Special Report: Walkable Streets

Hamilton Out of Excuses Not to Put People First

Even car-dominated cities can change rapidly if they make a deliberate sequence of decisions to become more attractive, more efficient, less car-dependent places.

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published May 01, 2015

A feature published this week by The Guardian is by far the most comprehensive article about the decline of cars in the city that I've read. The key message is that cities can change rapidly. Cities that used to be car-dominated are making a deliberate sequence of decisions to become more attractive, more efficient, less car-dependent places.

Main Street West, Gateway to Downtown Hamilton (RTH file photo)
Main Street West, Gateway to Downtown Hamilton (RTH file photo)

This is true of very large, dense cities like London, in which traffic levels have dropped by 30 percent in the centre over the past decade through a combination of congestion pricing and strategic re-deployment of scarce roadway to bus lanes, bike lanes and public space.

But it's also true of smaller cities like Lyon, which has undertaken a dramatic shift in how it treats its streets and public places. Lyon pioneered bike sharing a decade ago and has continued to innovate aggressively to reduce driving and raise quality of life.

The number of cars entering the city has fallen by 20 percent over the past decade, without even a congestion-charging scheme ([Lyon Councillor Gilles] Vesco says it would impose a disproportionate burden on the less well-off, who tend to drive higher-polluting vehicles). And even though Lyon's population is expected to rise by more than 10 percent over the next decade, he is targeting a further 20 percent drop in car use. The car parks that used to run alongside the banks of Lyon's two rivers have already been removed, and human parks opened in their place. Vesco says someone returning to Lyon for the first time in a decade would barely recognise the city.

It's even true of mid-sized industrial cities like Birmingham, the Detroit of the UK, which is also starting to put people first.

Birmingham ... has been following the experience of Lyon and other European cities closely, and is now embarking on its own 20-year plan called Birmingham Connected, to reduce dependence on cars. For a city so associated in the public mind with car manufacturing, this is quite a step.

Just to illustrate how much of a car city Birmingham is, it is not just the UK centre for car manufacturing, it is also home to the original spaghetti junction.

Gravelly Hill Spaghetti Junction, Birmingham (Image Credit: Wikipedia)
Gravelly Hill Spaghetti Junction, Birmingham (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

Unfortunately, Hamilton's leaders just don't see the writing on the wall and are still designing Hamilton like the car will be king for the foreseeable future. And they are resisting with all their might the pressure to take space from cars and give it to people.

Didn't we have a Downtown Master Plan that came out about 13 years ago called "Putting People First"? That sounded vaguely innovative back then, but after more than a decade of doing almost nothing, we're barely keeping up with the back of the pack internationally.

But if even Birmingham is starting to put people first, perhaps Hamilton can too. It really shows that the usual Hamilton objection that "Europe is different" or "we can't make changes because most people need cars" are not valid.

Once you stop prioritizing space and resources for cars, and make it easier and more convenient for people to choose walking, cycling and transit, cities do change and people do change their behaviour, often very quickly (as in the case of Lyon).

Nicholas Kevlahan was born and raised in Vancouver, and then spent eight years in England and France before returning to Canada in 1998. He has been a Hamiltonian since then, and is a strong believer in the potential of this city. Although he spends most of his time as a mathematician, he is also a passionate amateur urbanist and a fan of good design. You can often spot him strolling the streets of the downtown, shopping at the Market. Nicholas is the spokesperson for Hamilton Light Rail.

61 Comments

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Read Comments

[ - ]

By gored (anonymous) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 11:45:41

Lookit that picture! 5 lanes, a car wash on one side, a drive-thru Timmies on the other, and NO PEOPLE. What an embarrassment.

Permalink | Context

By Please (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2015 at 20:50:03 in reply to Comment 111324

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 13:11:55 in reply to Comment 111324

There is a reason why people avoid walking along those streets except where they have no choice.. The streets stink. They are gagging level awful. I can't walk to the grocery store, or Staples, or anywhere, where when along a main road, the exhaust doesn't drill into my lungs to the point where I can taste it. Buses and trucks especially make it just foul. Cycling reduces the duration of time I'm exposed to it, and I time my breath to be exhaling when the vehicle in front of me is accelerating.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2015-05-01 13:15:08

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 11:46:36

Not that investment firms are perfect or even good predictors of the future, but I thought this was worth sharing. HSBC just a few days ago was in the news, recommending that clients not invest in fossil fuel based firms, because their future is beginning a decline.

