Special Report: Cycling

Next Steps for Cannon Cycle Track

The two-way cycle track officially opened last Friday, but work continues on installing the finishing touches and monitoring potential issues.

By Ryan McGreal
Published September 17, 2014

The Cannon Street Cycle Track officially opened last Friday at noon, but work continues on installing the finishing touches for the three-kilometre protected two-way cycle track.

Councillor Jason Farr, Councillor Bob Morrow, Mayor Bob Bratina and Yes We Cannon organizer Justin Jones cutting the ribbon
Councillor Jason Farr, Councillor Bob Morrow, Mayor Bob Bratina and Yes We Cannon organizer Justin Jones cutting the ribbon

City staff worked hard to get the cycle track ready to open in time for last weekend's Supercrawl festival, but some work remains to install additional signs and markings.

Physical Protection

Running between Sherman Avenue and Hess Street, the Cannon Cycle Track is physically protected from automobile traffic by a combination of knockdown bollards, hard rubber curbing and planter boxes.

Hard rubber curbing on the Cannon Cycle Track west of Victoria
Hard rubber curbing on the Cannon Cycle Track west of Victoria

Planter boxes protecting the Cannon Cycle Track
Planter boxes protecting the Cannon Cycle Track

The 30 planter boxes that were installed are particularly nice as physical barriers. They're thick, solid, raised above the road and look attractive with greenery.

Unfortunately, the city does not currently plan to install any more planter boxes just now. However, this is a three-year pilot and staff will "continue to review whether more are needed," according to Public Works communications manager Kelly Anderson in an email response to RTH.

Cyclist riding past the Canon Cycle Track planter boxes (Image Credit: Jason Leach)
Cyclist riding past the Canon Cycle Track planter boxes (Image Credit: Jason Leach)

According to Anderson, "As this is a pilot project, we will be measuring and observing a number of factors including travel times (motorists, cyclists and transit to determine any impacts), parking, collisions, impacts to waste/recycling collection, impacts on road maintenance, winter control activities, damage to the buffers (planters, knock-down sticks and curbs) and a general survey (users'/residents' comments) of the bi-directional Cycle Track for Council's consideration."

Some areas might need additional knockdown bollards and rubber curbs to prevent automobiles from illegally parking in the cycle track. Yesterday, Beasley resident John Neary took a photo of a tow truck parked illegally on the cycle track near John Street.

Tow truck illegally parked in the Cannon cycle track (Image Credit: John Neary)
Tow truck illegally parked in the Cannon cycle track (Image Credit: John Neary/Twitter)

Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr confirmed that parking in the cycle track is not permitted and asked staff "to visit the location and see if enhancement [is] needed."

Intersection Conflict Zones

Another issue is the question of whether the cycle track pavement markings will extend through intersections, where the potential for left-turning cars crossing the path of cyclists creates a dangerous conflict area.

It is generally considered a best practice to continue cycle track markings across the intersection to raise the visibility of the cycle track and reduce the risk of collisions. According to the City, "We are reviewing the completed installation and operations to see if any additional pavement markings are to be added."

Painted conflict zone on a two-way cycle path in Winterthur, Switzerland (Image Credit: US Federal Highway Administration Office of International Programs)
Painted conflict zone on a two-way cycle path in Winterthur, Switzerland (Image Credit: US Federal Highway Administration Office of International Programs)

Anderson wrote, "We want to ensure that we provide the right amount of information to both motorists and cyclists. In short, something will happen at the intersections. What exactly this is will be determined shortly."

Cycling Volumes and Automobile Flow

The City plans to install "permanent cycling counters that will continuously record riders" as part of the pilot. Unfortunately, there were no bicycle traffic counts before the cycle track was installed to provide a baseline. Anderson wrote, "Based on past observations, much of the bicycle traffic on this segment of Cannon has been observed to be riding on the sidewalks."

This is not surprising, since automobile traffic moved at dangerous, frightening speeds on Cannon and Cannon was only one-way westbound before the cycle track was installed.

The cycle track already seems to have reduced dangerous speeding on Cannon. Anecdotally, several drivers have reported that Cannon feels safer to drive on because traffic moves at a more reasonable 40-50 km/h.

One issue I have observed is that cars moving below 50 km/h are getting stuck behind red lights, causing them to back up.

