By Ryan McGreal
Published February 26, 2013
CAA South Central Ontario has just released the results of a survey on Hamiltonians' feelings about two-way conversion.
Of the 400 people surveyed between November 14 and December 10, 2012, 57.8% said they do not support the two-way conversion of major east-west streets, while 37% support conversion and 5.3% are undecided. Support for converting secondary north-south streets and downtown side streets was higher, with only 38% and 40.5% opposed, respectively.
The survey indicates that we need to have a broader and more evidence-based discussion about two-way conversion. Half the people surveyed did not even know the city is considering converting streets back to two-way.
The most common reason not to support conversion, with 30.8% of respondents, was being "used to the one-way". Another 27.9% believe that conversion would cause "too much confusion".
Similar sentiments were widespread before converting James and John North to two-way in 2002, and again before converting James and John South to two-way in 2005. In both cases, the fears were proven to be unfounded. Drivers quickly learned how to drive on a two-way street, and the predictions of "gridlock" and "chaos" did not materialize.
It's clear that the CAA is correct in its assessment that the opposition to two-way conversion is mostly "emotional, not safety or financially founded".
It's worth noting that less than 20% said their reason for opposing two-way conversion was that one-way streets allow for "faster flow" of traffic. One of the major benefits of two-way conversion is that it balances traffic flow with safety and comfort for pedestrians, cyclists and local traffic.
Done correctly, two-way conversion does reduce high-speed traffic - but this is a good thing. Given the recent study from Toronto finding that traffic passing through a neighbourhood is a higher risk for pedestrian collisions than local traffic, it is particularly important that we re-tune our streets so that they are safer and more welcoming for their communities.
Other reasons not to support conversion were: "waste of taxpayers money" (9.6%), "greater chance of accidents" (5.8%), "roads are too narrow" (3.8%), and "one-way is safer" (3.8%).