By making use of the informal trail east of St. Joseph's Drive, we can add a new cycle track that enables lots of rich connections without taking away driving lanes.
By Jason Leach
Published February 01, 2016
RTH recently published articles looking at opportunities to connect the Claremont Cycle Track at the bottom and the top of the escarpment, but we haven't yet given a lot of attention to the middle section.
The Claremont Access crosses Arkledun Avenue - the Jolley Cut Access - partway up, and it turns out there is a really exciting opportunity to add some amazingly rich additional connections between the upper and lower city without a lot of cost or difficulty.
This proposal knits together several current, planned and future cycling and walking routes that connect up and down the escarpment. It all starts at the eastern end of St. Joseph's Drive with a path that can connect the Jolley Cut and the planned Claremont cycle track and the Ferguson Avenue bike route!
Let's start at the end of St. Joseph's. Behind the fence, a trail continues to the east.
Eastern end of St. Joseph's Drive
From this spot, you can look north and down to the top of Ferguson Avenue:
Looking north at Ferguson Avenue
Look east and you connect to the Claremont Access on the same side as the planned Cycle Track:
Connection to Claremont Access
Now turn south and you're looking up to the Jolley Cut access.
Looking south at Jolley Cut
In fact, there's even a fairly level path between the north side of the Claremont Access, where the Cycle Track will go, and the north side of the Jolley Cut just before the overpass that goes over the Claremont.
Path connecting to Jolley Cut
On the Jolley Cut looking back down the path
Walk around this area and you can't help but notice all the desire paths from people already informally using these routes to navigate around our gargantuan escarpment accesses.
Now let's tie these all together.
I'm proposing that we formalize the path running east from the end of St. Joseph's to connect with the Claremont Cycle Track. A staircase with bike gutters or a switchback path can extend north to connect to the top of Ferguson Avenue, and another path or staircase can extend south to connect with the Jolley Cut.
Here's where it gets really interesting: the Jolley Cut is about 15 metres (50 feet) wide where the St. Joseph's trail joins it, just before the Claremont overpass starts. It gets even wider east of this point, where the useless current skinny painted upbound bike lane begins. That means we have significantly more than 15 metres to work with.
Lanes on the Jolley Cut are very wide (Image Credit: Ryan McGreal)
The Jolley Cut is four very wide lanes, two in each direction. We can follow best practices for lane widths and narrow them to 3 metres (10 feet) each. That leaves three or four metres of width to install a jersey barrier-protected cycle track.
It makes the most sense to install it on the north downbound side. At the bottom it can start at the St. Joseph's Trail. From there, it continues all the way to Upper Wellington, which could also get bike lanes with some leadership. The big useless lawn area at the top can be shaved into, if necessary, to create space for the starting point of the cycle track at the top.
The track could be designated as a wide shared-use path along the straightaway between the St. Joseph's connection and where the current narrow sidewalk diverges. That way, we also add the space currently used by the narrow protected sidewalk, which the City doesn't snow-clear because you can't fit a bobcat. (We might even be able to reuse the existing jersey barriers to save some money!)
That way, people on bikes also have the option of taking the walkway (with stairs and bike gutters) over to Concession east of Upper Wellington.
But through the Jolley Cut switchback, it's much safer to make it a cycle track only and leave the pedestrian traffic on the existing separated walkway.
This is an incredibly easy addition to Hamilton's cycling network. We don't need to remove any driving lanes, just narrow the dangerously wide lanes we've got and add some off-street trail connections. We don't have to figure out any complicated intersections either.
A cyclist heading downbound and exiting at the St. Joseph's Trail connection can: continue west on St. Joseph's Drive to John Street; turn north on the switchback trail or staircase to Ferguson Avenue; or turn east and join the downbound Claremont Cycle Track.
St. Joseph's Drive between John and James is currently one lane westbound and two lanes eastbound. We can switch it to one lane each way with bike lanes in both directions, allowing people on bikes to ride west to James and connect with the Markland contraflow bike lane and the soon-to-be-installed bike lanes on Charlton and Herkimer.
On John Street between St Joseph's Drive and Charlton, there may even be enough space to narrow the lanes and make room for bike lanes in both directions. This will connect to future planned bike lanes on Charlton Avenue East.
And of course, Ferguson Street is already a designated cycling route, albeit without dedicated bike lanes.
Ferguson is a signed bike route (RTH file photo)
This could become a vital connection between the central Mountain/Concession Street district and the downtown core.
Remember, the Jolley Cut is already identified as a cycling route in Shifting Gears, the city's Cycling Master Plan. The skinny partial one-way bike lane on there now just doesn't cut it. By physically protecting it, making it two-way and connecting it to the St. Joseph's Drive trail, we create a legitimate, high-quality connection - without taking anything away from people driving.
In fact, the narrower lanes will make the street safer for everyone by curbing dangerous speeding.
One more thing: with proper signage and wayfinding we can also raise the profile of the venerable Bruce Trail, which runs right through this area along both accesses - on the Jolley Cut toward the east and next to Claremont toward the west. This is a wonderful treasure running through the city and very few people even know about it.
With files from Ryan McGreal.
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