Of course it won't be a straight decline, and it doesn't mean that all fossil fuel stocks will turn and stay bearish, but they are saying the trend will now move toward a downsizing of that sector.

Amazing news for the planet.

Permalink | Context

By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 11:59:15 in reply to Comment 111325

I once heard it said that the stone age didn't end because we ran out of stones and the oil age won't end because we ran out of oil. Tesla is also coming up with a solar battery that can power a home. Change is coming.

Permalink | Context

By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted May 05, 2015 at 20:30:09 in reply to Comment 111327

Techno-triumphalism?

Permalink | Context

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 16:50:18 in reply to Comment 111327

Here's the Tesla presentation. Good stuff.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By ggman (registered) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 12:33:47

Sorry, but that well timed photograph is hardly representative of the traffic that frequents this area. This location is next to where the 403 exits into Hamilton - a gateway into the city, if you will. I would think it advantageous to make the four corners of Hamilton accessible to visitors and residents alike. There is a movement in this city that thinks it wise to constrict traffic flow, as if somehow, when I find it difficult to get to destination from one end of town to the other, I'll just decide to stop instead, have a coffee at a local establishment and boost the economy. I'm all for pedestrianizing Hamilton, but I think we have to realize that, thanks to the escarpment, we're already at a disadvantage and there is no direct route to almost anywhere in this town. There is a limit to how far you can restrict traffic flow before it starts having a detrimental effect.

Permalink | Context

By RTHS (registered) - website | Posted May 08, 2015 at 15:42:43 in reply to Comment 111330

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

By RTHStrinksStinks (anonymous) | Posted May 08, 2015 at 16:01:36 in reply to Comment 111469

Except it was taken on a downtown Hamilton city street, not the highway, and it was taken at 4 PM, not 4 AM. What's weird is that you don't seem to think there's something wrong with that.

No one's saying we don't need highways, we're saying we don't need highways running through the middle of downtown Hamilton destroying the chance of city life like a normal healthy city.

Permalink | Context

By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted May 04, 2015 at 12:58:45 in reply to Comment 111330

Sorry, but that well timed photograph is hardly representative of the traffic that frequents this area.

Actually it is representitave of the traffic in that area. Even at the busiest time of day, that road can look empty between lights. It's an extremely inefficient use of space which ensures that during off-peak hours it can look like this even during a green light; meanwhile, businesses and residences along the corridor wither.

There is a limit to how far you can restrict traffic flow before it starts having a detrimental effect.

Detrimental effect on what? People will continue to live, work and entertain themselves in the area when traffic is constricted --- how else do dense, vibrant cities survive and continue to flourish.

Permalink | Context

By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted May 07, 2015 at 15:38:10 in reply to Comment 111387

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

By a (anonymous) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 22:41:11 in reply to Comment 111330

Can you please name a vibrant, successful city anywhere in this world that is easy to drive through?

Permalink | Context

By Truth (anonymous) | Posted May 02, 2015 at 15:26:22 in reply to Comment 111358

Burlington. Easy north/south and east/west main thoroughfares. Development and people everywhere. Great place to live and raise your kids.

Permalink | Context

By a (anonymous) | Posted May 03, 2015 at 09:29:36 in reply to Comment 111362

Sorry, but I can't seem to remember the last time I saw traffic move at speeds of 60-80 km/h, unimpeded, through Burlington's "downtown" at Lakeshore and Brant. In fact, I often find myself waiting for multiple light cycles to allow pedestrians to safely move between the lakefront, Lakeshore, and Brant Steet; I don't mind waiting. Care to offer another example?

Permalink | Context

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted May 02, 2015 at 18:31:31 in reply to Comment 111362

The main roads sure are busy (and stinky!).

