Do more to fix aggressive Waterdown traffic, dad says after death of his 10-year-old

"You have no idea what I feel today," says Shakeel Hanif after his daughter Jasmin was hit and killed on Evans Road in Waterdown. The city needs to work faster to fix the town's traffic problems, he says.

Shakeel Hanif says the city needs to work faster to fix the town's traffic problems

Jasmin Hanif, 10, was struck and killed by a vehicle in Waterdown on May 16. Her dad is starting a foundation dedicated to road safety. On Monday, he pleaded with city councillors to fix Waterdown's traffic woes. (Gofundme.com)

Shakeel Hanif stood at a city council podium and choked back tears Monday when he talked about the death of his 10-year-old daughter three weeks ago — and the need for the city to fix Waterdown's growing traffic woes.

What they did was play Russian roulette with my daughter's life.- Shakeel Hanif

Jasmin Hanif died May 16 when a vehicle hit her near her Evans Road home. For her dad, the loss is still fresh, still painful — too fresh to give a public presentation about it.

But Shakeel Hanif says he fears for other children, so this was his only choice.

Shakeel Hanif is starting the Jasmin Hanif Foundation for Road Safety in memory of his daughter. (Hanif family)

"You have no idea what I feel today," Hanif told Hamilton city council's public works committee. "I don't want anybody else to feel that way. It hurts. It's painful today, but I'm doing it for my daughter's sake."

Hanif is the latest and strongest voice in the call to fix traffic congestion in a town many say is growing too fast for its roads.

Since 2001, Waterdown's population has grown by more than 3,000 people, with thousands more expected. In 2005, the city tried to slow residential development there until it built more roads to accommodate it. Developers took the city to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) and won.

Now, the houses are there but the roads are not. For 10 years, the city has wanted to build an east-west bypass to ease congestion on side streets, but bureaucratic hurdles and approvals delayed the project. 

Any change is better than no change and right now, we got no change.- Shakeel Hanif

Work has finally started on the bypass, said Coun. Judi Partridge of Ward 15. Construction on a joint north-south bypass with Burlington — an expansion to Waterdown Road — is scheduled to start in 2018.

Meanwhile, Evans Road, a two-lane residential street connecting Parkside Drive to Dundas Street has become "the de facto bypass," Partridge said Monday. The city plans to install oversized signs, pedestrian warning signs and a flashing sign that shows the speed a vehicle is traveling.

Traffic-calming measures may not have saved Jasmin Hanif's life, says her dad, Shakeel Hanif. But it would have given her more of a chance. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

"More is coming," said Partridge, who held a public meeting with emergency services last week.

"I believe you are the strong voice that we need," she told Hanif. "With you, we will get things done."

Still, Hanif questioned Monday why the city hadn't acted faster on Waterdown congestion, especially considering that it knew how much development was coming. He'd like speed bumps, better street lights, better signs, lower speed limits and more traffic-calming measures.

Everyone is a cowboy.- Sam Merulla on aggressive drivers

"What they did was play Russian roulette with my daughter's life," said Hanif, who is starting the Jasmin Hanif Foundation dedicated to road safety. 

"Any change is better than no change and right now, we got no change."

Jasmin's death happened hours after a collision on Highway 403 funneled large volumes of traffic to cut through Waterdown. It also delayed police and paramedics, who were also stuck in traffic, Partridge said.

Evans Road connects Parkside Drive with Dundas Street, and has become "the de facto bypass" in Waterdown, says Coun. Judi Partridge. (Google)

Police say a 25-year-old driver was going southbound when Jasmin ran out in front of his vehicle. The man stopped and tried to help her until paramedics got there.​ Police still don't know if speed was a factor.

'Entitlement' of aggressive drivers

In general, aggressive driving is worse than ever, said Sam Merulla, Ward 4 councillor. He's moving Monday to reduce the speed limit on Ottawa Street North and Kenilworth Avenue North.

"The entitlement some drivers feel to get from point A to point B at any expense is quite remarkable," he said.

"Everyone is a cowboy."

The committee is voting on $4,370,000 in road safety measures Monday. Money comes from the $8.7-million reserve of red light camera fines. 

Some Waterdown residents are also fighting a Mikmada development group plan to build a 79-unit townhouse development at the nearby Connon Nurseries property. One of their arguments is how it will impact traffic.

As for Hanif, he hopes to take the foundation's message — a "Vision Zero" one of zero pedestrian deaths — beyond Hamilton.

"We all make mistakes," he said. "The transportation system should be designed to anticipate error so the consequences do not result in serious injury or fatality."

samantha.craggs@cbc.ca | @SamCraggsCBC