Special Report: Walkable Streets

Pedestrian Use Triples After Crosswalk Installed

According to new data provided by the City, pedestrian crossing at Aberdeen and Kent has more than tripled since a pedestrian-activated crosswalk was installed there.

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 10, 2013

In May 2011, when there was a sign at the intersection of Aberdeen Avenue and Kent Street instructing pedestrians to cross at Locke or Queen Street (a 400 metre round-trip), traffic engineers from the City counted the number of pedestrians crossing there during the seven hours from 7:00 AM - 9:00 AM, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM and 2:30 PM - 5:30 PM.

Because there were only 40 pedestrians on average crossing during those times, the department concluded that there were not enough pedestrians to justify installing a crosswalk.

The community organized a campaign to get a crosswalk anyway, and after a petition and draft motion were presented to the public works committee with hundreds of signatures, the crosswalk was approved. It was installed last summer and activated in September.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article comparing the May 2011 pedestrian counts with counts of the number of times the cross button was pressed in the end of January, 2013. Even though it was still winter, the cross button was pressed 49 times on an average weekday during the same seven-hour study times.

The City does not have a standard multiplier as to how many pedestrians are represented by a given button push (or call) at a crosswalk. Observationally, I can state that most pedestrians at that corner cross in groups of two or more. The most common case is a parent crossing with one or two children on the way to or from school.

If we take a conservative approach and assume an average of two people crossing per button push, that means an average of 98 people crossing on a weekday during the study times - a nearly two-and-a-half-times increase in pedestrians over the 40 in May 2011.

Newer Data, Stronger Case

As impressive as that is, it compares pre-crosswalk data from May with post-crosswalk data from the end of January, when fewer people walk in general. Now the City has graciously provided the button-push data for May 18 - June 5, 2013, and button use is even higher.

Pedestrian Calls (7hr) (IPS Study Times)
Weekday Total Calls # of Log Days Average Calls per Day
Monday 163 3 54
Tuesday 203 3 68
Wednesday 220 3 73
Thursday 141 2 71
Friday 133 2 66
Average 66

The average number of weekday button pushes during the seven-hour study times is 66, or a 3.3 times increase in pedestrians over May 2011 if we conservatively assume an average of two pedestrians per button push.

Again, this demonstrates the well-understood principle that if you make it easier to do something, people will do more of it; and if you make it harder to do something, people will do less of it.

For decades, the City of Hamilton has been trying to make it easier to drive, mainly at the expense of walking and cycling and transit. The predictable result has been a city in which most people drive to most destinations.

The more we re-balance our street network to make it easier for people to walk or cycle instead of driving, the more people will walk and cycle. It's that simple.

We need to stop designing our streets to accommodate the status quo we already observe. Instead, we need to design our streets to achieve the transformational goals we have set.

The future arrives by increments, shaped by every decision we make in the meantime. We have to stop planning for what we have and start planning for what we want to have.

Here are the full 24-hour, seven-day results for the same period:

Pedestrian Calls (24hr)
Weekday Total Calls # of Log Days Average Calls per Day
Sunday 172 3 57
Monday 287 3 96
Tuesday 316 3 105
Wednesday 363 3 121
Thursday 242 2 121
Friday 213 2 107
Saturday 205 3 68
Average 96

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By ItsHammerTime (registered) | Posted June 10, 2013 at 11:47:14

Signpost: Metrolinx coming to Hamilton to talk transportation Hamilton Spectator Transportation talk

Metrolinx is coming to Hamilton to talk about its regional transportation plan and how to fund it. The briefing and question period is on June 12 from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Liuna Station at 360 James St. N. RSVP to eric.barkman@metrolinx.com

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By RobF (registered) | Posted June 10, 2013 at 11:51:43

Glad to see the change has worked well. Hopefully this will make it easier to push for future changes that improve pedestrian safety and convenience. Do you think we could convince the city to install a proper crosswalk with signal at James North and Robert? There is a sort of crosswalk there, but few drivers stop for pedestrians.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 10, 2013 at 12:13:34 in reply to Comment 89447

Personally I'd love to see us use these signs at James and Robert: http://www.bikewalklincolnpark.com/2012/...

Ditto for James and Murray. Saves a ton of money over stoplights, and is well suited to crossings like those. James and Augusta is another one that could use zebra crossings and these signs.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 11, 2013 at 11:28:02 in reply to Comment 89450

And every highway-style slip road turn in the city. Seriously, the number of those that are both unavoidable and uncontrolled is ludicrous. "Wait for the gap" my eye, how can I know when the gap's coming when nobody in this town uses a damned turning signal?

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By UrbanMom (registered) | Posted June 10, 2013 at 13:52:20 in reply to Comment 89450

I love that idea, too.

I also love the idea of painting in crosswalks with bright yellow lines or even the entire crosswalk segment of the road painted in.

There are definitely effective low cost/low maintenance - high visibility ways of making pedestrian crossing safer.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted June 10, 2013 at 12:25:21 in reply to Comment 89450

Agreed. This would be an affordable way to do it, and would make it clear that pedestrians wishing to use the cross-walk have the right-of-way. Does the city oppose using them?

Comment edited by RobF on 2013-06-10 12:25:42

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 10, 2013 at 12:28:07 in reply to Comment 89453

Ryan sent an email this morning to staff. I'm sure he'll report on the replies once they roll in.

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