Special Report: Cycling

Two-Way Bike Lanes Coming to Hunter Street

This Monday, staff will begin installing two-way bike lanes on Hunter Street between Liberty and Catharine, and between MacNab and Queen.

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 28, 2014

The City's Public Works Department is set to begin installing the planned two-way bicycle lane on Hunter Street. The street will remain one-way westbound for motorists.

City workers have already installed traffic lights for the two-way cycle traffic.

Contraflow traffic lights have been installed on Hunter Street since March (RTH file photo)
Contraflow traffic lights have been installed on Hunter Street since March (RTH file photo)

The work was supposed to be completed in 2013, but staff responsible for the bike lanes were redeployed to implement the transit-only lane on King Street. The bike lane work will begin on Monday, June 2 if the weather allows for road paint.

Public Works Staff will start on the eastern segment, which will run between Liberty and Catharine Streets. Once that is completed, workers will install the western segment, which will run between MacNab and Queen Streets.

Curbside parking on Hunter will move from the south side to the north side of the street between Liberty and Catharine. West of MacNab, there will be no change.

Discontinuity Between Catharine and MacNab

Unfortunately, the section of Hunter Street between Catharine and MacNab, which runs past the Hunter Street GO Station, will not have bike lanes installed at this time.

View Hunter Street Bike Lanes in a larger map

City staff have explained that the section between Catharine and MacNab will not be installed yet because they have not yet determined how to run the bike lanes through that stretch.

Earlier this year, an urban planning student prepared renderings for how the bike lanes could run past the GO Station. It allows for a bi-directional bike lane protected from the automobile lane, and it preserves curbside in-and-out parking while improving safety and clarity for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists at the corner of Hunter and Hughson.

Rendering of Hunter Street bike lanes at GO Station
Rendering of Hunter Street bike lanes at GO Station

Rendering of Hunter Street bike lanes at GO Station, overhead view
Rendering of Hunter Street bike lanes at GO Station, overhead view

It is not clear why the City cannot proceed with such an installation, since much of the design work is already complete. Without continuity across the stretch between Catharine and MacNab, the usefulness of the bike lanes is severely reduced - especially for eastbound bicycle traffic, which doesn't even have the option to ride in mixed traffic.

Bike Boxes but No Barriers

The bike lanes will include bike boxes, or advanced stop lines for cyclists, at Walnut Street, Bay Street, Caroline Street, Hess Street and Queen Street.

Unlike Hamilton's infamous invisible bike box at Studholme and Aberdeen, these bike boxes will be painted green and marked with bike stencils for visibility.

Unfortunately, the bike lanes will not be physically separated from the automobile traffic on Hunter - not with curbs, bollards, planter boxes, parked cars or anything else.

Instead, the bike lanes will be buffered from traffic with "atypically thick pavement markings," according to the manager in charge of the project. In other words, painted lines.

The clear evidence from cities around the world is that physically separated bike lanes are both the safest design and also the most successful at attracting new riders. It is a real shame that the City of Hamilton is not following best practices for this project, which has been in the works for several years.

However, staff suggested that they might revisit the idea of physical separation in the future.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By jonathan dalton (registered) | Posted May 28, 2014 at 17:22:44

I was hoping this installation would include some pavement resurfacing as the section of Hunter Street west of James is pretty rough for cycling on. Maybe they will at least patch it up while they're out painting the lines.

As for the disconnect, cyclists heading east on Hunter will have to turn left on MacNab across traffic with no traffic signal present. Or, as some will inevitably end up doing, continue down the one way portion to James. It would be nice if they could at least continue the bike lane, even if only the eastbound one, to James, where cyclists could easily make a right turn.

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted May 28, 2014 at 17:24:58

Correction to the above - there is a much needed pedestrian signal scheduled for Hunter and Macnab, which will make it easier for cyclists hitting the dead end on the bike lane.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 28, 2014 at 19:34:37

A few points:

  • as stated above, no reason whatsoever these first two pieces can't extend to James from the west and John from the east. Then cyclists can at least get to the GO Station instead of being forced on useless one-ways like Catharine and MacNab

  • also, as stated in the article, no reason we can't do the entire thing.

