Special Report: Cycling

Bike Collisions on Cannon Highlight Unmet Need For Intersection Markings

The City persists in choosing to implement inferior made-in-Hamilton design decisions instead of just following evidence-based best practices.

By Ryan McGreal
Published December 03, 2014

The Cannon Cycle Track officially opened on September 12, 2014. Within weeks, the protected two-way cycle track was already attracting 250-400 bike rides a day. However, with increased rates of cycling has come an increase in the number of bike collisions.

Cannon cycle track (RTH file photo)
Cannon cycle track (RTH file photo)

In the first two months of operation, Cannon Street was the site of five collisions involving bicycles: three at Cannon and Wellington, one at Cannon and Emerald, and one at Cannon and Wentworth.

The good news is that none of the collisions were serious enough to require emergency services, but the details are worth noting:

Three of the collisions involved a cyclist travelling westbound on Cannon and a motor vehicle turning left across the cycle track. In those three cases, the motorist was charged.

In the other two cases, where the cyclist was charged, the cyclist was either riding on Cannon outside the cycle track or crossing Cannon on a side street.

No Intersection Markings

The three collisions involving cyclists who were riding on the cycle track all took place in intersections where the driver was turning left from Cannon across the cycle track.

Cannon cycle track at Wentworth (RTH file photo)
Cannon cycle track at Wentworth (RTH file photo)

The Cannon Cycle Track was designed based on a Feasibility Assessment and Functional Design document produced by IBI Group for the City. You can download the report, titled PW14031AppA.pdf, from this Supporting Materials page.

The IBI report recommended adding pavement markings through intersections - specifically, "Dashed guiding lines (with optional bike stencils or chevrons but not sharrows)" - to highlight the presence of cyclists and reduce the risk of collisions with turning drivers:

For the functional design of the Cannon Street bikeway, guiding lines and chevrons are recommended to mark the intersection crossings... The chevrons re-enforce the bi-directionality of the bikeway. They are centred on the middle of the side street lanes directly in front of motorists and where they are less likely to driven over by motor vehicle tires reducing wear.

For some unknown reason, the City decided not to implement this design feature when constructing the cycle track. There are no pavement markings through nearly all of the intersections on Cannon (the notable exception is Sherman Avenue).

Cannon cycle track at Sherman (RTH file photo)
Cannon cycle track at Sherman (RTH file photo)

Markings Not Added Yet

I wrote about this decision just after the cycle track opened, noting the city's response: "We are reviewing the completed installation and operations to see if any additional pavement markings are to be added."

A staff Information Update on October 15 revisited the matter of conflict zone pavement markings:

City staff recently met to debrief on the current operations and review signage and markings throughout the project site. As a result of this meeting, it was determined some additional features could be added to increase the awareness of the bicycle track and as a result, Traffic Operations will be installing paint chevrons where the Cycle Track crosses non signal controlled intersections. It is expected this work will be completed within the next four weeks.

A follow-up email from Public Works further clarified: "Traffic staff have confirmed that they will be painting them through ALL intersections along the cycle track. The update went out to Council before staff were able to make that edit."

Unfortunately, as of this writing, that has not yet happened. It is unlikely that weather conditions will allow staff to paint the pavement markings until spring.

Just Follow Best Practices

What I can't understand is why staff didn't just add the intersection markings in the first place. They were in the Functional Design document and are supported by the best practices that were cited in the report.

As Kevin Love argued last week in his piece on the planned bike lanes on Charlton and Herkimer, the City persists in choosing to implement inferior made-in-Hamilton design decisions instead of just following evidence-based best practices.

Don't get me wrong: I'm generally very impressed with the Cannon cycle track. It is vastly better than the other cycling infrastructure the city has built both before and since it was opened.

Even so, there is simply no good reason not to have included the intersection markings right upfront. Great as it is, the cycle track literally disappears right when cyclists need it the most - where their paths cross the paths of powerful steel automobiles.

When will the City stop kneecapping its own accomplishments and just do these things right the first time?

