Special Report: Cycling

Why We Ride Our Bikes

The car culture is a dead-end model, and as long as this is entrenched in our collective systems and heads it will continue to bear tragic deaths.

By Walter Furlan
Published December 06, 2015

I am writing in relation to Mr. Jay Keddy, who was killed riding his bicycle in Hamilton last week. Mr. Keddy was riding home from his job as a kindergarten teacher at Prince of Wales School, riding up the escarpment on the Claremont access.

Memorial 'ghost bike' for Jay Keddy (RTH file photo)
Memorial 'ghost bike' for Jay Keddy (RTH file photo)

I am the same age that Mr. Keddy was.

Several times this year, my two sons and my partner have ridden our bikes up the Claremont to Mohawk College, where the boys attend, riding past the very spot where Mr. Keddy was killed.

I ride my bike to work here on Barton Street and as much as possible all year long.

My partner, Liz, rides her bike to work from our house to the Fairclough building in downtown Hamilton. She rides nearly every workday all year long.

We have neighbours who store their bikes in our garage and ride their bikes all year long. They are a family with three small girls, whose mother rides her bike to school where she teaches small children. She taught at Prince of Wales school last year.

This summer, they rode as a family from Hamilton to St. Mary's, Ontario. One night this past summer, I saw the three girls as they rode their bikes back from a neighbourhood outdoor movie night. They were dressed in their pyjamas.

I was also past chair of the Hamilton Cycling Citizen Advisory Committee. We asked the City for a dedicated, protected and separated bike lane up the Escarpment. We advised that the bike lane should go on the Claremont Access as there was plenty of excess road capacity available on this road.

This request was turned down by City staff.

Claremont Access (RTH file photo)
Claremont Access (RTH file photo)

Why do we ride our bikes? We are all interested in an ecologically sustainable world, a world where we recognize the negative impact that humans have on our world.

The car culture has to slow down on both a symbolic and a real level. It cannot continue to drive the way we organize our world. It's a dead-end model, and as long as this is entrenched in our collective systems and heads it will continue to bear these types of events.

This incident has shaken me. We all need to deal with this now.

Adapted from a letter to Council.

Walter Furlan is a lifelong cyclist and has ridden his bike in many capacities throughout the world. He was born and raised in Hamilton's east end, where he began to work in the steel mills alongside his father. He attended McMaster part-time in the evening and received a BA in social science. He is now a heritage conservation restorer, assessing and restoring historic buildings and landscapes. He is in training at The School of Restoration Arts at Willowbank in Niagara on the Lake. Walter advocates for those who cycle in this city because of choice or circumstance. He believes in the 8-80 idea: that our streets should be safe for an eight- or eighty-year-old to navigate. He is a former member of the Hamilton Cycling Committee and has served as its chair.

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By Durander3263827 (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2015 at 12:54:08

Is it wrong to think that not all roads have to be bicycle friendly? Bicycles aren't allowed on the Linc, even though it would be the fastest way across the upper city for a bike to take. Perhaps if a road has no sidewalks and no appreciable shoulder, bicycles should not use it. Riding a bike for ecological reasons is excellent and all that do so should be commended; however, sometimes the green way takes going the extra mile -- literally.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted December 07, 2015 at 08:52:03 in reply to Comment 115422

I would just point out that there is a big difference between "not all roads have to be bike friendly" and "the green way takes going the extra mile". Why should someone riding a bike, making a negligible impact on their environment while consuming their own energy to get around, have to go the long way so that someone driving can have a bike-free direct route? If biking is really ecologically friendly, and we actually think it is a better way to travel, we should make the direct route bike-friendly and force those in cars to go the long way. After all, they can travel much faster and it often costs them nothing. The Linc is a perfect example - you can take it across town and even though it is definitely the long way, it is just as quick because of its design.

In any case, I don't see how we can even talk about which roads shouldn't have bike facilities when there isn't even a continuous network of cycling infrastructure in the first place. Every road already accommodates cars, while almost none of them accommodate bikes. Let's not limit ourselves in re-balancing our skewed transportation networks by further entrenching auto-dominated street design.

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By MichaelHealey (registered) - website | Posted December 06, 2015 at 15:47:51 in reply to Comment 115422

I agree - all roads do not need to include bicycle acccessibility - the 400 series highways and other expressways (eg. QEW and RHV/Linc) are great examples of highways designed solely for motorized vehicles.

On the other hand, by Ontario law, bicycles are allowed on roads that don't fit the expressway category. As such, those roads should be designed to accommodate safe cycling.

