Thursday, March 29, 2001



BY SCOTT NEIGH, March 29, 2001

In an event that combined carnival with mobile traffic calming, last Thursday members and supporters of Transportation for Liveable Communities (TLC) held a memorial procession through the downtown to remember pedestrians and cyclists killed by cars in Hamilton.

The collection of more than forty citizens, with ages ranging from a few months to seven decades, occupied the leftmost lane of King Street between Wellington Street and the Art Gallery of Hamilton.

They moved at a leisurely pace, distributing leaflets and sharing grim statistics over a megaphone.

"In Hamilton, between 1990 and 1998, 289 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes, 77 of whom were pedestrians," announced Andrew Curran of TLC. "Cars are the leading killer of North American children aged zero to 14 years."

While creating a moving blockade of one lane on King Street, the group received some supportive calls from sidewalk-bound pedestrians, and was the target of little or no obvious anger from drivers. The group, which was riding bikes, walking, and even skateboarding, blocked the intersection of King and James Streets for about one and a half cycles of the traffic lights, to observe a moment of silence. A chorus of horns signalled driver anger at this brief but complete interruption of traffic flow.

The group travelled through the walkway by the Art Gallery, and across Main Street to the open area in front of city hall. They blocked Main Street for about half of a cycle of lights during this time, and were treated to a string of profanities by an irate driver.

"We'll probably anger a lot of motorists, but that's fine, that's par for the course," said TLC member Jeff Santa Barbara, before the procession started. "But occasionally you find a supportive motorist, and we're hoping to turn the angry motorists into more of the supportive motorists. We have a bit of literature to hand out that hopefully will change peoples' minds a little bit."

One member of the diverse crowd that made the symbolic journey was Tooker Gomberg, the candidate that placed second in the race to be Toronto's mayor last November, behind Mel Lastman. Gomberg is a former Edmonton city councillor, and a long time environmental and social activist.

He observed, "If I could wave my magic wand and make these cars disappear, we'd have a really nice scene, here, in downtown Hamilton. But we're infested with cars."

Senior citizen Sally Tabuns joined the event "to protest the drivers killing so many pedestrians." She is also "really mad" about recent anti-pedestrian rhetoric in the media, particularly that targeted at seniors.

"As far as having a video of tips for seniors on how to cross the road--are you kidding? I've lived long enough, I know how to cross the road. The drivers ought to learn how to drive, and have some patience."

The procession was met at city hall by Ward 2 Councillor Andrea Horwath, to whom they presented a list of pedestrian and cyclist demands. The list included that the annual $300,000 budget for cycling initiatives be maintained; that snow clearance on frequently used sidewalks be made higher priority than that for roads, in residential areas; that the city deveop a pedestrian plan, and implement the cycling plan originally brought forward in 1999; and that a city-wide transportation demand management plan be developed and implemented, to provide incentives for walking and cycling, and deterrence for single occupancy vehicle use.

In addition, says Erica Oberndorfer, "Speed reduction is a huge thing. We're hoping for a 30 kilometre per hour zone in the downtown."

Horwath complimented the organizers of the event, calling it "a really successful and educational rally," and promised to present the demands to council.

She was cautiously optimistic about what the reaction of her colleagues might be. "I don't think it has been tested with the new council, yet...I don't think a wholesale change is going to happen, but if we keep pushing pieces and pieces and pieces, we can get somewhere."

In speaking at the event, and at a teach-in at the public library later that day, Gomberg encouraged TLC and other citizens to continue with their efforts to "conspire to transform our cities."

He pointed out that, although more than twice as many people on the planet depend on cycling for transportation as use the automobile, developing countries like India and China seem keen to adopt North America's car culture. He suggests that "the only way we can say to those people, with any integrity, 'Don't drive, don't make the same mistake we did,' is if we in the industrialized world say, enough is enough...[and] in our cities, enthusiastically embrace the alternative modes of transportation."
As far as public policy goes, his main question is "how can we make some of these alternatives more attractive, so that, little by little, people start choosing other alternatives?"