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 Fake Name (anonymous) | Posted December 03, 2014 at 11:25:33

Maybe they ran out of green paint dumping it all over the North side of the Hess Street intersection. I'm seriously confused why that one intersection got so much design while the others are all ignored. York at Hess needs a bike-box especially since that left-turn is the connection between the York bike lane and the Cannon bike lane.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted December 03, 2014 at 11:48:20

The fourth one doesn't make sense to me:

Cannon at Emerald, October 3, 3:18 PM - bike travelling westbound not in bike lane, motor vehicle travelling westbound, bike fails to yield to motor vehicle. Cyclist charged.

Why was the bike travelling westbound not in the cycle track? Had the cyclist just made a right turn onto Cannon and been unable to cross three lanes to get to the cycle track? Was he/she only travelling one block on Cannon before turning north, (say, from Oak to Emerald) such that it didn't make sense to cross Cannon twice in order to travel one block? Or was the cyclist just riding in mixed traffic for no good reason?

Are cyclists forbidden from riding in the regular lanes now that we have a cycle track? (I wouldn't ride in mixed traffic anymore myself, but I'm just wondering).

What does 'failure to yield' mean in this case? Did the cyclist fail to yield simply by virtue of being outside the cycle track? Who hit whom?

I don't really understand this one at all.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 03, 2014 at 12:05:51 in reply to Comment 106539

was going to ask the same thing. Bikes are allowed in traffic lanes.

Ryan, do you know if the city going to do the intersections properly with green paint like every. other. city.


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By Fake Name (anonymous) | Posted December 03, 2014 at 12:01:09 in reply to Comment 106539

I see a decent of local guys on bikes in the right lane on Cannon and it honestly bewilders me. I just don't get it. It's the best cycle infrastructure in the city and they won't go the extra 20 feet to use it?

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted December 03, 2014 at 12:58:39 in reply to Comment 106540

I think in certain restricted circumstances (starting or stopping at a mid-block location, travelling one block) it is justifiable, but I don't think that's what you're talking about. Even worse are the people who persist in riding on the sidewalk...

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By Invisible (anonymous) | Posted December 03, 2014 at 14:50:00

Not convinced that paint will solve this problem. It all stems from the fact that drivers are used to interacting (looking out for, avoiding) with other box-shaped objects traveling at speed. A person on a bicycle, or even a motorcycle, often doesn't register as something that can be hit. This is the reason why bikers ride with headlights at all times and loud pipes, hoping that just one of these atypical cues is noticed by the driver about to pull out in front of them.

Training only reaches young drivers since there is, tragically, no retraining or retesting for drivers. Even among the trained, driving among cars and not much else, as is the case in places like Hamilton, reconditions drivers to only look out for box-shaped objects on the road.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 03, 2014 at 17:56:19 in reply to Comment 106552

I seriously doubt the use "loud pipes" to be noticed by car drivers. The loud pipes might make them noticeable to car drivers, but they have them to be cool with other riders.

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By Don't Give Up (anonymous) | Posted December 03, 2014 at 15:22:51 in reply to Comment 106552

Other places succeed at getting a lot more people riding bikes with falling rates of injury. We can too.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted December 03, 2014 at 21:46:40

I have had a number of near-misses on Cannon. All at intersections, and all where the criminally reckless and negligent dangerous driver committed the criminal offence of Dangerous Driving.

In each case I immediately telephoned the Hamilton Police to make a criminal complaint. And in each case they failed to conduct an appropriate investigation into these serious crimes of violence.

It is my intention to escalate to a formal, written complaint to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director the next time that I am the victim of a serious crime of violence in which the violent, dangerous criminal poses a risk of death or serious injury and the Hamilton Police fail to investigate the crime of violence.

I note that in Hamilton, the current 10-year average of people being crushed to death and killed by car drivers is 19.2 people. In addition, 94 people per year in Hamilton are poisoned and killed by drivers.

As well as the 113 people killed by drivers every year, there are also several thousand people per year who are the victims of serious life-changing injuries due to being crushed or poisoned by motorists.

This must stop.

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2014-12-03 21:47:56

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By Crispy (registered) | Posted December 04, 2014 at 15:02:30 in reply to Comment 106561

You reference an article with the headline "2013 traffic collisions, injuries and deaths at decade-long lows" and choose to focus on the negative. Your glass seems to be half empty. I bet you are difficult to live with.

