Opinion

In Defense of One-way Streets

We can make more room for alternative transport modes while respecting the preferences of people who appreciate the efficiency of one-way streets.

By Kent Lee
Published June 07, 2012

I am a huge fan of Raise the Hammer and most of their initiatives. We can see that complete streets, and rapid transit initiatives are being supported now by politicians, the media, and even the chamber of commerce, and this is thanks in no small part to the dedication of the staff at RTH.

I truly believe that improving pedestrian, cycling, and transit conditions will have a transformative effect on the city, and can actually make it 'the best city in Canada to raise a child' as the City's vision states.

However, I believe that too often, livable streets get conflated with two-way streets. Evidence from other cities has shown otherwise, and indeed, one-way streets actually can provide opportunities to reach the livable streets goal in ways that two-way streets cannot.

"One-way streets are incompatible with walkable, livable streets."

This sentiment is all too common in Hamilton, and I suppose the deduction is obvious. The one-way streets in Hamilton are crummy, therefore it is due to the fact that they are one-way, and only two-way streets can be walkable.

I believed the myth too, for a time, but then I visited Montreal. Montreal is easily the best walking city in Canada, and some of their most lively streets are one-way streets. See Boulevard Saint-Laurent for proof. But when somebody mentions Montreal here, we get flooded with a lot of excuses why Montreal is so different from Hamilton. Isn't that just another form of exceptionalism, which RTH editor Ryan McGreal has written about?

Indeed, I find some of the one-way streets in Hamilton not just unpleasant, but downright offensive. But in all honesty, I also find Upper James street to be equally offensive, despite the fact it has two-way traffic. The best thing we can do to improve our one-way streets is not to make them two-way, but to improve/widen the sidewalks, add a bike path, and calm the speed of traffic.

Even Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead has been noted to be in favour of calming traffic measures on downtown streets.

And before somebody asks me if I think Upper James should be one-way: if it came with a cycle track and improved sidewalks, then yes, making it one-way would be a huge improvement over the status quo on that ugly street.

It's also not incidental that the famous on-street cycle tracks which have been installed in Montreal, Portland, New York, Vancouver, have almost exclusively been built along one-way streets. One-way streets are safer for cycle tracks, as there are fewer potential conflicts with turning traffic.

Now it may sound to you like I am a one-way street obsessed driving type. On a personal level, I don't drive, and so I'm quite agnostic towards street directions, but it cannot be denied that one-way systems give more opportunity for alternative transport modes to share the same roadway.

But there is an even more important reason to give one-way streets proper consideration. Fact is, many many people in this city value the efficiency of one-ways, and this is a democracy. Do you know what happens if a large section of the population feels they're being ignored? They start voting for a guy like Rob Ford.

Let that be a reminder that in a democracy, the pendulum swings the other way if you pull too hard.

Kent Lee is a urban planning technician currently living in Toronto, but with intentions to return to Hamilton.

101 Comments

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Read Comments

[ - ]

By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 07:40:44

Kent ... peoples are using the ONE-WAYS as freeways ... how can you make that pedestrian friendly ?

Permalink | Context

By Rene Gauthier (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2012 at 11:11:44 in reply to Comment 78050

The one-way as a freeway argument is quite obtuse and very much abused on this site. Since when did a freeway have traffic lights that are sequential, based on travelling at a continuous speed of just slightly under 50 km/h? C'mon people! The only morons that are going that fast are just racing from Gage, to end up stopping in a panic at Melrose.

John and James are fine as two-way streets and until you can achieve the same or a better level of traffic flow, there is still no good argument for converting King and Main into two-way, especially when King Street is already bottlenecked from Wellington.

There really is only one way to make these streets a little more pedestrian friendly - better sidewalks. Of course having some place to walk to will help the same, otherwise the effort's for nought.

Permalink | Context

By DBC (registered) | Posted June 08, 2012 at 11:17:24 in reply to Comment 78178

"....especially when King Street is already bottlenecked from Wellington."

Wouldn't you expect congestion in the core of a healthy urban metropolis? Especially when it's in the top 10 in the nation.

What is so objectionable to this concept? Hamilton's streets are like no other city's streets in Southern Ontario........and that's not a good thing. No one is rushing out to replicate the street design that exists in our core....and for good reason. It's not 1960 anymore.

