Parents, kids at Hamilton school face ‘dangerous’ combo of narrow sidewalks & heavy trucks


Published May 6, 2022 at 10:13 pm

Every schoolday in Hamilton, parents and children at Dr. J.E. Davey Elementary School walk along Wilson Street, metres away from heavy industrial trucks.

The largest school board in Hamilton flagged this as a “dangerous area” over a year ago, after hearing concerns from parents. Next week, when the City of Hamilton/Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board liasion committee meet for the first time in 2½ years, city councillors will hear some ideas about potential safety remedies. The agenda for the meeting on Monday (May 9) includes letter from HWDSB Chair Danko highlighting the safety risks to children and parents from the “dangerous” combination of narrow sidewalks and heavy trucks.

Ten pedestrians in Hamilton have died after being struck by motorists so far in 2022. Danko wrote to the city on behalf of HWDSB on March 15 — of last year.

“(The sidewalks’) narrowness makes if difficult for students and families to pass by one another when travelling to school,” Danko wrote.

“This issue has been heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic when people are being asked to be physically distant. It is also important to consider this problem in relation to the industrial truck traffic. Families in the community have said they do not feel safe walking on these narrow sidewalks due to the number of heavy vehicles passing through. Trustees also learned of reports of uneven sidewalks, further contributing to the issue. A proposed solution is to reduce the number of lanes on Wilson Street to allow for more sidewalk development. The surrounding sidewalks would be improved as a result of the redevelopment allowing pedestrians to safely spread out when walking to and from school.”

That is prefaced by a note that, “very few of these vehicles are making local deliveries, with most just using the street to pass through the city.”

The proposed solutions from HWDSB include rerouting industrial trucks to the graded and separated Nikola Tesla Boulevard. The school board also calls for widening sidewalks and improving cycling infrastructure on Wilson Street, and reducing lanes for vehicles.

Wilson is a four-lanes, two-way street between James Street North and Victoria Avenue. Some street parking is allowed on westbound Wilson. It changes to a one-way east of Victoria.

Hamilton Police Service, whose investigative services division building is 300 metres away from J.E. Davey, was copied on the letter.

Truck noise, fumes kept schoolkids indoors during COVID-19

J.E. Davey is in the densely populated Beasley neighbourhood, in the L8R forward sortation area (FSA). That FSA is the most racialized in Hamilton, at 37.86 per cent of the population. It has the second-highest prevalence of low-income population, with one-tenth of 1 per cent less than L8N (35.40 per cent to L8N’s 35.50).

The HWDSB says those demographics translate into cycling or walking to school being a necessity for Davey students. But that increases the physical jeopardy to children and parents who walk with them.

“It is also important to note that the school population has a higher rate of underserved families,” Danko wrote. “Vehicle transportation is not always an option for them, which points to a greater need for safer streets. Trustees learned that some students run across the road when travelling to school due to the lack of crossings. The narrow sidewalks also make biking difficult and dangerous. Increased cycling infrastructure and pedestrian crossings will make these community members feel safer when travelling to school.”

The HWDSB chair also stated that air and noise pollution around the school were severe to the point that teachers at the school avoid holding outdoor classrooms. That has become a common workaround for reducing students’ and educators’ potential exposure to COVID-19 during the pandemic.

The letter was written during the late winter. But the same week it was written, J.E. Davey was switched to remote learning due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

On Thursday, the school reported a 17.9 per cent absence rate.

The reporting method for public schools in Ontario does not require schools to indicate how much COVID-19 exposure or self-isolation has affected any school’s absence rate. Local school boards do have the power to require masks, and inform families of a confirmed COVID-19 case in a class.

The time lag between a school community raising issues and the city receiving it aside, the elected leadership in Hamilton has recently made some moves that address safety and sustainability.

City council has approved a heavy trucks ban that may potentially benefit Beasley residents. The heavy trucks bans covers Barton and Cannon streets. Wilson St. is just south of those two roadways.

The issue about safety for the J.E. Davey community will also be coming before the school liaison committee just days after climate activists made recommendations to increase healthful travel options in Hamilton. On Wednesday, the general issues committee voted unanimously for city staff to spend this summer studying 31 recommendations from the Bay Area Climate Change Council.

The BACCC said 96 per cent of trips within Hamilton are taken by car.

The last meeting of the liasion committee was on Oct. 10, 2019. That was five months before the declared start of the pandemic, which obviously created additional challenges for both municipal and educational leaders.

The entire letter from HWDSB can be read at

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