Special Report: Cycling

Toronto Showing the Way With Year-Round Cycling Network

Let's hope 2016 sees a more balanced approach take root at City Hall where complete streets become the norm citywide.

By Jason Leach
Published December 23, 2015

I was in Toronto last Friday and really noticed a massive change in their bike lanes over the last year. They were envious of us when we got the Cannon Street Cycle Track, but we've done nothing since then, while they've added at least the bare bones of protected lanes and cycle tracks north-south and east-west through the entire downtown and surrounding area.

Richmond-Adelaide is brilliant. This is exactly what we should do on Main, Wellington/Victoria and Claremont. Sherbourne and Beverly/Simcoe complete the north-south connections.

The new Waterfront Trail and Queen's Quay cycle track are brilliant, of course.

Queen's Quay bike lanes (RTH file photo)
Queen's Quay bike lanes (RTH file photo)

And now they've just announced that the new priority bike lanes will be cleared of snow to make cycling easier through the winter.

Planned priority winter bicycle lanes, Toronto
Planned priority winter bicycle lanes, Toronto

Meanwhile, we are still trying to maintain enthusiasm about Cannon, since nothing substantial has happened the last year and a half.

The new cycle tracks on Richmond, Sherbourne, Adelaide and so on are physically protected with knockdown bollards and raised curbs.

Sherbourne Cycle Track (Image Credit: Blogger)
Sherbourne Cycle Track (Image Credit: Blogger)

Richmond Street Cycle Track (RTH file photo)
Richmond Street Cycle Track (RTH file photo)

Adelaide Cycle Track (Image Credit: Biking Toronto)
Adelaide Cycle Track (Image Credit: Biking Toronto)

The Richmond and Adelaide bike lanes are former multilane one-way streets (sound familiar, Hamilton?) now with protected bike lanes, two travel lanes and one off-peak parking lane.

Bloor Street is next on the city's list with bike lanes from Shaw Street to Avenue Road coming in 2016.

Local Developments in Development

Here in Hamilton, there are at least rumblings of some good news coming in 2016. Hamilton's long-awaited, many-times-delayed, first parking-protected bike lanes are planned for Charlton and Herkimer from Dundurn to James.

A recent rash of deaths has sparked a movement by City Council to potentially expedite a multi-use path on the Claremont Access. One would hope we would make this a showcase legacy project by extending it north along Wellington Street to the West Harbour, as well as extending it south to West 5th and Fennell Avenue.

Claremont Access (RTH file photo)
Claremont Access (RTH file photo)

In addition, Ward 3 Councillor Matthew Green has announced that he will be bringing a "Vision Zero" motion to Council at its first meeting in January, calling on the City to commit to making our streets safe and inclusive by design.

Finally, a funding proposal has been submitted by the city to the Province for a protected two-way cycle track on Bay Street from Aberdeen to Cannon with traditional bike lanes north of Cannon to Bayfront Park and the new GO Station.

But until details are confirmed and installation is planned, there is no guarantee that 2016 will see any more activity than 2015 saw.

Again, we continually fail to spend even the paltry cycling budget each year, and then wonder why other cities go flying past us with their cycling networks.

Let's hope 2016 sees a more balanced approach take root at City Hall where complete streets become the norm citywide - not just when pedestrians and cyclists are killed and residents yell and scream for them year after year.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.


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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted December 23, 2015 at 15:15:36

Although certainly better than nothing, those Toronto examples are not the sort of thing that I want to see in Hamilton. Here are a few examples of much better infrastructure.

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2015-12-23 15:16:01

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted December 23, 2015 at 22:56:32 in reply to Comment 115819

totally agree.

But I think the logical first step is more quick wins like Cannon St. Then we can start building legit separated cycle tracks in a planned manner.

Small touches in the meantime such as lining the separated lanes with planters would be nice. I noticed on Richmond that the planters all have nice winter displays in them. Our few planters on Cannon were taken away for the winter. The length of Cannon, and York Blvd should have planters year round adding to the streetscape.

York should also have knockdown sticks in between planters. Small steps to at least get the basics of a protected network up and running would be great.

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By Dont Drive on Queen's Quay (anonymous) | Posted December 24, 2015 at 12:05:03

They just should have got rid of all cars on Queen's Quay. Currently, particularly if you drive there at night, it is extremely visually busy and confusing and in my mind dangerous. There are incomprehensible signs, traffic, pedestrian and cycle patterns. It is an accident waiting to happen.

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By Zoom zoom (anonymous) | Posted December 24, 2015 at 13:12:14 in reply to Comment 115831

I know, right? If you can't drive real fast, why bother driving at all?

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By What? (anonymous) | Posted December 24, 2015 at 15:02:24 in reply to Comment 115832

Great illogical comeback. It has virtually nothing to do with speed. You can see in Hamilton two people recently killed by two drivers going at a snails pace because they were either confused, unable to see the pedestrian or not watching where they were going. Confusing them even more is inviting danger. The place would be far better without cars. Also, why spend all that money just to accommodate the few people who are actually going to be driving on that road.