Gomberg warns that what he calls the "transportation mess" did not just happen by accident, and will require deliberate effort to escape. "This is the greatest conspiracy story I've ever heard, and it's true."
He says that in the 1930s and 1940s, the streetcar was a very popular mode of transportation in North America, that "people were riding it in a very big way, and the system was expanding." It has been documented in an investigation by the United States Senate, published as the "Snell Report", that the streetcar networks in 30 or 40 cities around the continent were bought up and destroyed by a front company for Standard Oil (now Exxon, parent company of Esso), the Firestone tire company, General Motors, and a few smaller players.

"We didn't get into this mess by happenstance," Gomberg observes. "And now we've designed our cities in such a way that it is very difficult for many people not to drive."

He cites academic Jane Jacobs, who has described how cities have been shifted gradually, over time, to automobile related uses, by a road expansion here, a parking lot there, a paved driveway somewhere else. However, Gomberg has confidence that cities can be won back from the car.

He advocates creative, public action to try and reclaim some of that urban space, such as the Reclaim The Streets parties that were popular in England in the 1990s, and strong lobbying action to oppose road consruction and expand public transit.

Another option, he suggests, is depaving. He and some friends converted a paved alley in Montreal to a "pocket park" in one afternoon.

"It's easier than you might think. On a hot day, it peels up like toffee. You just need some pick axes, some shovels, some beer."

Thursday, March 22, 2001




Presented To: Hamilton City Council
Presented By: Transportation For Liveable Communities, a Working Group of McMaster OPIRG
  • That the 1999 staff report Shifting Gears: A New Cycling Plan for Hamilton-Wentworth be implemented.
  • That the $300,000 budget that has been dedicated to cycling initiatives each year since 1992 be maintained in 2001 and beyond.
  • That motor vehicle speeds are enforced and, in residential areas, reduced to 30 km/hr.
  • That traffic calming and other vehicle speed reduction techniques be implemented.
  • That a Pedestrian Plan be developed for the New City of Hamilton.
  • That a sidewalk needs study be conducted and priority areas identified.
  • That sidewalks be built as part of any new development and that these sidewalks have a boulevard or separation between the sidewalk and the road
  • That intersections in the New City be systematically reviewed and prioritized for necessary pedestrian-friendly improvements
  • That snow clearance on frequently used sidewalks and trails be made a higher priority than road clearing and salting in residential neighbourhoods.
  • That a City-wide Transportation Demand Management Plan be developed and implemented. Such a plan would provide incentives for walking and cycling and deterrents for single occupancy vehicle use.
  • That the New City support development within urban areas and deter greenfield development.

Cars are killing us

In Hamilton, between 1990 and 1998
289 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes,
77 of whom were pedestrians or cyclists.
Cars are the leading killer of
North American children aged 0 -14 yrs.


But it doesn't have to be this way...

Join us for a Memorial Procession for Change
Meet at 2:30 pm. Thursday MARCH 22, 2001
corner of King Street East at Wellington
solemn procession to Hamilton City Hall

A procession to remember the hundreds of cyclists and pedestrians who are killed and injured by automobiles in Hamilton each year.

Bring a flower to create a temporary memorial on the street.

Bring your bicycle, wheelchair, roller blades, walking shoes, skateboards, or scooters and join the struggle to make our city streets safe for children.

Practical solutions towards safer streets will be presented to a representative of the City of Hamilton.
Contact TLC - Transportation for Liveable Communities
c/o OPIRG-McMaster, 905 525-9140 ext.27289;

and later

Visions for the New City of Hamilton

-a public speakers series-



"Activism for Healthy Transportation"

Thursday March 22, 2001
7:00 room A
Hamilton Central Library

Thursday, March 15, 2001


Everybody Targets Walkers

By Christine Shalaby - TLC (Hamilton Spectator, March 2001)

On Thursday, March 15, Jocelyn Bell wrote a front-page article entitled "Police Target Walkers," about the anticipated "crackdown" on jaywalkers to take place in May.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this article was not the statistic given about how many pedestrians have been killed by cars over the last six years (43), but the sheer acceptability of this campaign.

