Letter: Losing Sleep Over Dangerous Streets

By Letter to the Editor
Published November 07, 2013

I'm writing in the middle of the night because, not for the first time, I am literally losing sleep over the problem of pedestrian safety in my neighbourhood.

My husband and I moved to Hamilton from the United States in 2009 and bought a house on Holton Ave South in 2012. We have a young daughter and walk her to Central Day Care, which requires us to cross Wentworth Street near Charlton Avenue. We also walk our dog and jog regularly on the Escarpment rail trail, which crosses Wentworth at the same point.

Charlton Avenue and Wentworth Street (RTH file photo)
Charlton Avenue and Wentworth Street (RTH file photo)

It is terrifying. There is no crosswalk on this busy road, and no indication to cars coming down Charlton that there is pedestrian and bike traffic directly around the sharp turn to Wentworth.

Since we moved to this area, I have marveled daily that more pedestrians aren't killed along this stretch. Now, one has been: Zoe Nudell, the partner of one of my graduate students at McMaster, who had just moved here herself.

I understand that in her case the driver was allegedly impaired, but it is also undeniably true that the design of Hamilton's city streets encourages drivers to behave like maniacs in general, speeding through residential areas with absolutely no concept of, much less respect for, pedestrian presence.

Since Zoe's death, I have not been able to sleep, thinking about raising my child in an area with such a prominent death trap. I realize this may sound melodramatic, but I ask that you try to cross Wentworth at the rail trail twice daily for a month or so before you write me off as hysterical.

I am very glad to hear that city council are discussing the problem of pedestrian safety, and encourage them to take seriously the proposed plan to improve Hamilton's street design to protect its residents.

In many ways, my husband (who teaches at Mohawk College) and I have been very happy with our decision to move here. We love Hamilton, and we are engaged residents: we shop at the downtown Farmer's Market, we spend time with our daughter in Gage Park.

But every day that we come home having risked life and limb just to move in and through the city, we wonder whether it was a wise choice. My sincere hope is that we see significant improvement to the city's walkability and bikeability in the next few years, which I would take as a sign that this is a city my family can live in happily.

Eugenia Zuroski Jenkins,

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By urbanmoon (registered) - website | Posted November 07, 2013 at 10:12:38

How about installing one of those mirrors so pedestrians can see for themselves if a car is coming around the corner (as there is at Ridge Road and New Mountain Road), AND an overhead pedestrian crosswalk light which, when the pedestrian pushes the button to activate its overhead lights, it also activates one of those "Be prepared to stop" flashing light signs in the blind down-bound section of that road? For a spot like that, I don't see any other way to better protect the citizens.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted November 07, 2013 at 11:25:28 in reply to Comment 94446

Turn it from a wide curve to a tight 90 degree intersection with a stop sign. To go from charlton to hunter, you have to stop, turn left, and then go. Add a tabletop crossing at the rail trail. voila, nobody crosses the pedestrian paths at speeds greater than 15km/hr anymore (and no electronics required).

Comment edited by seancb on 2013-11-07 11:28:07

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 07, 2013 at 10:18:39

I ride my bike through here regularly and always feel like I'm playing russian roulette with my life. Due to the oversized lanes on Charlton and Wentworth, cars just fly around the bend through here. Lanes should be narrowed, and a pedestrian signal installed that stops cars right at the top of the hill and north of the CP tracks. A well-marked zebra crossing or green painted path should cross Wentworth. Also, Wentworth itself from Delaware to Charlton only needs to be one-lane with ample space for street parking and bike lanes along it's length.

This should seriously be done tomorrow. I'm amazed that only one person has died here. There have been countless close calls. I've almost hit people while driving here, and I'm well aware of the path when rounding the bend.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted November 07, 2013 at 11:11:08

I witnessed the collision that killed Zoe. I was in the middle of a sentence telling my friend about the right hooks and other dangers I had to evade on my bike that week. I have fought back tears, anger, frustration, just about every emotion that occurs when a severe injustice occurs. We lost a healthy, beautiful, intelligent citizen, in the prime of her life, so that some drunk can get a month of alternate weekends in jail, some community service, then get back behind the wheel and kill someone else. I too have literally lost sleep thinking about this. Frustrated by the negligence that makes streets and intersections more dangerous than they need to be. The culture of worshiping motoring above all else.

I bike around that corner as well; vehicles almost hit me as they round the corner. The sinking sewer grates and holes in the pavement, and restricted driver visibility, make safely cycling around that bend difficult. Crossing the street? Look both ways, then RUN when you have a second.

Where the trail crosses the street - good place for one of those MacMaster style fluorescent crossing signs. With pavement that is raised and a different color. Bollards protecting the outside of the curve - this would have saved Zoe's life! Drunko would have hit the bollards after overshooting the corner, instead of mounting the curb and hitting her. Simple, inexpensive, life saving.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2013-11-07 11:32:07

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted November 07, 2013 at 12:00:47 in reply to Comment 94462

That right there is what the trail crossing needs. Maybe a bit wider.