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By Crusty (anonymous) | Posted December 04, 2014 at 15:07:46 in reply to Comment 106582

These cranky killjoys, always focusing on the negatives of traffic collision injury and death.


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By LifelongHamiltonian (registered) | Posted December 04, 2014 at 10:57:41 in reply to Comment 106561

I understand that you have had a number of near misses on Cannon Street, and while I am empathetic to your plight, I am going to reference Hanlon's Razor "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

The motoring public is inherently dumb, and as an avid cyclist myself, whether or not I had the right of way in a traffic accident wouldn't change the fact that I was now permanently injured, or worse in a collision. It is up to you, as a cyclist to ride defensively and actively avoid dangerous situations; not only because it's the right thing to do, but also because it is your longevity at stake. The police don't take your calls seriously because frankly nothing happened. In practice, police do not punish drivers for a near miss.

You also noted with a typical flair for the dramatic that the current 10 year rolling average for motor vehicle fatalities in Hamilton is 19.2. What you failed to mention, referenced in that same article that 2013 saw 15 fatalities and so far in 2014 we have seen 12 traffic fatalities. the breakdown for 2013 (from your article) is as follows:

6 pedestrians 4 alcohol related 4 collisions related to speed

2013 was also tied (with 2008) for the lowest number of traffic related deaths in over 10 years with 2014 to be even lower. 2014 source stating 12 to date:


Finally your "Statistic" that I have seen you mention numerous times in previous comments that "94 people per year in Hamilton are poisoned and killed by drivers" The report you have cited and linked mentioned 338 premature deaths in the "Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area" which, per Google has a total population of 8.6 million people. Looking at the numbers, something didn't add up, so I checked the math. As of the 2011 census, Hamilton has a population of 519,949, making up only 6% of the GTHA population (519,949/8,600,000)*100%. Respecting our share (6%) of the traffic "premature deaths" sit at 20 per annum. What you also fail to realize is that involves ALL premature deaths including traffic accidents, so you've effectively double dipped. Further to that, your linked article is a "highlights report" I would like to see a real scientific study which reinforces your viewpoint with actual hard data.

Also, keep in mind only 28% of greenhouse gasses are caused by transportation. Would you like to live without electricity? agriculture? And I know it's a dirty word, but industry is required to keep this planet turning too. Whether or not we should be changing it for the future, these are the realities that we're faced with now.

2011 Hamilton Census data: http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recens...

EPA on greenhouse gas sources: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemis...

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted December 04, 2014 at 14:00:44 in reply to Comment 106572

From the first paragraph of the previously linked Medical Office of Health report: "...traffic-related air pollution is responsible for over 850 premature deaths a year and thousands of hospitalizations."

Your number for GTHA population is also much higher. Source?

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By LifelongHamiltonian (registered) | Posted December 04, 2014 at 14:38:15 in reply to Comment 106579

It looks like I was slightly mistaken, the population is anticipated to be 8.6million by 2031, and is currently 6,574,140 (2011-2012 census numbers) Adjusting my math:

(519,949/6,574,140)*100%=7.9% of the 338 premature deaths, or 26.7 per annum, including collisions.

From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_Tor...

Second paragraph.

Also, please link the scientific medical officer of health report, my google-fu is coming up short.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted December 04, 2014 at 09:27:13 in reply to Comment 106561

We can't take every conflict and near miss personally. In 10 years of riding in Hamilton, yes I experienced perhaps two instances of deliberate road rage - where someone tried to "teach me a lesson" for existing, and tried to cause an accident. Except they didn't, because I do my part and ride smart. The one time I should have called the police, when a vehicle with NY plates actually deliberately maneuvered to push me out of the Jolley Cut into the ditch (before the bike lane was installed), nothing happened, because I didn't even flinch or skip a beat pedaling. Just punched the side of their vehicle as hard as I could with one arm and they backed off. That was before I even owned a cell phone, admittedly today I would have notified 911 of the dangerous driver.

But those were a tiny number of extreme examples of road rage, and all pre-date the recently added cycling infrastructure.