Permalink | Context

By congestion indegstion. (anonymous) | Posted June 11, 2012 at 17:54:54 in reply to Comment 78179

You have your cause and effect backwards. Cores have congestion because many many people want to be there. Our core has congestion because we have crummy street design. If the city really wanted to change King then why in the world did they do what they did. Little bump outs that remove a lane of traffic but add nothing. If we are going to have the negative impact of reduced traffic lanes on our busiest street why can't we at least get something in return? Bike lanes? Patios? green space? Anything but a little bump out and then a few meters of no parking lane.

Permalink | Context

By DBC (registered) | Posted June 12, 2012 at 19:41:28 in reply to Comment 78323

I think you missed my (sarcastic) point.

Our core has no congestion.

If it were healthy it would have lots. Just like one would expect in a downtown core at rush hour.

Permalink | Context

By This is engaged? (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2012 at 12:05:59 in reply to Comment 78179

When I can get around easier in Montreal in a thriving downtown district and cannot get around along Hamilton's depressed King Street I'd have to say no, I would not expect congestion in the core because its not healthy along the stretch thats is being discussed. What will it be like if it ever is healthy when its like it is now?

Permalink | Context

By This is Engaged is Allan Taylor? (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2012 at 12:20:09 in reply to Comment 78182

Know how I know you're trolling? Practically every street in Montreal is congested practically every hour of the day and there transit system is overflowing. Hamilton? You can drive through the city in 10-15 minutes without ever stopping, just about any time of day. Know what's a bigger waste of time than traffic congestion in Hamilton? Your BS posts.

Permalink | Context

By This is engaged? (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2012 at 12:35:05 in reply to Comment 78183

Whatever on the obsession with Allan Taylor. As things are now I agree you can get through in a reasonable amount of time and frankly its expected. Its not fast, in fact its slow but its not gridlock either. Thats totally expected under the current economic conditions of the area. I have no problem stating the obvious. Has the street-scaping helped King Street? Depends on what criteria you are applying. Its a much more pedestrian friendly area in International Village but the quality of street life really hasn't improved dramatically for reasons that have little to do with walk-ability. IMO International Village is a failure on all fronts unlike James N which has been a success due to the influx of the arts community. Who is going to be that next community for International Village? All the elements for a James North success are there to duplicate Montreal's successful one ways except permanent residents with disposable income.

Permalink | Context

By kettal (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 12:54:00 in reply to Comment 78050

Absolutely, it is a problem when they use the streets as freeways, and I encourage traffic-calming measures such as narrowing the street, adding on-street parking, etc.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 07:42:47

Thank you for your meaningful contribution to the ongoing local dialogue on one-way streets vs. two-way streets, Kent.

An opinion piece in the Hamilton Spectator today by Terry Cooke titled "One-way streets are killing our city - and its people" also makes a meaningful contribution to the dialogue: http://www.thespec.com/opinion/columns/a...

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2012-06-07 07:45:18

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Al Huizenga (anonymous) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 07:51:07

Hi Kent! I'm certainly not equipped to debate an urban planning technician about traffic management, but I have to disagree with this:

"One-way streets are incompatible with walkable, livable streets."
This sentiment is all too common in Hamilton.

Sure, it's pretty common among RTH types - downtowners who are trying to save their neighborhoods and chart an urban future for Hamilton. But it's not common at all among councillors, city staff, and the suburban interests that seem to dominate the agenda in this city.

There's probably a reasonable technical conversation to be had about whether we can accomplish the goals of livability and walkability with one- or two-way streets. I just think it's the wrong conversation for right now.

We've already got a guy like Rob Ford - squishier but no less intransigent. It's not time to make concessions. It's time to make ambitious demands and reset the agenda. Don't you think?

Permalink | Context

By stopitman (anonymous) | Posted June 10, 2012 at 00:29:47 in reply to Comment 78053

Even where I work (at a GTA regional municipality where suburban, 6-lane roads are too common) Hamilton's one-way streets are used as an example of what not to do. The only part of Main/King through the downtown I've found pleasant to walk through is the area where King turns into 2 lanes because it doesn't feel like I'm standing beside highway.

In relation to this blog entry, I think this article recently posted to Atlantic Cities is appropriate:
"Rethinking the Economics of Traffic Congestion" - http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2012/06/defense-congestion/2118/

Permalink | Context

By kettal (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 13:28:54 in reply to Comment 78053

Sure, it's pretty common among RTH types - downtowners who are trying to save their neighborhoods and chart an urban future for Hamilton. But it's not common at all among councillors, city staff, and the suburban interests that seem to dominate the agenda in this city.