The traffic lights are sequenced to provide a "green wave" for cars, which worked great when cars were cruising along at 50-60 km/h. It is worth revisiting the timing to match the lower average speed of automobile traffic, but so far, that hasn't happened. As with other issues, this may be reviewed over the course of the three-year pilot.

I hope they also consider eliminating the 7-9 AM and 4-6 PM parking restrictions on the north curb lane west of Victoria.

Not only does the decision to keep the north curb as a rush hour lane eliminate all-day curbside parking for local use, but also it means automobile traffic is racing just inches away from pedestrians on the north sidewalk.

In addition, it means the space buffer between the cycle track and the adjacent automobile lane is too narrow for additional planter boxes.

The reason staff gave for maintaining rush-hour traffic on three lanes west of Victoria is that reducing it to two lanes would introduce an unacceptable delay for the Cannon bus. It's hard to imagine that there was nothing HSR staff could do to accommodate a couple of hours a day when traffic volumes are heavier than usual.

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 Jon (registered) - website | Posted September 17, 2014 at 13:23:37

There perhaps should also be signs installed on side streets advising motorists to "look left" (for approaching cyclists) when making left turns across the cycle track onto Cannon. I was riding eastbound in the cycle track this morning and was hit by a car turning left onto Cannon; driver was only looking right at oncoming vehicle traffic.

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted September 17, 2014 at 22:19:58 in reply to Comment 104548

Are you OK, Jon?

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By Jon (registered) - website | Posted September 18, 2014 at 08:58:09 in reply to Comment 104561

Yes thanks for asking - just some minor scratches and bruises and a mangled bike! The driver offered to pay for repairs though, so it looks like things will be alright. Note to everyone: if at all possible try and make eye contact with drivers who will be crossing the cycle track to ensure they've seen you.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted September 18, 2014 at 18:57:35 in reply to Comment 104569

Already had 3 close calls riding eastbound n the cycle track and one instance where the tint on the car window didn't allow me to see the driver.

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By Captain Poultry (anonymous) | Posted September 17, 2014 at 13:52:53

I am a motorist. I even choose to walk long distances rather than ride my bike. But I am fully in support of the cycle track. I want to see more traffic enforcement imposed on motorists who ignore the new rules of the cycle track.

I am a daily commuter on Cannon St (from Sanford to the 403). I regularly witness motorists turning left on the red light at Sanford onto Cannon (almost daily). The green bike boxes at intersections are usually blocked by cars that pull right up to the crosswalk. I have also seen motorcycles using the cycle track, especially to whip around slow moving traffic. And today I witnessed a driver turn left at John into the cycle track. A police/bylaw driven education campaign and/or ticketing blitz might get people used to the new rules.

I also support slower speeds on Cannon. I'm not sure if the "green wave" would actually help to lower those speeds or continue to encourage drivers to go faster and beat the light, as they already do on Main. Getting stopped by a red light or two is par for the course on almost every other street.

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By Chris Angel (registered) | Posted September 23, 2014 at 09:47:44 in reply to Comment 104550

I use Cannon on a daily basis as a motorist. I can confirm a major reduction in average speed along the portion of Cannon with the bike track. It is now a much more reasonable 40-50 kph down from the 60+ kph before the bike track. It is impossible to "beat the light" on Cannon now. Even those prepared to endanger public safety will find that white knuckle driving will get them nowhere fast. I can't quantify this significant average speed reduction but I am sure the city could. I have used this section of Cannon daily for more than 20 years and this is the most important change ever.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted September 18, 2014 at 19:00:19 in reply to Comment 104550

Heck, yesterday the truck watering the planters was driving in the cycle track. Forced me out into oncoming lanes of Cannon. Should ticket them as well.

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By thezenmonkey (anonymous) | Posted September 17, 2014 at 14:21:57

I'm really staring to think the police could do more to ease driver/biker tension. Beyond ricketing drivers who violate the cycle track they should be ticketing bikers who run stop signs and lights. I think drivers would be less antoginistic if they saw bikers were treated with the same legal standard.

I've seen Toronto police regulary run ticketing blitzes of bikers running lights a "T" intersections.

