Hamilton group looks at making Queen and Cannon two-way

About 80 people came out to hear about the potential two-way conversion of Queen and Cannon Streets, and many signed up to help.
Long-time Hamilton resident George Sorbara said making Cannon and Queen streets two-way will increase traffic congestion downtown. Sorbara was one of several speakers at a meeting at city hall on Monday to establish a study group for the two-way conversion. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

When James Collins moved to Hamilton from Vancouver nearly two years ago, he found a lot to like.

Living in a condo in the Pigott building, he found an inexpensive and affordable lifestyle here. What he doesn't like is the traffic.

"It's a horrible place to get around," he said. "I've been in a lot of different cities in Canada and I've never seen anything like it."

Collins was among the roughly 80 residents who attended a meeting Monday night to deal with the potential two-way conversion of Queen and Cannon Streets. He was also among several who volunteered to help.

The meeting was held by Coun. Jason Farr from Ward 2 and Coun. Brian McHattie of Ward 1. Its purpose was to get feedback and hear from people interested in joining a study group to look at the issue.

That group will provide input into an environmental impact study, necessary to convert the streets from one-way to two.

Collins signed up to participate in the group.

"There are a lot of good things, positive things about Hamilton," he said. "But the age of looking at the car as only way to get around is going by the wayside."

Public health nurse Sharon Mackinnon was part of a five-person panel who gave presentations on "complete streets," which are streets that are two-way with bike lanes and wide sidewalks that have plenty of shade trees.

Complete streets have public health benefits because they reduce accidents and encourage activity, she said.

"Creating opportunities for cycling and walking can potentially have a positive impact on health conditions such as obesity, and also have a positive impact on our environment," she said.

Most members of the public who took the microphone were in favour of making Cannon and Queen two-way. But at least one person in the room was against it.

George Sorbara, a Ward 1 resident who has lived in Hamilton for 60 years, said the two-way conversion of James Street has caused traffic congestion.

"I'm afraid I'm going against the flow here tonight," he said. "I've been in this city a long, long time. I can just see what's happening and I think going with two-way streets is wrong."

Making Queen Street two-way, he said, will cause chaos. He encouraged councillors to talk to the people.

"See what the people of Hamilton want," he said.

The study group will review existing data, walk the streets noting specific challenges and fill in any information gaps, McHattie said. It will report to fellow citizens and make recommendations to council.

Monday's meeting came out of a Sept. 6 decision where councillors voted in favour of establishing a study group. When that vote was taken, not everyone on council was in favour of two-way conversion.

Coun. Brad Clark, who represents Ward 9 in Stoney Creek, said two-way traffic hinders small business.

"The slower the traffic goes, the more expensive it is to operate regional trade businesses," he said.