CAUGHT IN A JAM

The Hamilton Spectator - - Local -

Call it a pic­ture-per­fect ex­cuse for an elec­tion de­bate over road safety.

Ward 14 coun­cil can­di­date Terry White­head, who is also the Ward 8 in­cum­bent, threw oil on an fiery Twit­ter de­bate over road safety by post­ing pho­tos of a Queen Street traf­fic jam Tues­day.

The pho­tos ap­peared to be taken from the driver’s side in­te­rior of a ve­hi­cle in a live lane of traf­fic. That spurred on­line ques­tions about whether the Hamil­ton po­lice board mem­ber broke the prov­ince’s dis­tracted driv­ing laws.

No way, said White­head on­line and in an in­ter­view. “I had parked the car. I ac­tu­ally got out to see what was go­ing on, as oth­ers did,” he said. “There’s noth­ing il­le­gal about that.”

Some Twit­ter users ar­gued oth­er­wise, post­ing snip­pets of the pro­vin­cial Min­istry of Trans­porta­tion ex­plainer page on dis­tracted driv­ing. It states you can only use a phone or hand-held de­vice in your ve­hi­cle to call 9-1-1, if you are “law­fully parked” or safely off the road­way. (Putting your car ‘in park’ at a red light, for ex­am­ple, doesn’t cut it.)

A few on­line crit­ics even tagged Hamil­ton po­lice in their Twit­ter posts. But no one had for­mally com­plained to po­lice about the pho­tos as of the next day, a spokesper­son said.

White­head dis­missed the al­le­ga­tions as “silly” and driven by down­town “ur­ban­ists” on Twit­ter.

But at least one Moun­tain-dwelling elec­tion op­po­nent picked up on the photo de­bate. “Let’s make sure he isn’t the one mak­ing the safety de­ci­sions come Oc­to­ber 22,” tweeted Bryan Wil­son, a Ward 14 coun­cil con­tender who called the pho­tos a “clear vi­o­la­tion” of the prov­ince’s road safety laws.

White­head said he tweeted to show the frus­tra­tions reg­u­larly faced by com­muters and Moun­tain brow res­i­dents, some of whom be­come “trapped” in their driveways when ac­cesses turn into “park­ing lots.”

A stalled bus ap­peared to be at least par­tially to blame for Tues­day’s traf­fic jam.

But the coun­cil­lor ar­gued sim­i­lar snarls have be­come in­creas­ingly com­mon since lower city street de­sign de­ci­sions like the ad­di­tion of down­hill bike lanes on Herkimer and Charl­ton.

Some help­ful Twit­ter users posted Google map al­ter­nate routes they felt would have al­lowed mo­torists to avoid the Queen Street jam. Oth­ers sug­gested a slower com­mute is a small price to pay for lower city road di­ets meant to pro­tect vul­ner­a­ble street users like pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists.

The Moun­tain coun­cil­lor has a his­tory of colour­ful de­bate on Twit­ter – par­tic­u­larly over road de­sign and LRT. At one point he erased seven years of tweets in 2016 and – briefly – vowed to stop ar­gu­ing on­line.

Ex­pect this type of de­bate to ramp up dur­ing and af­ter the 2018 city elec­tion.

TWIT­TER

Coun. Terry White­head tweeted this pho­to­graph to show traf­fic con­ges­tion in the lower city.

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