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By Chris Angel (registered) | Posted September 23, 2014 at 09:59:23 in reply to Comment 104551

I have seen an adult cyclist on the new track whip out from between the planters to cut across two lanes of heavy traffic in order to turn right. Fortunately the cyclist was not killed. He was not even wearing a helmet, nor did he signal in any way. Just as the police target aggressive and unsafe motorists similar cyclists should also be targeted. Enforcing compliance is another matter though. With motorists unpaid traffic tickets will prevent license or plate renewal. This mechanism is not available with cyclists since they are not licensed.

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By gregsmith (registered) | Posted September 17, 2014 at 14:50:01

Does anyone know the timeline for pushing the track further West? All the construction signs maintain the lanes are to continue to Dundurn. These signs are posted for most of the route, including beyond the present terminus at Hess.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 18, 2014 at 10:56:08 in reply to Comment 104552

Ward 1 PB voted for bike lanes continuing up York Boulevard from Queen to Dundurn. There will be substantial challenges, though. Hess will be tricky to figure - eastbound cyclists need bike-boxes or some other safe-left-turn infrastructure for York at Hess and a lane up Hess to Cannon (easy, there's already a box for that) and Westbound cylists need some kind of crossing-box to get to the other side of Cannon since the bike lane has moved from the south side to the north at Hess.

Also, there's the political challenge. Taking a lane off of each direction of York would be a hard sell. Likely the lane would be unprotected - I expect we'd see the Victoria-style "double-wide lane converted into single cycling lane" that means they don't need a special plowing plan, but it means cyclists are protected by a meter of dead space instead of a formal barrier of any kind.

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By H1 (anonymous) | Posted September 17, 2014 at 15:02:36

"a photo of a tow truck parked illegally on the cycle track near John Street" this was a no parking zone before the bike lanes. the city should enforce the law regardless of it being a bike lane or not.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 18, 2014 at 10:40:58 in reply to Comment 104554

Farr stated during the debates that technically the leftmost lane of car traffic is a No Parking zone, not a No Stopping Zone. That means it is legal for drivers to pull over to the left lane outside of the bike lane for loading and unloading and dropoffs and what have you.

So if this truck had a good reason to be pulled over to the left and legitimately was there for only a short period of time, he actually simply had to stop in place in the left lane instead of pulling into the bike lane.

Sadly, there is no signage or information letting motorists know about this. The pizza guy can still stop on the left-hand driving lane to deliver to buildings on the South side of Cannon, but without realizing that he'll probably either pull over onto the right or try to stop in the bike lane.

A "no parking this lane" sign (similar to the bus lane signs) planted in the buffer between the bike lanes and the driving lanes might help, but staff seem averse to that kind of rigid structure in the buffer - I guess they're worried that a driver could destroy their vehicle if they lose control and start driving into the bike lane and hit a metal pole instead of squishy knockdown sticks and cyclists.

That and Cannon already seems to be an information overload of explanatory signage now.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2014-09-18 10:42:21

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By Agree (anonymous) | Posted September 18, 2014 at 04:51:34 in reply to Comment 104554

Agree fully. I loved this quote from the councillor:

"Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr confirmed that parking in the cycle track is not permitted and asked staff "to visit the location and see if enhancement [is] needed.""

What's the point? Will that tow truck be parked there again? Why not just have bylaw patrolling the area actively and put a ticket on the car, or call in heavy tow to pull it away? Failing that, call the HPS and have them wait for the driver to appear and deal with it then. Lots of talk, no action. Same old, same old from this guy.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted September 17, 2014 at 19:11:37

I noticed yesterday that the city installed "Single File" bicycle/motorist signs on Cannon, East of Sherman. I'm hoping to see some sharrows and a proper cycle track exit, at least as far as the Pan-Am stadium.

I was told in my last post about this that there is plans for bike lanes along Cannon, as far East as Kenilworth but we all know how long those plans can take until implementation. I fear that the momentum will die off post-Pan-Am.

There really should be a continuous route across the lower city from the East to the West. The cycle track on Cannon definitely closed the gap by a lot, but where I live at Woodward and Melvin, I have to do a lot of road switching and riding in mixed traffic to get to the cycle track. I usually take Brittania which ends at Ottawa, then switched to moderate mixed traffic on Cannon, the rest of the way to the cycle track. Would be nice if there was a more continuous, protected route though. Bike lanes on Melvin Avenue to hook up with the existing ones on Woodward would be a great step towards this, since it would also provide a seamless link to the Waterfront Trail.

