Our Children Deserve Safe and Liveable Streets
From the Nest, Issue 2
by Beatrice Ekoko
In the early 60s, Beach Boulevard was a thundering truck route, even though the Burlington Skyway, which had been open for some time, was the appropriate route for industrial truck traffic.
Mothers who lived along the boulevard gathered together, their babies in buggies, older siblings clinging on to handlebars, and they raised a ruckus of their own, saying “no more”. No more would they allow their children’s lives to be put at risk by dangerous trucks. They blocked the passage of trucks, causing traffic havoc. A few months later, trucks were banned from using Beach Boulevard.
I’ve thought about this story often over the last few years, as I work with the Beasley neighbourhood community to correct an all too similar scenario.
Fifty years since the Mothers’ Buggy Brigade protest, Hamilton’s truck route network continues to allow heavy industrial transports to run amok through the core of the city and shortcut through neighbourhoods, when there are perfectly suitable routes available for these grain, coil, and gravel bearing trucks to take (403, QEW, Burlington Street, Nikola Tesla Boulevard, Red Hill Valley Parkway, Lincoln M. Alexander Parkway).
Wilson and Cannon streets are two such truck routes; they hem in a sensitive land area that comprises the Dr. Davey Elementary School, the Beasley Community Centre and daycare, and Beasley Park — places where children go. And I ask myself, Hamilton, when will we do better? When will we love our children?
A global pandemic is in full swing but Dr. Davey School children can’t use the adjacent greenspace as an outdoor classroom because they wouldn’t be able to hear their teachers’ voices over the roaring truck engines.
Residents have pleaded with their City Councillor and all levels of City staff, for years, to do something about the dangers their children face from truck traffic.
They continue to stress about the harmful effects to health caused by the diesel that these trucks emit adding to an already compromised air quality (thanks to proximity to the industrial area). Microscopic particulate matter penetrates the delicate lungs of the very young, lodges deep within their fine capillaries, the root of an ever-increasing range of illnesses, diseases waiting to bloom.
Hamilton is supposed to be home. A home is a sanctuary, a place of safety and contentment.
Hamilton might be home, but not for these children.
The overall design of Wilson Street at the Dr. Davey school is unfriendly for even the most able-bodied — those who are strong and fit enough, or sufficiently aware of their surroundings, to avoid getting run down.
There is no crossing for the high pedestrian population moving through the area, which includes some of the most vulnerable road users (70% of children who attend Dr. Davey walk to school). The crooked, narrow sidewalks are not welcoming; they are so thin that the children, their brown and black arms and legs flailing about, must steady one another to keep from tumbling into the street. Certainly, there is no room for large, sweeping movements, or to branch out and reach beyond the street’s treeless border.
Not for these kids is a healthy greenway, nor it seems, naturalized urban pockets one sees in other parts of the city, that foster exploration and discovery for brains ripe with potential. Instead, what we have is an arrested development of mind and body.
The body, ah, the body. And I am back, full circle to the opening story, and the mothers who put their bodies on the line for what they believed was right. These women knew what they were doing; they knew that the body is the site of direct action.
Why? Because the body is experience; this physical form, this flesh, moving through urban form, sensing the potential harm to itself, ready to flee or to fight. As with the Mothers’ Buggy Brigade of over fifty years ago, it is at the site of the body, outraged, repulsed, mortified, offended, that protest plays out; the body, taking a stand is the rallying cry of real change. Hamilton, will you take a stand?
Now is your chance to tell Hamilton City Council, “No more non-local industrial trucks shortcutting through our neighbourhoods and the urban centre.”
We need local delivery trucks in our neighbourhoods, but massive industrial trucks with no local destination create serious safety concerns when they cut through residential areas.
Unfortunately, this is currently perfectly legal under Hamilton’s permissive truck route system. Other major cities in Ontario don’t allow gigantic industrial trucks to rumble through residential neighbourhoods and past elementary schools. Neither should we. Our families deserve safe, livable streets and clean air. It’s time for a truck route reboot! Let’s tell the city that it is time for them to stop industrial trucks from shortcutting through our urban neighbourhoods.