Don't do knockdown sticks on the outside curve. Do bollards or railing. Bollards are most aesthetically pleasing, matching the greenery of the trail and forest there. Make sure a car overshooting the curve is stopped by whatever you put there. But not concrete crash barrier. Ugly for a rec trail.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted November 07, 2013 at 12:09:06 in reply to Comment 94477

I think something more like this would be appropriate. This would be the #1 perfect spot to "pilot" a true raised crossing on a Hamilton municipal road: raised

Mac has already figured it out... it's really not a difficult concept to grasp:

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 07, 2013 at 13:52:39 in reply to Comment 94482

But how will this impact our status as a 10-minute city?

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted November 07, 2013 at 14:15:03 in reply to Comment 94499

If you commute that route, we are going to become an 10 minute and 15 second city. That's right, you heard me. We intend to show blatant disregard for your precious time. We intend to steal an entire 15 seconds of your life from you, so that we can selfishly save a few lives. I know, I know. We're arrogant hippies who want to ban cars. :p

Look on the bright side. If you are stopped for a passing train anyway, then those selfish bums trying to cross the street won't steal any of your lifespan from you that the train already won't!

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 07, 2013 at 17:58:10 in reply to Comment 94502

Lol This an awesome comment. I agree 100% with your sentiments. I was merely being sarcastic above due to comments by some on city council who don't care about safety, only their freeway style drive home from city hall.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted November 07, 2013 at 18:41:40 in reply to Comment 94505

I know you were being sarcastic! Could not resist some sarcasm myself! Limitations of text based communications resulted in the creation of emoticons to compensate for missing body language and facial cues. I wonder if we ever devised one to denote sarcasm :)

In all seriousness, amazing to see some momentum behind improvements, and some results starting to materialize. The ice is breaking!!!

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By Kevin Love (anonymous) | Posted November 08, 2013 at 14:24:10

I used to go through that intersection twice a day, every day, to and from work. I live in the Durand neighbourhood, near St. Joseph’s Hospital and work in East Hamilton. The Rail-Trail from Corktown Park to Wentworth Street was a convenient part of my route.

But no longer. Why?

Two reasons. The first is the insane crossing to make a left turn from the Rail-Trail onto Wentworth. Very dangerous.

The second reason is the poor maintenance of the Rail-Trail. Vegetation has heavily overgrown the Rail-Trail. Specifically bushes and small trees have grown in from the sides and extended their branches across the trail. This reduces the volume of traffic that can use the Rail-Trail. It also creates extremely dangerous situations where people have to make sudden swerves because they were not anticipating a branch across their face. What a formula for a crash!

Going home from work after the clocks changed last weekend, I would be travelling in darkness if I used the Rail-Trail since there is no street lighting on this road. Scary!

So I do not use this route anymore. I am looking forward to the new protected lanes on Cannon. Until then, my own risk assessment is that I am better off taking the lane and exercising lane control on Barton. Decidedly third-class, but currently the least lousy route.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted November 08, 2013 at 17:53:27 in reply to Comment 94549

Using the rail trail is almost like true trail mountain biking, yes. I use that trail on occasion, mainly the Chedoke trail as my mountain access at the moment. It is so gorgeous and pleasant compared to getting murdered trying to use W5 or Garth. My personal risk assessment would rather take a branch across the face than be pushed off the road by some psychopathic asshat :) But, I thought it would be wonderful to pave the whole trail as a true, maintained, cycle/ped mountain access. You need a good light, in winter season especially. I'm torn - the commuting me would love to see the whole trail paved and well maintained. On the other hand, I love wilderness and we have precious few forested green spaces inside the city. RHVP destroyed and badly mutilated what used to be a nice chunk of it. The me that is fond of green spaces would love to see the authentic Bruce trail environment preserved, with some unpaved trail and natural growth left alone. So I put decent tires on the mountain bike, a bright light with lithium batteries so they don't weaken in freezing temperatures, and consider it a wilderness segment of the route. Also the air quality - I'm breathing deeply on those sections, enjoying it before I get into the tailpipes blowing in my face. But, given the number of people that use it - yes - maintenance for the good of the many trumps my personal preference :)

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By Kevin Love (anonymous) | Posted November 10, 2013 at 07:35:55 in reply to Comment 94565

Mike, that stretch of the Rail-Trail from Corktown Park to Wentworth Street is fully paved. I would certainly agree with you that more should be!

My issue is with the lack of maintenance that makes up to half of the road unusable due to encroaching vegetation. This poses a serious crash risk, particularly when oncoming traffic sees the branch at the last minute and swerves to avoid it.

On my morning commute, there is very heavy traffic of children going in to school, many of whom are pedestrians. This heavy traffic volume forces me to go quite slowly. That piece of road has probably the third highest traffic volume of car-free road in Hamilton. Only the Lakeshore Trail and Rail-Trail between Studholme and Leland have higher traffic volumes.

And yet the maintenance is much worse!

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By viennacafe (registered) | Posted November 10, 2013 at 21:55:25

"But every day that we come home having risked life and limb just to move in and through the city, we wonder whether it was a wise choice."

This should be repeated to our members of council.

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