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
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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