Special Report: Cycling

We Need Better than Half-Measures for our Cycling Network

As a relative new comer to this city, I can only conclude that Hamilton's commitment to alternative transportation is mostly hollow.

By Sean Hurley
Published October 22, 2013

I am resident in Ward 3 and recently received a letter from Councillor Bernie Morelli indicating his support for a bike lane "pilot project" on Cannon Street. This bi-directional bike lane will run from Sherman Avenue in the east to Bay Street downtown. Great.

Rendering of two-way bike lanes on Cannon (Image Credit: Jeremy Johnston)
Rendering of two-way bike lanes on Cannon (Image Credit: Jeremy Johnston)

Currently, I cycle from near Ottawa Street to Longwood Road South. I am not sure when this pilot project is scheduled to start, but it already excludes more than half of my daily commute.

More recently, another "pilot project" for transit - apparently Hamilton only does things in half measures when it involves bicycles and transit - will create a bus lane for a short distance along King Street West.

Bicycles will not only be excluded from that lane, but even worse, the City is telling cyclists to "use parallel routes north or south of King Street."

Markings on King West for the transit lane (RTH file photo)
Markings on King West for the transit lane (RTH file photo)

What parallel routes would the City of Hamilton have me use, exactly?

If my morning commute begins at Kensington Avenue and Dunsmuire in the east end, and completes at Longwood Road South, what route would the City have me take?

Surely if The City is to advise me not to use a road that my tax dollars support to the same extent as any other taxpayer, just because my mode of transportation lacks an internal combustion engine (the apparent sole and exclusive reason for the existence of Hamilton's governance), then certainly there is some onus upon The City to provide me with these so-called parallel routes that exist within the snakes and ladders approach to Hamilton's one-way road system.

I have been traveling this route since last fall and there is no alternative route that I am aware of that will allow me to complete my commute as quickly and as safely as King Street.

If Hamilton's road department in its infinite wisdom can provide me with a better route that I may have missed, I would be very grateful.

I would like to mention that I have read through Shifting Gears, Hamilton's Master Cycling Plan and I am left wondering why its scarce public resources are devoted to efforts to which the City has such a lukewarm commitment.

And, yes, I support the Cannon bike lanes, but they are, again, a half-measure to be realized at some point in the future while I am commuting by bicycle now.

As well, when I look at plans that shows signs of realization within my working life, rather that a continuous network of bike lanes there is instead a broken and fractured disconnected facsimile of a network.

When new road work lends itself to improving cycling infrastructure, whether it be the repaving of King Street or the redevelopment of Longwood Road South, the city routinely fails to add continuous new cycling infrastructure.

King Street repainted without bike lanes (RTH file photo)
King Street repainted without bike lanes (RTH file photo)

As a relative new comer to this city, I can only conclude that Hamilton's commitment to alternative transportation is mostly hollow.

In the meantime, I will patiently await the options for parallel cycling routes as identified by City of Hamilton staff that will neither increase my commute time nor place me at greater risk (and greater risk is why I don't cycle on Cannon, presently).

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 22, 2013 at 09:33:51

Don't worry, the city does have some alternate routes in mind for you. Just follow these simple instructions:

The intent of the Transit Only Lane is to ensure transit vehicles (buses) can travel through that segment of King St with minimal delays. The project is a pilot, so we will be reviewing the various aspects of the facility during the next 12 months. Cyclists and e-bike riders are not included as a permitted use in this bus lane. Cyclists are encouraged to use parallel routes through that area of the city. The other lanes on King St will continue to be legal for bicycles, but I agree that it is not expected to be an ideal route during peak volume periods.

Alternate Routes:
On the north side of King St, the suggested cycling route is Wilson St to the York Blvd bike lane beside the Farmer's Market. It is suggested that it will be faster to dismount and cross the York/Bay intersection to connect to the easterly end of Napier St beside the Federal Building rather than riding around Sir John A MacDonald High School. Continue along Napier St to Victoria Park, and through Victoria Park on the multi-use trail. Continue on Head St on the west side of the park, do a quick "jog" on the Dundurn St bike lanes to connect to the bike lanes over Hwy 403 (either via Hunt St or the King St bike lane). Much of this route serves you in both the easterly and westerly direction.

On the south side of King St, the suggested cycling route is Hunter St or Jackson St. We are planning to install bike lanes on portions of Hunter St still this fall, so watch for them shortly. West of Queen St, the primary through routes for cycling to get to the Dundurn St bike lanes are Jackson St (there is a short trail connection at the west end of this street through a small parkette to Dundurn St) or Hunter St/Hill St. Canada St (between Jackson St and Hunter St) is the eastbound cycling connection.

Please let me know if you require any additional details,
Daryl Bender B.E.S.
Project Manager, Alternative Transportation
Public Works, City of Hamilton
905-546-2424 x 2066

These easy-to-follow directions will be printed on signs placed at each intersection for your convenience.

Please do not take any shortcuts on sidewalks, or go the wrong way on any one way streets while navigating these simple parallel alternate routes. Please come to a complete 3-second stop at each stop sign.

You may need to make extra time for your commmute. To avoid frustration, it is recommended that you leave 15-20 minutes earlier so that you are not rushed.

If you are attempting to reach a destination on King Street, please take the alternate route to the nearest side street, and take the side street back to King. If the side street is one-way, please continue to the next side street, and dismount and walk back along King to your destination.

