Tactical Urbanism Hamilton

Hamilton, Ontario

With a population of over half a million, Hamilton is the third largest metropolitan area in Ontario and the ninth largest in Canada. However, in a recent attempt to remedy an ever-climbing rate of pedestrian and cyclist deaths, two dedicated groups joined forces with members of the community to maximize awareness by thinking small.

Recognizing that small steps are key in increasing public safety, Street Plans Collaborative teamed up with The Hamilton-Burlington Society of Architects to host a workshop on the potential for tactical urbanism in Hamilton, aiming at highlighting municipal inaction and inspiring residents to become involved in neighborhood improvement. The workshop was an educational way to respectfully bypass government red tape and reduce the amount of control that automobiles held over people in the area.

Tactical Urbanism Hamilton Hamilton cones
Hamiltonians nailed these safety cones into the street. Source: Mike Lydon.

The mission was simple: two weeks, four thousand dollars, and five intersections in desperate need of intervention. While each of these projects achieved notable success, CNU specifically recognizes the plan for the intersection of Locke and Herkimer Streets, and how its execution sparked action from the local government.

With a church, elementary school, and two businesses placed at its four corners, the intersection sees considerable traffic daily – much of it foot traffic from children, the elderly, and other locals. Despite numerous complaints, the city had done nothing to improve on the intersection’s massive curb radii, which caused drivers on the one-way Herkimer Street to speed through without looking.

So these Hamiltonians did what any concerned citizen would – they nailed traffic cones into the asphalt and asked for forgiveness later. Despite initial resistance from local authorities, the residents’ unwavering passion eventually convinced city officials to meet with the responsible parties. Noting the effectiveness of the urbanists’ “guerrilla bumpouts”, the city upgraded the corner of Locke and Herkimer within two weeks, and made similar changes to other problematic intersections within several months. These temporary changes will be monitored for a year, and if deemed effective, will be made permanent.

Tactical Urbanism Hamilton Hamilton crosswalk
The city upgraded this intersection in response to the concerned citizens. Source: Mike Lydon.

In Brent Toderian’s opinion, “what set this example apart from others with an initially good idea was the way the proponents reacted to an initially negative response from the City in very clever and constructive ways.” This project proves that, if done right, starting small is an effective way to gain the attention necessary for real change, and “will be looked back on as a transformative moment in perception, approach and relationship.”

Top photo:Hamiltonians protest the current street design. Source: Mike Lydon.

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