"...if a road has no sidewalks and no appreciable shoulder, bicycles should not use it" Again, I agree - I don't think bicycles should use it because it is extremely dangerous to the person on the bike.

For cities to be whole, they need to have a network of safe, connected cycle tracks that allow people the option to use bikes for commuting and leisure.

For many years in Hamilton, roads have been designed with little or no thought to bicycle or even pedestrian accommodation. The low-hanging fruit to rectify this situation is to convert some of the vastly over-built roadways with active transportation accommodation.

Claremont is a great example of an over-built roadway with plenty of capacity that can easily support a cycle-path. The added benefit of this particular track, is that it will provide a safe bicycle mountain access and can connected with other paths in the network.

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By Durander3263827 (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2015 at 16:32:39 in reply to Comment 115433

Thank you for your thoughtful response. I agree that there is a lot that can be done and needs to be done to make everybody safer. I know of no auto drivers who want to be involved in a pedestrian or cycling accident, so things need to be improved for all involved. If enough safe routes can be established east to west and north to south, it will be better for everybody, and until then, I will continue to ride knowing that car drivers are not looking out for my safety, so I'll have to do it myself.

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By Glend1967 (registered) | Posted December 06, 2015 at 14:45:21 in reply to Comment 115422

Ur incredible.Are you afraid you might be 30 seconds late for some appointment you have.What pray tell would be your solution for a bike to get up the mountain?The Linc really?.Perhaps those roads should be redone to make them more inclusive.Tell you what hop on a bike and tour the city and see what it's like.Lots of Sobi stations around.

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By Durander3263827 (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2015 at 16:21:10 in reply to Comment 115430

I bicycle anyplace from downtown Dundas to Ottawa Street in the lower city, but I use safe streets (side streets with speeds of 40kph or less and bike trails), climb the escarpment on the rail trail, and use the HSR or walk at night. I'd never even consider riding up or down the Claremont, with no shoulder and a speed limit of 70kph. It takes a bit more time, but safety is more important than the extra time it takes to get where you need to be. I agree that you have the right to ride any street, but I'd advise anybody else who rides to be safe, and not endanger themselves. Just because you can ride any street doesn't mean you should. Be safe!

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted December 06, 2015 at 22:11:05 in reply to Comment 115434

Sounds like a great idea to close many of these streets to cars. Bike and pedestrians only. Then you'd have safe, convenient options just like drivers do.

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By Glend1967 (registered) | Posted December 06, 2015 at 16:28:45 in reply to Comment 115434

Lots of people are using their bikes for more than recreational use.If you're on your way to work esp. in the morning you don't want to have to leave two hrs early just to use a "safe street".ALL streets should be safe.Think about what you are saying.Sounds like victim blaming.The Claremont doesn't need to be 70 k an hour.

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By walter furlan (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2015 at 12:56:57

Clarification - I am no longer a member of The Municipal Cycling Advisory Committee.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted December 06, 2015 at 17:01:27

How about safe infra for Mr. Keddy's students at Prince of Wales Elementary School? The school is a not-so-whopping two blocks from where the Cannon Street cycle track comes to an abrupt end at Sherman. Two blocks of 4-lane road that currently has a big fat zero accommodation for children cycling to school. With the entirely predictable result that very few children cycle to school. To quote the noted philosopher Gomer Pyle, surprise, surprise, surprise.

A similar lack of surprise should be our reaction to the childhood obesity and diabetes epidemics among children terrorized off the roads by car drivers.

Cannon Street east of Sherman could easily be converted to look like this. Take a look at the video. They changed. We can too.

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2015-12-06 17:05:45

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By srsly (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2015 at 17:56:43 in reply to Comment 115440

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2015 at 16:21:16 in reply to Comment 115492

There is a section without bike lanes at all.

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted December 07, 2015 at 20:51:44 in reply to Comment 115492

let's design our roads in the same manner and tell drivers to 'take a break' when they complain that their road suddenly ends for half a km.

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By Suburbanite (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2015 at 18:48:51

Before we're able to suggest that all cyclists should use routes that have sidewalks and curbs, and somehow are at fault if they don't, we need to first look at city designed bike routes. For example, the Waterfront Recreational Bike Path goes along the North Service Road in Stoney Creek - an 80 km/h truck route - and a cyclist is forced to cross that road at 2 locations into oncoming east/west high speed traffic. It's a fatal accident waiting to happen and is a prime example of placing the movement of goods/motorists ahead of the value of human life. On a recreational trail to boot!Sad.

