‘How many other deaths or se­ri­ous in­juries?’

In ad­vance of the Oct. 22 mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion, The Spec­ta­tor will be delv­ing into the key is­sues fac­ing our city and its politi­cians. In to­day’s in­stal­ment, Matthew Van Don­gen tack­les the topic of road safety, and the dif­fi­cult bal­ance of cars, bikes and p

The Hamilton Spectator - - Front Page - MATTHEW VAN DON­GEN


lost the abil­ity to ride a bike — or even sit with­out pain — just weeks af­ter the 2014 city elec­tion when a car slammed into the back of his bi­cy­cle on Aberdeen Av­enue.

Four years later, he is hope­ful vot­ers in the next elec­tion on Oct. 22 will elect a coun­cil “fo­cused on pro­tect­ing its most vul­ner­a­ble res­i­dents rather than pro­tect­ing its car cul­ture.”

The physics pro­fes­sor was bik­ing home from work

at McMaster Univer­sity with two other cy­clists four years ago when he was struck from be­hind by a car at the cor­ner of Aberdeen and Hawthorne av­enues.

Iron­i­cally, the cy­clists had stopped and sig­nalled their in­tent to turn left onto a side street — bike safety lights flash­ing — be­cause they wanted to get off the busy artery that ush­ers fast-mov­ing cars off High­way 403.

The force of the im­pact launched Dalnoki-Veress into the air — and im­paled him on the shaft of his own bi­cy­cle seat. Those “life-chang­ing” in­juries mean the 50-year-old is no longer able to sit on a bike, so he now uses an adapted foot-pow­ered scooter to get around.

“That was hard for me, be­cause cy­cling was such a big part of my life,” he said. “But on the other hand, I’m alive and happy ... When you look at other (car) col­li­sions with pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists at 50 or 60 kilo­me­tres and hour, I’d have to say I’m in­cred­i­bly for­tu­nate to still be here.”

A few weeks af­ter the col­li­sion, he wrote a first-per­son ac­count for Raise the Hammer urg­ing res­i­dents to push coun­cil to slow its traf­fic ar­ter­ies and re­design roads to pro­tect vul­ner­a­ble users.

Four years later, he ad­mits feel­ing “dis­ap­pointed and bit­ter” about the “slow pace” of change. “I think we’ll get there in the end ... But I worry how many other deaths or se­ri­ous in­juries it will take be­fore we just de­sign our roads with the safety of all users in mind,” he said.

THE DE­BATE over road safety in Hamil­ton of­ten cen­tres on street de­sign, even more than cost.

Changes that slow traf­fic on busy roads like Aberdeen — whether it is a bike lane, a “road diet” or sig­nal­ized pedes­trian cross­over — of­ten pit neigh­bour­hood res­i­dents wor­ried about safety against car com­muters and com­pa­nies that rely on as­phalt ar­ter­ies to move goods or get to work.

An ex­tra con­found­ing fac­tor for cur­rent and fu­ture politi­cians is light rail tran­sit. The un­cer­tain traf­fic im­pli­ca­tions of the $1-bil­lion LRT planned for the King-Main cor­ri­dor con­tinue to par­a­lyze de­bate over pro­posed changes to many lower city streets.

Vot­ers can pon­der sev­eral high­pro­file — and some­times con­tentious — road safety de­ci­sions made by coun­cil over four years. A se­lec­tion:

The ad­di­tion of a $600,000 two-way

cy­cling track on Bay Street and semipro­tected lanes along Charl­ton and Herkimer. Pop­u­lar with cy­clists, the lanes are blamed by some Moun­taindwelling car com­muters for traf­fic back­ups up and down the hill.

Un­der­spend­ing on bike lanes. De­spite some high-pro­file projects, the city has on av­er­age spent less than half of the $2.5 mil­lion an­nu­ally needed to meet its 20-year bike lane tar­get in 2029. We’re way be­hind. The city’s first pro­tected walk­ing-cy­cling path up a Moun­tain ac­cess .It took the death of cy­clist Jay Keddy and a pro­vin­cial grant to make this $2-mil­lion Clare­mont ac­cess pro­ject a 2019 pri­or­ity. Two-way traf­fic com­ing to Queen Street South. Cel­e­brated as a win-win for neigh­bour­hood res­i­dents and Moun­tain com­muters. But the 2019 pro­ject won’t change the one-way ar­te­rial be­tween Main and King. A 77-year-old cy­clist was struck and killed by a ce­ment truck last month at Queen and King. No Aberdeen road diet. LRT un­cer­tainty al­lowed coun­cil to punt a de­bate over a pro­posed nar­row­ing of the busy road that car­ries 19,000 ve­hi­cles daily from the Queen Street hill to High­way 403. A staff re­view of tem­po­rary safety mea­sures will go to the new coun­cil next year.

Speed limit re­duc­tions. Coun­cil signed off on a de­fault speed limit re­duc­tion to 40 km/h on res­i­den­tial or un­signed streets. It also cut max speeds on some ar­te­ri­als, like Ot­tawa and Ke­nil­worth.