Noteworthy differences, primarily downtown: No one way streets; easy wayfinding. As many arterials as possible have bike lanes, with a commitment to adding them on all new road projects; those that cannot, at least have sharrows to remind motorists to share the road. Outside of main roads, cutting through residential areas is made impossible by design. No entitlement to green waves across town. Strict anti-idling bylaws. Excellent GO train service. Electric GO trains are going to be frequent and awesome, and 5 minutes away from my doorstep. Commitment to greenbelt preservation and smart intensification. I've been doing experiments - so far every traffic sensor I tested detects my bike when there are no cars to trigger it for me. If one wants to live in a bikable and walkable downtown, it is an order of magnitude better here. The downtown streets in Hamilton I evaluated - wanted cheaper rents - but said forget it - too many one way streets and crappy bike lane coverage. Now I live on the nicest street I ever lived on in my life so far, bike to work and all errands, in the greatest comfort ever. Leave ward 2 and some are suburban crapholes and I avoid them - but even they are trying to be consistent with on road bike lanes and everything else I said above.

Permalink | Context

By highwater (registered) | Posted May 02, 2015 at 16:41:29 in reply to Comment 111362

You cannot drive down Brant or along Lakeshore through the downtown at 60k without having to stop at a single traffic light, nor would any sane person expect to, yet we are expected to contort our downtown neighbourhoods to meet exactly this absurd expectation.

Permalink | Context

By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted May 02, 2015 at 16:36:22 in reply to Comment 111362

Burlington's downtown is not easy to blast through in a car.

Permalink | Context

By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted May 02, 2015 at 16:22:35 in reply to Comment 111362

I was a kid raised there. We called it Borington. Not much has changed either - it is still a car-centric suburban strip-mall infested retirement community. Nice weather though.

Permalink | Context

By ianreynolds (registered) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 14:45:13 in reply to Comment 111330

Changing main street to 3 lanes instead of 5 doesn't mean there's no longer a direct route across town. It means that there's a slightly safer direct route across town that will have no real increase in traffic. You could have a bus lane AND a bike lane on that part of the city and traffic wouldn't be affected.

There is absolutely no truth in you saying that it's not representative. I drive there all the time because I unfortunately am mostly based in the GTA for work. The header photo is exactly what it looks like even during busy times.

If you turn left from Dundurn onto Main, you're turning onto a completely empty three or four block section of a major city at dinner time, the supposed rush hour. The green wave already proceeding down Main is a kilometre or more ahead. If we cut a lane or two off, or slowed the lights down to slow traffic down, no one's life would be any different. Cleaner and safer, maybe, but that seems to be a problem for some people in this city.

Permalink | Context

By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted May 07, 2015 at 15:43:42 in reply to Comment 111340

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

By notianreynolds (anonymous) | Posted May 08, 2015 at 16:15:00 in reply to Comment 111461

I live along the corridor, Ian is correct

Permalink | Context

By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted May 07, 2015 at 22:25:26 in reply to Comment 111461

so what you're saying is you're a psychopath?

Permalink | Context

By LOL@LOL (anonymous) | Posted May 07, 2015 at 16:01:51 in reply to Comment 111461

Yes please, keep telling us pedestrians how great your one way streets are for us. So silly of us to judge them based on how we feel trying to walk along them past chunks of roaring traffic instead of how it feels for you racing through the city core at top speed. Thank you so much for caring enough about pedestrians to explain how we're wrong to think there's something wrong with five lanes full of speeding traffic through a downtown that we foolishly believed should be full of people instead.

Permalink | Context

By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted May 09, 2015 at 09:37:21 in reply to Comment 111463

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

By not lol all over again (anonymous) | Posted May 09, 2015 at 14:18:18 in reply to Comment 111476

except that its not really true. If you start at Dundurn and do 50 by the time you get to Gage you are at the end of the light cycle. Anywhere other than startin at a red light demands you speed to catch the wave.....fact, derived at from 40 years experience

Permalink | Context

By ggman (registered) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 14:43:50 in reply to Comment 111330

Wow. In reply to comments from misterque and cultosaurus: I have a vested interest in Hamilton. I've lived here almost 30 years. I work here, I own a house here and I'm raising my children here. I plan to live out the rest of my days in Hamilton and to be buried here. I'm not a stupid man. I'm quite reasonable and actually capable of being persuaded by intelligent conversation. Comments like yours serve only to alienate and entrench positions. They do nothing for the common good.

In reply to kevlahan: The conversation is too involved to cover in a comment section. Suffice to say that I support a more pedestrian friendly Hamilton, but submit that any solution taken to produce that result must also allow for efficient transportation from one corner of the city to another.

