Special Report: Cycling

Helping Councillor Conley Understand Why Council Unanimously Approved Cannon Cycle Track

The Cannon Street Bike Lanes have contributed significantly to the livability and safety along the Cannon corridor. I hope that all Councillors recognize the incredible value that this small expenditure will bring to this City, now and into the future.

By Justin Jones
Published December 11, 2014

Earlier this week, I was rather disappointed to read, via this CBC Hamilton Article, that Councillor Doug Conley, the new Councillor for Ward 9, would not have supported the Cannon Street Cycle Track had he been sitting around the council table when it came to a vote. According to the article:

Council gained a complete streets opponent in the fall. Coun. Doug Conley is the new representative for Ward 9. He replaces Brad Clark, who once said he'd like to see bicycle lanes like the one on Cannon throughout the city.

The Cannon bike lane pilot project passed unanimously. If Conley had been on council, he said, "it wouldn't have been."

As one of the primary organizers of the Yes We Cannon Campaign - the group that petitioned the City to create the Bidirectional, protected bike lane on Cannon Street, I was particularly concerned to read his unqualified rejection of a proposal that had such broad reaching community support.

While I know that Councillor Conley was not involved in the decision-making process surrounding the Cannon Street Bike Lanes, I feel that as a new Councillor, it is incumbent on him to gather as many of the facts as possible surrounding why his colleagues and predecessor supported that particular piece of infrastructure, and to clarify his reasons for voicing opposition to the project.

In that spirit, I offer to Councillor Conley the following list of facts to consider as he clarifies his position on the Cannon Street Cycle Track in the future.

Cannon Cycle Track and Bike Share station at Tisdale (RTH file photo)
Cannon Cycle Track and Bike Share station at Tisdale (RTH file photo)

The Yes We Cannon petition gathered the support of more than 2,300 residents.

Every neighbourhood association that lies along Cannon Street, the Hamilton-Burlington Trails society, Hamilton's Medical Officer of Health and the BIAs near Cannon (Ottawa Street and James Street Merchants) expressed their support for the project, as did the Chamber of Commerce.

Over 300 letters of support were sent to Council, many from people who were not currently cycling because they didn't feel safe, but wanted to.

Cannon Street carries 16,700 vehicles per day at its busiest spot near Mary Street. That works out to 4,175 vehicles per lane per day. Farther east, it carries just over 9,000 vehicles per day at Sherman, or just 2,275 cars per lane per day.

To put that in perspective, Garth Street North of Fennel carries 9,850 vehicles per lane per day.

Cannon Street is one of the many severely over-built roads in the lower City where reducing live lanes of traffic can actually serve to save the City money, especially given that the annual cost of maintaining just one lane-kilometre of roadway is over $12,000.

Because of the overbuilt nature of Cannon, vehicular speeds were, before the project, tremendously high. Average speeds tracked by members of the North End Neighbourhourd Association was 72 km/h along that street.

Residents have been demanding traffic calming along that corridor for years. Since the installation of the bike lane, average speeds have been recorded at 55km/h - a significant improvement.

Cannon street is identified as a priority cycling route in Hamilton's Cycling Master Plan, which was approved at Council in 2009. While the original proposal still called for the loss on one live lane of vehicle traffic, it would only have accommodated cyclist movement in the westbound direction.

The change to a two-way cycling facility makes the street work better for all road users, creates a world-class piece of infrastructure, provides a higher level of safety for cyclists, and has the exact same impact on the movement of traffic that the proposal in the cycling master plan would have.

Planter boxes on Cannon Cycle Track (RTH file photo)
Planter boxes on Cannon Cycle Track (RTH file photo)

The capital costs of the Cannon Street Bike Lane were almost entirely borne by Wards 2 and 3 out of their area reserves. Councillors Farr and the late Councillor Morelli responded to a tremendous demand in their communities and budgeted a significant portion of their area capital reserves to the project.

The remainder was allocated from the City's Road Safety fund (red light camera fund), which can only be spent on road safety improvements.

Even if the costs would have come out of the general roads budget, the expenditure of $867,000 on a project like this represents 0.8 percent of the annual roads budget in Hamilton.