Since then, the only conflicts have been accidental. I recently almost slammed into the driver's side door of ... a nice lady who didn't do it on purpose. She didn't see me in busy conditions, pulled out of a driveway across the bike lane, cut me off. We exchanged shocked facial expressions, but nobody got mad and we continued about our day. Why? Because I was already looking for eye contact as soon as I saw her car. When eye contact failed and I recognized she didnt' see me, my basal ganglia activated the brakes (sorry to sound nerdy :) Obviously I hope she learned and improved her driving accordingly so that the same mistake doesn't hurt somebody in the future.

Humanity 101: sometimes someone will make a mistake, sometimes it will be you, everyone doing things correctly is decreasing the chance that a chain of mistakes will lead all the way to a collision.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2014-12-04 09:44:18

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By DudeLove (anonymous) | Posted December 04, 2014 at 07:12:39 in reply to Comment 106561

It's people like you that waste the time and efforts of the police.

I see this kind of stuff daily on my trips to and from work, to the store, everywhere. The cops don't care about it, deal with it and move on. Everyone else has.

The police aren't out to proactively police, it's purely reactive and the goal is never to catch the criminal, just to fill out paperwork and move the process along.

Also, does anyone even listen to you when you keep blathering on and on with your flair for the overly dramatic?

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted December 04, 2014 at 08:43:48

Almost all my commuting is now done in on-road bike lanes and it is very comfortable. There is one consistent and frequent source of danger and near accidents - turning vehicles.

Although I do not use Cannon frequently, the problem being described here is exactly the same, just on the left side. Vehicles are turning across the bike lane, hooking bike traffic that has right of way.

It happens to me on a fairly regular basis; getting right-hooked. Most are not on purpose - insert anecdote about poor driving here. However none of those has resulted in a collision. There have been close calls. Disc brakes shrieking frantically as I've got the levers cranked as tight as they go. I've always successfully stopped short of the offending vehicle, by having good awareness and riding defensively. If my instinct activates that someone is going to hook me, I start braking reflexively, and have anticipated several conflicts in time.

The point I'm making, is that yes, it sucks and is unfair, but defensive riding, having awareness when entering an intersection, is huge. It can break the chain of mistakes that leads to a collision.

The design weakness can and should be addressed. The CROW design has explicitly engineered to mitigate this type of conflict, as the article says. But we don't have CROW. In the absence of it, intersection markings are a very good idea to get drivers accustomed. They just aren't looking for bikes yet. Burlington (ward 2 at least) is trying to help some high risk spots; I see some new green paint at Guelph+Prospect.

Also, being an occasional driver as well, I can confirm that until you've consciously thought about it for a while, looking for bikes isn't part of the driving habits that are wired into the basal ganglia. Analogous to opening car doors with your opposite hand. Because drivers do not retrain ever again after getting licensed, intersection markings are very helpful in changing existing conditioning. It's the same reason they display "New" signs when something changes.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2014-12-04 08:53:16

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By question (anonymous) | Posted December 04, 2014 at 10:46:41

Slightly off topic, in looking at the city council committees and subcommittees, I didn't notice committees dedicated to two way streets, LRT, or cycling. Am I missing something?

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By Behind the Curtain (anonymous) | Posted December 04, 2014 at 13:12:56

I make use of part of Cannon Street for my auto commute every morning, usually turning left onto James or MacNab. Motorists just have to get used to checking the bike lane both ways before making your turn. It's not like Cannon is an especially busy street in the mornings--it's no big deal waiting a few extra seconds to turn. I'll just add, as a sometime cyclist myself, I wish more cyclists would use lights, especially during these darker winter days. They can only help.

I'll admit to a bit of frustration those few times I've had to turn onto Cannon from an uncontrolled intersection during afternoon rush hour, having to not only keep a sharp eye for an opening in westbound car traffic, but then having to quickly check the eastbound bike lane. But really that's just encouraged me to seek out the controlled intersections instead.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted December 04, 2014 at 22:57:43

Unlit bicycles are also a problem in The Netherlands. I love the Ik wil je zein campaign with the magical lights fairy that hands out lights.

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