Permalink | Context

By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted May 04, 2015 at 13:01:06 in reply to Comment 111339

I support a more pedestrian friendly Hamilton, but submit that any solution taken to produce that result must also allow for efficient transportation from one corner of the city to another.

The most efficient way to get across town would be on higher-order transit, not a car.

Permalink | Context

By notianreynolds (anonymous) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 16:59:10 in reply to Comment 111339

Reduction from 5 lanes to 3 west of Sherman and 4 to 3 east of Sherman would achieve the goals of bike and pedestrian safety and ensure the efficient flow of traffic Win win IMO

Permalink | Context

By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 15:12:03 in reply to Comment 111339

I am sorry if it alienates you or entrenches your attitude. I recommend you seek professional help. I mean that quite literally. Hamilton has a demented, unhealthy relationship with automobiles that I have not witnessed in any other city. The flow of traffic through downtown is so unimpeded and gracious to personal automobiles that many roads are essentially highways - changing that even slightly causes people like you, who've lived here for 30 years, to cringe in horror. That is an irrational, spoiled and bizarre response considering just how good cars and trucks have it on Hamilton's streets.

Without professional help, my hope is that the voting population will tip in favour of fixing this grossly imbalanced situation or that the province steps in and enforces a new, more human-scale urban design on Hamilton so that it can save it from itself.

Comment edited by Cultosaurus on 2015-05-01 15:13:25

Permalink | Context

By gstring (anonymous) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 15:03:40 in reply to Comment 111339

Shorter ggman (and every other Hamilton car apologist):

"I support a more pedestrian friendly Hamilton, as long as it doesn't have any impact on my ability to drive across the city in 20 minutes."

Permalink | Context

By notianreynolds (anonymous) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 17:11:15 in reply to Comment 111344

Except that's not true

Permalink | Context

By notianreynolds (anonymous) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 18:42:07 in reply to Comment 111351

Yes you can drive across in 20 minutes. Thats not in dispute

Permalink | Context

By Dylan (registered) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 18:05:32 in reply to Comment 111351

Not true at all. You can drive from the 403 to kenilworth in under 10 even in rush hour.

Permalink | Context

By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 15:01:22 in reply to Comment 111339

I agree that efficient transportation is a must.

But efficient transportation for cities means rapid public transit (and walking and cycling locally), not dedicating what should be the most economically valuable real estate in the City to excess roads and low density uses like surface parking, drive throughs and car washes. One of the main points of the Guardian article is that auto-centric transportation infrastructure is very inefficient for cities.

And, as others have pointed out, Hamilton has built an efficient ring-road freeway system (403/Linc/RHVP/QEW) for those who just need to go around the city, not reach destinations within the city.

As Ian Reynolds points out, even taking a very conservative view, the number of lanes could be reduced on Main Street (and many other downtown arteries) with minimal effects on auto traffic and big benefits to the pedestrians, cyclists and attractiveness to residents and business.

Hamilton was taking a baby step towards efficient urban transportation with its LRT plans (a single 13km line for now), but even that seems to be too scary for some people.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-05-01 15:07:47

Permalink | Context

By IanReynolds (registered) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 14:46:08 in reply to Comment 111339

We have efficient transportation from one corner of the city to another. They're called the 403, QEW, and Linc. That's why they're built.

Permalink | Context

By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted May 04, 2015 at 13:03:07 in reply to Comment 111341

And we had the start of an efficient means of getting across town in the King St. Bus lane, but that was kiboshed in favour of using the space for essentially nothing, since an extra lane has little effect on car traffic.

Permalink | Context

By misterque (registered) - website | Posted May 01, 2015 at 13:00:37 in reply to Comment 111330

The exhaust pipe sucking willful ignorance that supports the unscientific car sobbing bullshit is having a DETRIMENTAL effect right now. That detrimental effect includes: preventable death, preventable respiratory illness, and decreased societal fitrnn

Permalink | Context

By nothing but the best (anonymous) | Posted May 11, 2015 at 22:46:19 in reply to Comment 111333

Not sure what drugs you took to write that post but I want me some. Nothing but the best.

Permalink | Context

By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 12:53:38 in reply to Comment 111330

Only in Hamilton, where drivers are spoiled to the point of mental disorder would such a comment make any sense.

Permalink | Context

By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 12:48:48 in reply to Comment 111330

Outside of rush hour, that photo is pretty representative of traffic levels on Main St.: small bunches of fast moving cars (i.e. platoons) interspersed with empty blocks.

