Making Our Streets Safe For All
Originally written in 2007. Inspired by the Susan Clairmont article describing the horrific death of Matthew Powers; killed as a result of street racing at The Delta in Crown Point.
There are some things in life we are simply never going to be able to change. Not because we don’t have the best intent, the passion, and the desire, because I believe we do.
We can get angry. We can walk great distances. We can change the laws, but in the end, there will always be certain things that people cannot resist the taste of. Like speed.
I haven’t been able to get the images out of my head. I can almost envision the graphic details of Susan Clairmont’s story, as she described the death of 21-year-old Matthew Power. On the other hand, I was deeply moved when I read that it was Matthew’s mother that asked that we, the reader, be allowed to truly feel his story.
I used to live not far from the street side memorial that remembers a young man that had so much life left to live. Almost every single day I witnessed vehicles of all shapes and sizes traveling by in a flash down the quarter-mile track that starts from where the one-way Main ends and the one-way King begins.
At the starting line, AKA The Delta, cars sounding like lawnmowers rev their engines. You can imagine them looking over their shoulders eagerly, yet cavalier, through tinted windows drawn slightly. They don’t know the other from Adam. One nods their head, the other nods back. A thundering beat rattles their license plates. They take a firm hold of the steering wheel with their left hand, while tightly gripping the shifter with the other. Slowly, they ease their left foot off the clutch while their right foot rests atop the gas pedal.
The light turns green and with blood burning, simultaneously, they depress the accelerator to the floor. As they pass the orange checkered flag, the pace car turns down Belmont, and the jaws of King Street open wide. Crossing by foot, by motorized scooter, or even by vehicle, is something that requires a gut check and some swift decision-making if you want to avoid being the cause for a yellow flag.
This memorial on King and Gage isn’t the first of its kind along the major arteries of these synchronized Hamilton streets, and if we ignore the horrible truth of Matthew’s story, it won’t be the last.
I think there are many solutions to street racing and speeding in general but with any problem, we need to find a way to curb it as well.
Yes, it’s time to do away with synchronized lights. It is time to enforce stricter laws, but I think we can do even better than that and unlike finding a cure for cancer, I believe slowing down our streets is something that can be resolved in the very near future.
Here are a few of my thoughts:
Problem: Too many streets in Hamilton act as thruways to route traffic from one major roadway to another – Barton to King for instance, when streets such as Kenilworth and Wellington were designed to be the primary north/south arterial routes.
Solution: When I used to live on St. Clair Avenue, I had devised a plan to transform the neighbourhood from Holton to Sherman, and from Main to King, into more of a survey atmosphere.
The streets within this city block were commonly used as alternate accesses to Main and King. My plan was to close off every other street; one street at one end, and the next one at the other.
I even named the project Taking Back Our Streets – a term since used in reference to a program aimed at graffiti eradication – but if cars are racing by so fast, shouldn’t we be slowing down the streets so people can actually have a chance to see what we are trying to clean up?
The same street closing scenario would also hold true for roads like Dunsmure and Roxborough (now intersected by a street hockey surface at Province St N.), which carry traffic east/west across many major intersections. Dunsmure allows commuters to travel five city blocks with only a handful of stops to slow them down.
Problem: Another issue with streets like Dunsumre as I mentioned above, is the lack of stop signs.
Solution: Install stops at each corner on these roads. Cars parked close to all four corners or other distractions like hedges blocking our view of oncoming traffic, and even the bright sun from the east every morning, make it hard to see whether a vehicle or bicycle for that matter is coming the other way.
Problem: A letter writer commented a few weeks back about volunteering that governors be installed on our vehicles, but this only stops you from going over a set speed.
Alternate solution: How about sensors in every third light standard on all our city streets with the set speed limit for that road programmed into them? We could then have units installed in our vehicles that would read off the sensors and once a vehicle reached the posted limit – not unlike a governor – it would not be able to accelerate any further.
Problem: Another letter to the editor this past Saturday pointed out how movies like The Fast and The Furious fuel the desire to race. Films like these will always find their way to our movie screens, but we can provide more outlets for car enthusiasts to exercise their own need for speed.
Solution: My cousin once expressed an idea to me about having more dedicated spaces where people could go to fulfill their want to race. If drivers are going to do it anyway, why not give them somewhere to exercise these desires.
Another solution to street racing would be to do away with more one-way streets. (downtown has seen many streets converted to two-way since – Main and King not included) When you line up three and four lanes of traffic, you are just asking for trouble.
These are just some of my opinions.
Matthew’s story and the website dedicated to his memory have already made a difference in my life. It takes great courage to expose one’s pain and suffering like Adrienne Seggie has but for all of us who are concerned with the safety of our streets, we thank her for her strength.
May the creator guide you, your family, and many supporters as you make the emotional journey to Ottawa.
The poem inspired by Adrienne’s journey:
I Must Believe
In my smile you may not feel,
the countless things I fear.
Yet in my eyes emotions real,
for the relations I hold dear.
In my voice so strong and sure,
my strength seems so ideal.
Only my heart – my soul, truly knows,
how deep the pain I feel.
You are lost now I must stand,
for the change your spirit insists.
So with the Creator’s strength I walk,
for the reality society resists.
In dreams I paint with visions art,
the reform I have conceived.
Now with this journey I must impart,
the thoughts I have perceived.
I travel across these empty roads,
in search for what is real.
I follow this lonely countryside,
for the pain I know you feel.
I know your brilliant spirit cries,
for the voice they have ignored.
So I walk for you and your love,
for the change your soul implores.
With each days end I hope tomorrow,
our search for justice will end your sorrow.
I pray in darkness; I search the light,
with each days dawn brings new hope to sight.
In journeys end sweat son of mine,
you’ll find your peace in the laws we define.