Special Report: Walkable Streets

No Excuse For Hamilton's Pedestrian Deaths

If a dozen people were randomly shot and killed in Hamilton, the community would go nuts. So why are we so complacent about pedestrians dying on our streets?

By Adrian Duyzer
Published October 22, 2011

Around midnight on Friday, as I was walking home from an event at a bar near John and Main, I paused for a moment to watch street racers ripping down Main Street.

On Friday and Saturday nights Main Street goes from a dreary urban highway to something out of a Vin Diesel movie. Cars with tinted windows, halogen headlights and mufflers that more accurately should be called "amplifiers" tear down Main and cruise down Hess.

Given Hamilton's record of pedestrian fatalities, this behaviour is similar to showing up downtown with a rifle and firing it into the air to celebrate hockey goals. If anything, it is more dangerous, but there was no sign of traffic cops, let alone a tactical team ready for a takedown.

To continue with the firearms analogy, if a dozen people were randomly shot and killed in Hamilton, the community would go nuts. The Chief of Police would be giving news conferences promising to address the problem, people would be lamenting our appalling rate of gun violence, and letters to the editor would proliferate.

So why are we so complacent about pedestrians dying on our streets?

One obvious problem with the firearms analogy is that shooting deaths in urban settings are generally the result of a deliberate act or recklessness. Although some pedestrians are killed by drivers who are drunk or speeding, others are killed while jaywalking or simply because our road system is dangerous.

That said, there would also be a major uproar if fourteen Hamiltonians died in elevator mishaps.

The real reasons for our complacence, I think, are twofold. First of all, people are accustomed to pedestrians dying in vehicle collisions. It happens every year and it's been happening for decades.

Secondly, there's a perception that pedestrian fatalities, and traffic accident fatalities in general, are an inevitable byproduct of vehicle transportation, and that there's not much that can be done about it. We're not going to give up driving cars to eliminate the relatively small percentage of people who are killed by them.

But just because we're used to people dying doesn't mean it's okay.

On Friday, an 81-year-old woman was killed as she "attempted to cross Fennell".

I don't know anything about this woman, but I bet there were people who loved her that are devastated by her death and the manner of it: struck down for the fatal mistake of trying to cross the street. Perhaps there are grieving parents who, right now, have the difficult task of explaining to their children why they will never see their dear grandmother again.

Every one of these accidents is a tragedy, compounded by the tragedy that we're so accustomed to them, we've stopped caring enough to demand they cease.

Just as outrageous is the idea that we need to accept these deaths as an unfortunate but inevitable byproduct of our automobile dependence.

In fact, there's lots that could be done, and I'm not talking about issuing tickets for jaywalking, which is a classic example of the kind of train-and-blame approach that fails to produce lasting results.

We need to start creating safer streets by engineering for safetey, not issuing tickets. We could:

Or we could lower our traffic accident fatality rate and reduce traffic congestion, improve the health of our citizenry, and reduce pollution by building a comprehensive network of bike lanes, as Ryan McGreal also pointed out, quoting from Why Bike Friendly Cities are Safer:

The finding that most bike friendly cities are safer than average has been reinforced by the recent experience of cities such as Cambridge, MA, Portland, OR, and New York. These cities have garnered much press for their success in dramatically increasing bike use over the last several years. This increase in bike ridership has corresponded with an equally dramatic decrease in traffic fatality rates in all three cities.

Interestingly, the decrease in fatality occurred not just for people on bikes, but for all classes of road users – including people in cars and people on foot. In other words, the increase in bike use has benefited all road users by helping transform the streets into safer places.

We could do all of these things in the next five years for less money than a stadium. So why aren't we?

When we're talking about a dozen people dying on city streets each year, there are no valid excuses.

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz


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By rednic (registered) | Posted October 22, 2011 at 09:45:01

enforce our current speed limits (when's the last time you saw a speed trap on Main?)

This is it ! My question is when did you last see a pedestrian on Burlington St ( the elevated portions) , for some reason there are plenty of speed traps there. Speed Enforcement is about revenue generation NOT pedestrian safety.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 23, 2011 at 19:57:35 in reply to Comment 70760

This. I've been busted twice in this city. Burlington street and westbound on Cootes Drive just after the overpass. Now, the Cootes speed-trap is there for a good reason... Eastbound, where you're going straight from a highway to a crosswalk. But the other way?

