An otherwise sensible motion to look at adding sidewalks to suburban streets without them turns into yet another attack against the lower city.
By Ryan McGreal
Published May 13, 2016
Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead's cute war against the lower city continued last week with an obnoxious notice of motion to look at closing the Beckett Drive and James Mountain Road accesses. The text of the motion mocked what Whitehead called an "aggressive urbanist movement" pushing for road safety improvements - he put the word "safety" in scare quotes - and equated traffic calming with "creat[ing] a higher levels [sic] of congestion".
The motion drew a sharp rebuke from the Kirkendall Neighbourhood Association, which decried its "divisive language", "sarcastic" tone and misleading reference to the Aberdeen traffic-calming motion that Council approved late last year.
Whitehead's motion also provoked a letter from Dr. David. A. Higgins, President of St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, to express concern. (Text of the letter is at the bottom of this article.)
The letter notes that the two accesses in question provide direct vehicular access to St. Joseph's, including access for emergency vehicles and time-sensitive patient and blood product transfers, and that the hospital would like an opportunity to provide input to any study into changing the traffic flow on the accesses.
Whitehead was going to introduce the motion at the May 11, 2016 City Council meeting but at the meeting he agreed to withdraw it and remove the "provocative language".
Honestly, the motion was so odious that I would have been surprised if he could have found anyone to second the thing.
Small victory for common sense over obnoxious anti-urbanism, but this is Councillor Whitehead we're talking about.
After withdrawing his "aggressive urbanist" motion, he introduced a notice of motion to look at adding sidewalks on mountain streets within the urban boundary that lack them.
So far so good, and any reasonable person from any part of the city would support a motion to make a given street more walkable no matter where it is.
But as I wrote, this is Councillor Whitehead we're talking about, and even when he is doing the right thing he finds a way to do it wrong.
After playing lip service to the "urbanist approach to planning safer streets in our communities" that "has gained support amongst City of Hamilton Councillors, staff and citizens alike," Whitehead couldn't resist turning this into a zero-sum, us-vs-them battle.
One of the clauses states: "WHEREAS, the city has a responsibility to prioritize fundamental safety in neighbourhoods over enhancements in other areas that are already adequately urbanized".
Yes, Whitehead is using the lack of sidewalks on some mountain streets as a wedge to oppose safety improvements in the part of the city that he does not represent but loves to control.
He turned what could have been a mature acceptance of the universal value of safe, inclusive streets for everyone into yet another divisive, anti-urban attack against the lower city.
And I can't read his expression, "already adequately urbanized" without hearing Craig Burley's brilliantly cynical Hamilton slogan: "Good enough for the likes of you."
Following is the text of Whitehead's notice of motion:
Urbanization of Rural Cross-Section Roads
WHEREAS, there are rudimentary safety issues on the road network within the urban boundary;
WHEREAS, an urbanist approach to planning safer streets in our communities has gained support amongst City of Hamilton Councillors, staff and citizens alike;
WHEREAS, there has been a great deal of community engagement and encouragement regarding initiatives that push for many enhancements in the name of safety in our streets;
WHEREAS, there are many neighbourhoods that have rural cross-section roads with no sidewalks within the urban boundary;
WHEREAS, residents are trying to walk to their churches and schools in these neighbourhoods safely;
WHEREAS, the city has a responsibility to prioritize fundamental safety in neighbourhoods over enhancements in other areas that are already adequately urbanized;
WHEREAS, crossing guards are not assigned in neighbourhoods that have no sidewalks;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:
(a) That staff be directed to report to the Public Works Committee with a Capital Plan to urbanize rural cross-section roads in the next 5 years; and,
(b) That staff develop a strategy for ensuring safety in neighbourhoods not yet urbanized.
Following is the text of the letter from Dr. David A. Higgins:
May 10, 2016
To Whom It May Concern:
RE: TRAFFIC STUDY-WEST MOUNTAIN
It has come to our attention that there will be a proposal that will be brought before Council proposing a traffic study be done of several West Mountain roads and accesses. Specifically, we understand that thls includes investigating the feasibility of making the West 5 or Queen Street one way during rush hour or closing one of them altogether.
An excerpt of the motion to be brought to city council as it relates to the West 5th access includes the following: "That staff be directed to provide recommendations in that report to address the increased traffic loads, including a feasibility study on reverse lane control with 2 lanes down-bound in the morning rush hour and 2 lanes up-bound in the evening rush hour on both the Queen Street Hill and West 5th and/or shutting one or both accesses down.".
We are writing to confirm whether or not is correct and what the impetus is for this investigation. We would hope that any studies that take place will require the direct input from St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton and we would like to know what the process will be to gain this input.
These main access roads provide direct vehicular flow to our emergency department, provide access for emergency first responders including fire, EMS and Hamilton Police Services as well as patient, and blood product transfer between our facilities which are required within specific timeframes.
We look forward to hearing from you soon.
Dr. David A. Higgins, M.B., B.Sc., M.R.C.P.I., F.R.C.P.C., Dip. A.B.S.M
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