Special Report: Cycling

Follow Engineering Standards to Make Durand Streets Safe

With numerous grocery stores, banks, libraries, churches, GO station and other destinations within close proximity, Durand should be a healthy neighbourhood with a high walking, cycling and public transit mode share.

By Kevin Love
Published November 18, 2014

"In New York, everybody considers himself a traffic engineer." —Janette Sadik-Khan, Former New York City Transportation Commissioner

On November 11, I and six other Duranders met with our newly re-elected Ward 2 Councillor, Jason Farr. The purpose of this meeting was to express our concerns with the recent street designs proposed by City staff for cycling infrastructure in the Durand neighbourhood.

Bike lanes on Charlton and Herkimer
Bike lanes on Charlton and Herkimer

You can view the current design here [PDF].

The purpose of this article is not to provide a detailed report on this meeting. Rather, it is my intent to provide some background information on the issues involved, how they personally affect myself and my family, and how we can move forward together.

Background

The Hamilton staff proposals contain serious violations of the CROW design engineering standards for bicycle traffic.

The Janette Sadik-Khan quote also seems to apply to City of Hamilton staff. Instead of following the established engineering design standards, City staff chose to "wing it" and make up their own designs.

When this happens, the best outcome is that they merely waste a lot of time re-inventing the wheel. Worst case is that they come up with very dangerous designs. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened.

Several particularly horrific examples in the staff proposal placed bike lanes in the door zone of adjacent parked cars. That results in the bike lane being the most dangerous place on the entire road to ride a bicycle!

Eliminating Cut-Through Traffic

For residential neighbourhoods such as Durand, one of the design engineering standards for bicycle traffic requires the elimination of rat-running "cut-through" car traffic. There are several examples of permeable filters that allow walking, cycling and public transit to go straight through but stop cut-through car drivers. Here is one example in Toronto:

We already have one example in Durand on the east end of Aberdeen Avenue. See:

This is, of course, in the ultra-wealthy part of Durand with its multi-million dollar mansions.

Now I certainly do not begrudge mega-rich people using their clout to eliminate cut-through car driving around their mansions. I am sure that they love their children and want to live in safe neighbourhoods. But me and my neighbours, we also love our children and want the same safety for ourselves and other not-quite-so-rich people.

Safer Streets

Where the CROW standards have been systematically implemented such as in The Netherlands, cut-through car driving has been progressively eliminated from virtually every residential neighbourhood in the entire country.

This is one of the key reasons why The Netherlands has the world's safest roads.

So what is the solution? How are we going to get City staff to follow recognized traffic design engineering standards and stop "winging it" by making up their own stuff?

Bicycle Traffic Design Engineer

One solution is to bring in an actual bicycle traffic design engineer. Someone with the necessary education, training, professional certification and experience. The City of Burlington did just that.

They brought in Wim Mulder, a bicycle traffic design engineer from Burlington's twin city of Apeldoorn in The Netherlands. You can read a description of his recommendations [PDF].

Needless to say, as a competent professional, Mr. Mulder's recommendations are based upon the CROW traffic design engineering standard.

Trial Projects

Another solution is to follow the example of Janette Sadik-Khan and push for trial projects. I strongly recommend viewing her TED talk, "New York's Streets? Not So Mean Any More".

Her descriptions and photographs of what she was able to do with paint, temporary barriers and lawn chairs are quite remarkable. Since the materials could be quickly installed they could be just as quickly removed if the sky were to fall. Needless to say, it did not.

Great Potential

Durand Neighbourhood has excellent potential. At a standard urban bicycle design speed of 20 km/hr, a nine-minute commute of 3 km includes St Joseph's Hospital and the entire downtown Hamilton employment zone.

With numerous grocery stores, banks, libraries, churches, GO station and other destinations within this nine-minute 3 km zone, Durand should be a healthy neighbourhood with a high walking, cycling and public transit mode share.

And yet... it is not. Why?

I know many people who live in Durand and have commute-to-work distances of between 2 km (downtown) and 6 blocks (St. Joseph's Hospital). Even the nurse who works at St. Joe's drives a car six blocks to work.

