Special Report: Cycling

Province Announces $295K Funding for Bay Street Cycling Facility

The Ontario Government is providing up to half the cost of a new two-way facility on Bay between Aberdeen and Strachan.

By Ryan McGreal
Published April 21, 2016

On Tuesday, April 19, the Province of Ontario announced $295,000 in capital funding for a new two-way cycling facility on Bay Street between Aberdeen Avenue and Strachan Street West, just past the CN Rail overpass.

Cyclist riding on Bay Street South (RTH file photo)
Cyclist riding on Bay Street South (RTH file photo)

The funding was approved under the $10 million Ontario Municipal Cycling Infrastructure Program for capital projects, which the Province established to help pay for new municipal cycling infrastructure.

Transportation staff confirmed in a December 10, 2015 email to RTH that they submitted the proposal to the Ministry of Transportation for Ontario (MTO) in November, as that was the submission deadline (you can read Jason Leach's proposed design from last October).

According to Daryl Bender, the city's Alternative Transportation Project Manager, the following basic design was submitted: "a two-way cycling facility along the west curb of Bay Street between Cannon Street and Aberdeen Avenue. North of Cannon Street, the design would be conventional bike lanes along both sides of this two-way segment of Bay Street."

At the north end, the bike lanes will join up with the bike lanes that were included when the Bay Street CN Rail overpass was rebuilt.

Bike lanes on Bay Street CN Rail overpass (RTH file photo)
Bike lanes on Bay Street CN Rail overpass (RTH file photo)

The detailed design still needs to be completed and finalized, but the preliminary estimated cost is around $600,000, which is in line with the per-kilometre cost to install the Cannon Cycle Track.

Under the Provincial funding terms, the City is expected to provide matching capital funds. The arrangement for that municipal funding is to be determined through the 2017 capital budget process.

According to Martin White, Manager, Traffic Operations and Engineering with the City, the process will be to put out a request for proposals and contract a consultant to do the detailed design work. (For the Cannon Street Cycle Track, this work was done by IBI Group.)

The consultant will undertake a design and then staff will conduct public consultation to get feedback on the design and make any necessary changes or refinements. Staff will consult with the various stakeholder groups - neighbourhood associations, business groups, transportation advocates and so on - to ensure the final design is inclusive of everyone's needs.

In order to be eligible for the Provincial funding, the project must be completed prior to March 2018. Given Canadian winters, that means the project must realistically be completed before winter 2017.

Surplus lane on Bay between Main and King (RTH file photo)
Surplus lane on Bay between Main and King (RTH file photo)

Strong Candidate for Provincial Funding

According to the MTO, almost 150 municipalities expressed interest in funding under the program, which provides funding of up to $325,000 covering up to 50 percent of the total capital cost for a cycling infrastructure facility.

The expressions of interest were evaluated in terms of the program goals: "developing better cycling networks, promoting safety, encouraging innovation, supporting partnerships, collecting data and enabling cycling to be better recognized as a viable transportation mode."

In all, 51 municipalities were approved to submit applications, and 37 applications were approved, including Hamilton's.

The proposed Bay Street cycling facility will provide a much-needed cycling connection to Hamilton's burgeoning waterfront. It will intersect the Markland contraflow bike lane, the soon-to-be-installed Herkimer and Charlton bike lanes, the Hunter Street bike lanes (and, eventually, the Hunter GO station), the YOrk Boulevard bike lanes, the Cannon Street Cycle Track, the James North GO Station and Bayfront Park.

Bay Street is identified in Appendix A of the Shifting Gears Cycling Master Plan under Preferred Cycling Network Projects and Preliminary Implementation Schedule.

The section from Markland to Main is on page 1, item 33 on the preferred projects list. The section from Cannon to Strachan is on page 2, item 64, and the section from Main to Cannon is on page 3, item 143.

And Then There was Whitehead

Of course, this is Hamilton and no good deed goes unpunished. At the end of the April 20, 2016 General Issues Committee meeting, Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead took staff to task for daring to apply for provincial funding for a Council-approved priority cycling project.

Thanks to Joey Coleman and The Public Record, you can watch a video of the GIC meeting. Councillor Whitehead's remarks begin at the 5:32:15 mark:

Whitehead: Can I ask, through the Deputy Mayor to staff, I learned a couple days ago that, and unfortunately the Mayor's office was notified late, that there was going to be a major announcement that took place actually in my ward, at a cycling shop, in respect to the cycling contribution to the City of Hamilton. Which is great.

