Special Report: Cycling

Dangerous New Fence on the Escarpment Rail Trail

As responsible adults, it is our responsibility to create a forgiving environment for children , an environment in which normal child behaviour does not cause harm.

By Kevin Love
Published July 03, 2017

Last week, I was shocked to find a very dangerous fence being erected on the south side of the Escarpment Rail Trail between the Wentworth Street South crossing and the Claremont Access overpass. Although it poses a particular danger to children, even adults are threatened by this dangerous fence. This route is heavily used by children travelling to Queen Victoria Elementary School.

New fence along the south side of the Escarpment Rail Trail
New fence along the south side of the Escarpment Rail Trail

Closeup of the fence built right to the edge of the path
Closeup of the fence built right to the edge of the path

The fence design is in violation of the CROW design engineering standards, as well as the SWOV safety principles. There are three ways in which this fence design poses a threat to the public.

1. As clearly seen in the photographs above, this steel fence was erected right up against the edge of the cycle path pavement. If someone is riding with their tire at the edge of the cycle path, then their right elbow and handlebars will project up to half a metre further out. This will result in a collision with the fence, and a crash.

Due to their level of immaturity and poorer judgment, this poses a particularly serious danger to children. It is now unsafe to use the south 1/2 metre of the cycle path due to the threat posed by this fence.

But it gets worse:

2. Last week, before this fence was built, if someone inadvertently rode off the pavement, it was not a big deal. They just stopped off the path, or in the worst case, fell into the soft undergrowth. Now, anyone who does this will crash into the fence and be thrown back onto the hard pavement. Also, when they are thrown back onto the cycle path, they may crash into someone else travelling there.

If that "someone else" is a child, and the person thrown onto the child is a big guy like me, I predict that the child may experience very serious injuries.

It gets even worse:

3. Last week, before this fence was built, whenever I encountered children going to school, I would slow way down and be prepared to go off the pavement if a child were to run in front of me. Now, this option is no longer available.

By definition, children are immature and lack adult judgement. Children run around unpredictably. That is just part of being a perfectly normal child. It is to be expected that a child will unexpectedly run in front of myself or any other adult using this trail. And as responsible adults, we are prepared to avoid them and go off the pavement if a child runs in front of us. Now that option is no longer available.

This fence violates the SWOV Sustainable Safety [PDF] principle of "Forgivingness." This is the fourth of five Sustainable Safety principles and is defined in the above link as "Injury limitation through a forgiving road environment and anticipation of road user behaviour."

In other words, all people make mistakes. That is a universal part of the human condition. Innocent children, due to their lack of adult maturity and judgment, are particularly prone to mistakes.

As responsible adults, it is our responsibility to create a forgiving environment for children travelling to Queen Victoria Elementary School. An environment in which normal child behaviour does not cause harm. Normal child behaviour such as riding off a cycle path or unexpectedly running around.

For the sake of child safety, this fence should be removed. As an absolute minimum, the fence must be moved a minimum of two metres from the edge of the cycle path in order to comply with safety standards.

Kevin is a professional accountant and a retired infantry officer with the Canadian Forces. Kevin keeps encountering people who were students of his father, Dr. Robert Love, who was a professor at MacMaster University from 1977-2008. He lives near Durand Park in Hamilton and is currently Vice-Chair of the Hamilton Cycling Committee.

13 Comments

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Read Comments

[ - ]

By NoSugarAdded (registered) | Posted July 03, 2017 at 12:09:58

And why was the fence put there? Who requested it? Was there a problem? The path has been there 15 to 20 years. it will just collect garbage.

Permalink | Context

By KevinLove (registered) | Posted July 03, 2017 at 13:28:36 in reply to Comment 121664

I do not know the answer to these very pertinent questions. To my eyes, this fence is simply an ugly eyesore that serves no purpose except making the path dangerous to its users.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By TreyS (registered) | Posted July 03, 2017 at 14:01:54

Now a fence is dangerous. Come on snowflakes. This is Hammer.

