Friendly Streets was joined by Gibson-Landsdale (GALA) residents and community partners to conduct a street audit along Wentworth St. N. This location was chosen after we heard from a GALA resident who lives on the street that there had been 3 reported collisions between children and vehicles over 8 months (October 2017 – May 2018). Wentworth St. N. was converted from one-way to two-way last fall. The resident contacted the City to notify of the collisions and express concern about the safety of the street because there are important community services in the area, including a local elementary school, so there are a lot of adults and children walking or biking in the area. The city has begun a study of this location to assess speed and pedestrian counts, among other variables. City Staff will review the traffic speed and volume data collected to determine what, if any, next steps are required. We invited the City to join us on an audit to assess safety for people who walk and bike, as well as explore potential solutions that would make it more safe for vulnerable road users like children. We also decided to audit Sanford Ave. N. because a GALA community partner noted that it’s also a frequently used walking and biking route by school kids or residents.
Thanks to our summer intern Geetha Jeyapragasan for this blog post!
With beautiful weather and an enthusiastic group of participants, Friendly Streets went out on an air quality audit during the evening of June 14th. A diverse group of 13 residents, including two families with young children, a public health nurse, students, residents from the Beasley and GALA neighbourhoods, as well as residents from other areas of Hamilton, we set out to audit in the Beasley and GALA neighbourhoods. It was exciting to have children part of an audit for the first time, as they are not only the future generation that will be more likely to walk, bike and transit through the city, but they are also a vulnerable population, where the impacts of air pollution are far greater for children than adults.
During a typical air quality audit, we use monitors to analyzing the respirable particulate matter (PM2.5) levels, which is the particulate matter that enters the bloodstream and contributes to several respiratory illnesses. On the evening of the 14th, the air had exceptionally low PM2.5 levels, with an average of 296 (min 185, max. 1655). This surprised us and other participants – as soon as the moment the monitor turns on, we’ve come to expect a “Very Poor” reading, given that we were collecting data in the downtown core. We had conversations hypothesizing the drastic decrease in PM2.5 and potentially attributed this to either the rainfall the day before which reduces airborne particulate matter, the direction that the wind was blowing, and the time of day because we began the audit at 6:30 pm after peak rush hour. Following the scale below, the air quality fell under the “Very Good” category, with a couple spikes as we passed by people smoking, near a construction site, or as trucks drove by.
100in1Day Hamilton is an annual celebration where communities around the country work together to host interventions that bring the community together and improve their city. Interventions can range from environmental and educational to social initiatives. Held on June 2, it also coincided with the annual Barton Village Festival. With over 115 interventions registered in Hamilton, as well as a variety of fun and family-friendly activities on Barton Street, it was a day to enjoy the warm weather and vision a better and thriving community in Hamilton.
Of these, the Friendly Streets and Trees Please projects of Environment Hamilton and Cycle Hamilton hosted interventions to help share about the work that we’re doing and engage our neighbours in improving our communities. Friendly Streets Hamilton gathered information and feedback through an interactive map that allowed the community to share about their experiences in the Barton Village Business Improvement Area, including what they enjoyed about their neighbourhoods and what improvements we could make. By connecting with people who live, work, and play in Barton Village, we were able to engage with a variety of members from this community, from kids playing in the park, residents walking and biking to school, to the senior community residing in the area. Through connecting with the residents, we were able to gather eye-opening feedback. Continue reading “June 2 – A whole day of community engagement!”
Up and early at 7:00am, Hamilton came together to celebrate its 10th annual Bike to Work Day. Several community organizations, city councillors, and enthusiastic commuters gathered with their bikes to enjoy a donut and coffee and to celebrate the Bike Month kick off! From free bike repairs, live performances, and rides taking place around the city, the event was a massive success, allowing us to promote and celebrate active transportation. By promoting cycling or healthy active living, companies and groups came together to support Hamilton and get people on their bikes.
One of the many groups there was our project Friendly Streets. A project of Environment Hamilton and Cycle Hamilton, the goal of Friendly Streets is to make walking and biking a safe and enjoyable experience. To accomplish this goal, we first needed to determine what encourages people to bike. What are the friendly aspects of our city or specific neighbourhoods that make it bike-friendly? With this in mind, we connected with a variety of commuters and asked them what they enjoyed about their commute, opening the floor for people to share how they generally feel about commuting around various areas of Hamilton. Continue reading “Bike to Work Day – May 28”
On May 24th 2018, staff at Environment Hamilton and Cycle Hamilton, along with other community members and organization representatives ventured the streets of Beasley to conduct an audit centered around air quality and transportation. Using air quality monitors, respiratory particulate matter (PM 2.5) levels were monitored, the matter known to cause respiratory effects such as asthma attacks, bronchitis, heart attacks, and several other issues. Not only were PM2.5 levels observed, but also the general mobility of the area, from pedestrian crossing routes, sidewalk beautification, bikeability, and people’s proximity to cars on the sidewalk. The audit was conducted from 6-7:30pm, after the typical rush hour of students and employees returning home. The scale below helps provide a frame of reference for where the levels should be. The average air quality of the entire audit measured to 6571, which include measurements from main arterial roads such as Cannon, as well as through alleyways, residential and park areas.