And yet I've never even seen anybody pulled over on Main or Cannon.

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By michaelcumming (registered) - website | Posted October 22, 2011 at 10:30:41

Great article! I full agree that with urban planning, bike-friendliness is next to godliness. Please, let's build dedicated bike lanes the full length of both Main and King Streets. I think the effects of this one change would be phenomenal. LRT might take years - even in the most optimistic scenario. Bike lanes could be built relatively quickly and inexpensively.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted October 22, 2011 at 11:09:05 in reply to Comment 70761

I'm curious why you would want bike lanes on Main and King? Could you explain why you chose these streets?

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By z jones (registered) | Posted October 22, 2011 at 11:18:26 in reply to Comment 70767

Same reason people drive on Main and King, they're handy streets to get where you want to go. What's the point of a bike lane that doesn't take you anywhere useful?

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted October 22, 2011 at 11:45:20 in reply to Comment 70768

Are you Michael Cumming?

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted October 22, 2011 at 11:43:08

Lets review the data of fatal pedestrian/cyclist collisions from 2010

1) 62 year old woman hit while getting mail on a rural road (very rural)

2) 63 year old woman hit by a "railway bus" (not sure what that is) while turning left onto James St at Gore Park (Crosswalk present)

3) 87 year old man hit in a parking lot

4) 2 year old girl hit in her driveway by her parents minivan

5) 21 year old male cyclist hits an SUV on Upper James

6) 55 year old man slips and falls under a truck on James North

7) 26 year old man hit while walking on a rural road

8) 58 year old cyclist hit by mini van on John St South

9) 82 year old man hit by car on Concession/Wentworth (crosswalk present)

10) 59 year old construction worker hit by drunk driver on Nebo Rd (industrial area)

11) 75 year old man hit by 71 year old woman while crossing Hunter/Caroline (cross walk present)

It would be nice if we could decrease the number of cyclist/pedestrian fatalities, I'm just not sure that even with a cross walk every 200m and every road having a posted speed limit of 30 km/h would do much. If that's true, why 'waste' the money? Looking at the data above, it appears the one suggestion that might actually make a difference is to have dedicated bike lanes. The bike lanes should either be equipped with a physical barrier to protect from cars or should be on roads with reduced car traffic and reduced speeds. If the bike lanes are on busy roads without a barrier, I don't see how they would help to reduce collisions other than taking a few cars off of the road (if that).

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By adrian (registered) | Posted October 24, 2011 at 09:39:45 in reply to Comment 70769

I'm just not sure that even with a cross walk every 200m and every road having a posted speed limit of 30 km/h would do much.

Actually, if the speed limit was 30 km/h, most people struck by cars would not die. At 32 km/h, the likelihood that you will be killed by a car is 5%. At 48 km/h it is 45%, at 64 km/h (pretty standard on our main arteries), the likelihood is 85%. So your claim about 30 km/h is patently, scientifically false.

See this article for more details on that.

Secondly, although I appreciate you taking the time to list the fatalities from 2010, cherry-picking one particular year does not prove your point. The most recent fatality was the one I wrote about, a woman who "attempted to cross Fennell". In September, it was a young woman who was killed on Main Street at Main and Walnut. In March, two people died:

"On Friday, March 4, at about 8:30 p.m., a 23-year-old woman crossing Barton Street just east of Normanhurst Avenue was struck by a car. She died early March 5. Her name has not been released.

On Monday, March 7, Travis Savidant, a 15-year-old high school student, died after one of two vehicles involved in a collision at the intersection of East 14th and Howe streets struck him on the sidewalk."

These are all urban locations, and if the cars were traveling substantially slower than they were, I suspect that there would have been fewer fatalities, and probably - based on the statistics I quoted - none.

Looking at the data above, it appears the one suggestion that might actually make a difference is to have dedicated bike lanes. The bike lanes should either be equipped with a physical barrier to protect from cars or should be on roads with reduced car traffic and reduced speeds.

