Friendly Streets initiative builds community from the ground up
Ask what the phrase “friendly street” means and responses will vary, from safe and accessible to tree-lined and socially vibrant. “A friendly street belongs to everyone,” says Elise Desjardins, one of two co-ordinators of the Friendly Streets Hamilton project. “It’s a space where people want to be.”
Few would describe the streets within a one- kilometre radius of the Hamilton General Hospital in this way, but that’s exactly what Friendly Streets wants to change. Its goals are to improve the journey to the hospital for patients, employees and visitors, as well as the experience of living in the area.
The program, which is jointly run by Environment Hamilton and Cycle Hamilton, started by engaging hospital and neighbourhood partners in 2017 and has continued with support from HCF’s Environment Endowment Fund.
A remarkable amount has been accomplished in a short time, including a Council motion to create a “quiet zone” around the hospital, approval of a new traffic signal on Victoria north of Barton, tree planting, recommendations for wayﬁnding signage for cyclists, traffic calming, pedestrian accessibility, transformation of an alley into a mobility link, and discussions about changes to bus and truck routes.
“Friendly Streets didn’t come in with a set agenda and just do community consultation as a formality,” says Rachel Braithwaite, a Wellington Street resident and executive director of the Barton Village BIA. “They asked: ‘Community, what do you want?’ And then ran with it.”
Now, Rachel looks forward to a day when she doesn’t have to walk her six-year-old to school beside tanker trucks, and she’s become active in the effort to make it happen. “Sometimes when you see others step up, it encourages you to do the same,” she says.
The leadership shown by the Friendly Streets Community Stakeholder Group, which includes senior hospital administrators, has been a highlight for project co-ordinator, Beatrice Ekoko. “They recognize that a patient’s journey begins long before the hospital doors,” she says. “They’ve become champions.”
“This is a vision of what mobility can be in Hamilton,” Elise concludes. Beatrice adds, “We all have a right to a friendly street.”
Excerpt from 2019 annual report