When you're actually in a car it feels like there's a reasonable amount of traffic (because you're in the platoon) but when you're walking you really notice the big gaps.

City data also shows that traffic has actually declined significantly on Main and King. And the traffic levels certainly do not justify 5 lanes (and the narrow unprotected sidewalks).

The escarpment is not a valid reason not make changes ... it is just one of a long list of excuses Hamiltonians like to give (escarpment, lake, winter, industrial, near Toronto, not dense, too dense, not historic, residents like to drive etc etc) for not making changes.

You might imagine that making it easier and more attractive to walk, and less easy to drive, would drive people away, but the whole point of the article is that the opposite actually happens. If you want people to spend time in a place, you need to make it a people place.

Of course, you could still argue that "No one goes there anymore because it is so crowded." ;)

All you need to do is think of other cities with equally (or more) constraining geography that have made big changes:

Vancouver: (downtown is a a peninsula surrounded by ocean on three sides), and the metro area is constrained by ocean, mountains and the US border.

Lyon: constrained by two rivers and a large hill.

San Francisco: again, constrained by the ocean.

New York: again, a peninsula

etc, etc.

In fact, if you look at these examples, strong geographical constraints are actually incentives to build denser "people" places well served by transit. If you're out on a plain in the middle of nowhere there is lots of space for roads!

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-05-01 12:55:11

Permalink | Context

By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 03, 2015 at 07:00:08 in reply to Comment 111331

Indeed! Another example is that it was the constraint of its military fortifications that made Groningen such a dense and excellent cycling city. See:

http://www.streetfilms.org/groningen-the...

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By it never stops (anonymous) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 14:20:48

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 14:54:46 in reply to Comment 111336

The population of Nome, Alaska, is 3,757. Hamilton is similar to both Paris and Birmingham, compared to your absurd example.

Permalink | Context

By never stops (anonymous) | Posted May 11, 2015 at 09:11:49 in reply to Comment 111342

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

By You're Right (anonymous) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 14:29:48 in reply to Comment 111336

Name a place anywhere that is like Hamilton. Our car centric obsession to street design is like nowhere else.

In case you haven't noticed the City is not winning. We are falling further behind everywhere else by the day.

Permalink | Context

By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 19:17:46 in reply to Comment 111338

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

By Oops (anonymous) | Posted May 02, 2015 at 12:49:35 in reply to Comment 111356

My bad. I guess I'm just unaware of all of the employers looking to set up in our vibrant core. You do know that Stelco Tower is practically empty.

Keep enjoying your commute.

Permalink | Context

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted May 02, 2015 at 14:23:12 in reply to Comment 111360

This article indicates that the employment growth and diversification is the creative sector that is moving into the revitalizing areas of downtown. Whereas, the large "anchor" employers are leaving.

In my opinion that is all the more reason to fix the one ways and address the overcapacity that once funneled huge volumes of cars in one direction or another during shift changes, that are now empty in between platoon waves - and adjust it to the demographic that IS bringing new jobs into the city.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Jackson's My Name (anonymous) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 16:02:03

I'm tapped out.

Can't these changes just wait a generation please.

Permalink | Context

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 16:56:25 in reply to Comment 111347

Some of us have already been waiting a generation. Time to make things better. "The best way to get something done, is to begin".

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Dylan (registered) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 18:14:04

For any suggesting that this is a "timed" photo that shows fewer cars than is accurate, you are in part right. Every couple of minutes there is indeed a slew of fast moving vehicles travelling within inches of those narrow sidewalks. It is because of this phenomenon that this in indeed a very good sampling of the number of pedestrians that walk these streets. As they are right now, most of Hamilton's commercial corridors are unwalkable, and this is not good for anyone that has a vested interest in the future of this city.