Since opening in mid-September, the Cannon Street lanes have seen good ridership numbers - from 250-400 cyclists per day, an astonishingly high number in a short time.

Given that it is the only safe East-West route through the lower City, I only expect these numbers to rise continuously throughout the pilot project period.

With these facts about the project in hand, I invite Councillor Conley to clarify his position and elaborate on why he would have voiced opposition to this project.

The time for making decisions because people want to drive fast is long past. In all parts of the City, we need to consider the safety, security and livability for all residents, regardless of what mode of transportation they choose.

The Cannon Street Bike Lanes have contributed significantly to the livability and safety along the Cannon corridor. I hope that all Councillors recognize the incredible value that this small expenditure will bring to this City, now and into the future.

Supporters at the official launch of the Cannon Cycle Track (RTH file photo)
Supporters at the official launch of the Cannon Cycle Track (RTH file photo)

Justin Jones is the Manager, Bicycle Friendly Ontario at the Share the Road Cycling Coalition. Justin is a project manager, sustainability professional and rabble rouser with nearly a decade of experience in the sustainability field. His work with student groups, municipal governments and NGOs has taken him all over the country. He is passionate about civic engagement, with a special focus on active transportation issues and the creation of liveable cities through better infrastructure and education.


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By jason (registered) | Posted December 11, 2014 at 10:50:17

You'd think he used to be a Hamilton councillor 20 years ago.....

Check out this can of worms that was opened yesterday in Binbrook. Participatory budgeting now getting into essential services, not just park/street enhancements, but actual full cancellation of all bus service to Binbrook:


I may follow suit and suggest a complete closure of King St through Ward 1 in the next PB process, or perhaps a shared space like European cities (and now Chicago, NY, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver etc....) with slow narrow car space, wide pedestrian space, transit and bike access.

Also, I hope council is going to immediately halt all new development in Binbrook, and tell the residents to go shut it when they start whining about clogged roads (thats code for: 'I hit a red light once') and longer commute times.

Apparently the vote was 600-300. So, is the city going to help that 1/3 of Binbrook residents who need transit move to a new neighbourhood?? Or buy them a car?

Comment edited by jason on 2014-12-11 10:51:54

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By PiersixBrawler (registered) | Posted December 13, 2014 at 12:39:53 in reply to Comment 106914

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Comment edited by PiersixBrawler on 2014-12-13 12:47:55

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By z jones (registered) | Posted December 13, 2014 at 15:15:45 in reply to Comment 107043

You are full of shit.

Buses should have to deal with the same traffic that the bus lanes were constructed for buses to avoid

Because that makes zero sense.

Bicycle lanes should be constructed by ADDING pavement

Where is this new pavement supposed to come from. Do you want to donate your front lawn?

If the city doesnt have the 'real estate' to add and construct a bike lane, then the city DOESN'T GET ONE.

The city has tons of 'real estate', it's called "roads" and they're for public use.

By the citys logic, we can look forward to "Camel Lanes" being installed

Your analogy is too stupid to even critique.

The majority of people on the road are DRIVERS

The majority of people on the road keep saying over and over that they wish they could walk and bike more but the roads aren't safe enough to do it.

Hmm, if only there was some public asset we could use to make it easier for people to--- wait a minute, we have roads!

it's just the tip of the iceberg as far as ushering in a new era of dictatorship

Yeah because those evil dictators are always throwing people in jail, censoring the media and ... building bike lanes?

monopolizing transportation in the city

We have that now, it's a road network built only for cars. Adding bike lanes, wider sidewalks and more crosswalks makes the road LESS monopolizing.

Now please go away, your shtick is boring.

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By jonathan (registered) | Posted December 11, 2014 at 11:36:39 in reply to Comment 106914

Wow. Just...wow.

The blind selfishness of people is phenomenal. I'm curious what the next step is; as an essential service, do they even have the right to vote on it? Won't this require council approval?

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 11, 2014 at 11:52:03 in reply to Comment 106921

Ya, I'm sure council will take all of 11 seconds to cancel bus service somewhere..... and then complain to all the 'whiny, entitled urbanists' that there are areas of the city with NO transit service still!!
You can't win with councillors who only care about their vote total in 4 years.