IT’S TOUGH TO GAUGE the suc­cess of these mea­sures on Hamil­ton road safety based on col­li­sion sta­tis­tics, partly be­cause the de­tails aren’t read­ily avail­able to the pub­lic.

Nei­ther the city traf­fic depart­ment nor po­lice make de­tailed city-wide col­li­sion in­for­ma­tion avail­able on­line. Toronto po­lice, by com­par­i­son, pro­vide a search­able on­line data­base of pedes­trian and cy­cling col­li­sions that in­cludes in­for­ma­tion about lo­ca­tion, fault, time of day and di­rec­tion of travel.

Hamil­ton’s high-level num­bers don’t tell a very clear story.

Cy­clist-car col­li­sions have hov­ered around an 160 an­nual av­er­age for a decade, for ex­am­ple. An Au­gust cy­clist death was the first bike-ve­hi­cle col­li­sion death since 2015.

The city saw 278 pedes­trian-car col­li­sions in 2016 — the high­est num­ber since amal­ga­ma­tion — but those num­bers dived down to 230 last year. Four pedes­tri­ans died in each of those years.

New com­puter soft­ware should al­low the city to make more de­tails avail­able to the pub­lic next year, said traf­fic oper­a­tions manager Martin White. He added more de­tailed anal­y­sis, in­clud­ing about “col­li­sion hot spots,” is com­ing in an up­com­ing traf­fic safety re­port to coun­cil.

Sorry, vot­ers and can­di­dates: that re­port is so far not slated to go pub­lic un­til af­ter the elec­tion.

WITH OR WITH­OUT the stats, road safety ap­pears to be an is­sue for vot­ers. Dozens of would-be coun­cil­lors listed safer streets as a high pri­or­ity in a Spec­ta­tor sur­vey of can­di­dates.

Cy­cle Hamil­ton also con­ducted its own poll of can­di­dates and re­ceived 74 re­sponses, said co-chair Kate Whalen. She said a ma­jor­ity ap­pear “gen­er­ally sup­port­ive” of more spend­ing on bike lanes and road safety. “They’re also telling us they’re hear­ing from res­i­dents about these things, which is heart­en­ing,” she said.

Road safety is also a city-wide con­cern — even if the loud­est coun­cil de­bates tend to be over down­town road de­sign and two-way traf­fic.

Res­i­dents on the Moun­tain, in An­caster and Wa­ter­down are in­creas­ingly de­mand­ing side­walks and bet­ter pedes­trian pro­tec­tions, par­tic­u­larly in for­merly ru­ral ar­eas where pop­u­la­tion growth out­paces in­fra­struc­ture up­grades.

That chal­lenge came into tragic fo­cus in 2017 when Jas­min Hanif, 10, was struck and killed while try­ing to cross Evans Road in heavy traf­fic.

The once-ru­ral Wa­ter­down road now has many res­i­den­tial homes, but is still lined with ditches rather than side­walks and of­ten serves as a cut­through op­tion for traf­fic in the grow­ing com­mu­nity.

Jas­min’s father, Sha­keel Hanif, made a mov­ing plea to coun­cil­lors af­ter his daugh­ter’s death call­ing for road safety im­prove­ments. New signs, light­ing and traf­fic di­viders have since been in­stalled on Evans Road.

There is so much more to do, he said. “Signs are not enough, (knock­down) sticks are not enough. Peo­ple just drive over them,” said the still-griev­ing father this week. “You need to be able to force peo­ple to slow down. You need en­force­ment ... I’m not see­ing that.”

Hanif is hope­ful the city will choose to use photo radar to crack down on dan­ger­ous driv­ers if the prov­ince fi­nally en­acts reg­u­la­tions to al­low the tech­nol­ogy in pedes­trian-sen­si­tive ar­eas.

He is also won­der­ing if coun­cil will fol­low through on “all the talk” about Vi­sion Zero, an in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar plan­ning strat­egy for cities with the stated goal of pre­vent­ing all traf­fic deaths.

Hamil­ton’s lat­est mas­ter trans­porta­tion plan says the city is study­ing the “fea­si­bil­ity” of for­mally adopt­ing a Vi­sion Zero strat­egy. (In Toronto, that meant a $25 mil­lion­plus fund­ing com­mit­ment over five years.)

“I know get­ting things through coun­cil takes time,” Hanif said. “But look at all the peo­ple get­ting hurt. This should be pri­or­ity one for them.”

Res­i­dents on the Moun­tain, in An­caster and Wa­ter­down are in­creas­ingly de­mand­ing side­walks and bet­ter pedes­trian pro­tec­tions.


Kari Dal­nok­iVer­ess with his foot-pow­ered scooter at Aberdeen and Studholme. This is near the site of a bad col­li­sion four years ago where a car drove into him on his bike, im­pal­ing him on the seat shaft.


Po­lice and fire­fight­ers on the scene of a fa­tal col­li­sion where a 77-year-old cy­clist was killed by ce­ment truck on King Street just west of Queen Street in Au­gust.

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