If you must cross King street in order to reach your destination, please dismount and walk your bike to the nearest pedestrian crossing.

The city will be revisiting this project in a short time (one year) and will make improvements as necessary.

After trying this method for a year, you are invited to send your comments to the city for consideration.

Comment edited by seancb on 2013-10-22 09:41:39

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 22, 2013 at 09:43:58 in reply to Comment 93507

Oh, yes, how simple.

Let me give the version that people will actually do: Take the Wilson Street Bike Lanes to York Boulevard. Bomb through the intersection at York and Bay and take an illegal left turn going Southbound in a North-only street... but only for a few metres. Hop the curb onto the sidewalk and head through the parking lot or the pedestrian walkway North of the Bay St. Federal Building and bike to Napier. Then you can go flat out on Napier - and yeah, there are too many stop signs, so feel free to blow through a few or all of them. At Queen Street, wait for a too-small break in traffic and be ready to give a few one-finger-salutes to honking drivers. Then cross Victoria Park to Head Street - please try to avoid killing any children while you cross the park since, after all, nobody has any reason to expect high-speed cyclists on that path since it is completely unmarked as a biking path. When winter comes, it might be ploughed. Maybe.

Then you've got a nice coast down Head Street, but don't get too attached to the speed as you'll have to slam on the brakes at Dundurn. Then it's probably best just to go up the left-side bike lane because realistically? There's never gonna be a break in that traffic unless you're biking at 3am. Then you're onto King Street and a vaguely civilized biking experience, congratulations!

Because, after all, we know this is how cyclists actually respond to this kind of design, and I really can't blame them.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 22, 2013 at 10:28:06 in reply to Comment 93508

Please don't do those things. just leave earlier. Or just take your car, it's way easier anyways!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 22, 2013 at 09:52:19 in reply to Comment 93508

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By kylem (anonymous) | Posted October 22, 2013 at 09:54:14

I don't know about y'all, but I fully intend on using the transit-only lane.

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By engineer (anonymous) | Posted October 22, 2013 at 10:59:49 in reply to Comment 93510

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By fosho! (anonymous) | Posted October 22, 2013 at 10:30:55 in reply to Comment 93510

No doubt, let's see if they ticket.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 22, 2013 at 11:07:36 in reply to Comment 93514

I'm sure there will be an initial enforcement boom for the month after it goes live, then it will be ignored.

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By Evie (anonymous) | Posted October 22, 2013 at 11:40:01

Hunter St is the alternative route? They are installing 350 meters of bike lane on Hunter from Liberty to Catherine. That's it. So not quite sure how that gets anyone anywhere except into chaotic traffic. The intention is to eventually put more bike lanes on Hunter from James to Queen, then, in the distant future, a total go station kiss and drop overhaul.

I'm not sure about you, but with an election year coming up, a new go station project in the north end, PanAm games, and the Cannon street bike lanes... is this Hunter St. bike lane highway every going to come to fruition?

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By adrian (registered) | Posted October 22, 2013 at 12:55:01

Perhaps us cyclists should create a rolling protest of sorts, where a few dozen of us cycle down the right-most, non-transit lane on King, but at different, staggered times, ensuring we use the entire lane.

For example, each cyclist would be assigned a time to start their ride:

4:00 pm 4:05 pm 4:10 pm 4:15 pm

Etc.

This could include some signage on our backs to the effect of, "Prefer us to be in the transit lane? Us too! Contact the city at ..."

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted October 22, 2013 at 13:21:56

Same thing could be said for Cumberland Ave , its considerd as a bike route but no bike lanes (because) they have street parking!! put the bike lane on Delawar on the bus route !

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By conrad664 (registered) | Posted October 22, 2013 at 13:25:36

We have bike lanes on Stinson (BUS ROUTE) and no one has a problem

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By reuben (registered) - website | Posted October 22, 2013 at 14:44:32 in reply to Comment 93531

Actually, the bus drivers do. They ride in the lane, and often don't check if there are cyclists present before merging over to make a stop. Have had a number of near misses, and have even been blocked from proceeding for the entire length of the lane a few times.

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted October 23, 2013 at 13:31:59 in reply to Comment 93535

I bike every day on Cumberland Stinson and Hunter every day to work and back for the past 10 years and i never had a problem with bus or cars and ived talk to most of the Delawar bus drivers and they never had a problem most cyclists do keep up with buses at least i do

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By suggestion... (anonymous) | Posted October 23, 2013 at 00:00:57

How about a scooter lane.... I fear for my life out there.

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted October 24, 2013 at 15:58:15

I own a business on King west in between Mary and Dundurn. So far all I can see is this has allowed the bus drivers to drive upwards to 65-70km/hr especially Go buses.

I actually can not believe the city has 4 lanes of traffic going in one direction and they can't give everyone some room. There is a real sense of entitlement to get through the city as fast as a driver can, which is exactly the reason why business does not thrive on sections of King west.

has anyone actually thought of how ridiculous it is that we are debating alternate routes for bikes. I feel like we are in the stone ages when it comes to the bike vs car debate.

As I type this, I am watching buses pass cars at nearly double the speed. I have heard screeching tires and honking horns all day for most of the past week. The car drivers of Hamilton need step outside of the bubble they live in, wake up! everyone has to share the road.

Honestly...I can not believe we are even debating this.

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