Why? If you ask her, she will say, "It takes me longer to walk to work from the St. Joe's parking garage than it would to ride a bike straight to work from home. But I don't do that because car drivers scare the $#!%&!! out of me."

I get the same answer from everyone else. Car drivers have effectively terrorized almost everyone else off of the road.

The Herkimer Racetrack

My own family is an excellent example of the profoundly dysfunctional streets in Durand. Four of the people that car drivers have effectively terrorized off the road are my wife and three teen-age children.

My family lives on Park Street just south of Herkimer. Cut through car drivers travelling east on Herkimer can see the traffic light at James Street turn green as far back as Durand Park.

These cut-through car drivers know that if they are going to "beat the light" they have to blast through at speeds of 70-90 km/hr. So they do!

Needless to say, this does a rather effective job of terrorizing everyone else off of the road. Even during peak hours, the cycling mode share is very low and definitely does not include my wife and children.

Are the Hamilton staff proposals going to fix this? Are they going to shut down the Herkimer Racetrack? Are cut-through car drivers going to be prevented from terrorizing everyone else off of the road? The answers are no, no and definitely not.

My Proposal

The Hamilton city staff proposals violate the CROW standards by failing to eliminate cut-through car traffic in Durand, except in the ultra-wealthy area around Aberdeen.

It is easy to predict that any proposal that fails to eliminate cut-through car driving will be a failure. Any such proposal will never move us out of our current very low mode share of walking, cycling and public transit.

One of the jokes that I tell on myself is that I really don't have any original ideas. What I mean by that is that I do not consider myself to be a traffic engineer. So my approach is to simply read the CROW manual and implement established traffic design engineering standards.

So here is my proposal: Let's do it right on a temporary basis in the spring and summer of 2015. Eliminate all cut-through car driving in Durand with cheap, temporary materials such as paint, signs, Jersey barriers and knock-down sticks.

These can be quickly and easily installed and just as easily removed if the sky should fall.

My prediction is that the sky will not fall but Durand will transform itself into a safe, liveable residential neighbourhood.

Kevin is a professional accountant and a retired infantry officer with the Canadian Forces. Kevin keeps encountering people who were students of his father, Dr. Robert Love, who was a professor at MacMaster University from 1977-2008. He lives near Durand Park in Hamilton and is currently Vice-Chair of the Hamilton Cycling Committee.

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By UrbanMom (registered) | Posted November 18, 2014 at 14:40:47

I, too, am a parent living in the Durand. We're at Robinson and Bay. Both streets are awful. Bay street is full of people racing off the Charlton light to get to Hunter as fast as possible. Even when the school warning lights are flashing and I am walking my 7yo to school every day, the traffic is frighteningly fast with the added factor of having the cars in the western-most lane driving alarmingly close to the curb.

There are accidents at our corner and at Duke and Bay weekly. A young man died two weeks ago - he was speeding on a motorcycle, a cab was speeding around the corner. My son and I witnessed an accident a few feet in front of us at Duke a few months ago. Just this morning new bits of car littered the road there from an accident that must have happened since yesterday at 3pm. There is a very clear problem in our neighbourhood that involved traffic, speed and crossings.

I started a small group on Facebook to discuss turning the entire Durand into a 30km zone, the way the North End neighbourhood did. There currently isn't much happening there as I'm not quite sure what to do but I definitely support all efforts to eliminate cut through traffic and slow local traffic. If anyone wants to come be a part of my little group and perhaps use that to get support for existing initiatives or a gathering place to create an initiative they can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/72251872...

Comment edited by UrbanMom on 2014-11-18 14:45:35

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 18, 2014 at 18:53:22 in reply to Comment 106273

so glad to see your initiative. Great work Yet, so sad that you (and all of us) need to do this in our own neighbourhoods because city hall only values our neighbourhoods as dangerous raceways to their monster surface parking lot.

Someday I hope we'll see civic leadership that actually values urban neighbourhoods and wants to see families enjoying life downtown.

In the meantime, keep up the battle.

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By Fake Name (anonymous) | Posted November 18, 2014 at 14:59:37

The 1-way grid of Durand/Kirkendall is utterly ludicrous, and serves no purpose other than cutting 30 seconds off of the commute of folks going from Ward 8 into St. Joe's or City Hall. Just bite the bullet and convert everything south of Hunter over 22 feet wide into 2-way (30 feet if it has both-side parking).

