:36:36

What do you know, I stumbled upon this website today: http://www.hamilton.ca/CityDepartments/P...

With these pics from many years ago: http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/BC9A...

Remind me why we need a 1-year pilot project for painted bumpouts and bollards on Locke St?? We've had this infrastructure in place just a few minutes away for many year. Is 'pilot project' the new code word for 'maintaing the status quo for as long as humanly possible??'

Comment edited by jason on 2013-06-06 12:37:07

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