Special Report: Cycling

Considerations For Alleyway Cycling Proposal

The proposal to turn the alley behind Barton Street into a cycling route must be sensitive to the ways that the alleys are currently being used.

By Liz Duval and Walter Furlan
Published September 04, 2015

This week, Kevin Love wrote an RTH article about opportunities to add cycling infrastructure on Barton Street. Thanks to Mr. Love for starting this conversation.

This area must have the highest ridership rate in the city. Many of these riders are utilitarian cyclists, rather than recreational. This corridor is also a very organic and authentic neighbourhood with significant diversity.

Alleyway north of Barton Street (RTH file photo)
Alleyway north of Barton Street (RTH file photo)

One of the options presented is to turn the alleyway running just north of Barton between Wentworth Street and Lottridge Street into an off-street cycling route. This is an intriguing idea, but it is important to be sensitive to the ways that the alleys are currently being used.

The alleys are often an extension of residents' backyards. Many are currently maintained by hard-working volunteers. The article proposes removing vegetation to clear the alleys, but we need to consider the wonderful critters that it attracts.

For example, the wild thistle growing unnoticed behind our studio in the alley on Barton attracts bees, monarch butterflies and finches.

In addition, we need to consider that if the City repairs or replaces non-existent paving, that will remove a natural deterrent to the speeding vehicles that sometimes use these alleys as cut-throughs.

Anyone who would like to know more about the alleys on Barton is welcome to come to the monthly open house at our studio. The next one is on Friday, Sept 25 at 767-769 Barton Street East (just west of Lottridge).

Liz Duval and Walter Furlan live in Ward 3 and operate a business on Barton Street.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted September 04, 2015 at 13:54:40

Vegetation can be managed and not completely removed, and cut-through car traffic can easily be managed with proper placement of bollards and speed humps.

Alleys as alternative transportation corridors should be explored throughout lower Hamilton...

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By Wut (anonymous) | Posted September 04, 2015 at 14:16:41

Won't somebody please think of the thistles?!?

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By billn (registered) | Posted September 04, 2015 at 15:09:50

In Kevin's piece the alleyway proposal is ranked early in the do-nothing-to-major project continuum- low hanging fruit if you will. With the exception of portions of the Cannon bike lanes, the slightly-better-than- nothing mode seems to be the default for our cycling infrastructure in this city. The way that some (not all) of the alleys in this neighbourhood are being used and maintained is already a grass-roots exercise in community building by the people who live and work there. Instead of putting the brakes on this, why not build on that effort by advocating a proper mixed use for Barton St.? The landscaping and banners tried by the City a number of years ago didn't really do anything meaningful for the business owners and residents, but a more complete streets approach would.

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By kevinlove (registered) | Posted September 04, 2015 at 23:29:57

Here is a photograph of the alley directly behind the business of the authors of this article.

Interestingly enough, this business provides a service that I currently need. "Specialty areas include historic window and sash repair..." My 1885 home has the traditional pulley and counterweight system for opening and closing the windows, many of which need repairs.

Back to a consideration of transportation...

It is interesting to consider the current uses of this particular alley. For example, there is at least one business, a bakery, whose entrance is onto the alley. I doubt that this business would object to more customers riding on by!

As we see in the photograph linked to above, there is not a lot of vegetation in this alley. If anyone is interested in supporting vegetation that attracts pollinators such as bees and butterflies, I would commend the fourth option for Barton Street. This option is a conventional protected cycle lane, with flowerbeds being used for the protective barrier. For an example, see this video. This provides for a far greater amount of pollinator attractive plants than the comparatively much smaller amount of vegetation in the existing alley.

The City of Hamilton has existing projects for pollinator attractive plants. One of these projects is in the much larger right-of-way for The Pipeline Trail. This also provides for a far, far greater amount of pollinator attractive plants than the comparatively much smaller amount of vegetation in the Barton alley.

The big disadvantage of the Barton alley/park route is that it is only 1.3 km long from Wentworth Street to Lottridge Street. Additional infrastructure is needed for the rest of Barton Street. However, it has no less than five intersecting North-South alleys that can provide a comprehensive safe cycling network for this part of Hamilton.

These alleys are valuable property that belongs to all of the citizens of Hamilton. I believe that they have great potential. We only need to clean them up and use them.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted September 07, 2015 at 15:45:08

My concerns for this, and others in the city, are for those where they have garages, carports, or other accesses from their property that open onto these alleys.

I'd like to see a shared model, as those who have these areas opening onto the alley can't just be told "sorry, you can't park/get a vehicle back here any more". That's a selling feature on a house. When we were looking at homes in the lower city, that was something our house had to have - a garage/carport/parking space on the property. To take that away is something that is going to be VERY disagreeable for those who use their spaces back there.

As for the "but what about the weeds that attract wildlife?" non-argument, plant a butterfly bush. They can be perennials, and would be far more attractive (not to mention safe!) option. I mean, who wants to wipe out into a thistle bush?

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By highasageorgiapine (registered) | Posted September 08, 2015 at 09:34:13

my god the callousness of people here can be infuriating. natural plant life is useful to keep because it requires limited maintenance and is a free self-perpetuating part of the local ecosystem. some of the cyclists on here are just as bad as the driving advocates they complain about in terms of their needs to be accommodated above anyone else. this person who has a vested interested probably far beyond anyone here made a reasonable proposal that probably makes more sense to incorporate rather than shun.

falling into thistle is better than falling on to pavement anyways.

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By huh? (anonymous) | Posted September 08, 2015 at 09:49:47 in reply to Comment 113783

Who is shunning whom? There's room for vegetation, cars AND bikes... no one says it has to be all or nothing...

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