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By jeffzuk (registered) | Posted December 11, 2014 at 11:21:02

Thanks for this Justin. I’ve suspected that the Cannon St. bike path will continue to remain under attack, regardless of its benefits or before the trial period ends & results can be properly measured and assessed. As with many of these urbanization strategies – whether LRT, or the bus-only lane or bike lanes – it's their symbolism and not the actual thing itself that seems to be of such concern to many of its opponents. At least that's my theory and I'm riding with it.

I'd like to suggest that the organizers of the Cannon St. bike path – who did such a terrific job with its implementation and community & council support – continue their efforts. And those that support need to continue to organize and bring people on board. Where do I sign up?

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By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted December 11, 2014 at 11:37:51 in reply to Comment 106919

Hey Jeff;

There's things-a-brewin' for 2015. Email me and I'll get you in the loop. Ryan has my email (I'm hesitant to post it in a public forum...) Or you can find me on Twitter @MrBikesABunch

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By Crispy (registered) | Posted December 11, 2014 at 12:30:36

Again I think this is another reason why we should have an at large council system. Focus on the greater good rather than just appeasing each specific ward to get re-elected.

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By Wow (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2014 at 14:17:19

Didn't think it could get much worse than Clark, but Conley proves otherwise. It's true things can always be worse.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 11, 2014 at 15:30:51 in reply to Comment 106934

Clark as a councillor was dynamite. He jumped the ship during the mayoral race.

He was a very solid, evidenced-based councillor. He praised Yes We Cannon and said he'd like to see similar lanes all over the city.

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By Double Wow (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2014 at 14:30:52

But don't you dare try tell him what the streets in Ward 9 are supposed to look like.

Those are their streets........just like everywhere else outside of the lower city wards. Theirs are theirs ours are theirs.......wait a minute, that doesn't make sense.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 11, 2014 at 15:30:05 in reply to Comment 106937

haha.... repeat after me everyone: term limits, term limits, term limits. It gets tiring to hear these old-time councillors try to block improvements in my Ward because they've refused to give their citizens sidewalks since 1988.

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By No (registered) | Posted December 11, 2014 at 19:25:00 in reply to Comment 106941

Term limits is not the answer. Extremely undemocratic.

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By jeffzuk (registered) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 10:45:55 in reply to Comment 106946

I agree term limits is not the answer, as I don't think there's one answer. However, I think term limits in politics is prudent. It creates a counter-force to the consolidation of power. And if it's good enough for the highest office in the United States, I can't see why it can't be applied elsewhere.

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By No (registered) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 19:01:50 in reply to Comment 106967

And if it's good enough for the highest office in the United States

Ah, but that comes from the fear that some tyrant would come in (possibly backed by the UK) and mess up their good thing.

They also have rules that citizens not born in the country can't run for President. That is also a bit of a crock, especially in today's diverse society.

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By whatev (anonymous) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 03:45:24 in reply to Comment 106946

I'm not sure I understand - why are term limits undemocratic in your view?

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By No (registered) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 06:10:06 in reply to Comment 106953

They limit what someone can and can't do. Denying people the ability to run is not allowing the freedom of choice.

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted December 11, 2014 at 15:59:49

This is why our Board of Control was a good idea. Back in the day, Aldermen concerned themselves with ward issues and the City had an executive committee elected at large consisting of the mayor and 4 members of a Board of Control. The Board had to be elected based on a City wide vote.

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By ItJustIs (registered) | Posted December 11, 2014 at 19:35:13 in reply to Comment 106944

Actually, if you talk to anyone who's intimately familiar with how the Board of Control worked, you'll get the advice 'No! Don't bring it back!' At the very least, it was a magnification of the Old Boys' Network. I don't believe you'll find any municipality in Canada that features one.

There are different configuration options for our Councillors, were we truly interested in trying something new. (Norfolk, VA has a blend of individual ward Councillors as well as some who look after multiple wards.) But seeing as we can't even successfully deal with ward boundary review, I doubt whether changing the 15-Councillor setup is probable.

Regardless, this is all (yet another) red herring.