In general, it was observed that Hamilton’s air quality is nowhere near where it should be, and currently, as it stands, Hamilton has the worst air quality within the province. During the audit, however, there were locations that stood out, either due to their comparatively high PM2.5 levels or due to the structure of the roads, making active transport (walking/biking) unsafe and difficult. One prominent aspect we noticed throughout several of the streets was the lack of greenery and trees surrounding the area. Trees drastically improve air quality, removing up to 50% of PM2.5 from the air. This was noticed on Barton, where no trees were found between James and Ferguson. Mobility issues were observed throughout the audit, where sidewalks were not wide enough for comfortable wheelchair mobility, the narrow sidewalks also put pedestrians very close to cars speeding down the road, not only making these sidewalks unsafe but deterring people from walking on the sidewalks all together and resorting to cars instead. Walking along Cannon was not a comfortable walk as there was no buffer between us and the cars speeding by, putting people and homes at risk. Bad mobility and air quality affects some communities more than others and put vulnerable communities at risk. For example, the area around King and Wellington St where First Place Hamilton Seniors Residence had elevated levels of PM2.5, further harming a population that is already more susceptible to the dangers of particulate matter than the general population.
One shocking observation was not only the volume of parking spaces but the concentration of them in the downtown core. With several entire blocks solely used for parking spaces, greenery and suitable bike parking were almost non-existent, making it an unattractive place for people who want to walk and bike commute to work. This audit allowed us to show the community where our air quality stands, collect more information and led to several insightful discussions on how mobility and air quality could be improved in the area.
Join us on a short street audit where you can learn about air quality challenges and learn how to use an air monitoring equipment that measures harmful respirable particulate levels (PM 2.5). Data will be applied to explore and map alternative travel routes, while together, we continue raising awareness for action on poor air quality.
Meet Tuesday, May 22nd at 294 James St N. Walk leaves at 6pm. All welcome!
Hamilton’s alleyways are city assets that we can be using to walk, bike, and play! Community groups like Beautiful Alleys and Green Venture have already begun to transform these under-utilized spaces by beautifying with art, gardens, and lighting to invite community members to explore and use alleyways more.
We’ve established a Friendly Streets Community Stakeholder group with the Hamilton General Hospital and other community groups like Beautiful Alleys, Trees for Hamilton, Smart Commute Hamilton, Barton Village BIA, and Hamilton Naturalists’ Club. Through our work with this group and from engagement with residents in Wards 2 and 3, we’ve learned that there’s a need for safe and viable routes that will enable people to reach the hospital and Barton Village BIA by foot or by bike. Did you know that Ward 3, which includes the Hamilton General Hospital and Gibson-Landsdale neighbourhoods, has over 37km of alleyways? That’s more than any other Ward in Hamilton. It’s exciting to imagine the potential for this space that can be developed for community benefit to create healthier, friendly spaces in downtown neighbourhoods.
By reimagining alleyways as mobility corridors, there is an opportunity to explore safer north-south active travel routes near the hospital or BIA that connect to other cycling infrastructure like the Cannon Cycle Track. We’re not simply saying, “Let’s encourage people to take the back routes instead of tackling the big issues of traffic safety and lack of infrastructure along major roads.” But we are saying, “If it’s going to get more people cycling and exploring new areas of their neighbourhood, then let’s look at how alleyways can be used as alternative routes to get around the city by walking or cycling.”
That vision though! Trees for Hamilton invited the Friendly Streets team to come out and plant trees on the Hospital Grounds. So many collaborations working together towards a friendly streets environment for the hospital area, what we are now referring to as the “Hospital Zone,” in the same way that the Vancouver General Hospital is doing.
We are back! After a little dry spell of a couple months, we are happy to let Friendly Streets’ lovers know that our project has secured some funding to tide us over until November 2018. Our project will continue to support local leadership for friendly streets in our pilot neighbourhoods of Beasley and GALA, as well as advance our efforts in the area around the Hamilton General Hospital.
In particular, we will be working with:
1. The Hamilton General Hospital “Working Group” towards a pedestrian crossing on Victoria Street North at Copeland, where a pedestrian was hit by a car. This is a natural foot-route to the hospital entrance from the parking lot and the community has expressed great concern and a desire for a safe crossing.
We are also exploring alternative pathways/alleyways for walking and cycling to the hospital and Barton Village BIA. The goal of this “mini-pilot” is to look at ways that we can use existing space in the city, like alleyways, for healthier active travel routes. We will be hosting a “Jane’s Ride/Walk” on May 6th to share details about this mini-pilot and how you can get involved. Stay tuned for details.
In keeping with the grand vision of a “Hospital Zone” for this area, like the Hospital Zone near the Vancouver General Hospital , we will be exploring how to achieve this goal with the Ward 3 Councillor Matthew Green and the community, including beautification (tree planting, pollinator attracting gardens and the possibility of art).
2. Beasley Neighbourhood Association: Friendly Streets Cafe
This little group is focusing on traffic calming on Wilson Street. We are also looking at improving safety along Wellington Street (e.g., Cannon Cycle Track, truck routes) and safety improvements to Cannon Street for people who walk and bike.
3. GALA Community Planning Team: Friendly Streets Cafe
We are going to be looking at dealing with truck route issues on Wellington Street. We are also open to working on other areas of concern that may be identified by community members.
4. Finally, we have a new piece that we are adding to the project! We’ll be integrating air quality data collection into the street audits that we’ve been doing in our project area. Community members will learn about urban air quality challenges in the downtown core and measure PM2.5 along roads that are frequently used by people who walk and bike. We’ll also be inviting community members to explore and map active travel routes with better air quality. We hope that residents will become more aware of Hamilton’s urban air quality challenges and, more specifically, air quality conditions in their own neighbourhood. Residents will have the opportunity to reflect on and make commitments to change any behaviours that might contribute to urban air particulate pollution levels.
Thanks to the Hamilton Community Foundation for their support so that we can make this happen!