What is being suggested here is that if people are being hit and killed by automobiles, it must be their fault, and pedestrians must be re-educated as to how to coexist peaceably with these masterful showpieces of our society.

This type of victim targeting can be likened to an NRA crackdown on the victims of gunshot wounds, for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Fining pedestrians is like fining shop owners in parts of town where they are likely to be robbed for badly selecting a place to set up their business.

This campaign ignores the structural nature of the jaywalking problem. The problem isn't pedestrians or cyclists, or even motorists necessarily, but for the most part, the problem is that Hamilton has been designed for drivers. Those of us who cannot afford or choose not to own cars are held at the mercy of the automobile culture.

Guns are legal. Murder is not. Cars are legal. Hit-and-run is not. What is being ignored here is the chaos into which our city has descended. Drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians do not share the roads, but struggle over them in an endless tug-of-war that is severely imbalanced.

Hamilton's police are trying to address this problem by educating senior citizens on how to "Step out Safely." Perhaps a more effective campaign, one that would have more long-term impact, would be the improvement of driver education. No matter how nimbly a pedestrian may be able to avoid oncoming traffic, the continuing presence of a "defensive driver" culture will work against all those who cross the streets by foot, whether with or against the light. And a tonne of steel will always win over a human being.

As long as the city of Hamilton ignores the overarching problem of a pro-automobile urban design, no real improvement will ever be made to "the jaywalking problem."

Only through the construction of more bike lanes, the adoption of traffic calming techniques, and a greater respect for the pedestrian in matters of street design will this problem begin to diminish.
In short, we must learn to share our streets as true members of a community, rather than support oppressive fines and rules that consistently favour one class over another.

Don't target the walkers: target the system

- - - -

Police target walkers

Jocelyn Bell,  The Hamilton Spectator Thursday March 15, 2001

More than 40 pedestrians have died in traffic accidents in Hamilton in the past six years. Last year alone, 470 people were hit by cars. Of the eight who died, three were to blame for the accident.
Police are now gearing up to catch law-breaking pedestrians and aggressive drivers in May as part of the annual road safety blitz.
"People walk out whenever they feel like it," said Hamilton Constable John Rusnak. "It only takes about 40 seconds for the light to change. It's certainly worth life and limb to wait."
About six Hamilton pedestrians die in traffic accidents every year -- a total of 43 since 1995. The May jaywalking blitz will focus on three of Hamilton's worst intersections: King Street East and Wellington Street, Barton Street East and Kenora Avenue, and Ogilvie Street and Governor's Road.
Anyone caught disobeying the signals or failing to use the crosswalk could face a fine of up to $40.
Under the Highway Traffic Act, a person can be charged with failing to use the designated crosswalk if they are within 100 metres of the crosswalk.
"We're just saying: 'Listen --cross the proper way,'" Rusnak said. "We want to reduce the number of people struck on our streets."
Although jaywalking and disobeying traffic signals is a habit that spans all age groups, senior citizens and children are at particular risk of being hurt.
Because children are short, they have trouble seeing cars and drivers have trouble seeing them. Kids are also poor judges of the speed at which an oncoming car is being driven.
Seniors are often less mobile than younger adults and may take longer to cross.
About a quarter of the pedestrians struck and killed each year in Canada are senior citizens.
"Many of the worst intersections are around seniors' residences," Rusnak said. "Drivers need to be patient."
A Canadian Automobile Association spokeswoman says the risk to older pedestrians increases in winter.
"Snowbanks pose a particular problem to seniors," says CAA's Pauline Mitchell.
White hair and a light coloured jacket are enough to make it "difficult to distinguish between a snowbank and a senior standing beside a snowbank."
Hamilton police are trying to spread the message to seniors with a seminar called Step Out Safely. It teaches pedestrian safety tips to senior citizens. The annual traffic safety blitz begins in April with seatbelts and speeding and continues to November.
--With files from John Burman, The Hamilton Spectator