I originally wrote that sentence towards RTH, but I thought it was too combative so I changed it to Hamilton.

We've already got a guy like Rob Ford - squishier but no less intransigent. It's not time to make concessions. It's time to make ambitious demands and reset the agenda. Don't you think?

I have to admit I don't know much about Bob Bratina, but I remember his council career was focused on downtown revitalization, and he went on a famous rampage against his colleagues when they cancelled a plan to redesign some downtown streets.

Has he abandoned all of his principles already?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 08:17:51

"I mean, it's certainly possible to design a one-way street so that it is pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly, but why bother?"

It's statements like this that make it difficult, if not impossible, to reach a compromise.

Thanks for the article, Kent. An enjoyable read. Always nice to see a point of view that is not the same as the other articles flooding this page lately.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Paul V (anonymous) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 08:28:01

Been a while since I visited Montreal but I recall the speed limit on one-way streets is slower, therefore more walkable/liveable. Also, cities like Montreal are closer to critical mass in some areas so continue to grow and evolve in places where conditions are less favorable. Cities like Hamilton don't experience the same 'spill over'

Permalink | Context

By kettal (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 13:14:13 in reply to Comment 78061

The speed limit on Montreal main streets is 50 km/h. I'm not sure what your second point means, but these avenues are considered the most desirable in the city.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By MVH (anonymous) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 09:04:23

Good points Kent.

I agree with most of what you said. I too would like to see some sort of study or plan which looked at traffic calming measures, and adding more parking along the streets. Changing the timing of traffic lights would help. There appears to be two rigid mindsets about how to tackle the problem, and a little more flexible thinking could provide the benefits espoused by all.

I live and work downtown, however I occasionally need to drive out of it as part of my job. Proper traffic flow and livable neighbourhoods can be reached together.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By argybargy (anonymous) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 09:26:35

Personally I think 3-way streets are the way to go.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By two ways (anonymous) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 09:32:26

We've had 2 way streets since the dawn of civilization and 1 way streets for half a century. The burden of proof is on the 1 way streets defenders to explain why we should keep following there failed experiment instead of following a 10 000 year track record of success.

Permalink | Context

By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 17:54:05 in reply to Comment 78073

Brilliant argument... since we did something for a long time, it is the best option?

Permalink | Context

By kettal (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 13:36:11 in reply to Comment 78073

It's only considered a failure in a handful of cities. Most cities don't have a problem with their one-way streets, although they're better designed than Hamilton's freeway-streets, that's for sure.

The reason is because of cars. If I was the dictator of Hamilton, you can bet I would ban cars from downtown and have 4 LRT lines running through the city, but unfortunately I'm not and we have to negotiate with all citizens.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 07, 2012 at 09:58:55

Here's what I come back to on the one-way streets in our city: They're highways. Calling them anything else is absurd - traffic tends to go along at about 60kph, which is faster than a residential or commercial road, but slower than an expressway.

Now, there can be arguments made in favour of these highways. Obviously we have highways for a good reason. Highways are often necessary. Let's just call a spade a spade.

So what does a highway look like? Do highways have sidewalks next to them? Not generally, but when a sidewalk exists next to one of Ontario's rural highways, it's usually protected by a ditch, or at least a grassy boulevard, not running right next to the live traffic. How do people cross highways? Well, usually there's a lighted intersection, or a push-button crossing (see Cootes Drive). You often see highways only protected with a single stop-sign, but that's not generally present in regions that have a lot of pedestrians. Sometimes you even see breezeways over the highway.

So if we want to have a highway running through downtown, are we willing to invest the money and space to make it a proper highway? To properly protect pedestrians? Because if you're going to have something as crazy as an urban highway, you probably shouldn't be doing it on the cheap. I mean, does anybody feel unsafe crossing the King St. 403 bridge (minus the terrible onramp crossing)? No, because there's a big-ass set of Jersey barriers between you and the traffic.

So here's my suggestion for our urban highways:

1) You need something on either side of the highway putting some space between the sidewalks and the road. Boulevards and ditches waste space, so let's use it for something productive. How about a bike-lane on the right and a permanent parked car lane on the left?

2) On the left, having a permanent parked lane is often frustrating to drivers since you turn left into a non-live traffic lane. So bump-outs. Commit to it. It's not a driving lane.

