Special Report: Cycling

Take a Walk on the Glenside

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, 2006)
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)
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:

1. Encourage cycling and walking. Increases health and reduces car traffic.

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.

2. Catching vandals. Prevents spray paint and property damage.

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.

3. Reducing risk/liability for the golf course.

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.

4. Single Use Brain Disease (SUBD). The diagnosis of the uncreative mind.

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.

Yours truly,

City Official

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)
Local residents enjoying a stroll, or dangerous vandals casing their escape route? (Photo Credit: Ted Mitchell)

Ted Mitchell is a Hamilton resident, emergency physician and sometimes agitator who recently completed a BEng at McMaster University. He is fascinated by aspects of our culture that are harmful, but avoid serious public discussion.

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By adrian (registered) | Posted May 26, 2006 at 16:58:55

I do a lot of cycling around this area, but I don't think I'm familiar with this path. I'll have to check it out. I commonly cycle through the golf course on the (city-maintained) path that runs from the top of Dundurn through the golf course and up the escarpment.

The fence is indeed an odd idea. People who are accustomed to taking a certain route show up with chain-cutters when the route gets fenced off. In my old Wellington Street neighbourhood there was a well-used path across the CN railway tracks; attempts were made to fence it off more than once and it wasn't more than a day or two before gaping holes in the fence appeared and people resumed travel as normal.

As far as the golf course goes, it's great for snowboarding and sledding in the winter.

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted May 28, 2006 at 10:46:30

Update

As of an informal meeting May 25th with concerned neighbours, Councilor McHattie, and representatives from Chedoke golf course and Hamilton police, the path will NOT be fenced off.

At the meeting, neighbours almost unanimously opposed putting up a fence which would restrict access to the backs of their own properties. All were sympathetic to the prevention of vandalism but argued that a fence would be either ineffective or move the problem elsewhere on the course.

Golf course officials predictably wanted to protect their own interests, and no words were spoken to the effect of being concerned about possible negative effects of a fence. Not surprisingly, they admitted that they do not wish anyone to be on the path, ever, for liability reasons (they called it "risk management"). Presently there is no private security, but I expect this situation to change. More effective than a fence, no?

"it's a golf course, not a path." Well, neighbours raised the point that this path has been there for 60+ years and may have legal right of way status in common law. The path formerly serviced a playground which was annexed by the golf course with no consultation with them.

Most embarrasing was the stand of the Hamilton police officer. No admission was given that the fence might not achieve its stated purpose. No recognition that this euphemistic "risk management" approach could actually lead to greater risk by moving peds and cyclists onto dangerous Aberdeen and Longwood streets. I expected such defensiveness from the Golf course, not the police.

Councilor McHattie presented the cases as if the issue was already decided, when it was not. Unflatteringly, he appeared surprisingly sympathetic to the single use concept for public space.

There are early, loose plans to implement an altered version of shifting gears "route 14" on the north periphery of the golf course to connect to the CP path. This is appropriate if trail volume increases as predicted. The audience seemed supportive of this idea.

For now, this is a small step forward for participatory democracy in Hamilton. My thanks to Councilor McHattie and the other officials, who despite their scoped approach, respected the arguments of average citizens.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 29, 2006 at 10:13:09

This was reported in the Spec today:

http://www.hamiltonspectator.com/NASApp/...

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By adrian (registered) | Posted May 29, 2006 at 14:42:31

Scooped!

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