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted November 18, 2014 at 23:02:04 in reply to Comment 106274

Providing that suitable barriers are used to filter out cut-through car driving, the 1-way grid in Durand would actually be quite useful. It would mean that for car drivers, there is only one way into, through and out of Durand. But pedestrians, cyclists and public transit vehicles (with suitable gates) could travel through.

This is a key part of making walking, cycling or public transit the fastest, easiest and most convenient way of travelling from A to B. A good example is in Groningen. Note particularly the section from 2:12 - 3:50 in the video that explains how eliminating cut-through car driving was a key part of transforming Groningen.

Provided that there is a counter-flow lane for cycling, there are legitimate uses for one-way streets.

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2014-11-18 23:16:22

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By ScreenCarp (registered) | Posted November 22, 2014 at 07:15:00 in reply to Comment 106287

Herkimer and Charlton are not "cut through" traffic. They're intended as east/west secondary arterials that service the south part of the lower city. There is no other route for traffic. That's not to suggest they couldn't be calmed (Herkimer especially) but traffic between James and Dundurn on those streets is by design and there is no other choice.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 18, 2014 at 18:54:19 in reply to Comment 106274

"serves no purpose".

That IS the purpose. Can't have precious Ward Eighters or Ancasterites ever hitting a red light.

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By Herkimer (anonymous) | Posted November 18, 2014 at 15:15:19

Not to mention the available roadspace is optimized for fastest possible cut through during rush hour.

There is no justifiable reason for prohibiting northside curb parking during the morning rush hour on Herkimer. It only provides the opportunity for cars to pass each other, which they do at jaw dropping speeds. Enforcement is non existent. On those days when cars are parked illegally; there is no effect on traffic (except it slows it down).

It has only been since 2002 (the latest traffic study) that parking has been allowed northside during evening rush hour.............much to the delight of St. Joe's staff that take almost all of the neighbourhood parking all day every weekday......but that's a topic for another day.

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By JWilbur (registered) | Posted November 18, 2014 at 17:16:37

Great article, thank you!

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted November 18, 2014 at 18:30:32 in reply to Comment 106277

You are very welcome!

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By UrbanMom (registered) | Posted November 18, 2014 at 17:33:16

How have the speedbumps on the Charlton between Queen and Locke been working? I still see a fair bit of traffic through there but I'm not there all that often. That's definitely an effort to curb cut-through traffic and slow the traffic way down.

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted November 18, 2014 at 17:45:04 in reply to Comment 106278

That's Kirkendall not Durand.

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By UrbanMom (registered) | Posted November 19, 2014 at 11:08:23 in reply to Comment 106279

I don't see that just because they aren't in the Durand, that the Durand neighbourhood couldn't learn from that experience. THey have the same issues as we do, to an extent.

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By jackle (anonymous) | Posted November 18, 2014 at 21:58:42 in reply to Comment 106279

what's your point?

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted November 19, 2014 at 12:48:00 in reply to Comment 106284

What's yours?

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted November 18, 2014 at 22:17:44

Nice article, Kevin. Thanks.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted November 18, 2014 at 23:17:52 in reply to Comment 106286

You're welcome. This is where I live. So I care!

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By ScreenCarp (registered) | Posted November 19, 2014 at 01:03:36

What route would you prefer serviced the south end of the lower city? How would you like cars to get from John to Dundurn? Charlton has been calmed as much as possible between Queen and Dundurn, Herkimer could still use some work in this neighbourhood, but Herkimer and Charlton are arterial roads between Queen and James. I'm not sure there's any other choice to move traffic in this area.

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By Herkimer (anonymous) | Posted November 19, 2014 at 09:35:50 in reply to Comment 106289

Start by removing the slip turns from Queen on to Herkimer and then make Queen two-way since most people are trying to get to Main/King anyway.

Then calm everything else. If the speed limit were reduced and enforced it would literally add SECONDS to the commute.

Stick to the arterials. In new neighbourhoods you have no choice by design. Why does the lower city deserve less?

