Fennell Avenue West has no sidewalk on its north side from West 2nd Street to Auchmar Road.
If you're on the north sidewalk heading west on Fennell at West 2nd Street, the sidewalk just stops:
Fennell at West 2nd Street (thanks to Google Street View for all the photos). Google Street View
It doesn't begin again until you reach Auchmar Road:
Fennell at Auchmar Road. Google Street View
This is in spite of the fact that this section of Fennell is directly in front of Mohawk College, which is full of students, especially young students, many of whom rely on walking, cycling, and public transit to get around.
So it's no surprise that instead of a sidewalk, there is a path so well-worn it's clearly been travelled by thousands of people.
The strange human desire to be able to walk from one point to another in the shortest way possible, combined with the City's apparent disregard for pedestrians on Fennell, has helped create the riskiest section of the path, at the north-east corner of Fennell and West Fifth Street.
At this corner, a two-meter high decaying retaining wall abuts the street. People walking on this side of the street have trod a path above the wall, which in icy winter conditions requires the nerves and agility of a mountain goat to traverse. Slip and fall and you've got 60- or 70-kilometre/hour traffic to contend with.
Mountain Goat Pass - Fennell at West Fifth Street. It's hard to see the path in this photo, but it's just above the wall. Google Street View
The car equivalent would probably be Bolivia's North Yungas Road, also known as the Road of Death, which looks like this:
North Yungas Road. Image Credit: Wikipedia.
Of course in Hamilton we don't make cars traverse this type of terrain. We save the risky stuff for people who are walking.
Actually, I shouldn't have said that there's no sidewalk on this entire stretch of Fennell. There's actually eight metres of sidewalk near West 5th, which is perhaps planned as a bus stop for people heading west on Fennell, although no bus sign appears in this image (perhaps one has since been installed):
"Sidewalk" on Fennell near West Fifth. Google Street View
There's another four metres or so across from the College. This patch includes a bus stop:
"Sidewalk" on Fennell across from Mohawk College. Google Street View
In both cases, to get to the little patch of concrete on the north side of Fennell, you either have to use the path or dart across 4 lanes of traffic.
This reminds me of comments Constable Claus Wagner, Hamilton police traffic safety and centralized breath testing co-ordinator, made when The Spectator asked him about rising pedestrian deaths in Hamilton - nine in 2010.
"We did a couple of projects this year with pedestrians," says Wagner.
"We've had a lot more complaints about people crossing in different areas and things like that."
"I don't know if it is people don't look any more, because even though you have the right of way you should still look ... just like driving a car ... some just walk right out."
Perhaps part of the problem is that you have to dash across traffic to get to little pedestrian islands where you can access bus stops, or that you need mountaineering equipment to travel on foot when we get any decent amount of snow in the city, or that cars travel too fast here.
Unfortunately, when it comes to traffic engineers - you know, the folks for whom pedestrians are an impediment to traffic as opposed to a legitimate type of traffic themselves - these possibilities don't seem to be registering.
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