Comment edited by Dylan on 2015-05-01 18:15:14

Permalink | Context

By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted May 04, 2015 at 13:08:20 in reply to Comment 111353

Also its a great example of what the street looks like at least half the time.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By notianreynolds (anonymous) | Posted May 01, 2015 at 18:38:21

Traffic calming bike lanes wider sidewalks and efficient movement of cars. It can be done

Permalink | Context

By H1 (anonymous) | Posted May 04, 2015 at 12:58:19 in reply to Comment 111354

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

By z jones (registered) | Posted May 04, 2015 at 14:15:02 in reply to Comment 111386

a) It took a huge push with thousands of supporters to get Council to approve the bike lane on Cannon and only then as a pilot project. Right off the bat it was getting hundreds of riders a day even though it opened in the fall.

b) You forgot Build a house on a city street, then the city takes away your front lawn and puts another car lanes it it's place.

c) For the zillionth time, calming traffic isn't the same thing as getting rid of all the cars.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 02, 2015 at 18:04:35

The Guardian article on which this submission is based is well worth a read. It is fascinating to read about what other cities are doing. And somewhat depressing to realize just how far behind Hamilton is.

While cities like Hamburg and Helsinki are becoming car-free cities, Hamilton is stuck in the 1970's. Sigh...

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Haveacow (registered) | Posted May 02, 2015 at 18:11:00

Having gone to University in Birmingham, Birmingham City University, formerly the University of Central England, on a 6 month exchange program I can tell you that, Birmingham has over a million people (city not area) it is a major rail air and road transport hub in the UK. It is still a somewhat an industrial hub as well being the largest automobile producer in the UK. However, in adapting to a post industrial future as a pedestrian people friendly place, its way ahead of Hamilton. It has 4 or 5 universities, a LRT line (The Midland Metro) which is currently expanding and has been trying to become more people friendly since the 1990's and it seems to be succeeding, finally. I am sorry to say Hamilton is so far behind this city in becoming more people and pedestrian friendly. Birmingham gained the non people friendly tittle because of its industrial nature and a urban free way system that is unrivalled in the UK and most of Europe. In fact, when you measure road traffic, bus transit & LRT usage, Commuter Rail, Inter City Rail and Air Traffic passenger counts its the busiest place in the UK, outside of London. It is most definitely not a good comparison in that way to Hamilton. It is however, well on its way to shedding its industrial only, past and is coming around to be a people friendly place.

When it comes to the actual people, it has always been very people friendly about 20% of the population is Moslem and contrary to certain reports, they are as warm and friendly to non Moslems, as the rest of the population. One of the most interesting things that they did when I was there was the planting of trees, anywhere! Their industrial past had destroyed quite a bit of the local tree stock so when the industrial sector was in decline they started planting trees. They made a competition out of it and from recent pictures I see its finally taken root, so to speak. At the time in the early 90's the plan was to try and plant 10,000,000 trees. Now, this was not going to succeed at that level but even if they only planted 500,000 and had 50% of the trees die since then, it would still be the biggest urban reforestation effort I have ever seen in North America or Europe! That to me was a great idea and boy, is it people friendly as well as cheap, compared to other pedestrian efforts.

Permalink | Context

By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 04, 2015 at 11:31:28 in reply to Comment 111367

I meant Birmingham as a good comparison in the sense that if Birmingham (with its even more extensive auto-centric infrastructure and even more intensive industry-in-decline) can manage to reconfigure itself, Hamilton should be able to as well.

Similarly, if NYC or Paris or London with their huge traffic demand can manage to take space away from cars and give them to people, so can Hamilton.

Birmingham is bigger than Hamilton, but the overall picture shows the comparison is not irrelevant. Birmingham has a population of 1.1 million over an urban area of about 600 km^2 and is part of an even bigger West Midlands conurbation of 3.7 million. Hamilton has a city population of 520,000 in an urban area of 228 km^2 (giving it a much higher urban population density than Birmingham). And Hamilton is in a metro area with a population of 720,000 and an agglomeration of about 7 million.

I haven't lived in Birmingham, but I did live in the UK for over four years and I have cousins in Lutterworth (not far away) so I do have an idea of Birmingham's reputation. Maybe it's changing, but until recently everyone hated Birmingham and used it as an example of the "worst city in Britain". The English even consider the Birmingham 'brummie" accent the ugliest in the country (I think its quite attractive)! Again, this shows that you don't need to be a tourist destination to decide to start valuing your city.

Many of the arguments against pedestrian and people friendly streets in Hamilton are of the sort "traffic has to move" and "we don't have the space", or simply "but this is Hamilton".

My main point was to encourage people to read the Guardian article ... and start talking about the ideas they describe. And I just do not want to hear any more of "but this is Hamilton ... we can't learn anything from anywhere else because we are just so special".

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-05-04 11:38:20

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