Comment edited by MattM on 2014-09-17 19:12:06

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 17, 2014 at 21:40:21 in reply to Comment 104556

Yes, now that IBI is off the case so to speak, I'm worried that we'll go back to our usual implementation routine of leaving huge gaps for no reason, zero protection, minimum road markings etc..... we really need to ramp up the pressure on city hall to create a network of protected lanes city-wide.

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By Madison (anonymous) | Posted September 17, 2014 at 22:15:16

I too wonder if signs will be installed on side streets advising motorists to "look left" when making left turns across the cycle track onto Cannon. I was biking eastbound yesterday with my 2 year old on the back, and was nearly hit by a car, had I not screamed at him. he slammed on his brakes, and I was able to go around him the last second. Then it happened again a few minutes later with a different driver. I kept having to slow down to make sure cars were aware I was biking in their direction. Would almost rather take Wilson east bound. Other than that I love the Cannon bike lanes and I intend to make much use of it!

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By positive1@cogeco.ca (registered) | Posted September 17, 2014 at 22:38:07

I have had mostly good experiences using the Cannon bike lanes. The hue and cry by 'Chicken Little' types about of traffic congestion turned out to be a rather large dud. Both at 8am and 5pm (the heart of 'rush hour') I saw automobile traffic, albeit heavy, moving quite smartly. To my surprise, several motorists made eye contact with me and allowed me to travel through the intersection (eastbound) at James and again at John before they turned southbound.
Regarding cars parked in the cycle track - it may result in a paltry fine of $ 26. I checked By Law enforcement and that is the fine for parking in a bike lane. I don't think that they have updated fines for a 'cycle track' . This seems a ridiculously low fine considering that illegal parkers are forcing cyclists either onto the sidewalk (another fine for cyclists) or worse, out into traffic (on-coming traffic if you happen to be travelling eastbound on Cannon). Life is cheap with this sort of deterrent (i.e. none). We need to ramp up the fines for this sort of lazy, inconsiderate behaviour.

Comment edited by positive1@cogeco.ca on 2014-09-17 22:38:52

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By Selway (registered) | Posted September 17, 2014 at 23:41:45

I rode this yesterday from Queen to Sherman and back. A little dicey with cars and pedestrians. Heading east a car turning left off Cannon decided to beat me when the light turned green. He won because I braked. Pedestrians are looking one way only, two of them stepped right into the path in front of me. Stopped for them easily because I could see they weren't looking my way at all. All in all, a fast trip, but not comfortable, not yet.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted September 18, 2014 at 19:16:49 in reply to Comment 104563

In 3 days of riding eastbound on Cannon I've had more close calls than in 6 years of riding in Hamilton. It better get better, and fast, or I'm going back to riding my old "safer" routes with car traffic.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted September 18, 2014 at 08:43:31

I think the erratic behaviour will subside as people get used to the new layout. Many users have been interacting with one-way cannon for decades and habits won't die overnight. Hopefully we get through this initial period with minimal incidents.

I wish the intersections were painted...

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 18, 2014 at 10:49:09 in reply to Comment 104568

intersections were shown to have visible crossings in the Cannon functional drawings. Not sure why that one part of the drawings wasn't followed through on. The plan was for this:


Most cities also use green paint at intersections, but let's not push our luck. We still have the worlds most hilariously embarrassing bike box at Aberdeen/Studholme, and zero paint on the various off-street cycle paths that have recently been built on Aberdeen, Longwood, Burlington St etc.... All they need is:


The cycling staff needs to get over this idea that everyone is a spandex warrior who need no signage or paint markings because we're bike gladiators.

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By Sid E. Walker (anonymous) | Posted September 18, 2014 at 11:44:20

What drives me crazy is when people ride their bikes on the sidewalk DIRECTLY beside the Cycle Track!
Then swear at me when I point it out to them. Nice. Real nice.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted September 18, 2014 at 18:57:32 in reply to Comment 104579

What drives me crazy is when car drivers drive onto the sidewalk and kill people.

There. Fixed it.