  • as for lack of protection, it's mind-boggling that they are actually spending money and time to move parking from the south curb to the north curb. All they needed to do was move the parking out and put the bike lanes beside it. I can't stand how our staff always know better than the rest of the world on things like this. Just like when we didn't paint the bike box on Studholme with green paint because it's so dangerous to cyclists.
    Glad to see we are at least using green bike boxes now. I assume, like everything else in this town, we will waste more money and move the parking back to the south side to protect the bike lanes in 5 years like the rest of the world.

  • also, not a big fan of them encouraging drivers to turn right on red through a bike box. Would be better to train drivers to never drive in bike boxes. You and I know exactly what is coming: bikes waiting in the bike box will have cars inching forward, honking for them to move over so they can turn right on a RED. Yes, we bend over backwards to allow cars to go through RED lights in Hamilton.

Comment edited by jason on 2014-05-28 19:36:23

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By Blah, Blah, Blah (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2014 at 21:32:50 in reply to Comment 101739

>>...useless one-ways like Catharine...

Seriously, stop. This street has much-needed surface parking on both sides and would never accommodate 2-way vehicular traffic. Come live in the area for a while and you'll see.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted May 29, 2014 at 11:44:54 in reply to Comment 101743

Yeah, cause it's not as though the exact same street, with the same width, can accommodate two-way traffic and bilateral curbside parking in the North End

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By Blah, Blah, Blah (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2014 at 17:31:31 in reply to Comment 101783

So, Catharine is only in the north end? Good to know. Thanks for the update. I guess the stretch I ride on, from King up, where it gradually gets smaller and smaller, is good to go with 2 ways.

Will you be paying for all the collision damage on my vehicle? Or is that just a 'suck it up' type thing that's part of living in the 'complete city'.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted May 29, 2014 at 18:39:32 in reply to Comment 101800

I know you're being sarcastic, but, uh, do you normally clip other cars on narrow streets? If so please leave your car at home. Then nobody has to pay for any damage, and everyone stays safe.

You're obviously talking about this. Catherine is definitely a side street past this point. Every side street on the mountain, that has parking on the side, is two way. People go slow, yield to each other when needed, and nobody smashes head on into anybody else.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2014-05-29 18:52:55

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By catharine (anonymous) | Posted May 28, 2014 at 22:47:19 in reply to Comment 101743

This is sarcasm, right? Catharine is one of the most useless one way streets in the city. It carries extremely low traffic counts but is three lanes wide. The only block that would be a squeeze for two way (actually just half a block) is between augusta and the tracks - and that stretch only has two parking posts on it.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 29, 2014 at 09:11:20 in reply to Comment 101746

I suspect we would have one of those Chinese-style, multi-day traffic jams if this was converted to two-way


Comment edited by jason on 2014-05-29 09:12:57

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 28, 2014 at 21:30:37

Also, not protecting the lanes means you can expect a lot of this:


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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted May 29, 2014 at 03:46:20 in reply to Comment 101742

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By positive1@cogeco.ca (registered) | Posted May 29, 2014 at 00:45:12

Does anyone know what the fine is for parking in a bike lane? I see it all the time and will issue my own 'warning tickets' explaining what danger they put cyclist in by forcing them out into traffic. I will also state the fine they will get next time if they get caught.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 29, 2014 at 02:05:16

Once again Hamilton takes a great idea and messes it up with crappy implementation. Sigh...

The Hunter bike lane vanishing just where it is most needed near the GO station. Sigh...

A counterflow lane with a gap in it, rendering it useless for all but the shortest trips in the counterflow direction. Sigh...

Worse yet, bike boxes! An obsolete, inferior and highly dangerous intersection design.

