The single use fetish of city planners has all the maturity of children who freak out at dinner time when the potatoes touch the corn on the same plate.
By Ted Mitchell
Published May 26, 2006
The City of Hamilton ostensibly supports cycling infrastructure. The 1999 planning document Shifting Gears contains a blueprint for cycling paths, many of which are being implemented, albeit more slowly than planned.
The report states "safe access to and from the downtown across Highway 403" was identified as a priority. One of the recommended paths, "Route 14, Old Ancaster to Glenside, Proposed Bicycle Infrastructure Improvements 1999 - 2008" involves a 300 meter path through Chedoke (Martin) Golf Course.
It looks like this:
Overhead view of the Glenside Path through Chedoke Golf Course (Photo Credit: Google Maps)
Suddenly the City, Chedoke golf course, the police, and even Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie want to shut it down. Why? Their argument is that a lot of vandalism takes place in the vicinity of the golf course, and fencing off this path at the Glenside entrance will reduce vandalism and allow the police to catch more of the vandals.
They must have been up all night thinking up that one. What lapse of mind is necessary to believe that a fence could accomplish that?
A fence to vandals is like a game of checkers to Kasparov. Take a good look at the air photo. Note the lack of trees and places to hide from police. About half of the houses backing onto Chedoke Avenue have fences, and many of those are only three feet high. Does anyone honestly think that would even slow down a teenage vandal?
Instead, the fence will stop cyclists, student pedestrians going to Westdale High, and the odd dog walker. Perhaps that is the real intention?
Ironically, this announcement came at the same time that CP rail agreed to hand over the rail line west of Studholme to allow official use of the cycling/pedestrian path across the 403 train bridge to Stroud Avenue in Ainslie Wood. This is a quick, pleasant, safe route from Kirkendall to McMaster University for the many students and staff who live there.
One step forward, one step back.
Looking west on the Glenside path across Chedoke Golf Course (Photo Credit: Ted Mitchell)
Let's look at the real criteria at play regarding this path:
The bicycle is the most efficient form of personal transportation ever invented. People of average fitness can achieve 20 km/h with an average power input of about 1/10 hp, or 75 watts. This level of exertion is minimal and can be kept up for hours.
Leg muscles are about 20 percent efficient, so a five kilometre ride consumes 80 kilocalories, or about one small apple. If you are wondering, this translates into a fuel efficiency of 595 km/l (1,400 mpg) of gasoline. Apples are renewable and clean; gasoline is neither.
Note also that the average car speed in a city is 30 km/h, without volume delays. In practice, for city trips of less than five km, a bike and car will get you through the door at the same time. Close bike parking saves the extra couple of minutes.
Cycling to work is all the exercise you will ever need. The risk reduction for heart disease and diabetes alone is worth billions of dollars, not to mention the myriad other benefits for which car slaves are experts in denial.
Crossing the 403 is a death trap for cyclists. Try it at rush hour, choosing Main St., King St., or Longwood R. Are you safe and comfortable? You have no other choices, except for this path and the connecting route on the train bridge.
Either the city is for encouraging cycling, or it is not. Closing this trail would mean that all the City's words committing to cycling have no worth.
Does anything more need to be said about this? The suggestion that a gate will reduce vandalism is ludicrous and shows a complete lack of insight into the bored teenage mind.
Here we have a subtle criterion that really packs a wallop. Don't be fooled; despite public ownership of this course, golf is a "Cultural Sacred", meaning, do not even think of questioning it. Powerful private interests are at work to defend a few dozen golfers on prime city real estate.
If you do an economic analysis, it is really hard to justify such massive land area per capita for an urban recreational single use, but even economic arguments are no match for a Cultural Sacred.
To the point, getting hit by a golf ball is indeed a risk. Martin course Holes 5 and 14 both play across the path. Hole 4 is short, but wicked slicers might reach the path if they have a bad day. Hole 14 is not a problem, as the tee is immediately beside the path and has 180 degree visibility. Hole 5 tees off about 100 yards north of the path, and visibility is limited towards the Glenside trail entrance. So you could potentially get hit by a topped ball.
The chances of this are slight and the consequences generally minor. Such is not the case for cycling on Aberdeen at rush hour. Try it a few times before you disagree. Which route would you recommend for your kids?
Google "golf ball fatality" and zero instances of death are found in the top 50 hits. However, Transport Canada reports that for 2004, 366 pedestrians and 56 cyclists were killed by motor vehicles.
Conventional city planning follows a pattern of SUBDued thinking. It has the maturity of children who freak out at dinner time when the potatoes touch the corn on the same plate.
So here's the deal, city officials: If the little Glenside trail is closed, then you automatically assume responsibility for the alternative, and will have no problem signing the letter below:
Dear Kirkendall Residents,
I, [Insert City Official Name Here], am concerned about Vandalism in and around Chedoke Golf Course, and believe that the only effective way to deal with these Miscreants is to place a Fence across said golf course Path at the intersection of Glenside and Chedoke Avenues on the west connecting to Studholme Road on the east.
Furthermore, the risk of Injury and Death to Unauthorized pedestrian and cyclist users of this trail is significant and represents a liability to our Esteemed golf club that is absolutely untenable.
Aberdeen Avenue represents an absolutely Safe alternative for cyclists and pedestrians. I would personally have no problem using this trail at all times, seasons, and weather conditions. Cyclists of all ages and skill levels should feel similarly comfortable doing so as there is no credible argument for this road to be of any significant risk to them.
I expect that all planning officials from the City, the Hamilton police, Chedoke golf course, and the Ward 1 Councillor would show no hesitancy in signing this letter.
If any troublesome whiners are interested in this issue and others about vehicular traffic, pedestrian and cycling issues in Kirkendall, there is a meeting June 7 at the Hamilton Spectator Auditorium, 44 Frid St., Hamilton, 6:30 pm. See you there.
Local residents enjoying a stroll, or dangerous vandals casing their escape route? (Photo Credit: Ted Mitchell)