3) On the right, the question is how to protect the bike lane. As much as I'd love jersey-barriers or bollards, this is single-directional, and you can't really make it wide enough to accomodate a bobcat that way. Giving us a two-foot region of crosshatched "don't drive here" between live traffic and the bike lane would help and then you could plough it with the municipal snowplows instead of a dedicated bobcat. The alternative is having it at grade with pedestrians, and that's just trading one unsafe problem for another. The "luxury" model would be a bi-directional protected-bike-lane with bobcats for clearing, but that means contraflow traffic, a lot of road-space consumed, and far more expensive snow-clearing. There's no easy answer here. Yeah, I want big-ass Jersey barriers everywhere there isn't a driveway personally, but making that ploughable means losing a lot of width.

4) We could also do with some more space at the cross-walks too... bike lane to the rescue again! A nice bike-box would put more distance between drivers and pedestrians, and would also solve the trouble of turning left from our bike-lane that sits 5ish lanes away from the left-turn lane.

5) More lighted crossings. It's unsafe to cross highways at unprotected intersections. Hey, it's cheaper since they're one-way, you don't need the backwards-facing traffic lights, and it doesn't slow down traffic because of the Green Wave! But drivers look ahead at the next light and miss a red! Fine, any pairs that are too close to cause the look-ahead effect should be synchronized instead of waved. Ohhh, but traffic lights are expensive! Well then just make it two-way, that's cheaper. If you really need to save money, leave off the north/south facing traffic lights - drivers already have a stop-sign there anyways, just leave the stop-sign up. You only need the 1-way traffic lights and the pedestrian crossing lights.

6) Anything that doesn't need to be a highway shouldn't be a highway. We don't need two westbound highways, so King can be two-way east of Queen Street. We don't need Herkimer and Bay and Bold and Charlton and all those smaller roads in Durand to be 1-way. (as an aside, Cannon needs a big expressway-style sign at Queen Street saying "THIS FREAKING WAY TO THE 403/QEW" so people don't keep lumbering along Cannon/York Blvd and get stuck in the quagmire of Dundurn... it's a highway, sign it like one).

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2012-06-07 10:24:15

Permalink | Context

By John Neary (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 21:10:33 in reply to Comment 78075

The problem with this argument is that the streets that you designate as "highways" will in practice get dumped on even more than they already do.

Anything that doesn't need to be a highway shouldn't be a highway. We don't need two westbound highways, so King can be two-way east of Queen Street. We don't need Herkimer and Bay and Bold and Charlton and all those smaller roads in Durand to be 1-way.

Read: affluent neighbourhoods get protected, while Landsdale/Beasley/Central get screwed even more than at present.

Permalink | Context

By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 08, 2012 at 09:05:25 in reply to Comment 78141

Read: affluent neighbourhoods get protected, while Landsdale/Beasley/Central get screwed even more than at present.

Landsdale/Beasley/Central would still be improved by having every street other than Cannon be two-way, and to have Cannon's traffic pushed away from the sidewalks. The only reason I pointed to King over Cannon is that King's 2-lane region with all the busses stopping in the International Village kind of fails the "highway" definition.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2012-06-08 10:01:08

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By jason (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 10:29:12

One thing that routinely gets forgotten in the whole one-way, two-way discussion is the impacts on folks living on residential side streets along 1-way streets. They face constant traffic using their residential street as a short-cut to the other one-way pairing. Through the entire lower city it is a huge problem, and sad to say, but most folks using residential side streets as a short-cut are doing so at a high speed since they're 'in a hurry' to get to the paired freeway. 2-ways would allow folks to simply go whichever direction they want to when driving instead of having to negatively affect the safety and quality of life of our residential neighbourhoods that we so desperately want to see come back to life.

Permalink | Context

By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 20:17:52 in reply to Comment 78076

A short cut? Can you provide examples, or an example of what you mean?

Be careful what you wish for Jason. Imagine what will happen to the side streets when people are looking for real short cuts to bypass a busy arterial like a converted Two Way Main St.

Permalink | Context

By DavidColacci (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 21:52:08 in reply to Comment 78138

My sister and her family of 5 live on Spadina between Main & King (near IWS), and speeders doing 65kph up and down that street at all hours is normal. Going from Main to King and vice versa.