Comment edited by Suburbanite on 2015-12-06 18:49:21

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By osborne (registered) | Posted December 06, 2015 at 21:49:31

I honestly do not know the answer to the question that I am asking.

What taxes do cyclists pay?

Roads are paid for by taxes. The taxes come from a variety of sources. Some come from gas taxes. I don't know the breakdown. It might be a worthwhile effort to articulate the costs and payment system. When I was a child, each bike had a licence that was cheap enough for children or their parents to pay. Are Hamilton cyclist taxed for their use of the roads?

Clearly, the times have changed as far as the use of bicycles as a means of transportation for some. I don't see cars being replaced in the next ten years but possibly dedicated bike lanes are needed in some places. Electric bikes are another issue from my perspective though.

Comment edited by osborne on 2015-12-06 21:55:23

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By Core-B (registered) | Posted December 07, 2015 at 21:17:33 in reply to Comment 115445

The yellow plastic "license" that we attached to the back of our bicycles back then was for registration purposes only. Serial numbers were recorded with the police for identification in the event of a theft. Nothing else. In fact if the bike you were registering didn't have a serial number, they would stamp one on the frame.

Comment edited by Core-B on 2015-12-07 21:18:42

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By Durander3263827 (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2015 at 23:23:47 in reply to Comment 115445

Cyclists pay property taxes, either directly or through part of the rent paid to their landlords. Cyclists pay income taxes. Cyclists pay sales taxes. They pay plenty of taxes, and these sources partially pay for local, regional, and provincial roads. That said, user fees would help put cyclists on a more level playing field when it comes to asking for equality to car drivers who pay both personal and vehicle licenses as well as being required to have insurance. As bike ridership rises and car use drops, these sources of income and requirements for driving will probably become necessary for all vehicles using the roads.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted December 07, 2015 at 08:34:56 in reply to Comment 115450

That said, user fees would help put cyclists on a more level playing field when it comes to asking for equality to car drivers who pay both personal and vehicle licenses as well as being required to have insurance.

I think I see your point: we cyclists need to be seen to have skin in the game, right? No matter than every trip I take by bike rather than by SUV saves the city money (in a small way) because I'm not causing any sort of wear and tear on the roads. But I look like I'm getting a free ride, since I don't pay for licensing or insurance. Or gas or windshield-washer fluid. Or floor mats.

So even if the city could save non-negligible amounts of money by installing more low-maintenance bike infrastructure, we should introduce fees and red-tape - which can only discourage some people from cycling - in order to maintain the appearance of fairness and assuage driver ire.

Which just leads to me think about all those free-loading, entitled pedestrians ... sauntering along the sidewalks without paying a goddam cent.

Comment edited by moylek on 2015-12-07 08:47:03

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted December 07, 2015 at 09:00:55 in reply to Comment 115457

But I look like I'm getting a free ride, since I don't pay for licensing or insurance.

Licensing and insurance costs are both things that directly go towards managing and regulating social costs of driving. The fact that anyone thinks its unfair that someone who doesn't drive doesn't pay these costs is silly.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted December 07, 2015 at 09:17:09 in reply to Comment 115460

The fact that anyone thinks its unfair that someone who doesn't drive doesn't pay these costs is silly.

Next you're going to say that I'm silly for having a bumper-sticker that reads "My other bike is an SUV" on my bike.

(though I confess that there are days when I question the wisdom of ever having mounted that that rear bumper on my bike to begin with - but I wanted to be on a level playing field)

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted December 07, 2015 at 09:06:13 in reply to Comment 115460

just scan the police twitter feed from the past 8 days.

  • 4 deaths by drivers. 2 drivers, one cyclist, one pedestrian
  • officer almost hit by a drunk driver doing 90k in a 50 THROUGH a RIDE station
  • traffic pole knocked across the roadway on Kenilworth Access by another drunk driver
  • man in hospital with serious injuries after being hit by a driver
  • collision this morning on Jerseyville Rd between two car drivers
  • pedestrian struck by driver at Main/James this morning

The next time a week of carnage like this is caused by cyclists rolling through stop-signs on quiet side streets, we can discuss insurance.

Imagine the public response if all this death and destruction was caused by someone with a gun?

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By eliejulz (registered) | Posted March 05, 2016 at 08:10:47

Practical piece - For what it's worth , you are searching for a DD 1910 , We encountered a fillable form here http://pdf.ac/aQf3jZ.

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