You're not looking at "data", you're looking at anecdotes. Eleven fatalities in one year do not represent data from which you can extrapolate conclusions. The data - as in, studies based on thousands of incidents - clearly indicate that changes, such as reduced speed limits, do reduce pedestrian fatalities.

Furthermore, the information on cycling that I posted about show that as the rate of cycling increases, overall fatalities decrease - not because of physically separated bike lanes, but because the streets become safer for EVERYONE on them.

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By stupid comments (anonymous) | Posted November 04, 2011 at 22:20:59 in reply to Comment 70809

This commentary has obviously been started by someone whom thinks they are very intelligent.
I don't believe using the previous years statistics can be called cherry picking; they are not using 2006 or 2007, but a year that shows similar cars and pedestrian traffic compared to today.
Travis was hit after two cars collided sending a car into him. Can you say that this car was travelling at more than 30km/h? It wasn't. And yet a tragedy still happened. This accident wasn't based on speed but people not following the rules of the road.
If pedestrians and cyclists respected the vehicles that use the roads, we would see less fatalities. Half of the accidents that you have used in your references happened while someone was jaywalking.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted October 24, 2011 at 23:07:50 in reply to Comment 70809

My point is that just because a posted speed limit is 30 km/h, it doesn't mean people are going to drive that speed.

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted October 22, 2011 at 13:06:11

I am sitting at my desk at work. My street-level, floor to ceiling window offers me an unimpeded view of the daily interactions of cars and people on a busy urban street. The street is populated by shops, sidewalk markets, bakeries, social clubs, and cafes. This morning was bustling with shoppers of all ages. There is an unsignalized pedestrian crossing nearby. I often marvel at the courtesy displayed by drivers who slow down, stop and allow people to safely cross the street here. Ten minutes ago a car stopped to let a small group of elderly women, laden with groceries, cross. The driver of a truck behind the stopped car immediately laid on his horn and he and his passenger began swearing, yelling curses at the driver of the car. The truck driver then tried to pass the car on the right (parking) lane, only to have to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting the women. He then launched a tirade at the women (they were walking too slow!)

Roads are part of our community. Most people I see on a daily basis are kind, considerate, and careful members of the community. Then there are those whose sense of entitlement trumps the safety of others. Sometimes I get so tired of assholes...

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted October 22, 2011 at 15:45:06

But just because we're used to people dying doesn't mean it's okay.

You're right. Over the past half-century, we've seen roughly 2,000,000 traffic fatalities on North American roads. And as I've said previously, nobody blinks. (Worse, the actual core problem isn't the car or conditions. It's the paucity of skills testing and improvement over time. Such is the arrogance towards driving.) So I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise when it's clear we don't value the lives of pedestrians any more than those of drivers.

The only thing that I've seen that comes close to this disconnect (no pun intended) is the dissociation of Mp3 player and cell phone users.

So many people tend to just want what they want and to a great extent, don't really care about anything that falls outside these wants. Including the safety of pedestrians.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 23, 2011 at 20:06:59 in reply to Comment 70774

An old comic from '04 that nicely highlights our blinders about traffic fatalities:


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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted October 23, 2011 at 21:30:37

Driving has been completely normalized within our society, and therefore it's invisible. It's not a choice we make - it's just something that people do. Walking, cycling and public transit, on the other hand, are treated as incredibly political choices which reflect highly on the people involved. They must be health nuts, environmental wackos, or have something wrong with them (poverty, alcoholism, age etc) which prevents them from driving.

As long as these myths and prejudices cloud the discourse, it'll be near-impossible to have a serious discussion about these issues.

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By laughing out loud (anonymous) | Posted October 24, 2011 at 01:12:39

It is so much fun to whine and complain about one way streets and safety for out children, who could dare to go against that? The fact it is utter nonsense and doesn't have any relevance to the actual accidents and fatalities that are happening in our city should not stop anyone from agreeing with the author. Why should the facts get in the way of a good story. That is what this article is a good story. A nice little piece of fiction.