Permalink | Context

By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted June 08, 2012 at 16:01:28 in reply to Comment 78147

Thanks for the example David. Anyone doing 65 km/h on Spadina is an absolute idiot. People like that shouldn't have a driver's license.

I have a question though. How do you know these people are using Spadina to get from/to King/main? Can you see them do the whole stretch? How can you not be sure that the speeders in question don't live on the street or are visiting someone on the street? The reason I ask is because it doesn't make any sense to use Spadina to go up or down to access Main or King. The only people I can think of that it makes sense for to use Spadina would be people leaving Adelaide Hoodless School and wanting to travel West, or people leaving Church on Sunday. What am I missing (I'm asking because I'm curious, not in a smart ass way)?

Permalink | Context

By DavidColacci (registered) | Posted June 08, 2012 at 19:51:23 in reply to Comment 78209

It seems that people traveling west on King and East on Main use these North/South residential streets to cross into their own neighborhoods or to double back for some reason. They seem to use them to avoid lights at Sherman, stop signs and lights on Gage.

We don't know for certain that every dipsh!t doesn't belong there, but there are only so many people, you know?

And quite honestly, when they bought the house we were all shocked at the volume and speed of the traffic in that neck of the woods.

Comment edited by DavidColacci on 2012-06-08 19:52:37

Permalink | Context

By round and round (anonymous) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 10:32:30 in reply to Comment 78076

Another overlooked thing is the amount of extra driving from people circling around blocks to get to the one way street going the way they want to go.

Permalink | Context

By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 20:15:06 in reply to Comment 78077

This is more of a problem when a majority of a city is gridded with One Way Streets. There are small pockets in Hamilton where this is a "problem", but not in most of it.

Of those who do defend One Way streets, I don't think many would be against converting One Way side streets to Two Way. I wouldn't anyway.

If Canon, King, and Main were to remain One Way with almost every other street being Two Way, the whole "extra driving" argument wouldn't amount to enough of a difference to be worth bringing up.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By slodrive (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 11:22:45

I think the one-way streets downtown have to go. My environmental antennae perk up a bit at the worry of slowing traffic, but it just seems two way makes too much sense.

For an intra-city highway to work, I think it has to be done like the Linc. No adjacent residences that have to deal with it -- in a matter of speaking.

The only question I do wonder about...and I'll throw this out for some discussion...is if Main and King were predominately commercial corridors, with all adjacent streets being two-way - and flourishing, would we be having this conversation?

Or, more brashly, if the adjacent neighbourhoods had the attraction of a James North, coupled with a regularly busy Copps and Hamilton Place, would a more hybrid approach be more palatable? Would we want traffic on certain 'light-residential' corridors to be quicker to bring visitors to the venues or neighbourhoods of interest...while maintaining livability in the surrounding streets.

(Edit: And, does the one way make it any easier to be adapted for LRT?)

Just thinking out loud here. But, I do believe the situation dictates what makes the most sense. In the here and now, I think two-way makes most sense. Interested in comments on the above, though.

Comment edited by slodrive on 2012-06-07 11:25:11

Permalink | Context

By kettal (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 13:21:03 in reply to Comment 78081

"The only question I do wonder about...and I'll throw this out for some discussion...is if Main and King were predominately commercial corridors, with all adjacent streets being two-way - and flourishing, would we be having this conversation?"

Well, Toronto matches this description, and there is a discussion floating around about converting some Toronto streets into one-way streets.

"(Edit: And, does the one way make it any easier to be adapted for LRT?)"

I would say yes. Imagine if the LRT proposal involved converting King to two-way in the process? It would be DOA.

Permalink | Context

By jason (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 12:51:38 in reply to Comment 78081

My environmental antennae perk up a bit at the worry of slowing traffic

however, a complete street, accessible by all users would result in many more people choosing to walk, cycle and eventually use transit once we have a decent system with LRT etc..... a fast, 1-way freeway encourages one kind of transportation mode: cars.

Permalink | Context

By kettal (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 13:22:42 in reply to Comment 78085

Why are you conflating one way street with "fast 1-way freeway".

It needn't be fast or freeway-like.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By slodrive (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 11:32:01

Ultra side-note..."Defence" with an "s" makes me cringe!! I protest in accordance with the Queen's English!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By oh oh (anonymous) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 13:06:08

Got we a new troll--This is engaged?

Permalink | Context

By trollbo (anonymous) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 13:19:00 in reply to Comment 78090

New troll or an old troll come back for more? "This is engaged" sounds a lot like Allan Taylor (Turbo).

