It's past time for Hamilton to join the dozens of cities across North America that are converting their downtown streets back to pedestrian-friendly two-way traffic and enjoying renewed investment and revitalized neighbourhoods.
One-way streets are great at funneling large volumes of automobile traffic but terrible at sustaining lively businesses and healthy neighbourhoods. Fast traffic scares away pedestrians, and destinations on one-way streets are more difficult to reach by automobile.
On the other hand, a study by the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce recently found that pedestrian-friendly streets attract new creative businesses and concluded, "walkable environments should be viewed as economic infrastructure that attract employment and should be invested in accordingly."
More important, Hamilton's own traffic collision data shows that one-way streets are 2.5 times more dangerous for children than two-way streets. One-way streets allow for much faster vehicle traffic, and vehicle speed is the biggest risk factor for pedestrians: the rate of pedestrian fatality on being hit by a vehicle is 5% at 32 km/h but jumps to 85% at 64 km/h.
Hamilton City Council needs to affirm that children's safety, business development and community vitality are more important priorities than fast automobile traffic through city neighbourhoods. Now is the time to put our one-way highways behind us and transform our streets into the people friendly, business friendly neighbourhood centres they should be.Sign the Petition!
Hamilton's official Vision Statement is: "To be the best city in Canada to raise a child, promote innovation, engage citizens and provide diverse economic opportunities." For more than 50 years, the one-way thoroughfares crisscrossing the lower city have stifled this vision.
- One-way streets are 2.5 times more dangerous for children than two-way streets;
- One-way streets hurt street-level retail by deterring pedestrians and reducing accessibility for drivers.
- One-way streets sacrifice neighbourhood vitality so drivers passing through can save a few minutes.
Business owners stuck on our one-way streets started calling for them to be converted back to two-way as early as 1957 - just months after they were converted into one-way streets. They reported declining business as customers were scared away by fast highway-style traffic on the street.
After James and John North were converted back to two-way in 2002, the Downtown BIA surveyed the merchants and found that business improved on those streets after the conversion. Some even reported hiring more staff to deal with the increased trade. Clearly, the dire predictions of doom that some observers made before the conversion did not come true.
Yet the pace of two-way conversions has been excruciatingly slow in the decade since, and some of our most important streets - like Main, King and Cannon - are off the table entirely.
One-way street conversion seemed like a good idea in 1956, but it is unacceptable today for the city to continue sacrificing community vitality and pedestrian safety for the narrow goal of moving large numbers of vehicles through urban neighbourhoods as quickly as possible.
Whereas, dozens of cities across North America are converting their downtown streets back to pedestrian-friendly two-way traffic and enjoying renewed investment and revitalized neighbourhoods; and,
Whereas, the Hamilton King-Main Rapid Transit Benefits Case published by Metrolinx in 2010 concluded, "the two-way street system is more supportive of the City's objective to create a healthy, more pedestrian-friendly downtown"; and
Whereas, Hamilton City Council has made commitments to improving walkability in the city by signing the International Charter for Walking, and through City Council's vision statement with the goal of making Hamilton the best place to raise a child; and
Therefore:The undersigned urge Council to convert Hamilton's one-way thoroughfares into complete, livable two-way streets as quickly as possible and also urge the City of Hamilton to take swift and concrete action to facilitate walkability and pedestrian safety across the entire City of Hamilton.