Hamilton’s downtown core, notorious for being a gauntlet of dangerous streets for cyclists and pedestrians, will be getting safer in the near future.
Although the city has some of the lowest levels of bike and foot traffic in the province, it is second only to Windsor, Ont., in the number of pedestrian deaths while walking per 100,000 people. In the city’s cyclists are up to 81 per cent more likely to be injured in Hamilton than the provincial average.
The city believes that if they can make streets safer for bikes and people walking, they will see more activity on sidewalks. They have set out to do so.
On Thursday, Nov.14, the city council unanimously voted in favour of the Pedestrian Mobility Act. The 244-page document is largely focused on making busy streets safer for pedestrians, but it will also address some issues pertinent to cyclists, such as a the way roads are designed.
Currently, streets are planned from the centre line outward, first taking into consideration the needs of motor vehicles, with cyclists and pedestrians being left with what is still available. The act turns this process on its head with a mandate to design streets from the outside in, first accounting for the needs of pedestrians, then bicycle traffic and finally vehicles.
“It kind of explains why we have a lower rate of cyclist commuters in Hamilton,” Sara Mayo, a city social planner, told the CBC. “Obviously if people felt safer, there’d be more cyclists on the road.”
The plan also recommends adding more bike lanes and widening current ones.
From now on in Hamilton, all road construction will, by default and without study or council votes, be planned with pedestrian traffic in mind. Sidewalks will be built at least 1.5 m wide, new traffic lights in urban areas will have countdown timers, and winter maintenance on sidewalks will be increased.