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 18:05:25

Here is a clipping from an article comparing One Way and Two Way to support the OP's article. from http://www2.oaklandnet.com/oakca/groups/...

A study conducted in 2005 showed that conversion of one-way streets to two-way operations in Denver, Indianapolis and Lubbock, Texas, increased accident rates by 25 to 37 percent. Conversely, conversion of two-way streets to one-way operations reduced accidents in Sacramento, Portland and the State of Oregon reduced accidents by 10 to 51 percent.2 A 1998 study showed that one-way streets at downtown intersections had 22 to 25 percent fewer accidents.3 Other studies show similar results for motor vehicle accidents and also indicate that conversion to two-way operations increased the number of pedestrian accidents.

To everyone who has made up their mind that Two Way streets are, without question, "better" than One Way streets, are you willing to accept that they are more dangerous?

Permalink | Context

By highwater (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 22:19:55 in reply to Comment 78131

Btw, the 2005 study referenced above is none other than No Two Ways About It by our old friend Randal O'Toole, for the now defunct but delightfully named Center for the American Dream of Mobility and Home Ownership, an adjunct think tank of the illustrious Cato Institute.

Even the authors of this report acknowledge some of O'Toole's "sources are anecdotal and some of the studies date back to the 1950's."

Good ol' Randal O'Toole. Always good for a chuckle. It will be a sad day if one-way proponents ever find a more credible source to support their position.

Comment edited by highwater on 2012-06-07 22:29:17

Permalink | Context

By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 22:56:24 in reply to Comment 78151

That doesn't change the fact that the same (or very similar) results were found elsewhere by other studies.

The 2005 study only relates to the data for Denver, Indy, and Lubbock. All of the other studies/data are still true even if you don't like O'Tooles study.

Permalink | Context

By highwater (registered) | Posted June 08, 2012 at 09:36:36 in reply to Comment 78156

That doesn't change the fact that the same (or very similar) results were found elsewhere by other studies.

In her 2009 book One-way to Two-way Street Conversions as a Preservation and Downtown Revitalization Tool, Meagan Elizabeth Baco has this to say about the 1998 article you reference above:

Pedestrian safety has always been a concern for traffic engineers. At the time of many two-way to one-way conversions, it was believed that one-way streets offered several advantages to pedestrians. The main principle of this promotion was based on the need of both drivers and pedestrian to only be aware of traffic traveling in one direction. There are also sources that contend there are fewer vehicle/pedestrian conflict points in a one-way system. An article in the Journal of the Institute of Transportation Engineers in 1998 calculated that there are either two or four conflict points in a one-way system depending on the number of lanes and type of turns allowed, up to 24 conflict points of any two-way configuration Furthermore, because vehicles only travel in one direction, both head-on and left-turn accidents will dramatically decrease. It has been stated that traffic accidents involving both vehicle/vehicle and vehicle/pedestrian conflicts can decrease between 10 to 50 percent if one-way streets are employed.

While there are indicators for the level of safety provided to pedestrians on one-way streets, there is a similar amount of evidence that contradicts that conclusion. The Traffic Engineers Handbook published by the Institute of Transportation Engineers indicates, “vehicles turning left out of one-way streets appear to hit pedestrians significantly more frequently than do all other turning vehicles.” Furthermore, in an article published in the Journal of the Institute of Transportation Engineers in 2004, a computer model was used to compare one-way and two-way networks and concluded that on one-way streets, vehicles travel at higher speeds, have a lesser average delay, and stop less often, and because of these attribute are not safe for pedestrians.

Superficially, it would seem that crossing single direction of traffic on one-way streets is preferable to crossing a two-way street. As is often the case, the conventional wisdom is wrong. In fact, crossing a one-way street presents greater difficulties to the pedestrians than crossing a two-way street. The explanation lays in the greater numbers of different vehicle/pedestrian conflict sequences that are encountered in crossing a one-way street.

Analysis of vehicle/pedestrian conflict points by those advocating for two-way streets has been calculated as two possible sequences for conflicts at a two-way street intersection and sixteen possible conflict sequences at one-way intersections. This is a much different conclusion than that previously presented from the article “One-Way Streets Provide Superior Safety and Convenience.” It appears that with the manipulation of specific intersection criteria it is possible to determine a far different number of vehicle/pedestrian conflicts. The individual intersections in commercial districts must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to create an accurate measure of pedestrian safety.

