Neighbours rally against 'speed demons' at Queen and Herkimer crossing

The problematic Queen and Herkimer Street crossing saw a community rally Monday morning for slower speeds. The City of Hamilton says change is coming.

Queen Street South coming from the mountain becomes one-way at Herkimer Street

Rally participants stood on the pedestrian island where there are three crossings. Cars going southbound on Queen Street, pictured on the right, must turn onto Herkimer Street via the crossing. (Flora Pan/CBC)

People living in the Queen Street and and Herkimer Street area say that, thanks to speeding drivers, that intersection is much too dangerous to cross.

"You never know what's going to happen on any school morning," said Catherine Cox. She was one of about 30 people out before the first school bell rang holding signs telling drivers to slow down.

Cox said that even though her daughter is in Grade 4 and responsible enough to walk to school alone, she's hesitant to let her go without supervision.

The protesters said they are fed up with car crashes and close calls as cars speed along Queen Street much faster than the posted limit.

Right now we have a problem on Queen Street in which speed demons whip down the road.- Aidan Johnson, Ward 1 Councillor

Tom Flood, who organized the rally, said while he can't say how fast drivers are going, it's definitely not 40 km/h if they are "obliterating bus shelters."

Crossing 'set up to fail'

Kyle Slote, who was there with his two sons, said the bigger problem is the design of the crossing.

"It's set up to fail pedestrians and to fail drivers," he told CBC News.

Queen Street South coming from the mountain becomes one-way at Herkimer Street and traffic is diverted onto Herkimer Street, a one-lane, one-way residential street.

There is no traffic light at the intersection and drivers need to pass the pedestrian island. People crossing can press a button for the pedestrian light, but Slote said they are often blocked by the pole and drivers can't see them.

"Drivers are confused, they're not sure what to do when the lights are on," he said, "100 per cent it should be a regular signalized intersection."

Tom Flood said the catalyst for organizing the rally is the 'continuous high-speed crashes' in the neighbourhood. (Flora Pan/CBC)

Changes to calm 'speed demons'

Ward 1 Coun. Aidan Johnson, who said he was nearly killed once trying to cross Queen Street, said he had moved the motion with Ward 2 Coun. Jason Farr and Ward 8 Coun. Terry Whitehead for the partial two-waying of Queen Street.

"Right now we have a problem on Queen Street in which speed demons whip down the road," he said.

He said the pedestrian crossing he helped implement in October works and he's received positive feedback, but "it doesn't perfectly solve all the problems."

The conversion of the street to become two-way between Main Street and Aberdeen Avenue is beginning after council voted in favour of it in May 2017.

Kyle Slote says the Queen and Herkimer Street crossing is 'set up to fail.' (Flora Pan/CBC)

Martin White, manager of traffic operations and engineering at the city, said in an email that the city is currently working on the intersection redesign. The construction is set to begin in 2019.

"It will include the removal of the pedestrian crossover and island at Herkimer, and a full signal with a crosswalk will be added," he said.

While community members at the rally may be happy to see change coming, some say this particular crossing is not the only one that's too dangerous.

"This is a city-wide problem and it needs a city-wide solution," said protester Scott Innis. He suggested having a safety officer at city hall to make sure the streets are safer for families.

"It's just a good way to build a city that's safe to raise children," he said.