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By Complete Streets (anonymous) | Posted December 24, 2015 at 15:18:03

Sorry but complete streets include cars or they aren't even streets

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted January 03, 2016 at 00:32:42 in reply to Comment 115834

They do, but it has to feel closer to James St N (plus cycle track) rather than today's Main/King Street.

James Street was once a 4-lane-wide 1-way urban expressway -- with lots of shuttered storefronts -- as a fast route between Burlington and Main/King. It wasn't an appealing walk back then.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2016-01-03 00:37:32

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By Complete Streets (anonymous) | Posted January 03, 2016 at 08:58:56 in reply to Comment 115879

James N is a success not because of which way traffic flows but because Locke St S became too expensive

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted January 03, 2016 at 10:25:18 in reply to Comment 115881

if that's the case, logic would suggest that businesses desperate to be on Locke would look for the closest alternative that is more affordable:
Main St West and King St West

Yet, for some strange reason all these businesses chose to go much further away from Locke Street. Gee, I wonder why.....

Comment edited by JasonL on 2016-01-03 10:25:46

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By jnyyz (registered) - website | Posted December 24, 2015 at 17:57:45

Thanks for the positivity about bike infrastructure in Toronto. While things are slowly improving, it is still often a pitched battle to get things installed. The very great majority of bike infrastructure funding has been set aside for off street bike trails such as the Finch Hydro Corridor. Also, the bike lane pilot on Bloor is not a given; it still has to be voted on by the infrastructure commitee this April, and then city council the following month. There is still significant opposition to the project. https://bellsonbloor.wordpress.com/2015/... In contrast, if citizen engagement manages to get bike lanes installed on the Claremont Access within the next year, it is we in Toronto that will be blown away.

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted December 24, 2015 at 23:39:38 in reply to Comment 115835

Interesting thoughts. Thank-you for sharing them here. Perhaps the two cities are more similar than meets the eye on this issue. From a Hamiltonian perspective, it's automatic envy to visit TO and see calm downtown streets where streetcars have the right of way and street parking is plentiful, instead of 4-5 lane freeways killing business and quality of life like we have here.

You're correct on Claremont. Sadly it took another death to see this project pushed recently. And Bay St is dependant on provincial funding. But IF we luck out and see both happen, we could make some big strides towards the start of a protected network here next year with Bay, Claremont/Wellington, Herkimer/Charlton. All will be protected lanes or cycle tracks.

I still think Hamilton has no reason to not keep pace with Toronto. Taking away a lane from many street here is needed to make them somewhat safer again. In Toronto taking away a lane surely invokes wrath due to the congestion issues. Yet, your city continues to slowly plod forward despite opposition.

In reality, both cities need to get with it and go all in. But Hamilton really has no excuses.

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted December 28, 2015 at 12:47:23

because "we" are incapable of stepping back, revisiting a bad decision or admitting failure, we continue to remain enthusiastic about Cannon Street. That is who "we" are

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted January 03, 2016 at 00:40:45 in reply to Comment 115844

Implying the Cannon bike lanes are a failure, because it started up slowly, eh?

During the summertime, I did dashcam video and roadside video survey of Cannon and it appears to be a gradually increasing success so far.

From streetside video observations, what surprised me was the stoplights were timed in a way that there were several moments (in a 10 minute time period) where there were no cars for 1 full minute between the car platoon surges.

Now it's wintertime where bike use declines, DUH. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't have cycle tracks just because they're snowed in on certain days of 3-4 months of the year.

Just look at Toronto's "luxury" Sherbourne bike lanes, fer crissakes.
During it first year, it had less bike traffic than today's Cannon cycle track.
Now, it is much busier, thanks to connections to the new Queens Quay cycle track, and the Richmond/Adelaide cycle track.

By your implication, you're just calling a kettle black. Or calling a rural freeway a failure because it "doesn't have dense car traffic during rush hour signifying success". Stop using your own personal distorted measuring stick!

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2016-01-03 00:43:55

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted December 28, 2015 at 17:33:54

Good thing nobody in Hamilton rides a bike


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By Complete Streets (anonymous) | Posted January 03, 2016 at 20:37:49

Price and availability

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By OK (anonymous) | Posted January 03, 2016 at 22:22:03 in reply to Comment 115883

Just please please please leave the rest of the one ways alone.

I don't care what experts say. I don't care what successful cities look like. I don't want my property taxes to go down.

I just want to be able to drive through the lower city as quickly as I can. Screw everybody else.


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By JasonL (registered) | Posted January 03, 2016 at 22:47:30 in reply to Comment 115885

you're exactly right, except this part:

I don't want my property taxes to go down.

These same people scream their heads off about how high our taxes are, but then do everything possible to oppose improvements that would bring new investment, jobs, businesses and TAX REVENUE to the city.

Ward councillors who vote against proven business generating ideas should have to shoulder 100% of the following year tax increases in their wards alone.
Watch how fast they would start voting with some common sense, instead of only looking to appease the tiny % of their wards who loudly complain about any change in life.

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