While the number of vehicle/pedestrian conflicts and the rate of accidents cannot be unequivocally determined until the traffic pattern is determined and implemented, there are indications that two-way streets are safer. As noted earlier, two-way streets, regardless of posted speed limit tend to have slower vehicular speeds. A decrease in vehicular speed decreases both the total number of collisions and because of lower speeds can decrease the seriousness of those collisions.

Permalink | Context

By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted June 08, 2012 at 15:49:21 in reply to Comment 78172

Thanks for the additional info Highwater. Maybe you can dig up some dirt on all of these studies:

Forbes, G., 1998 "The author questions whether a clear link can be established between the direction and speed with which traffic is traveling and the level of economic vibrancy downtown. Until that link is clear it is hard to either reject or accept the push to change from one-way to two-way streets as an attempt to revitalize downtowns".

Cameron J. W., Johnson K. D., 1983 After converting two roads from Two Way into a One Way pair, "analysis revealed both a decrease in the number of accidents per million vehicle miles, and a decrease in the percent of severe accidents for the one-way pair. The accident rate on 7th Street decreased from 34.71 to 23.44, and that for 9th Street decreased from 19.83 to 19.46. Over the same period, the accident rates on cross streets decreased but their s accidents increased. The number of pedestrian accidents also decreased after implementation of the one-way system. Overall from a traffic and safety perspective the one-way system brought increased flow at higher speeds with a reduction in both delays and accidents. The project was reported to be favorably accepted by the public from the attitudinal survey, and survey respondents indicated a desire for more one-way street conversions in Bismarck.

Permalink | Context

By highwater (registered) | Posted June 08, 2012 at 16:01:33 in reply to Comment 78204

Too easy. Do you have any studies that aren't from the '80's or '90's?

Permalink | Context

By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted June 08, 2012 at 16:42:51 in reply to Comment 78210

Beggars can't be choosers. ie. there aren't many studies around on this sort of thing. It's not like we're studying drugs here. That said, here is one.

Lyles R. W., Faulkner C. D., Syed A. M., July 2000 "One of the most comprehensive documentations of the issues related to one-way/two-way street conversions (concluded that) the key arguments advanced for converting two-way streets to one-way in the literature are; low cost of implementation (relative to street widening), increased capacity, decrease in number of stops, increased speed of vehicles, perceived safety (pedestrians face traffic from only one direction), reduction in accidents, and ease of maintaining signal progression. On the negative side is the issue of driver confusion (especially for non-local drivers disruptive impact of business operations on affected and neighborhood streets, pedestrians being forced to cross more lanes of traffic."

Yeah, I know it's not screaming out in favour of One Way, but it doesn't scream out in favour of Two Way either.

Permalink | Context

By John Neary (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 21:15:09 in reply to Comment 78131

Such studies are nearly useless when they don't report pedestrian traffic data. (Cannon St. would have more collisions if people didn't go out of their way to avoid walking along and across it).

Yes, that also applies to the Hamilton study.

Permalink | Context

By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 21:21:18 in reply to Comment 78142

John,

Where are you when Ryan mentions "his" studies?

Permalink | Context

By John Neary (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 22:52:47 in reply to Comment 78145

Hi SpaceMonkey,

Well, you can quote my posts here in the future if you like.

What I'm primarily concerned about is the individual pedestrian's chance of being in a collision. When a particular type of street design tends to promote greater pedestrian traffic, that might explain a higher pedestrian collision rate. The street might not be more dangerous to each pedestrian, but with more pedestrians there are more opportunities for collisions.

Conversely, if a street design tends to deter pedestrians, then a low pedestrian collision rate might underestimate the danger to an individual pedestrian.

So I don't think that any of these numbers can be taken as having much precision. However, when a study shows higher pedestrian collision rates on one-way streets, it probably underestimates the actual relative risk for the individual pedestrian (if, as I would imagine, pedestrians tend not to want to walk on one-way streets). Conversely, when a study shows lower pedestrian collision rates on one-way streets, it might simply be confounded by the fact that one-way streets have fewer pedestrians.

You might answer that in Hamilton one-way streets tend to have other design elements (multiple lanes, etc.) that increase pedestrian hazard -- so that the perceived risk in the Wazana study might be confounded by other aspects of street design -- and I'd agree. But I'd then argue that those other aspects of street design also need to be changed. And I agree with Ryan that a lot of the benefits of one-way streets for long-distance traffic flow are lost as soon as those other design elements are removed.

