By Jason Leach
Published January 20, 2009
Since our local newsmedia are too busy giving airtime to suburban councillors who find it "impossible" to drive their cars slowly, I thought I'd provide some info on child safety and overall road safety as it pertains to the proposed traffic calming measures in the North End, and specifically the 30 km/hr speed limit.
Safe Kids Canada, an initiative of Sick Kids Hospital, has created a presentation for municipal councils titled, "Child Pedestrian Safety: The Case For Speed Reduction" [PPT link] that reflects the mindset that dominates our city, media and many of the 'power brokers' both on and off council:
Driver research shows that:
- Drivers believe that roads are for cars
- Drivers drive faster in good weather.
- Drivers are unable to accurately assess their own speed while driving.
- Drivers make few adjustments in the presence of children.
If you live in Hamilton, you don't need me to tell you that all of the above are not only true, but are practically our local mantra. I'm surprised this isn't our slogan instead of 'Together Aspire, Together Achieve'.
Furthermore, despite the money-making potential of headlines that state this has never been done before in Canada, the City of Toronto obtained permission in 1994 to use a 30 km/hr speed limit [PDF link]. They continue to have that option in their arsenal of traffic calming measures in 2009.
(As a side note, does anyone actually do any research any more in our local mainstream media? I mean, Toronto is 40 minutes away and has had this tool at their disposal for 15 years.)
Back on topic, there are many areas in Canada that have residential streets with a posted 30 km/hr speed limit. Toronto, Alberta and Quebec are the most commonly-cited locales that have already taken the plunge to help improve our children's safety.
Various European cities have seen their death rates drop dramatically since lowering speed limits to 30 and 40 km/hr. I'm just baffled at this notion that 'this has only really been done in Europe, therefore it's a crazy idea'.
In case you haven't figured it out yet, our cities would be a lot better off if we started learning from our European friends instead of always following the lead of the US and their depressed, crime-ridden cities.
A select few US cities have slowly climbed out of the hole, usually by incorporating European-style design ideas and urban structure. The city of Portland, Oregon has it stated as their official city mission statement to be 'the most European city in America'.
If I didn't know any better, I'd think that Hamilton has stated it's goal of being 'the most North Tonawanda-like city in Canada'.
This issue goes much deeper than just child safety, although that's arguably the most important. This also speaks to the health of our local businesses and retail streets.
I realize that certain organizations in the city that are supposed to support a better business environment actually only care about maintaining the status-quo, but you need only travel to any city with a vibrant retail, dining, nightlife and entertainment scene and you'll see that pedestrians walking on streets are who spend money, not cars flying past on their way to somewhere else.
We at RTH have been called a lot of things over the years, but we are proud to assert that we are consistently the most pro-business media organization in this city, hands down. If we had our way, businesses from all over the continent would be fighting each other to fill any available space on our main city streets.
Always remember this - the powers that be have been in charge for decades and are completely happy with streets like Barton, King East, Main East and many others in their less-than vibrant state. Sure, they get lots of free airtime in the media to suggest otherwise, but talk is cheap.
If it was true, something would have changed by now. After all, it's been decades.
I was in Montreal recently and was struck by the fact that we could walk ten blocks faster than a car could drive - and the shops were booming. Who would have known?
Our downtown and surrounding neighbourhoods can look like this:
Ste-Catherine Street, Montreal (image source: Flickr)
Corner of St-Urbain and de la Gauchetière, Montreal (image source: Flickr)
Main Street, Hamilton (image source: Flickr)
Hulk II Movie Set, Main Street, Hamilton (image source: Flickr)
Please contact your councillor if you would like to see Hamilton's streets become vibrant people places once again like, they were originally designed to be. If you live in the urban city, your voice needs to be heard.
I've never once told the politicians from the Meadowlands to calm the traffic in that district, and am not interested in their opinion of downtown Hamilton - especially when it involves trying to turn our core into another autobahn like their neighbourhood.
Let's hope the North End will succeed in their attempts to make these changes, which are completely in keeping with Hamilton's stated goal of being 'the best place to raise a child in Canada'. Bravo to all involved. More to come on this, you can be sure.
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