Special Report: Cycling

Hamilton's Left-Handed Bicycle Stairway

The new staircase from Mountain Avenue to Highland Gardens Park ('The Rez') only has a bicycle gutter on the left side.

By Kevin Love
Published July 05, 2017

Usually, bicycle stairways are installed with the platform for the bicycle wheel on both sides of the stairs. This allows people who are right-handed to push their bikes up the right side of the stairs. If someone is left-handed, they can push their bike up the left side of the stairs. When going down again, people simply switch sides. All very easy!

Bicycle stairs with right-handed user going up (Image Credit: Flickr)
Bicycle stairs with right-handed user going up (Image Credit: Flickr)

Bicycle stairs with right and left-handed users going down (Image Credit: Urbancommuter)
Bicycle stairs with right and left-handed users going down (Image Credit: Urbancommuter)

At the beginning of this year, the City of Hamilton decided to replace the crumbling and worn-out concrete stairway leading from the top of Mountain Avenue to Highland Gardens Park (locally known as 'The Rez').

Previous worn-out concrete stairway (Image Credit: Google Street View)
Previous worn-out concrete stairway (Image Credit: Google Street View)

On January 17, I was riding by the newly-installed stairway and did a massive double-take. A left-handed only bicycle stairway!

As we see in the photograph below, this particular set of stairs only has the gutter on one side of the centre railing. So while going up, it is necessary to hold and push the bicycle left-handed!

Stairway on January 17, 2017
Stairway on January 17, 2017

As you can see, at the time I took the photograph there was still some construction fencing. So I gave the City the benefit of the doubt and considered that the stairs may not be finished, and the gutter on the other side might still be installed.

On July 1, the Dominion Day holiday weekend gave me time to check this out again. Now, the construction is over and the stairway is finished. And it is still left-handed only.

Finished stairs on July 1
Finished stairs on July 1

Close-up of finished stairs on July 1
Close-up of finished stairs on July 1

So I thought to myself, let's give this stairway a try. How hard is it for a right-handed person like me to push his bike up left-handed? It turns out that it is rather awkward and inconvenient.

It is probably good for my moral development to experience what left-handed people go through all the time: stuff built backward for them. But infrastructure should be for everyone, whether right or left-handed.

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.

19 Comments

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted July 05, 2017 at 13:09:26

Give me convenience or give me death!

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By rednic (registered) | Posted July 05, 2017 at 13:18:43

Now all you right handed people know what i deal with on a daily basis as a leftie. Finally justice!

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted July 05, 2017 at 13:26:13

I saw this staircase last week. I wasn't so concerned with what side the gutter was on, but rather the fact that there is only 1. Why not do them on both sides like every other set of stairs in the city so people can go up and down at the same time?

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By Swami.Rahj (registered) | Posted July 05, 2017 at 14:20:37

The image of your biking by and being appalled by, oh no, a bike gutter, is just downright ridiculous. AND The fact that you had to "go back" and look at it again only to have your head roll some more is so laughable.

Regardless of what side the gutter sits on, its the exact same motion with your hands on the handlebars and your feet on the steps. If it's that big of a coordination issue for you I'm going to ask that you go back to the Rez on your day off and practice pushing your bike up and down. The new stimuli might be good for you.

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By Hentor (registered) - website | Posted July 05, 2017 at 15:31:54 in reply to Comment 121696

You beat me to it!

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By NortheastWind (registered) | Posted July 06, 2017 at 09:06:20

Left or right, it makes no difference.

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By rprouse (registered) | Posted July 06, 2017 at 09:48:28

Really? This is what you are complaining about now? I'm an avid cyclist and am impressed with everything the city has been doing lately. Everything isn't perfect, but they are making progress and should be congratulated and encouraged to do more. If people keep complaining and finding fault with everything the city does, then eventually they may stop or slow down because they can't win for trying.

To be honest, this entire blog has become excessively negative lately. There are things in Hamilton that need fixing and areas that could be improved but I am getting tired of the constant bitching and whining. You've lost a regular reader and subscriber.

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By Streeter (registered) | Posted July 06, 2017 at 10:45:31

I'm happy they installed the new stairway and it is a vast improvement over the old. In fact the old stairs only had a handrail on one side, which is much more egregious than not giving two separate bike troughs. Usually I agree with what is written here w.r.t cycling safety and infrastructure but this feels a bit like nitpicking. Luckily in this case, the ride-able trail connecting the grass park to the road is a gentle grade and adds about 100-200m distance.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted July 06, 2017 at 20:17:22 in reply to Comment 121696

Amen! This is a godsend as a left handed person!

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By Dylan (registered) | Posted July 10, 2017 at 21:47:17

Doesn't it being left or right handed depend on if you're going up or down?

This is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever seen someone complain about.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted July 11, 2017 at 17:59:03

One other thing I just saw on this.

On July 1, the Dominion Day holiday weekend...

It hasn't been called Dominion Day since 1982. It's Canada Day. What's with the use of a 35 year old name? We've moved on, maybe you can too?

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted July 12, 2017 at 14:10:47 in reply to Comment 121719

Many of us still call it Dominion Day - "Canada Day" still smacks of third-world ariviste-sim: big-kid countries don't have "Countryname Day", they have Bastille Day, independence Day. St. Andrew's Day, Liberation Day, Unification Day, Constitution Day ... Dominion Day :)

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted July 12, 2017 at 18:21:33 in reply to Comment 121721

My my how easy it is to offend snowflakes these days. Happy Canada Day... with your big words, likely learned from a decade of university degrees in Yoga and Womens' Studies.

Comment edited by TreyS on 2017-07-12 18:24:13

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted July 12, 2017 at 18:24:54 in reply to Comment 121719

Canada Day is now offensive?? WTF

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted July 12, 2017 at 18:29:09 in reply to Comment 121721

I don't know what you mean by "many of us", (emphasis on 'us', shows your disdain for anyone who doesn't agree with your globalist progressive views, yes you are too elite for the rest of us) at least not where I roll we never hear anyone say Dominion Day. Try getting out of a fair trade organic cafe once in a while.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted July 12, 2017 at 19:14:33 in reply to Comment 121727

Dude: wrong stereotype altogether. Forget snowflakes hanging out at fair-trade, organic café; think crusty old men hanging out at the Legion Hall.

"Globalist progressive." *snicker*

Comment edited by moylek on 2017-07-12 19:17:16

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted July 12, 2017 at 20:18:46 in reply to Comment 121721

Actually, July 14 is called 'FĂȘte nationale' in France ... Bastille Day is what foreigners call it.

Australia has Australia Day, so Canada is in good colonial company. I remember celebrating Dominion Day in the 1970s ...

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By Bryan (registered) | Posted July 15, 2017 at 15:37:15

ummm...just go up the other side and use your other hand. what a waste of 5 mins.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted July 18, 2017 at 11:09:56 in reply to Comment 121725

Wow, you are like a bad parody of a right wing Trump-head. "Snowflakes"? Srsly?

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