Eyes on the Street

Eyes on the Street: Traffic Calming at Locke and Stanley

The foundation of good urbanism is a willingness to carefully observe city life in order to understand how we can make it better.

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 27, 2016

I was inspired by a short photo essay that RTH contributor Kevin Love just sent me, which he titled, "Eyes On The Street". That expression, of course, was made famous by the late Jane Jacobs, whose revolutionary approach to urban studies arguably founded modern urbanism.

In her seminal book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs used the expression "eyes upon the street" to refer to the feeling of safety that comes from being in a shared public space. To create safe public spaces, Jacobs wrote:

First, there must be a clear demarcation between what is public space and what is private space. Public and private spaces cannot ooze into each other as they do typically in suburban settings or in projects.

Second, there must be eyes upon the street [emphasis added], eyes belonging to those we might call the natural proprietors of the street. The buildings on a street equipped to handle strangers and to insure the safety of both residents and strangers, must be oriented to the street. They cannot turn their backs or blank sides on it and leave it blind.

And third, the sidewalk must have users on it fairly continuously, both to add to the number of effective eyes on the street and to induce the people in buildings along the street to watch the sidewalks in sufficient numbers. Nobody enjoys sitting on a stoop or looking out a window at an empty street. Almost nobody does such a thing. Large numbers of people entertain themselves, off and on, by watching street activity.

Of course, in the context of Jacobs' life the expression "eyes on the street" takes on another level of meaning: Jacobs demonstrated throughout her remarkable life that it is by carefully observing daily life in a community that we can best understand how communities work and how we can make them work better.

In my own modest efforts to observe and understand how Hamilton works, I am merely standing on the shoulders of giants like Jacobs. Even so, I constantly find myself having to go back to the basics - often during times of deep frustration with the city's political dynamics.

Receiving Kevin's piece was one of those moments: he was in a public space, he noticed something interesting, and he shared it. I hope that Eyes On The Street turns into a new feature on Raise the Hammer, and encourage urban observers to consider contributing your observations of interesting developments.

Toward that end, here's my submission. Last week, an alert RTH reader let me know that the City had installed new traffic calming bumpouts at the intersection of Locke Street South and Stanley Avenue.

I swung by and took the following photos of the new bumpouts, which are marked by white paint and knockdown bollards.

Looking south at Stanley from Locke
Looking south at Stanley from Locke

Looking west at Locke from Stanley
Looking west at Locke from Stanley

Looking north at Stanley from Locke
Looking north at Stanley from Locke

These kinds of interventions are great forms of tactical urbanism: they're cheap and easy to install and iterate and deliver a big return on investment in improved quality of life.

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 TheXGuy (registered) | Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:13:26

I'm assuming the 2 stripes on the top of the bollards are nighttime reflectors?

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By jorvay (registered) | Posted May 27, 2016 at 15:03:29 in reply to Comment 118848


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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted May 27, 2016 at 19:42:59

I walk past this intersection every morning with my son and it is a defn improvement. It was common to have two cars pulling out of Stanley in parallel - usually one shooting across to rat run with too many moving targets to track. Crossing Stanley now is much easier.

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By Let's muck thing up (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2016 at 12:37:19

If this is an example of good urbanism then urbanism sucks.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted May 28, 2016 at 19:13:34 in reply to Comment 118885

Obviousman 101: A distinction

Functionally, it is good urbanism.

Aesthetically, it is ugly and needs to be a bumpout island.

Knockdown poles are just trials.

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By how (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2016 at 13:07:11

......that RTH contributor Kevin Love just sent me. How? somebody told somebody that you don't let people know if you are going to put something on the site, or maybe sent to wrong place? Tell everybody how.

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By obzurv (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2016 at 05:18:20 in reply to Comment 118889

there's a contact link right down there at the bottom. you've heard of email right

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