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 19, 2014 at 11:54:48 in reply to Comment 106293

Ancaster added roundabouts and narrower, winding lanes on Rousseaux St. They also narrowed Wilson to 1-lane each way with nice bike lanes, wide sidewalks, benches, trees and even flower garden medians in some spots. Both are very busy 'arterials'.

And their councillor is one of the most vocal opponent of doing the same downtown. Classism anyone?

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted November 19, 2014 at 08:46:45 in reply to Comment 106289

People travelling from John to Dundurn should not be travelling by car. The infrastructure needs to be improved so that cycling or public transit is the fastest, easiest and most convenient way of safely travelling from John to Dundurn.

Depending upon where on John and where on Dundurn one is travelling, the distance is a bit over 2 km. That's 6-7 minutes cycling at the standard urban design speed of 20 km/hr.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted November 24, 2014 at 17:15:40 in reply to Comment 106291

People travelling from John to Dundurn should not be travelling by car.

Why not? I lived at John and Charlton, and would drive down Charlton to the liquor store, to Murphy's subs, to Zarky's, to the dog groomer, and to our realtor's office. Not driving was not an option in those cases. Please don't lecture to me about how to use my city's streets. I don't lecture to you about how you can't use the Jolley Cut, or Charlton, or Herkimer.

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By ScreenCarp (registered) | Posted November 22, 2014 at 07:22:03 in reply to Comment 106291

That's just crazy talk. If I am coming from Brantford to St. Joe's this is the most reasonable route to take. I appreciate your belief, but the reality is that we need to be able to move cars along these routes. It's NIMBY'ism in the worst way to want to block these streets like you suggest. Extra miles and circuitous routes are terrible for the environment and simply reshuffle traffic to less suitable routes.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 22, 2014 at 15:55:06 in reply to Comment 106413

What? No, if I were going from Brantford to St Joes, I'd take the QEW, and then take Main to John. I go to Brantford often so I'm familiar with the various ways too and from, and I honestly don't understand the folks that insist on coming down through the minor highways and the mountain - the 403 to Brantford is always incredibly fast, Main/Dundurn is very close to downtown Hamilton.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 22, 2014 at 09:55:57 in reply to Comment 106413

ah yes, the old 'more people driving everywhere is good for the environment' argument. That's always a beauty.

are you really expecting us to plan our city around the odd time someone comes in from Brantford? No thanks. The most logical route would be to the Henderson hospital, or down the 403 to Main St to St Joes or General.

Or perhaps someone from Brantford could consider using the Brantford General Hospital.

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By FanofU (anonymous) | Posted November 22, 2014 at 13:42:36 in reply to Comment 106414

LOL. Have you ever been the the Brantford General. Do you have any understanding of How medicine is triaged in Ontario. Do you think people in Brantford want to come to Hamilton. I think you are talking out of your lower orifice.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 22, 2014 at 23:33:08 in reply to Comment 106415

All are welcome to come to our hospitals. They can take Main St to either St Joes or the General. What sane person from Brantford is going to find a weaving route through Herkimer and Charlton to get to the hospital?? They're going to take the normal, direct route.

Comment edited by jason on 2014-11-22 23:34:09

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted November 19, 2014 at 13:52:02 in reply to Comment 106291

I don't think he meant "just" John to Dundurn but East of John to Dundurn "and beyond" ( i,e to the 403 or to Ancaster, or to the East Mountain) by using that route. Say from Wentworth South to Chedoke, or Sherman and Stinson to the great new innovation park on Longwood?

You can go up to Cannon and through to Dundurn. You can't use King because it is a parking lot from Wellington to Bay.

"That's 6-7 minutes cycling at the standard urban design speed of 20 km/hr" if you don't hit a light, it's not snowing or raining and you are under 60 in good health.

Comment edited by CharlesBall on 2014-11-19 13:52:31

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By Fake Name (anonymous) | Posted November 19, 2014 at 15:38:35 in reply to Comment 106306

Hunter, Cannon, and even Wilson do just fine getting you past the International Village. You don't need to take them all the way to Dundurn, just until Bay/Queen when you can return to the un-congested section of King.

Is it too much to ask that our urban highways be limited to *major* roads as much as possible instead of random residential areas like Herkimer?

