Negative anecdotes about cyclists are no basis on which to decide whether to implement a planned bike route as part of an integrated network already approved in the city's Cycling Master Plan.
By Walter Furlan
Published April 15, 2010
I attended the public meeting on April 7 regarding the Queensdale Avenue bike lanes. It was encouraging to see so many people in attendance. However, several events that transpired do not sit well with me.
The city staff person who presented an overview of the project spoke of improvements and safety enhancements, such as widened sidewalks and traffic calming measures, but referred to the bike lanes as an "obligation" that they were required to explore.
I felt this set a biased and negative tone for the entire meeting.
Later in the meeting, a participant indicated that bike lanes should not be implemented because they had observed cyclists going "through stop signs", as if this should be reason enough to cancel all bike plan implementation.
As this comment was made, I observed city staff, with the exception of Alternative Transportation Manager Daryl Bender, to sympathize with this participant, nodding in agreement and actually laughing.
I take strong exception to both these comments and the city staff's behaviour. Anecdotal observations regarding a specific cyclist's behaviour have absolutely no bearing on whether bike lanes should be implemented, yet this groundless comment was basically endorsed by staff through their lack of appropriate response and their unprofessional behaviour.
I do not support cyclists breaking the law, and to suggest that we all do it is malicious. It is well known that many motorists regularly break laws, from rolling through stop signs, to texting, yet that is never taken as a reasonable argument to reduce road construction.
The majority of comments made against the implementation of the bike plan had no basis. There was agreement that there was room for a shared bike lane. There was absolutely no issue with that. Regardless, comments ranged from, "there should be no bike lanes regardless of the cost", to, "I've lived on this street for 50 years and don't see a need for bike lanes".
Other comments concerned a loss of parking space, though it is my understanding that parking demand is currently low enough that limiting parking to one side of the street will still be sufficient to meet demand (as per Daryl Bender's study on parking demand on Queensdale, presented to the Hamilton Cycling Committee, April 7, 2010).
Much of the discussion seemed to be a conflict between progressive and active use of our road resources (bike lanes) and publicly resourced storage of citizens' private vehicles (street parking).
I was embarrassed and saddened for our city that this meeting even took place. We have a Cycling Master Plan that has been endorsed in principle by council. The city has set goals for increasing alternative transportation use.
We've been recently identified as the city with one of the highest obesity rates in Canada. We're aspiring to become the "best place to raise a child".
Hamilton deserves better.
Let's make it easier for children and all citizens of Hamilton to ride their bikes on Queensdale Avenue and ensure immediate implementation of the bike lanes on Queensdale.
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