People can be stupid and when they are bad things can and do happen. Sometimes to the person being stupid sometimes to somebody else. I find it very telling that the author tries to tug at our heart strings and get us to agree with him by using the "safety of our children" cause. Look at the list of fatalities above and the only child was a little girl killed in her parents driveway by her parents vehicle. How in the world is lowering speed limits or more enforcement stop this kind of accident? A casual look at the list shows the apposite the vast majority of the victims where in fact older people not children. As we age we slow down, our reflexes just are not as good as what the used to be. It happens, and sometimes it gets us killed. Sometimes as we age our minds just do not work as well as what they did when we were 20, 30 or 40 it happens and sometimes it gets us killed.

There are many things in this city that could be improved but putting effort into reducing speed limits and increasing enforcement just do not make any sense. Stop looking for fix to a problem that does not exist.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted October 24, 2011 at 06:51:48 in reply to Comment 70793

Stop looking for fix to a problem that does not exist.

Wow. Methinks you should seriously consider politics.

As well, if you're going to puff up your chest and bleat philosophically, you should get your terms down pat first.

A 'story' is not an article, though an article certainly can contain a story. 'Fiction' is a term applied to textual offerings from a writer's creative faculties usually presented in some kind of linear fashion. It can bear an uncanny resemblance to 'Life'...in fact, we often say that powerful fiction seems so 'real'.

But this article was not 'fiction', by any reference I'm aware of. You might take Adrian to task for his slant, for his viewpoint, for his editorial style, but seriously, to label this piece as you have isn't just ham-fisted, it's an irresponsibly facile gesture.

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By laughing out loud (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2011 at 03:29:40 in reply to Comment 70799

The author states that driving fast at night in cars with heavily tinted windows and loud mufflers is like firing a gun into the air to celebrate hockey goals. Then he goes on to whine about the cities supposed reaction if a dozen people were killed by gunfire in the continuation of his little fantasy.

Look at the list above. He wants the reader to believe that pedestrians are dieing on our "dreary urban highways." In reality nothing is further from the truth. None of those deaths occurred on one of our "dreary urban highways" They happened on rural roads, in driveways, on two way John North, on 2 way Upper James... They happened everywhere and anywhere except on our "dreary urban highways" This is a piece of fiction. It appeals to our morality, to our desire to protect our children. It is reasonably well written but it is a piece of fiction. All of the actions he calls for in his list of actions to make Hamilton a safer city have no bearing on the list of fatalities. None of them happened on Main Street so how can slowing down that street make our city safer? He calls for converting more streets from 1 way to 2 way. None of the accidents happened on a 1 way street except for #11 which is a 1 way street intersecting a 2 way street.

Then he jumps onto another tangent about bike lanes making the city streets safer. I think we need a comprehensive bike lane network but I doubt it will increase pedestrian safety.

The article is apiece of fiction.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2011 at 14:37:54 in reply to Comment 70859

This is raisethehammer.org we don't care about the "facts".

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted October 24, 2011 at 05:49:02

Road and urban design, as well as motorist attitudes, clearly do affect pedestrian death and accident rates. To claim there is not a problem with the number of pedestrians killed and injured on Hamilton's streets, or that this is some sort of law of nature, is either to be in denial or uncaring.

For example, Paris, with a population of 2.2 million and sidewalks crammed with pedestrians had only 18 pedestrian deaths last year (no children). In fact, the figure of 2.2 million (more than four times Hamilton) underestimates the actual pedestrian traffic as during the day the population increases greatly as people come in from the suburbs (population total 10 million) to work. For example, 800 000 passengers get off or on at the Les Halles subway station alone each day.

Paris hasn't reduced the risk to zero, but the chances of a given pedestrian being killed there are minuscule compared to Hamilton.

What's the difference? It's mostly just common sense.

  1. Slow moving traffic: there is lots of traffic (especially delivery trucks), but it generally moves fairly slowly. If cars are moving slowly it is easier to avoid a pedestrian and it is less likely that a pedestrian will die if hit. This is simple physiology and physics!

  2. Attentive motorists. Motorists in Paris must be constantly on the lookout for obstacles of all kind. It is simply not possibly to ignore one's surroundings as one can do on most of Hamilton's major arteries. Motorists always make eye contact with pedestrians; in Hamilton many motorists often avoid eye contact with pedestrians, and sometimes seem to look right through them!

