Monday, January 28, 2008

countdown on Cootes

Councilor Brian McHattie
City of Hamilton

January 28, 2008

Dear Brian,

I am writing on behalf of “Transportation for Liveable Communities” (TLC), a working group of McMaster’s chapter of OPIRG (Ontario Public Research Interest Group).

TLC members appreciate your work to secure improved pedestrian safety on roads surrounding McMaster University.

In our recent meeting, we discussed councilor Powers’ desire to increase the speed limit on Cootes Dr near McMaster. We perceive this as an irresponsible, ignorant move because it places a few seconds of drivers’ time above basic, sensible safety needs.

In fact, we suggest that the section of Cootes Dr between Main St and the exit to McMaster’s west campus be designated as a residential street given its exceptionally high volume of pedestrian traffic.

We can, however, imagine a compromise involving the typical speed limit of 50 km/h along that section if it includes the following simultaneous modifications:

1. Reduction of the speed limit on Main St between McMaster and Osler Dr to 50 km/h. As we noted in our letter to you from Nov. 2007, there is no justification whatsoever for the current speed limit of 60 Km/h in this section. The change to 50 km/h speed limit on Main St should be accompanied with a proper timing adjustment of the traffic lights to discourage drivers from speeding (i.e. by having a green lane calibrated to 50 km/h).

2. Adjustments to the Cootes pedestrian light to eliminate extensive wait by pedestrians during rush hour traffic. The current wait of up to 1 min and 20 sec is far too long and does not present a proper balance between the preferred traffic modes of walking and cycling and the least desired option of driving. In fact, car drivers are the only ones accommodated during rush hour, perhaps because city staff have failed to recognize that walkers and cyclists share the very same rush hour.

3. TLC has requested last year that the city installs a pedestrian countdown signal but, for unknown reason, city staff objected to this idea. We ask that our proposal would receive another, more thorough consideration given that pedestrian countdown signals have been proven to be effective throughout North America, have been adopted by major Canadian cities including neighboring Toronto, and have been unequivocally endorsed by the Transportation Association of Canada (see TAC News, volume 32, spring 2006).

4. A possible future speed limit of 50 km/h along the Cootes section, where the current speed limit is 40 km/h, must be accompanied with physical measures of traffic calming and speed enforcement. Such traffic calming procedures are increasingly employed throughout North America and have been shown to be highly successful in achieving their goals. An informative web site is

We appreciate you ongoing fruitful work on traffic safety and look forward to discussing with you an acceptable compromise.

Sincerely yours,

Reuven Dukas


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