Permalink | Context

By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 23:14:05 in reply to Comment 78154

Hey John,

Thanks for the thoughtful and fair response.

I agree that it's hard to draw a conclusion based on the data that is available. In fact, I think the point of all my posting regarding this Two Way vs One Way debate is just that... that one can't draw a conclusion about what is safer/better for an entire community.

I don't want to sound confrontational, but I do have to take issue with you saying "the fact that one-way streets have fewer pedestrians". I don't think that's true. It certainly isn't true for many streets around the world. I think that it may not even be true in Hamilton. Sure, there may not be many pedestrians on Canon, but there are a lot more pedestrians on King and Main than there are on most of Hamilton's two way streets.

Permalink | Context

By CouldaShouldaWoulda (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2012 at 07:25:51 in reply to Comment 78157

"I don't want to sound confrontational, but I do have to take issue with you saying "the fact that one-way streets have fewer pedestrians". I don't think that's true. It certainly isn't true for many streets around the world."

I've walked some great, lively, pedestrian-friendly streets. In NYC and elsewhere. Normally what makes it so has to do with the general intent of the area...and of course, its history is probably paramount; an historical, established nehighbourhood, with long-standing, deeply-entrenched traditions can thrive with one-way streets. (I reject in totality blanket statements. It's not 'all this' or 'all that'. Life's not like that.)

However...

My pet-emnity street is Main West from Dundurn to Bay. 'The Esplanade'. I would say to you that despite the concentration of residents, the very nature of this thoroughfare renders a very, very low pedestrian-activity rate. I *hate* walking it. It is a sensibility-killer. It is inhospitable. (Not just for pedestrians. Try turning onto it from any of the side-streets when traffic's-a-flyin'. Not pleasant.)

The other examples you cite are vaid, but I'd suggest it's the case *in spite of* rather than *because of* them being one-way.

Permalink | Context

By moylek (registered) - website | Posted June 07, 2012 at 19:30:08 in reply to Comment 78131

To everyone who has made up their mind that Two Way streets are, without question, "better" than One Way streets, are you willing to accept that they are more dangerous?

Taking those numbers at face value? Sure, it makes sense that there are more accidents on a two-street.

But here's a question for you: would you rather be walking and hit by an average car on James North in 1999 or in 2012?

Permalink | Context

By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 20:10:38 in reply to Comment 78134

Thanks for the honesty Moylek.
I'm not familiar enough with James in 1999 or in 2012 to be able to answer your question, but I do admit that I would prefer to be hit by a slower moving car.

That said though, I'd rather have less of a chance of being hit overall.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted June 07, 2012 at 22:13:27

I agree 100% with your comment that Upper James is very unfriendly for being a two-way street. It is a very intimidating street to cross.

Permalink | Context

By kettal (registered) | Posted June 08, 2012 at 16:22:32 in reply to Comment 78150

That's pretty much the core of my argument. If we turn Main Street into Upper James, we've gained nothing.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Steve (registered) | Posted June 08, 2012 at 21:09:28

What do people love, one way streets or the sychronized lights? Or is it the both together?

How about one way with unsynchronized lights, would they be as loved? We could measure by unsynchronizing one set of lights, then the next year another, and the year after that another, etc.

Then ask do you want one way with pedestrian friendly speeds, or 2 way synchronized? Then measure which is more desired.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 09, 2012 at 11:34:25

I think we have to look at two distinct features of a street: traffic flow and street design, we have a tendency to lump these two things together. I have been to a lot of large cities in many different countries and I think this article is trying to make a point that I have observed to be true.

Good street design can make up for the amount and direction of traffic flow on a street but changing the direction or amount of flow on a street cannot make up for poor street design. What we have in Hamilton is more than a traffic flow problem, it is a street design problem. Main St. is a hideous street regardless of what way traffic flows. Barton is two-way, it sucks too.

This city needs more than just the painting of new lines we saw on York. I think Adrian Duyzer's article from a few days back is an indication of where we need to go. We need bold ideas in this city, not tepid half-measures.

Comment edited by Kiely on 2012-06-09 11:35:12

Permalink | Context

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to comment.

Events Calendar

Recent Articles

Article Archives

Blog Archives

Site Tools

Feeds