The real problem is that there's a disconnect here in Hamilton between Council and residents. New Councillors don't by-and-large change this. The ship is too big to be turned in another direction by a simple influx of fresh faces. It's time to change the governance paradigm.

We're the employers, they work for us.

They serve at the pleasure of Hamiltonians.

So, going back to the wisdom provided by this site's editor some years back:

I'm inclined to think elections are overrated. If you vote for a candidate once every four years but don't get involved in the meantime, it doesn’t really matter much who you vote for. Once politicians get inside the bubble, it's impossible to keep any kind of perspective without ongoing, substantive interaction with 'regular voters' for grounding. Which is why it's so important for citizens to: a) elect Councillors who will allow themselves to be engaged, and b) keep up their end of that engagement between elections.

The daunting prospect of wholesale change brings to mind the story of the twin brothers at Christmas. They're each given one present. These are placed in separate rooms.

The skeptic opens his door and finds a horse. "Oh, great," he moans. "I'm going to be spending my days shovelling shit!"

The optimist opens his and finds it crammed with the above. He jumps into it enthusiastically, singing 'I know there's a pony in here somewhere!"

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 11:39:49 in reply to Comment 106950

I am intimately familiar with the Board of control having voted then and campaigned for former controllers at the time. (some of the controllers eventually were friends of mine.) The squabbling and lack of vision of a large council affecting long range planning was predicted by opponents of the change at the time.

Yes, there was an old boys club who pandered largely to major industries (which we had lots of at the time.) Hamilton was a big Union town then (still is I suppose) and there was a large "us and them" mentality going on. (Some also lined their pockets because they bought land in areas they knew were going to be developed.)

On a political science level, these are big questions. Direct representative democracy works in countries like Switzerland. But Switzerland has a unique historical and geo-politcal makeup. On a practical level, in a city the size of Hamilton, ward politics can undermine functionality. Look at Toronto. It has been mired in crap for nearly 20 years. Los Angeles reduced the number of voices on council to get things done.

I am not saying that the answers are easy. I am just saying that it is no surprise that Councillor Conely panders to his constituents.

We need two things that I know of. Strong, thoughtful and experienced council members and less of them. (I also think we need referendums on large projects.)

Comment edited by CharlesBall on 2014-12-12 11:45:26

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 11:53:07 in reply to Comment 106976

Vancouver doesn't have wards, and wards were often suggested as a way of making councillors more responsive to the local community.

On the other hand, Vancouver does have municipal political parties (parties unique to Vancouver and these parties change relatively quickly). I think this is a good thing as it gives voters a clearer idea of where candidates stand on a variety of issues, and who would be more likely to work together. It also weakens the advantage of incumbents since name recognition and confidence also comes from the party, not just from the candidate. Parties also tend to lead to more efficient government, and less political favours between councillors.

For some strange reason, municipal political parties are apparently illegal in Ontario. This doesn't seem right.

Having ranked voting with run-offs would also help since most votes involve more than two candidates and voters are not neutral about their second or third choices. It would also mean that the winner got over 50% of the vote (instead of 20% or less which is common in competitive races with multiple candidates).

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2014-12-12 11:55:51

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2014 at 18:28:28

"A world-class piece of infrastructure"? See how easy we are to please, Coun. Conley?

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 11, 2014 at 19:33:10

I guess political service is like riding a bike, so long as it's not in a cycle track. See his comments on hamiltonnews.com from Election night.

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By IanReynolds (registered) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 02:15:30

Good summary. I'm one of the many that no longer cycles because I don't feel safe. I'm also a car driver and the bike/bus lanes have not worsened my life or slowed me down one second. I'm glad there are people in this city that keep sticking up for a better way.

It seems like the people who are against bike lanes are also against cyclists riding on the street, because they're in the way.

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By ASing (anonymous) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 11:42:23

I think Conley is waste of effort as he is opposed to all progressive issues not based on evidence but on ideology. He could prove me wrong with showing more sense than I give him credit. He doesn't support the LRT or participatory budgeting. On other progressive issues he had given a firm "maybe" including one-way conversions and Cannon Cycle Track. For Cannon, what's worrisome is that he indicated that he needed more information on this and other projects but his media statements show an ideological bias not conclusions reached upon weighing facts. He is against LRT but favours the Mid-Peninsula Highway. I believe it's difficult to convince ideologues such as Conley but we need to try because he has been out of politics for decades. His views of our City are old and he may need to be reminded of how our City as a whole has changed.