  3. Wide sidewalks with buffers (trees, bike lanes, bus lanes) make it more comfortable and safer to walk.

  4. Safety in numbers. The huge number of pedestrians mean motorists are used to stopping for pedestrians and watching out for them. I've not experience impatient motorists honking or revving their engines as they wait for pedestrians to cross as I've often seen in Hamilton.

  5. Lots of pedestrian crossings. One is never far from a pedestrian crossing, and both signalized and unsignalized crossings are common. The penalties for not stopping are severe, and all motorists are aware that they need to stop (even though they might not want to).

Finally, it is interesting that Parisians "jaywalk" far more than Hamiltonians and this doesn't lead to more pedestrian fatalities. In fact, the concept of jaywalking doesn't even exist there. Trying to blame pedestrian deaths on jaywalking is approaching the problem the wrong way, and definitely won't help reduce accident rates. Safety engineering is about making a system safe for real people, and that means taking into account the way real people behave!

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By laughing out loud (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2011 at 03:54:54 in reply to Comment 70796

Lets look at your points and compare them to our list of accidents.

#1 Speed. Was speed or excessive speed a factor in the accidents? Cannot tell for sure in some of them but in a lot of them it does not appear to be. Driveway, parking lot, bike hitting SUV turning into gas station etc.

#2 Attentive motorists. I am not sure about how attentive our drivers are compared to Parisian drivers. What I do know is that driving is much more of a privilege than a right in Europe. Drivers must take driving lessons. Europeans take driving much more seriously than North Americans do. I believe that is much more of a factor than attentiveness.

#3 Sidewalk and buffers. They may indeed make you feel more comfortable but look at the list of accidents, it does not look like any were caused by narrow sidewalks or lack of a buffer between cars and sidewalks.

#4 Safety in numbers. It does not look like it actually safety in numbers it looks more like driver and pedestrian education. Drivers need to be more patient and pedestrians need to use a little more discretion on how and where they decide to cross a road.

#5 Crosswalks. Indeed we do need more crosswalks even though the list of accidents above does not look like it would be reduced by them. Not a single one of them was a pedestrian jaywalking.

Looks like you wiffed on all 5 of your points.

Again what you have posted is fiction. Tugging at our morality to try and further your agenda even though nothing on your agenda would seem to affect any of the fatalities on the list.

I especially like the little reference to no children pedestrians being killed in Paris when in Hamilton there was exactly one and that poor little girl was killed in her parents driveway. What was that supposed to prove except how insensitive you really are? Is there anything you would not stoop too to try and further your cause?

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2011 at 14:40:40 in reply to Comment 70860

"Is there anything you would not stoop too to try and further your cause?"

Your asking that of the left? Of course there is nothing they would stoop to to further their agenda.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted October 26, 2011 at 03:54:24 in reply to Comment 70860

Despite your rudeness, I will assume that you are genuinely interested in trying to understand why the rate of pedestrian accident death and injury in some cities is a tiny fraction of Hamilton's. The point is that humans are basically the same everywhere, but the accident rate isn't.

So far, the only suggestion you have made is that drivers receive more training in "Europe" (I suppose you mean France, since that is what we are talking about).

However France has traditionally had a relatively high overall accident rate, mostly associated with highways and freeways (e.g. 4443 killed in 2008 for a population of 64 million compared with 2187 for Canada with a population of 33 million), so I doubt that is the explanation. I'm walking my children to school every day here, and can attest to the difference in driver - pedestrian interaction in the urban environment first hand.

Simply going through the list of deaths and guessing what was or was not a factor is not helpful. Even police have difficulty establishing the exact cause of accidents! What we do know is that year after year the rate of deaths and accidents is far lower in Paris than in Hamilton; it is this statistic we are trying to understand.

Do you really believe that the extremely high pedestrian density is not a factor? Did you actually look at the Hamilton study that showed relative risk decreases with pedestrian flow, even within Hamilton?

Do you really believe that giving pedestrians safe and attractive infrastructure does not encourage more people to walk (which in turn lowers the injury rate)?

Note that in the past years many pedestrian deaths and injuries have been associated with pedestrians crossing multi-lane arteries away from a crosswalk because the crosswalks are to far apart (400m or more).