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By Sid E. Walk (anonymous) | Posted September 18, 2014 at 21:23:39 in reply to Comment 104595

Defensive much? I'm saying that there are jerk cyclists and behaved cyclists, just as there are motorists.
I'm saying the law needs to be enforced, and that's tough when the bike cops don't follow or enforce the cycling laws themselves.
So when I ask a young lady to please dismount from her bike as she rides it on a dense sidewalk along James and Wilson, and she replies "F*CK YOU!!", it doesn't help your argument of cars driving on sidewalks all over the place causing mayhem and carnage.

Sometimes this site's commentators are those who are the biggest fear-mongerers LOL

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By Rolly (anonymous) | Posted September 19, 2014 at 08:12:40

Thursday morning 8:15 am drove my car along Cannon Street the entire length of the Bike tracK.Total ridership 2 Bicycles and one e-bike. Obviously we hope it gets used more as more people are aware. I am for bike lanes and think sidewalks should be wider etc... However from a practical concern what happens when it snows and the plows are on cannon? Does the bike lane become a snow dumping lane, will there be damage to the barriers from plows, is there money in a budget for this?

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By Steve (registered) | Posted September 19, 2014 at 15:09:22 in reply to Comment 104611

I've passed many more cyclists than that during the day, so I guess it will depend on time of day.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted September 19, 2014 at 17:07:47

Another vehicle lies on its roof, this time in the middle of York and Bay. And Einsteins are already chiming in on the spec blaming two way York instead of, uh, unsafe driving. While a discussion takes place here about how cyclists are a safety problem. If it wasn't for the harm happening to people, this would be slapstick comedy gold. Go metal death chariots!

That said I would be so happy if sociopathic behaviour on the part of fellow cyclists declined too, bird flipping and so on. I dream of a normalized cycling culture where infrastructure is clearly defined and peer pressure exists to use it properly, and interactions between all users of public space are mostly positive.

But yes, it's the heavy metal vehicles that turn people into hamburger on a daily basis and even crash through the sides of houses and storefronts and cause orders of magnitude more chaos and damage.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 19, 2014 at 22:06:15

in case anyone noticed, bike arrows were installed across Sherman Ave overnight. Hope to see this treatment through all intersections.

Also, line painting has begun west of Hess. I can't figure out what the markings mean. Hopefully some protection, not just paint like Hunter.

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By More bike lanes (anonymous) | Posted September 19, 2014 at 22:26:29 in reply to Comment 104651

When can we see you petitioning for bike lanes on your street?

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By Connie (registered) | Posted September 23, 2014 at 07:51:55

The bike lanes are AWESOME!!!!!

Rode only from Tisdale to James so far but omigod it was wonderful!

As a retired person living downtown doing all my daily errands on my bike, slightly arthritic and a bit wobbly ... this is amazing!

Thanks to rth ywc and all who have worked to achieve this!

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By hshields (registered) - website | Posted September 24, 2014 at 13:42:06

Great article and it raises a related point: Traffic lights and a comprehensive safety and traffic calming strategy.

As some of you know, our City has recently come into some serious cash with the installation of red light cameras. It is now at the point that the City's solicitor is asking to double her staff because she anticipates the workload will be too much but don't worry - the cash being generated by tickets will cover this expense with still millions left to go to general account.

I thought of this cash grab when you mentioned the green wave. Timed signal lights induce a particular speed and approach to driving. You drive to match the lights. If the lights are timed for an average 50-60km/h your vehicular speed will naturally be at that speed if not faster simply in anticipation of timed lights. However, if timed traffic signals were to be reduced to say 45-50km/h it would provide the motorist with the cues needed in anticipated roadway approaches and anticipated speeds.

Sadly, the City has failed to communicate how exactly it will be using red light cash grab money. I assume some of those millions will be used to install cycle tracks. I assume some of those millions will be used to paint zebra crossings and bump-outs and pollards. But, without a comprehensive safety and calming strategy that includes the restoration of complete streets as BOTH an economic inducer and safety measure, what we are left with are millions being collected, a bloating municipal bureaucracy and half hearted attempts to appease activist demands for safer and saner streets.

Show us slower speeds by modifying timed thoroughfares and show us where the cash grab money is going and I'll be a happy camper.

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