Slowing Down Streets in the Corktown Neighbourhood
From the Nest, Issue 9
by Slowdown Corktown Initiative
Reckless driving has become an increasingly present and frustrating part of living in Corktown, but the problems we face aren’t much different from the rest of Ward 2.
With Main Street East to our north and 3 mountain access routes, Corktown’s arterial streets have heavy volume throughout the day and speeding on these major arterial streets continues on our smaller residential streets.
A recent example of the consequences of the way streets are designed downtown is the collision that occurred on Young Street in Corktown on May 28, 2021. A driver lost control, crashing into the gas metres for 7 townhouse units. The residents had to be evacuated and natural gas leaked into the neighbourhood for hours. Luckily, no one was injured.
Our concerns are not new. In fact, at the same intersection 2 years ago, similar reckless speeding resulted in a car flipping over, while students were walking to school.
The more recent collision prompted some serious discussion on our neighbourhood Facebook page. Those online conversations led some of us to organize a petition, calling on the City of Hamilton to perform a safe street audit.
The pandemic has presented some challenges for the typical approach to neighbourhood petitions, so we launched the Slowdown Corktown Initiative (SCI).
This also enabled us to broaden our reach and include people who learn, work or play in Corktown, not just those who live here.
We used the website to collect signatures and information about the concerns people have regarding traffic in the area. Based on what we have learned, we recognize a need for a more comprehensive approach to the problems people identified, including cut-through traffic on Spring Street, Young Street, and Walnut Street South, unsafe crossings on Hunter Street East at Ferguson Avenue South, Charlton Avenue East, John Street South, James Street South and Main Street East, speeding on Charlton Avenue East near Queen Victoria Elementary School, and so on.
In the past, street safety concerns have been addressed with ad hoc solutions. Individual residents have successfully advocated for speed humps and stop signs to address speed.
We celebrate these achievements but recognize more is needed. Importantly, speed humps and stop signs may help to calm traffic on certain sections of residential streets, but do not address the problems we face as vulnerable road users on the major arterial streets.
Street design on both residential streets and major arterial roads matters, this includes having appropriately wide sidewalks, signalized crossings, and protection from the road in the form of planters, parking lanes, or boulevards.
How we direct traffic through a neighbourhood and at what speed can make a neighbourhood a great place to walk, or collision waiting to happen.
We know better is possible. In the North End, residents successfully advocated for neighbourhood wide improvements, like bump-outs at all residential street intersections, a 30km maximum speed, and lane closures to prevent cut-through traffic.
We have even seen some important improvements in our neighbourhood. The new bike and parking lanes on Hunter Street East, which have reduced active traffic lanes and created physical barriers, have made both walking and cycling a safer and more pleasant experience.
Our neighbourhood is slated to have a population boom, with several large scale development projects either underway or approved. We estimate that our neighbourhood will grow by 2,000 or more residents from these developments alone.
We support the City’s desire to create density and encourage active modes of transportation. But if we want people to walk, bike, or take transit, we need to address pedestrian and cycling safety.
City staff have been busy developing the Complete Livable Better (CLB) Streets Manual, which aims to approach street design by considering all road users and shifting away from prioritizing drivers. We need these principles applied to our neighbourhood now. As another school year begins, we can’t keep waiting patiently for another stop-gap measure to be installed. We need comprehensive action to keep kids and all vulnerable road users safe.
Slowdown Corktown Initiative is a group of residents who live in Corktown and are deeply concerned about street safety in their neighbourhood; you can sign their petition and read their letter to Councillor Jason Farr and the Public Works Committee to learn more