What suggestions would you make (besides admonishing people to be "more careful") to reduce pedestrian accident rates? Why shouldn't we have the low rates of somewhere like Paris?

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2011-10-26 03:55:41

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted October 24, 2011 at 07:59:22 in reply to Comment 70796

Following up my point 4, is this older study from Hamilton which shows that the rate of pedestrian injury (i.e. relative risk) decreases with increased number of pedestrians:


The Paris example suggests, as has been found for cycling, that at very high levels of pedestrian flow (probably combined with other pedestrian improvements), absolute risk also decreases.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2011-10-24 08:11:13

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted October 24, 2011 at 06:16:15

One more thing: lack of complacency. The Paris police is in fact very unhappy with the rates of pedestrian death and injury and has launched a campaign, mostly aimed at schools, to educate children about safe ways to cross streets and interact with traffic. (Education is certainly part of the answer, but not sufficient in itself.) In addition, the city is constantly making improvements to the pedestrian infrastructure.

As for other societal problems, the first step is actually admitting there is a problem and taking it seriously!

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By Mickie (anonymous) | Posted October 24, 2011 at 08:52:30

I travel on Main St East every evening and want to comment on the things I notice.

Firstly, Main St East from the 403 to Gage Park is an intercity highway. The average speed of those rushing to make it across the city slows in the downtown core near Sopinka courthouse, then picks right up again. It's not unusual for some to reach 80km/h in their quest to get home. I've seen impatient drivers racing in the afternoon rush hour as if it's some badge of honour to not let eachother in the lanes they are trying to get to. I average about 50km/h, mostly because I'm sure that, if I go faster, I'm bound to hit someone or be hit. Such is the free-for-all that is Main St East between 4-6pm Mon-Fri.

Secondly, Main St East is NOT safe for cyclists. Between the buses on the right and the parked/stopped cars on the left and the Indy 500 going on in between, I would never tempt fate. I've often thought about cycling to Hamilton GO rather than drive to Aldershot, but the reality of Main St East is that I would truly be putting myself at risk.

Thirdly, going through the stretch between Wellington and Wentworth, you have casual cyclists and pedestrians shooting out onto the street. I had a close call while in the second lane to the left a few months back where a cyclist coming out of the No Frills parking lot came out onto the road and I had to swerve. I honked and got the one-finger salute along with him trying to catch up with me at the red light at Wentworth. I have seen this so often at that particular location that I am convinced someone is going to be killed there.

Finally, the timed lights have everyone in a rush to make it to the next green. I've never seen more amber or red light running as I do on this stretch of road. Don't get me wrong, I love the timed lights because it means I can get home in 7 minutes if I hit them right from the 403 to Sherman.

I never truly understood the argument that one-way streets hurt business until driving along Main E. Now I understand. Everyone is zipping through faster than they do on the Gardiner, and the sidewalks are narrow with no buffer from the street. I have walked along Main E before (I try to limit my exposure, however) and felt the "woosh" from vehicles speeding past in the left-most lane while on the sidewalk. I'd hate to think what that's like for small children or the elderly (or generally those who have an issue with balance or are lighter than I am). I've been honked at for trying to enter the No Frills parking lot on occasion despite having my blinker on. The problem, I guess, was that I was waiting for a pedestrian to clear the path on the sidewalk where my vehicle was headed.

I can't claim to understand civil engineering and looking closely at these issues is new for me. But I can share what I see and experience and it doesn't take an engineer or planner to understand there is something wrong. It is incredibly unsafe for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians alike.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted October 24, 2011 at 09:02:25 in reply to Comment 70803

Firstly, Main St East from the 403 to Gage Park is an intercity highway.

Thank you.

This to me, is where the discussion has to start. And in having the discussion, all of us need to be honest with ourselves in answering the question 'What do you want?'

For me, I don't want an 'inner-city expressway'. (My preferred reference.) Every time I walk Main Street between Queen and Dundurn, I do a spit-take at the ''Esplanade' signage. This section is a thoroughfare, plain and simple. And given how much time is saved en route by having this construct...it's absurd. As absurd as cigarette commercials in the 50s and 60s featuring doctors' endorsements, as absurd as suburban sprawl...as absurd as the profligacy of lawns and the stunning selfishness of bottled water.