The design engineering work has all been done and written down in the CROW bicycle traffic design engineering standard. No need to re-invent the wheel. All that is needed is to take the manual off the shelf and use it.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 29, 2014 at 09:30:48 in reply to Comment 101753

Agree on all counts, other than the bike boxes. I've seen them in operation in many North American cities ranging from huge cities to smaller towns and they work great WHEN the city makes it clear that cars are not allowed in them. Why on earth we are suggesting cars can still turn right on RED through a bike box is beyond me. We all know where this is going. Car pulls up, no bikes are there so the driver fills the bike box waiting to turn right, then cyclists arrive only to find a car in the bike box. Ridiculous.

Comment edited by jason on 2014-05-29 09:30:58

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 29, 2014 at 13:16:02 in reply to Comment 101774

Has any city been successful at keeping car drivers out of bike boxes? Everywhere I have been I have only seen this treatment lead to dangerous conflicts between people and two-tonne lethal weapons.

The four safe intersection treatments are:

1) Simultaneous green for cyclists and peds. 2) Protected roundabouts. 3) Protected bike paths through the intersection. 4) Unravelling of routes so cyclists don't go through car intersections in the first place.

The section headlined "Intersections" at this article has photos and video showing how these work.

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted May 29, 2014 at 08:58:46

The most frustrating part for me is that it ends at Liberty. There is no reason whatsoever that this can't be extended to Wellington.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 29, 2014 at 09:04:33 in reply to Comment 101765

bike staff had this suggested to them multiple times last year and their best response was "there is curb-side parking along the south curb from Wellington to Liberty that residents need".

And every time the reply was "Ummm, there is curb parking along the south curb all the way to John."
As you state, zero reason at all this couldn't be done.

Whoever is at city hall tinkering with the best practices from the rest of the continent needs to knock it off. Stop trying to be creative. Just copy what is working in hundreds of other cities. Only Hamilton can continue to find ways to water down the simplest of concepts and make them more useless.

I would suggest you email your councillor and cycling staff. Just keep filling their inbox until they do it properly. Many folks have done this the past few years regarding the lame bike box at Aberdeen/Studholme.

Comment edited by jason on 2014-05-29 09:05:40

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted May 29, 2014 at 19:21:35

Great news about the Hunter Street bike lanes. Great news about the contraflow. Still unfortunate that they continue to build disconnected segments. Hilarious that they skipped the GO station, the most useful part, especially with a bike share coming. The contraflow is broken with that gap unless everyone jumps on the sidewalk. But progress is a good thing, and they obviously spent some money on it, having put up contraflow lights; that's great news. The design this student submitted is awesome, go for it!

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 30, 2014 at 09:15:11 in reply to Comment 101803

that 'student' was actually an intern at City Hall. He was told to take his name off his RTH submission because after all, we can't have some intern suggesting logical, common-sense solutions on a whim when his so-called superiors need 7 years to figure out what to do.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 30, 2014 at 09:59:18

One added note to this discussion which others have mentioned here, other forums, twitter etc.... is the complete lack of usefulness of these new bike lanes by not doing the whole street.

My bike commute takes me from King/Locke to almost Gage Park. Currently I have to weave through downtown to the rail trail at Corktown Park. These new lanes would have been perfect for taking Canada to Hunter and Hunter to Ferguson which connects to the rail trail. Instead, I'll still have to do my weaving routine. They will lose a massive amount of potential riders simply by being too timid in front of the GO Station. It's like building the Linc only from Garth to Upper James, but with no exit/entry ramps.
People would think that's nuts, but it's exactly what we do with our bike 'network'.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted May 30, 2014 at 10:46:32 in reply to Comment 101816

More like having the Linc end at Garth, detour everyone through the city, then get back on the Linc where it re-starts at U Wentworth. What's the point of even having it lol.

Yeah, to cross town I will stay on Main. There is no point to use Hunter only to end up getting back onto Main anyway.

It's a start! Glaciers don't thaw overnight :)

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By Andreas Link (anonymous) | Posted July 04, 2014 at 11:57:49

Hey Ryan and group,
Do you think there is any chance of convincing Daryl Bender and the city staff to move a few of the bollards from Bay close to Bold Street bump out to Hunter street. There are a lot there, frankly too many in what could have been solved with a physical (sidewalk concrete) bump out.

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