Dear Drivers of Hamilton

Sometimes turning an argument upside-down helps to demonstrate how silly it is.

By Frances Murray
Published July 24, 2017

I'm sure many of you agreed wholeheartedly with Krista Dam-Vandekuyt's op-ed in Saturday's Hamilton Spectator about the bad behaviour of cyclists. Here is a different take on this theme.

I am a driving enthusiast. I love the open road and have taken many long road trips over the years. Nothing can beat the exhilaration of finally reaching your destination after 12 hours on the road.

But today I am ashamed to be considered one of you. These are the driving infractions I have witnessed in the past week:

I, too, am not a perfect driver or cyclist, and I also try my best to respect everyone on the road. However, if I make a mistake in my car, it's less likely that I will die because of that mistake.

When I'm on my bike, it is in my best interest to yield to drivers who are going too fast to see me, not paying attention, and driving vehicles so large they might not even feel the thump when they run me down.

In conclusion: drivers, what is your problem? You are giving other drivers a bad name. Because of your bad behaviour, all of you are to blame and you should all have your right to drive revoked until you are re-tested for your driver's license.

See, now the argument just sounds silly.

Frances was born in Toronto and has lived in various places since that time returning to her urban roots in 2010 by moving to downtown Hamilton. She is developing a keen interest in urban issues with a focus on improved walkability and bikeability.


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By RoboRobbins (registered) - website | Posted July 24, 2017 at 18:47:53

If I had to name one Hamilton driver pet peeve it would be that nobody seems to know what a #^@*$_$ crosswalk is. So much aggressive driving and road rage against pedestrians who are crossing James N in a perfectly legal fashion, exactly in accordance with the rules of the road.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted July 25, 2017 at 09:02:22 in reply to Comment 121753

Remember in Hamilton a crosswalk is only a crosswalk (as per the Highway Act) if it is at a controlled intersection or is signalized ... the painted lines at James and Colbourne or James and Robert aren't technically crosswalks according to our police service and therefore drivers don't need to yield to pedestrians crossing in them.

As a new driver in Hamilton a number of years back I would stop for pedestrians waiting to cross ... assuming that was required. Got honked at and most pedestrians seemed puzzled, so I stopped. Same experience in reverse as a pedestrian. Sad, but true.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 25, 2017 at 10:05:17 in reply to Comment 121754

A few years ago I tried to get to the bottom of what the law says about right of way at an uncontrolled intersection. In an uncontrolled crossing, responsibility is shared between drivers and pedestrians:

  • Pedestrians are responsible to wait for a gap in traffic that is large enough that drivers have an opportunity to yield; and
  • Drivers are responsible to yield to a pedestrian who is crossing the intersection.

There is no legal requirement for drivers to yield for a pedestrian who merely wants to cross the street; the pedestrian must already be crossing. On the other hand, the pedestrian does not have to wait for a gap big enough to cross entirely without any cars having to slow down; merely to wait for a gap big enough that drivers can reasonably yield.

The rules around uncontrolled crossings are poorly understood by most drivers and pedestrians alike. They require pedestrians to make a live analysis of traffic (i.e. distance and speed of approaching automobiles) that is subject to interpretation and dispute from drivers who may be reluctant to yield - not to mention an act of faith that those drivers will actually understand their responsibility to yield.

It is for this reason that the Ontario Government revived and updated the rules and design guidelines for Pedestrian Crossovers (PXOs), which are a type of controlled crossing that have the advantage of signage/signals and clear rules requiring drivers to yield once the PXO has been activated. The City of Hamilton has begun installing PXOs within the past year.

PXO on the Escarpment Rail Trail at Lime Ridge Road East

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2017-07-25 10:05:42

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By RobF (registered) | Posted July 26, 2017 at 20:13:29 in reply to Comment 121755

I remember the article above, which explained why things seemed so wonky on James North and Ottawa Street, etc. I tend to agree with Frances: to a large degree we are dealing with a cultural mindset amongst the driving public that sees pedestrians (and cyclists) as obstacles that don't have the same right to space as free flowing traffic. My favorite examples are on mountain access roads where James and Wentworth stairs cross them ... high-speed traffic, poor sight-lines, and signs that say "wait for gap". I generally don't have much difficulty making the crossing safely, but it is rare that drivers slow-down much when people are crossing during "gaps".

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted July 25, 2017 at 11:32:36

In London (UK), drivers stop at crosswalks when a pedestrian is standing on the curb waiting to cross. It is amazing and wonderful, also proving that driving behaviour is cultural and can be changed.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted July 26, 2017 at 14:15:39 in reply to Comment 121756

It'll never work in Hamilton. London doesn't have an escarpment.

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