The mishap was likely one of several close calls between cyclists and drivers on Hamilton streets Wednesday afternoon.
But it served as a textbook example for a group of city residents conducting a street-level assessment of Victoria Avenue North by the bustling Hamilton General Hospital.
“You can’t just treat streets as a sacrifice zone and expect people to want to travel on them,” said John Neary, a member of the Beasley Neighbourhood Association who took the tour with a few dozen others.
Friendly Streets is a year-long pilot project that aims to assess the area around Hamilton General Hospital with the goal of making it safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
Elise Desjardins, co-project manager for Friendly Streets project, explains how Victoria Ave. could be safer for pedestrians.
The project is a partnership between Cycle Hamilton and Environment Hamilton. It’s has received just under $75,000 in seed money from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
For now, the initiative’s focus is Barton Street East and the Beasley, Keith and Gibson-Lansdale neighbourhoods, but the hope is to land more funding to fan its efforts out across the city.
Those behind the five-month-old project have conducted “street audits” and gathering feedback from residents to identify problem spots for cyclists and pedestrians.
“We realize it’s not realistic to have this change overnight,” said Elise Desjardins, co-project manager with Cycle Hamilton.
But the hope is that detailed feedback to city officials can help make streets friendlier for cyclists and pedestrians, Desjardins said. A Friendly Streets “tool kit” for residents of all neighbourhood is also a goal.
Participants in Wednesday’s “walkabout” made notes on a range of details of the Victoria Avenue streetscape including crosswalks, sidewalks, bike lanes, bump-outs, pavement markings, benches and litter.
Positive features included a bike share station at the hospital and bump-outs on the west side of Victoria to reduce the distance for people crossing the street and on-street parking providing a buffer as well.
Drawbacks were lack of pedestrian crossings and the lone bike lane on the east side of the street for northbound riders, leaving cyclists with no safe option to go south.
The bike lane starts at Barton and ends at Burlington Street East.
“There’s no destination at Burlington. It’s like if you built half a bridge,” Neary said.
Roaring heavy truck traffic on one-way Victoria, however, was identified as a colossal villain of the piece.
“It really does infringe on the safety of the street,” said Rachel Braithwaite, executive director of Barton Village BIA.
Wellington Street North, Wentworth Street North and Barton Street East are also designed full-time truck routes in the area.
“I have a ferocious appetite to change the truck culture here,” said Coun. Matthew Green.
The Ward 3 councillor said he senses big commercial trucks are using these “four- or five-lane highways” as shortcuts from the QEW to Highway 403.
“If you don’t have business in the city, you ought to be going around it.”
A city truck routes subcommittee is examining the issue, Green said.
Staff in the city’s traffic department will begin working on a traffic route master plan either later this year or early 2018, said public works spokesperson Jasmine Graham.
Source: The Hamilton Spectator