After watching senior citizens play Frogger to cross Fennell between a senior's residence and Mountain Plaza mall, a local resident is asking for a pedestrian crosswalk.
By Joshua Weresch
Published December 05, 2012
Some days ago, my wife and I were driving west along Fennell, coming up to Upper James. Ahead, an elderly man pushed his walker from the pedestrian refuge area-the hash-marks between the west- and east-bound lanes-toward the sidewalk. He dropped his grocery bag and, while cars swerved and honked around him, bent slowly to pick it up.
We saw a similar movement while going east-bound: elderly people, coming from the Effort Trust apartments across from the former Mountain Plaza Mall, dodged vehicles warily, some bleak version of Frogger.
We live around the corner from this intersection. I wrote to Scott Duvall, the councillor for Ward 7, and asked him about the possibility of installing a signalized pedestrian crossing near Mountain Plaza Mall's entrance on the south side of Fennell Avenue and those apartment buildings.
The response from Rob Galloway of the city of Hamilton's Traffic Operations was interesting, and I quote it here, written Thursday, October 11, in full:
Hi Councillor Duvall,
We have reviewed this request for a Pedestrian Signal and offer the following.
The doors to the mall are approximately 90 metres to the east from the crosswalk at the intersection of Fennell & Upper James. This close proximity of this unmarked crossing area to the signalized intersection makes it an undesirable location for a pedestrian signal installation. If a pedestrian signal were to be installed at this location; the traffic signal would need to be co-ordinated with the full traffic signal at Upper James, which would increase delay for pedestrians to cross Fennell.
Also, during peak periods, left and right turns from Upper James could potentially be backed up due to the installation of an addition traffic signal on Fennell and would adversely affect the operation of this busy intersection.
There have been three pedestrian collisions during the last ten years between Upper James and Clarendon/East 5th, two of which the pedestrian ran into the vehicle. The third collision involved a pedestrian crossing Fennell closer Saints Peter & Paul school.
Considering the high volume of vehicular traffic and the many pedestrians that cross in front of the mall for convenience, this stretch of road is operating well. The painted median between the two directions of vehicular traffic on Fennell, is serving well as a pedestrian refuge area, allowing pedestrians to cross Fennell in two stages.
We looked at the driveways for the apartments on the north side of Fennell would allow us to construct a raised concrete pedestrian refuge island. Without restricting access to these building a refuge island cannot be constructed.
The painting of a crosswalk in this vicinity would be an unprotected crossing thereby creating a risk to legal action against the City should a pedestrian/vehicle collision occur.
In that the existing conditions are working fine, we recommend no action take place.
Please feel free to share all or any part of this email with Mr. Weresch.
If you have any questions feel free to call me at your earliest convenience.
My response, on Friday, November 30, to Mr. Galloway, and Councillor Duvall, was as follows:
The first paragraph, addressing the proximity of the proposed crosswalk to Upper James Street and Fennell Avenue's intersection, assumes that vehicular traffic and its convenience should be given priority over pedestrian traffic and the safety of pedestrians.
As the city of Hamilton strives to be the best place to raise a child, moving from the higher speeds of automobile traffic to the lower speeds of pedestrian traffic could ensure safer neighbourhoods, streets, and conditions in which that child-rearing could best occur.
The signalized pedestrian crossing does not have to be placed at the intersection of the two apartment buildings and the former Mountain Plaza Mall; it can be placed in the midst of the block, 150 metres from either intersection, without inconveniencing automobile traffic.
Also, as the entrance to the mall is 90 metres from the intersection of Fennell Avenue and Upper James Street, the seven-storey building at 68 Fennell Avenue East is 150 metres from Upper James Street, meaning that a pedestrian would have to walk a minimum of 240 metres, a difficult stretch for many who are great in years.
Also, students at Sts. Peter and Paul Elementary School, which is on the north side of Fennell, may want to visit the mall and its environs during their lunch-time and safe passage to the mall and the safety of those children connect deeply with the city's vision.
In the engineer's second paragraph, regarding the frequency of pedestrian collisions near the proposed cross-walk, I must mention that it is illegal for pedestrians to cross a street mid-block when there are controlled cross-walks at adjacent intersections, according to section 14, sub-section 22, of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act.
If people are trying to cross at that point, and taking refuge in the dubious safety of a pedestrian refuge area, the City is, in fact, encouraging the illegal crossing of a street and incurring the possibility of a higher liability and legal risk.
Also, Traffic Operations examined the given location in order to create a "pedestrian refuge island", but I requested the construction of a signalized pedestrian crossing, not an island. This crossing would cost approximately $80,000.00, an amount that can be payable from Councillor Duvall's Area Rating Fund.
I would like to continue to move forward regarding the construction of a pedestrian crosswalk, despite Traffic Operations' contrary contentions. To that end, I have requested Councillor Duvall's support in this.
For my part, I would begin by petitioning affected residents and presenting that petition to the councillor. Showing that there is, indeed, public support for this endeavour, I would like the councillor to propose a motion to the Public Works Committee.
I look forward to a vision of completed streets and safer foot traffic.
It would be great to get some neighbours from Centremount together, begin petitioning, and raise the public pressure around this issue. Raise the Hammer and other Hamiltonians care about streets that are able to be walked and air that is able to be breathed; this is one way forward.
The conversation will continue.
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