Make Queenston Road Businesses More Walkable

By Azher Siddiqui
Published November 13, 2013

There seems to be a fair number of businesses along Queenston Road in East Hamilton, which is of course always a welcome sight. However, when I look at this street, I can't but help feel that it is rather unattractive from a walkability perspective.

Most if not all of the businesses are set far back from the sidewalks. Pedestrians have to walk through parking lots to reach their destination.

That a sea of cars is parked out in front of businesses is not only unfriendly to pedestrians, but also I imagine it negatively impacts the appeal of businesses themselves.

What incentive is there to have beautiful, inviting store frontage or building facade if people walking, biking, or driving by can't even notice it because of a large empty or full parking lot.

I don't understand why the commercial buildings can't be lined up close to the sidewalk like in other areas downtown, and the parking lots situated behind them instead of the way they are now.

This would make the area much more walkable, enjoyable to everyone who passes by, and likewise, good for business.

If this can be done, I say let's do what we need to get it done. And if this cannot be done, I would appreciate knowing why not.

Azher lives in Hamilton's east end with his wife and four small children.


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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted November 12, 2013 at 21:54:53

A worthy example of this has been taking place across the bay: Burlington has been steadily adapting properties on a 3km stretch of Plains Road in Aldershot -- a former highway as inhospitable as Main/Queenston -- as part of a set of design guidelines whose roots trace back to December 2003.

Over the past couple of years you've heard them use buzz-phrases such as "road diet" and "complete streets" that Hamilton has yet to warm to. They still have a way to go but the progress and momentum is indisputable.

Getting traction seems to require matching vision to political will, and finding private sector developers ready to buy in.

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By B-Town Refugee (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2013 at 00:12:08 in reply to Comment 94687

Just as Hamilton is too quickly dismissed as being nothing but steel and stench, Burlington gets slagged for being nothing but sprawl and suburban blight. In fact, Burlington's adoption and implementation of new-urbanist policies and infrastructure greatly outpace Hamilton's in many realms and their building permit and real estate values reflect this. I wish we could have some of the "suburban" ideas, councilours and infrastructure that Burlington supports here.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted November 13, 2013 at 12:35:39 in reply to Comment 94691

Agreed. Almost every arterial in Burlington has bike lanes now. Incredible feeling of safety cycling in Burlington.

The exception is Plains Road. That broken crappy sliver of bike lane is going to get me killed. In fact, it almost did. A badly sunken sewer grate forced me to evade - only to come within a few centimeters of getting flattened by a bus. And I'm normally very safety conscious.

And cultural issues still remain. The instant I'm outside of a bike lane, trust-fund princesses are honking at me. When the Appleby bike lane ends at New Street - there is only 2 more kilometers until my workplace, but I've been quite abused during those 2km.

The entire GTHA region needs work on education and cultural transformation. Infrastructure in Burlington is getting pretty good but there are a few very unsafe stretches remaining.

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2013 at 14:43:32 in reply to Comment 94709

Plains still carries the imprint of its time as Highway 2, which was a key transportation corridor prior to the opening of the 403 (eg. Skyway to Desjardins leg came online in December 1963, Desjardins to Aberdeen leg in July 1965). They still have a way to go but compared to comparable Hamilton thoroughfares (eg. former Hwy 8) it seems reasonably hospitable.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted November 13, 2013 at 13:12:18 in reply to Comment 94709

It's actually still legal to ride on the sidewalk in Burlington, which may explain some motorists' reaction to you when you are on the road in the absence of bike lanes. Of course this makes their investment in cycling infrastructure all the more commendable.

Comment edited by highwater on 2013-11-13 13:12:58

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted November 15, 2013 at 09:20:57 in reply to Comment 94711

Are you sure it's allowed everywhere in Burlington? They have signs on some roads going over highways indicating the sidewalk is to be shared between cyclists and pedestrians on the bridge. If it was blanket-allowed, why would they need to specify those spots?

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By highwater (registered) | Posted November 15, 2013 at 12:38:02 in reply to Comment 94758

From the city's website

Cycling is permitted on sidewalks on most streets in Burlington. It is the responsibility of the cyclist to give way to all other sidewalk users. You must sound your approach and ride safely at all times. Bikes are not allowed on the sidewalks on Brant Street from Caroline to the lake due to the increased pedestrian traffic downtown.

It does seem odd that they would have those signs as it is basically blanket permission with only one noted exception.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted November 13, 2013 at 13:23:38 in reply to Comment 94711

Interesting ... although I knew that, my habits are programmed with best practices per MTO website, and they have kept me safe so far. Also if I'm using the sidewalk (extremely rare - only when there is a massive traffic jam to bypass) I will stop for each encounter with a pedestrian. My thinking is that walking has the right of way on a sidewalk, so I am constantly yielding to pedestrians. Not conducive to a commute that is properly done on the roadway :)

Also interesting - we were just talking in another thread about municipal pedestrian infrastructure held hostage to interpretations of Provincial traffic law. How come each municipality gets to write different laws for cyclists? Including e-bikes - my research into those rules turned up arbitrary restrictions in some cities.

