Two conflicting visions of Hamilton were on stark display last week highlighting a growing solitude between the city’s urban and suburban residents and politicians.
While the city’s core residents seek cool new ideas to alleviate long-term traffic problems in their concrete jungle areas, in other parts of Hamilton children and adults are simply asking for sidewalks and improved roadways.
For the last few years city councillors and staff have adopted the latest urban strategy called complete streets. The idea is to make pedestrians, transit users, cyclists and people who use mobility devices safe as they use the roadways. It’s a worthy goal, which has been adopted by nearly 500 jurisdictions in the US.
For Hamilton it has meant transforming Gore Park into a pedestrian oasis, converting a number of one-way streets to two way and incorporating bus and cycling lanes into existing roads.
The conflict for some suburban politicians is while complete streets may be nice for areas that have streets and sidewalks, there are parts of Hamilton that don’t have sidewalks, while their roads are falling apart. The city’s rapid building boom and urban expansion, particularly on the mountain, Ancaster and Flamborough have left residents navigating ditches and culverts and dodging vehicles as they use a rural roadway in an urban environment.
Mountain residents were finally fed up with being ignored after politicians agreed to spend $1.6 million to build a two-way bike lane on Cannon Street.
Those residents expressed their outrage saying while the downtown gets millions for bike lanes, they don’t even have pennies to build sidewalks for their children. While council’s time, money and resources have been devoted to improving the downtown area, suburban residents have continually muttered their needs are being ignored. Development continues to explode across the mountain, Stoney Creek and into Ancaster, yet, downtown councillors and their residents seem to be oblivious to this growing situation. In this budget season, it took nearly superhuman effort to add a new transit route along the mountain. Yet urban councillors have continually touted the benefits of transit for their downtown areas.
Hamilton’s amalgamation over a decade ago occurred with the subtle belief that the more financially secure suburban municipalities would save a moribund core. All of Hamilton’s councillors agreed that rejuvenating the core would ultimately benefit the entire city. That political urban and rural contract seems less strong 13 years after amalgamation as suburban residents and politicians’ pleas for help continue to be ignored by apathetic downtown politicians.