On a positive note, the 2014 Municipal Election showed that people did not vote for divisive politics pitting urban and suburban voters. Our Mayor was elected by the entire City moving Hamilton past post-amalgamation divides that politicians themselves created around wedge issues. We need City council that will work for the good of all Hamiltonians not just narrow interests of their Ward to the exclusion of what's best for the growth of our City as a whole. Unfortunately Eisenberger had been a quiet candidate and I am unsure if he can move issues that he has publicly supported.

Another plus is the election of new, young candidates such as Aidan Johnson and Matthew Green. While Arlene VanderBeek has expressed opposition to LRT, she is generally supportive of a number of progressive issues and she will consider evidence in making decisions. Conley won Ward 9 but by only a slim margin. So he will be under pressure during this term to perform. Apart from these Councillors, the main story is that Hamiltonians liked the direction of previous Council by re-electing incumbents. Many of whom have supported LRT, Cannon Cycle Track and other projects.

Instead of focusing our energies on convincing Conley who might be an outlier in terms of general opinion on the new council, we need to solidify our support and reach out to moderate councillors who are more likely to listen to evidence.

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By SmithnSmyth (anonymous) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 13:02:01 in reply to Comment 106977

It's interesting that Eisenberger has taken a stand asking that Bus Lanes be modified to HOV not scrapped by council. Maybe Fred will provide leadership after all.

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By Fake Name (anonymous) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 13:28:01 in reply to Comment 106980

Compromise was always Fred's default approach. I don't like his idea about letting anybody use them on weekends (it's overcomplicating things) but I like that he's trying to find a middle-ground on this thing.

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By Hey Yes (anonymous) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 14:18:27

Finally a sane voice on Council. Way to go Coun Conly.

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By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted December 12, 2014 at 15:15:13 in reply to Comment 106985

I look forward to you providing some sort of evidence about why you would oppose the project, just as I look forward to Councillor Conley's response.

If your reasoning goes beyond "I just don't like it" or "I want to drive fast through people's neighbourhoods", then I'm happy to hear it. If those are your only response, then why don't we turn the street in front of your house into a 4-lane highway instead? The people that live on and around Cannon tried that, and they weren't fans.

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By northender (anonymous) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 16:03:50

Conley on Cable 14 show also saying he's not on board with two-way conversions. Sigh. Maybe just needs an education??

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By Fake Name (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 11:29:28 in reply to Comment 106990

Obviously the correct answer is to get Mud Street and Paramount converted to 1-way streets to alleviate congestion in Upper Stoney.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 16:38:33 in reply to Comment 106990

But no one is asking for streets in Stoney Creek to be reverted to two way ... but I guess that's not what he's referring to.

Would he be on board with one-way conversions of most of the streets around the Stoney Creek downtown? Maybe he should ask residents of Wards 1 and 2 whether they would like the streets of Stoney Creek converted to one-way?

Why does he even have an opinion about two-way conversions of streets in Ward 2 excepting, maybe King and Main which are not being considered? Does he just think it's a waste of money?

Shouldn't he take the time first, to find out why the actual residents, business owners and the councillor in Ward 2 support two-way conversions? Does he realize that residents actually voted to spend some of their PB money to convert two local (non-arterial) streets? Has he asked the locals how they like the conversions that have already been done? Has he seen if there is any data supporting the contention that it has slowed traffic significantly on John or James (and, if it has, that it is a problem)?

Is he upset that Caroline and Hess were partially reverted 10 years ago? Why??

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2014-12-12 16:44:06

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 17:17:20 in reply to Comment 107000

shocking results so far from someone who was a councillor in the early 90's.

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By Carnegie (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 08:33:24

There you RTH'ers go again, making friends and influencing people!

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By "we rthers" (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 10:17:59

Yup, all of the conspirators who collectively "are" Rth are solely responsible for every character written here.

Yknow, you are welcome to contribute something productive to this site, (and society)

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