Is driving affected by such city specific overrides? I mean, parking is very much city specific, but imagine the driver's handbook was different for each city?

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By highwater (registered) | Posted November 13, 2013 at 14:08:06 in reply to Comment 94713

You're right to follow best practices, and should definitely continue riding on the road regardless, but it's a lot more understandable for drivers in Burlington to be annoyed by your presence on the road than it is for drivers here who ought to know better.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted November 12, 2013 at 22:20:00

Because when you don't have a high enough population density within walking distance of your business, you need to find ways to bring people into your business via other means of transportation, IE, cyclists or cars. The area surrounding Queenston east is predominantly your standard three bedroom suburban community.

Also contrary to popular belief, many businesses thrive on this model. Look at the major retailers. Wal-Mart, Ikea most large Grocery Chains, Canadian Tire. Always accessible parking is one of the hallmarks of their businesses. You might not agree with it, but they are amongst the richest chains, partially because of this model.

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By Bla (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2013 at 13:20:22 in reply to Comment 94689

You're just making excuses for doing nothing. You're saying Queenston has a suburban layout because it has a suburban layout. Look at all the comments here about Plains Rd., another suburban layout that is changing into a more urban form with new higher density buildings, moving stores from behind parking lots to in front of them, going multiple stories with upstairs apartments instead of one story strip plazas etc.

Damn shame that the bedroom community of Burlington is spanking the City of Hamilton on how you build a fricking city.

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By Azher (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2013 at 07:49:26

I realize the need for big and small businesses even to always have accessible parking, but I don't understand why there could not be a double lane driveway going that goes to the back of these businesses and parking at the back instead of the front. I am not saying the businesses shouldn't have or don't need large parking lots, just that they should be situated behind the businesses instead of in front of them so that the businesses can be lined up with the sidewalk making them more accessible to pedestrians and cyclists.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 13, 2013 at 08:43:31 in reply to Comment 94696

Common sense, which has yet to arrive in Hamilton when it comes to basic planning. The Plains Rd example above is bang on. They are doing what we should be doing on York, Queenston, Upper James etc... Instead, planning staff were recently recommending new developments on York in a high rise fashion with mega parking lots blasted into the surrounding neighbourhood. Plains Rd shows how successful developments can include much less parking and mixed-use instead of stand-alone slab buildings. Most cities in North America are trending this way except a notable few. As always, Hamilton is one of the few clinging to the 60's

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted November 13, 2013 at 12:46:51 in reply to Comment 94697

I love the transformations taking place on Plains Road. A while back I heard Burlington had plans to re-invent that entire road to something much better - and they've started.

Until the pavement is actually re-done, and the bike lane fixed, that part is still a significant danger.

I believe the King Road railway underpass is pre-requisite to the road itself getting re-done - they are building that underpass first, so that through traffic has no excuse not to be on the QEW, where through traffic belongs!

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2013 at 09:16:21

There's this from a planning charette, "• Fewer driveways onto Queenston Road
• Locate buildings and businesses along Queenston Road instead of set back on the
property (buildings up front, parking in the rear instead of along the street)."

I've noticed that the new Kelsey's, new Swiss Chaletm and Boston Pizza all have parking on the side, bcak, with much friendlier forntage to the street that includes patios and lawns, and no parking.

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By Azher (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2013 at 11:36:59 in reply to Comment 94698

Thank you CaptainKirk. That document details exactly what I was talking about. Notwithstanding the new restaurants you list, any ideas as to whether theres plans for implementation of the conceptual design in that report going forward? Is it possible for anyone to track the progress? Thanks again for sharing that.

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By Kevin Love (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2013 at 14:51:25

I will now point out that the narrow edge strip on Plains Road in Burlington is NOT a bike lane. Hints include the lack of bike lane signs or pavement markings.

Of course, from a traffic design engineering standpoint, it is not wide enough to be safely used as a bike lane, as other commentators here have pointed out. Also, it arbitrarily vanishes in spots.

When using Plains Road, I recommend that one not attempt to use this as a bike lane, as it is unsafe to do so. Instead, one should exercise lane control and ride in the primary cycling position in the centre of the right general purpose lane. Which, of course, 99% of the population is unwilling to do, for obvious safety reasons.

Although legal in Burlington, riding on a sidewalk is generally not a good idea.

Bottom line: 99% of people cycling are effectively banned from using Plains Road in Burlington.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted November 13, 2013 at 16:57:30 in reply to Comment 94718

Instead, one should exercise lane control

A serious problem ... with the narrow strip there, if I try to ride in the live lane, I'll be killed deliberately even faster than I'll be killed by getting thrown into traffic by a pothole. And I'm an outlier type who is fearless to properly take any lane when required. And even I'm not that nuts. I almost lost my life since they closed Northshore for culvert replacement. And I can't even sue anybody for trying to kill me.

But from the standpoint of walkability - Plains has some nice things going on. Queenston could use some of these applications. Not least of which is the store fronts that open to the street. I hate the Roman Villas that put the back of stores against the street in an act of discommendation.

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