Hamilton adopts new guide to build safer streets amid spike in pedestrian deaths

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The council is about to sign off on an official how-to guide to building safer streets in Hamilton.

The 186-page “complete streets” manual is getting more attention than your average transportation and city-planning exercise, coming as it does amid a spike in pedestrian fatalities on city roads and even on the sidewalks.

The complete street guide aims to make new and reconstructed roads safer for all users, not just motorists. That could mean adding bike lanes or transit-only lanes, or redesigning intersections to better protect “vulnerable users” like people walking or cycling.

Example of an urban intersection with protective raised corners and shorter crossing distances for pedestrians.City of Hamilton

But it will also provide a transparent tool to help city planners “make the necessary trade-offs”, said transport planning director Brian Hollingworth – because in an old town like Hamilton you will rarely be able to put in all the amenities you you might want to sometimes. narrow streets.

“It’s going to give us a structured decision-making process,” Hollingworth said after the city’s public works committee approved the manual. (He will likely get a final sign of approval at the board on Friday.)

“The philosophy is not to pit one mode (of travel) against another, but to try to balance priorities.”

Here is a primer:

What is a “complete street”?

The short answer is a street designed to balance the needs of all users, not just motorists.

In Hamilton – which converted much of the lower town to one-way streets in the 1950s to allow efficient travel by car – creating a complete street often means making it safer for “vulnerable users” like pedestrians and the cyclists.

An example of a "complete street" design of a 20 meter wide urban avenue, including cycle lanes protected by sidewalks, street trees and elevated access for public transport.
An example of a ‘complete street’ design on a 20 meter wide urban avenue, including cycle lanes protected by curbs, street trees and elevated access for public transport.City of Hamilton

But it also means considering other elements of street design, such as public health, transit opportunities, the environment, and equity for marginalized groups who have historically been unable to afford or drive a car.

What does a complete street look like?

Hollingworth pointed out that there is no “one size fits all” definition.

In practice, however, the city could consider adding protected bike lanes (think Bay or Cannon streets), dedicated transit lanes, wider sidewalks, and street trees when rebuilding its self-centered avenues. for the future.

However, it’s hard to fit everything in, so expect compromises.

A street recently rebuilt with these principles in mind is Locke Street South, where wider sidewalks, bump-protected on-street parking lots, urban braille and new pedestrian signals have been used to make it safer for the pedestrian public to get around and across the busy road.

A view of Locke Street looking south from King Street on July 17, 2019. Crews have ripped up all existing asphalt as part of the full street renovation from Charlton to the main streets.
A view of Locke Street looking south from King Street on July 17, 2019. Crews have ripped up all existing asphalt as part of the full street renovation from Charlton to the main streets.Scott Gardner

However, protecting pedestrians and maintaining on-street parking meant that cycle lanes would not fit along most of this stretch.

Where else could this happen?

The city has already shifted gears on a long-planned project to widen part of Upper Wellington Street which is now a “complete street” reconstruction.

For example, instead of five traffic lanes, the EA is looking at the idea of ​​a three-lane cross-section – one two-way traffic lane, plus a turning lane – plus wider sidewalks, can -be new street trees or cycling facilities.

On Rymal Road, between Upper James Street and Dartnall Road, a rehabilitation project may end up adding a multi-use track and improved bus shelters.

Are we trying something new?

Expect the manual to gradually influence the design of Hamilton’s intersections, where many serious collisions with pedestrians occur.

Example of a neighborhood intersection with corners protected by curb extensions and raised crosswalks.
Example of a neighborhood intersection with corners protected by curb extensions and raised crosswalks.City of Hamilton

An example of a proposed design change that Hamilton has yet to try: raised, curved corner islands that shield cyclists and pedestrians from sharp-cornering cars and help shorten crossing distances for people walking.

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