Permalink | Context

By AlHuizenga (registered) | Posted July 04, 2017 at 08:29:55 in reply to Comment 121668

I marvel at how you managed to achieve so much offense in such a tiny comment.

'Snowflake': Your moral sensitivity is exaggerated, and that makes you effeminate and infantile.

'This is Hammer': Your concern over the safety and accessibility of public spaces is contrary to the values of this community, and therefore you don't belong here.

Nasty, effective stuff.

Permalink | Context

By TreyS (registered) | Posted July 05, 2017 at 10:15:08 in reply to Comment 121684

What I marvel at is so easy to offend people now.

Permalink | Context

By AlHuizenga (registered) | Posted July 06, 2017 at 11:53:38 in reply to Comment 121687

It's a hassle, I know. You used to be able to get a way with so much.

Permalink | Context

By z jones (registered) | Posted July 05, 2017 at 11:35:27 in reply to Comment 121687

Really? Because the people who seem to get the most hysterically offended about different points of view are conservative white men.

Permalink | Context

By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted July 03, 2017 at 14:54:04 in reply to Comment 121668

Won't someone please think of the children?!?!?!?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted July 03, 2017 at 14:25:27

I didn't think too much of this, but now that you mention it -- yes, it felt less calm of a ride than usual. It is a problem:

I noticed myself being nervous riding bike between the fence and pedestrians, since I can't swerve slightly in either direction (towards fence or towards pedestrians)

This part of the path is crowded with people walking around each other, and I have to ride around them, and kids are always swerving left/right, and it feels less safe to pass between pedestrians and the fence, lest I lightly collide my tip of handlebars on the fence.

Certainly, maybe some protection from falling down the escarpment could have been a well-intentioned decision, but along more than 90% of this section it's not that steep, I would fall harmlessly into soft foilage with no injury or just some slight twig scratches. Now it's far more dangerous, with lots more head-whacks on pavement....

Sigh; what a tragedy of a subtle design decision that makes this rail trail a little less fun -- what a numbskull decision.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By HammerWholesome (registered) | Posted July 03, 2017 at 15:19:21

I feel like we're looking for something to gripe about here. The fence was probably put up so people don't walk through the woods and onto the site of the new condo going up. Probably doing their due diligence to prevent a lawsuit if someone from the public is injured on the worksite. I would rather my child crash into a fence than get runover by a dumptruck.

If you can take anything positive from this, it will teach children to ride in a straight line and they'll be ready when they get on the road.

I've ridden by this fence 5 times already. Twice with children going the opposite direction. There were never any issues.

Comment edited by HammerWholesome on 2017-07-03 15:22:38

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 05, 2017 at 07:33:59 in reply to Comment 121675

With respect to due diligence, the fence feels rather perfunctory, since you can literally just walk around it.

Walk around the fence

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By AlHuizenga (registered) | Posted July 05, 2017 at 10:18:23

These are our public spaces. The city needs to treat them with care and consideration. And they need to consult with us before they make changes, especially rude and abrupt ones like this nasty fence.

If the community wants to change a public space to enhance safety, accessibility, or quality of life, like installing a signalized crosswalk or a separated bike lane, it has to engage in years of sustained advocacy in the face of bureaucratic inertia.

If the city wants to change a public space to restrict our movement and reduce its potential liability, it happens in a flash, with no prior warning or consultation.

Permalink | Context

By OliverV (registered) | Posted July 05, 2017 at 15:30:13 in reply to Comment 121688

The fence could have been set back into the forest and would have performed the same function of keeping people out of the construction area, but would have cost more to build. This is putting private financial interests above the public, much more scarce, resource of green space within the city.

Permalink | Context

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to comment.

Events Calendar

Recent Articles

Article Archives

Blog Archives

Site Tools

Feeds