Hamilton can improve pedestrian safety with more 'complete streets'

The Pedestrian Death Review, a recent report by the Chief Coroner of Ontario, ranks Hamilton number four out of 10 cities in Ontario in pedestrian fatalities.
Pedestrian deaths are more likely to occur between November and March, when daylight is shorter. (Flannery Dean/CBC)

The Pedestrian Death Review, a recent report by the Chief Coroner of Ontario, ranks Hamilton number four out of 10 cities in Ontario in pedestrian fatalities.

According to the report, 46 pedestrians were killed in Hamilton between 2000 and 2009.

The report, which listed the factors that contribute to pedestrian deaths, also offered 26 recommendations for reducing fatalities.

One of those recommendations was that municipalities develop their own walking strategies for citizens that put a premium on convenience, health and safety.

Pedestrian Mobility Master Plan

Hamilton does have a Pedestrian Mobility Master Plan that is in the process of development. The plan, which is soon to be put before City Council for approval, was initiated in 2010. The Mobility Plan doesn't directly address concerns that were discussed in the Coroner's review, but it does address many concerns surrounding safety and offers a "toolbox" to city planners for reducing collisions and improving pedestrian safety, said Steve Molloy, project manager of the Master Plan.

Molloy said the plan is designed to make city planners integrate pedestrians in  future road plans and reconstructions so that "whenever we're doing a project, we're thinking about pedestrians." Preventing collisions is one of the concerns addressed in the Plan. "We do look at pedestrian collisions and how they occur," he said. One of the ways the Mobility Plan aims to reduce fatalities is through the design of safer, more "complete streets."

Complete streets are those that take into account all users, said Molloy, from drivers to pedestrians. In future that will mean designing streets or doing road improvements that put more of an emphasis on the needs of all users, rather than just focusing on getting traffic through. 

Molloy cites Stonechurch Road with its incorporation of bike lanes and transit lanes as an example of a more complete street. Dundurn Ave. between Aberdeen and Main streets, which eliminated street parking to add a bike lane, is another example of what the city is doing right when it comes to creating streets that take into account drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, said Molloy.

Pedestrian 'green times'

He also cited the use of longer pedestrian "green times," or the amount of time people are given to clear an intersection. At the moment, many intersections in the city allow for longer crossing times, giving as much as one second per metre to cross safely before the light changes.

Other things the plan suggests to improve walkability and pedestrian safety in the city are creating bulb-outs in sidewalks, curb extensions that effectively reduce crossing time. Another improvement that might save lives: increasing outdoor lighting around intersections. The Coroner's report pointed out that pedestrian fatalities are more likely to occur between the months of November to March and during evening hours when light conditions are poor.

"Cars have headlights, pedestrians don't," said Molloy.

The Pedestrian Mobility Master Plans recommendations are set to go before City Council on Nov. 19.