Now is the time to commit to a city-wide transportation network that is safe, equitable and inclusive, and makes it easy for everyone to choose healthier, cleaner, more sustainable and enjoyable ways to get around.
By Ryan McGreal
Published December 06, 2015
Every leader has a fundamental choice: to provoke and capitalize on people's selfish impulses, or to inspire empathy and caring for the well-being of others. At Friday's General Issues Committee meeting, Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead chose the latter in bringing forward a motion to expedite a protected cycle track connecting the upper and lower city on the Claremont Access, and Council as a whole rallied to support his motion.
Claremont Access and extension from Southam Park (RTH file photo)
I am reminded of the old Vulcan proverb: Only Nixon could go to China.
It is terrible that we needed a tragedy to spur us into action on creating a safe cycling route up and down the Mountain, but thousands of years of human history drive home the point that humans are not very good at responding to abstract threats.
A cycling route on the Claremont Access has been in the City's plan for some time, but there was no appetite to get around to implementing it until a man riding a bike up the Claremont was killed last Wednesday after being struck by a person driving a dark-coloured truck.
The victim, 53-year-old Jay Keddy, was many things: husband to Ingrid, father of three adult children, popular Kindergarten teacher at Prince of Wales School, active church community member, well known in his Mountain neighbourhood, and many other things that those of us who didn't know him personally will never really know.
But the tragic circumstances of last Wednesday forced him into another role: as a powerful counter-example to the tired stereotype of who rides a bike in Hamilton.
As Hamilton Spectator editor Howard Elliot made clear in a moving editorial on Saturday, cycling is becoming steadily more popular right across Hamilton, but the City has fallen behind the curve.
Our Cycling Master Plan, already a modest network with a slow implementation schedule, has been further eroded by funding cuts, stripped staff resources and direct Councillor interference.
Bike lanes have already been vetoed or removed in wards 6 (east mountain) and 7 (central mountain), and Ward 5 Councillor Chad Collins just vetoed a planned bike lane on Greenhill Avenue because some local residents are opposed.
But like any network, a cycling network is only as safe, robust and usable as its weakest connection. The myriad routes that various people take on their individual bike trips (or would like to take, if they felt safe doing it) cross neighbourhood and ward boundaries indiscriminately; so when Councillors kill bike lanes in their wards, that affects people across the entire city.
So Council deserves our recognition and respect for moving quickly and decisively on a protected Claremont Access cycle track, but their sense of urgency about building our cycling network has to start there, not end there.
I would urge that the two-way cycle track extend South on the Claremont extension to West 5th, which is two lanes wide for most of its length and then narrows to one lane just before merging with West 5th. It can be one vehicle lane its entire length, leaving the second lane to connect the cycle track with the hospital and Mohawk College.
Total southbound traffic on West 5th at Brantdale is 11,000 cars a day, which combines the traffic merged from both Claremont extension and James Mountain Road, so we're talking about small traffic volumes on Claremont with no cross streets, driveways or private drives to consider.
There is plenty of room on the grassy median on the west side of West 5th to extend the cycle track all the way to Fennell.
Likewise, in the lower city the cycle track should extend north on Wellington all the way to Burlington Street to connect the waterfront via Ferguson Avenue.
Wellington Street North at rush hour (RTH file photo)
Between Wellington Street and Victoria Avenue, we're literally talking about 8-9 total vehicle lanes to carry roughly 20,000 cars a day. That's a tremendously easy opportunity to repurpose a surplus lane and connect the west mountain all the way to the waterfront!
I can't repeat this enough: a cycling network is only as safe, robust and usable as its weakest connection. Let's build the Claremont Cycle Track, but let's ensure that it connects on both ends to a network of safe, protected bike lanes that take people to the places they want to go without fear of serious injury and death.
Right now, the City is reviewing its Transportation Master Plan. This is a golden opportunity to commit to a city-wide transportation network that is safe, equitable and inclusive, and makes it easy for everyone to choose healthier, cleaner, more sustainable and enjoyable ways to get around.
Here is the text of the approved motion from Councillor Whitehead:
Delineated Bicycle Lane on the Claremont Access (Item 9.1)
WHEREAS, the City of Hamilton’s Cycling Master Plan is intended to guide the development and operation of its cycling infrastructure for the next twenty years;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:
That staff be directed to review the options and costs associated with providing a delineated bicycle lane up the Claremont Access and report back to the January 19, 2016 General Issues Committee.
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