I'm all for getting people somewhere as efficiently as possible. But I'm more for the humanity of design. I long for the day when the referred-to stretch of Main Steet is returned to normalcy, when saner minds finally recognize and acknowledge that there's no reason good enough to have thoroughfares in the city...especially when we can't seem to make our communities safe enough for those not behind the driver's wheel. (For the record, I'm not happy with Queen Street or Hunter as thoroughfares, either. God damn, we've been through some brain-dead interludes in this city...)

Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2011-10-24 09:03:25

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By Mickie (anonymous) | Posted October 24, 2011 at 09:58:25

Kev, one of the worst parts of Main E in terms of no sidewalk is the stretch between Wentworth and Sherman. On a rainy day, pedestrians are in for a soaking by the cars hydroplaning in the left-most lane. There is less than 18 inches of buffer from the sideway to the roadway, where cars are zipping at 50-70km/h.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted October 25, 2011 at 01:24:30

That's a good point: the best thing is to design the straight so it is not possible to comfortably drive faster than the posted speed limit. This means things like narrow lanes, timing lights at no more than the speed limit and reducing lanes (e.g. parking, bus/bike lanes. Other, more intensive, measures include bumpouts, speed humps and bottlenecks. The most extreme option is the naked street where pedestrians mingle with traffic. Currently, arterial streets are designed to be safely and comfortably driven at speeds much higher than the legal limit (think, again, of Main St). Drivers know this, and drive accordingly.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted October 26, 2011 at 08:25:00

Link to WHO programme on traffic safety:



"Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among young people, aged between 15 and 44."


"Nearly half (46%) of those dying on the world’s roads are “vulnerable road users”:pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists."

Finally, note that France, in particular has made great strides in reducing traffic fatalities by 1/4 in the last 40 years:

"Since the early 1970s, France has made great strides in reducing fatalities on the nation’s roads. This has been the result of myriad factors, including adoption and enforcement of legislation on speeding, seat-belts and drinking and driving. Since 2002, a combination of factors including a stated commitment from the highest level of government, stricter enforcement of legislation especially through the use of speed cameras, and media campaigns explaining the traffic rules and risks has accelerated the decrease in annual fatalities. From the early 1970s to 2009, deaths have declined from more than 16000 annually to just over 4000 annually."

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By JP (registered) | Posted October 26, 2011 at 12:28:28

Nissan did a study of motor vehicle accidents a few years ago and determined that something between 92% and 95% of all accidents were avoidable and a result of driver error. You want to reduce pedestrian fatalities? Start producing better trained, more aware, more courteous drivers. You don't need lower speed limits, narrower streets or more bike lanes. You just need people paying attention!

Main Street is a necessary evil to move people from one end of the lower city to the other. If I want to go from Locke and Abedeen to visit my friend at Ottawa and Main, there's only one way to get there without having to resort to a maze of side-streets. Furthermore I don't see speeding as a serious problem on Main as the lights are timed so that if you maintain a certain speed then you'll get all-green lights. If you go too fast then you get 'penalized' with red lights.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted October 26, 2011 at 14:59:55 in reply to Comment 70891

That's like saying that 92-95% of lung cancers are avoidable and the result of people deciding to smoke, so the solution is teaching people not to smoke. In practice, smoking rates (and lung cancer rates) only decline in response to public policy initiatives that make it inconvenient, expensive, or socially unacceptable to smoke. Arguing for more education is a cop-out.

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By JP (registered) | Posted October 26, 2011 at 15:39:11 in reply to Comment 70903

The fact is accidents just don't happen. Car crashes are the result of poor driving and bad judgment. Somebody wasn't paying attention, or somebody was going too fast, or was drunk behind the wheel, or didn't look before crossing, etc. Making it inconvenient, expensive or socially unacceptable to drive isn't going to fix bad driving.

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By Smon (anonymous) | Posted October 31, 2011 at 19:40:41

peaking as an occasional traffic engineer - signage, posted speed limit, enforcement all have minimal impact on driver behavior, really the only factor is the physical design of the roadway. If you are on a road that feels like an expressway - you drive like you are on an expressway.

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