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted November 20, 2014 at 16:50:08 in reply to Comment 106310

Actually, as a Beasley resident I would say that it is totally inappropriate to ask Cannon and Wilson (which cut through my neighborhood just as Herkimer and Charlton cut through yours) to take even more of the burden of automobile traffic than they already do.

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By Fake Name (anonymous) | Posted November 24, 2014 at 13:18:24 in reply to Comment 106375

Fine, just Hunter then. Hunter is, after all, the Cannon of the South side. I suppose Wilson could be the Herkimer/Caroline of the south side... and hey, Wilson got converted to 2-way!

So yeah, convert Herkimer/Caroline.

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By Fake Name (anonymous) | Posted November 24, 2014 at 12:43:56 in reply to Comment 106375

I'll concede Wilson, but Cannon at least usually has enough traffic that the cars are generally constrained to the speed limit, at least now with the cycle track.

Herkimer/Caroline are sparse streets - when somebody cuts through them, they're frequently hitting highway speeds. Much of Cannon is lined with parking lots - Herkimer and Caroline are almost 100% residential.

At this point the more traffic on Cannon the better, since traffic is what keeps it moving at a sane speed.

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By JasonAAllen (registered) - website | Posted November 19, 2014 at 09:50:56

At the doors in October, I had one neighbour who was adamant that slowing traffic on Herkimer would cost lives. She insisted that because it is a route ambulances use when Main is backed up, that it's irresponsible to those who need urgent care to slow down the cars on that street.

I thought about asking about the number of pedestrians and cyclists who are likely to die as a result of the speeds on the road, or those who will be crippled by diabetes and obesity as we continue to reinforce a car-dependant culture...about a million thoughts went through my head, but it was a) an election, and b) a fight I wasn't going to win, so I walked away. We have our work cut out for us, folks.

Great article Kevin. Well done.

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By charlesball (registered) | Posted November 19, 2014 at 13:36:28 in reply to Comment 106294

How many pedestrian fatalities has there been on Herkimer in the last 50 years?

Is this really a safety issue?

Do we keep stats on delay/time/death rates for in transit patients by ambulance or otherwise? Is there any way to really know if someone dies stuck in traffic?

When you use safety an death as the primary argument to reduce traffic on Herkimer, are you not inviting the question about comparative safety?

If no one has died on Herkimer because of speed or traffic related issues, and one person has died because of a traffic jam, who wins the argument? If one pedestrian has been killed an no one has died for failure to get to the hospital who wins?

"We will all die if we don't lower the speed limit" is known as an in terrorem argument. It is the same argument as "we will all die if we can't get to the hospital in time." If you eliminate that argument, what is the argument to reduce traffic on Herkimer?

Is it property value?

Is it quiet and undisturbed enjoyment of property?

If my child was killed by a speedster I would be pissed. If my wife dies because of a traffic jam I would be pissed. That would be anectodal. As a planner I would want to know exactly how much time would be reduced by reducing traffic flow on Herkimer.

(As an aside question, who bought property in "Durand" or on Herkimer in particular in the last 50 years who did not know that a major hospital existed at the end of the street and that Herkimer was a through street?)

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By Herkimer (anonymous) | Posted November 19, 2014 at 15:40:47 in reply to Comment 106304

"who bought property in "Durand" or on Herkimer in particular in the last 50 years who did not know that a major hospital existed at the end of the street and that Herkimer was a through street?"

Which has exactly what to do with speeding traffic?

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 19, 2014 at 11:56:32 in reply to Comment 106294

She's onto the secret plan.

This is the real reason cities around the world are going to 30k speed limits, with streets designed to match...trying to kill people by slowing down ambulances.
Good thing Hamilton knows better than the rest of the world......

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted November 19, 2014 at 12:18:54 in reply to Comment 106297

There were similar objections by emergency services back in the 1970s when Vancouver made diagonal sidewalks and pedestrianized some short blocks in the grid system of the West End. Guess what, 40 years later they are still there in on of the densest neighbourhoods in North America and no one wants to remove them.

http://raisethehammer.org/comment/102331

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2014-11-19 12:19:32

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By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted November 26, 2014 at 16:27:34

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