The second piece is, the project that's being awarded, I certainly wasn't aware of, never came in front of committee or council. When we're looking at applications for alternative funding for these kinds of issues, I would hope that we would be setting those priorities here [at] Council.

So can I have some explanation on how a project is identified outside of this horseshoe and prioritized independently by staff in the absence of having any discussion.

I, my other understanding is this, although it was on the Master Plan, Cycling Plan, it wasn't given that, the priority, to the, my understanding that was a year ago that this application was made, and I'm not aware as a Councillor that the fact that you made that application ever came back to this body. So, I could be wrong, please correct me if I'm wrong.

John Mater, the Director of Transportation in Public Works, explained that staff reviewed the 2009 Cycling Master Plan and "picked Bay Street because they felt it best matched the criteria for success" under the Provincial funding policy.

Whitehead continued to press the issue, directing his question to City Manager Chris Murray. Murray acknowledged that staff "could do a better job of communicating" the application to Council, but that the submission was consistent with Council's direction in the Cycling plan.

Whitehead would not let it go. "When I take a look at the needs in this community, whether it's cycling or what's even on that list currently, it begs the question, why was this ecentric [?] to one geographic area when there are so many other areas of this city that are being left behind?"

Naturally, the area being "left behind" is Whitehead's own ward, which he took to twitter today to clarify:

This is the street that was just reconstructed with no bike lanes, a decision justified by Whitehead on the basis of traffic volume and three major institutional destinations:

When challenged a couple of months ago on the decision not to include bike lanes, Whitehead deferred to staff:

Culture of Fear

The thing to understand about Whitehead is that when he thinks staff agree with him on something, they are the "experts" and we should defer to their expertise:

But if staff seem to take a position that does not accord with Whitehead's preconceptions, he shamelessly feeds them to the wolves.

Consider the ill-fated transit-only lane on King Street, about which Whitehead very publicly made up his mind almost two months before the staff review of its operation.

When the staff report found that it was working quite well and that there was still money left in the Provincial Quick Wins budget to mitigate the few issues that were identified, Whitehead accused staff of pushing an agenda and suggested that a nuclear bomb would have to go off downtown before staff declared the bus lane a failure.

This report was driven by public transit staff that are advocates for the higher order transit and obviously they're looking through a singular lens when it comes to addressing these issues. So I guess the next question is: would it take, what would it take for public transit staff to say no to bus lanes? Would it be short of a nuclear bomb going off?

This sort of behaviour from Councillors contributes to the culture of fear at City Hall that keeps this city from achieving its potential.

The City's Corporate Culture, Values and Ethics for City Employees was hardly being honoured at the end of Wednesday's GIC meeting, when Whitehead seized the opportunity to upbraid staff for showing initiative and creativity in seeking funding for a Council-approved cycling project.

The Corporate Culture document's five Corporate Pillars of success are:

Cheap shots like Whitehead's wedge attack make a mockery of Collective Ownership. They undermine Steadfast Integrity, discourage Courageous Change, hinder Sensational Service and outright demolish Engaged Empowered Employees.

Council is already setting staff up for failure by approving master plans but refusing to approve funding for those plans.

When brave city staff take the initiative to seek creative means to come up with the money to implement those plans anyway, it is particularly cruel for one of those same councillors to turn around and punish their initiative.

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 KevinLove (registered) | Posted April 21, 2016 at 15:40:55

If Mr. Whitehead had bothered to show up at the Hamilton Cycling Committee meetings, he would have been kept fully informed. Here is a little hint to people like Mr. Whitehead: If you choose to not show up to the City of Hamilton committee meetings responsible for an issue, you may miss relevant information.

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By Robin (anonymous) | Posted April 21, 2016 at 15:53:13

Whiteheads tactics are classic text book examples of how all tyrants behave. He should be ashamed of himself. But as tyrants seldom accept responsibility or blame he needs to be confronted by a person(s) who has more power and integrity.

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted April 23, 2016 at 01:44:28 in reply to Comment 117809


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By Paulo (anonymous) | Posted April 21, 2016 at 15:56:30 in reply to Comment 117809

Thankfully he can be called out on social media at least. It's easy to identify his nonsense since it's part of the public record. Them more worrisome individuals are those who work in the shadows.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted April 21, 2016 at 17:37:58

Anyway, I'm not going to let my minutes-picking above be my only comment on this. I use Bay often for cycling, especially for work (I often need to go to the federal building on Bay, and Bay is also convenient for me to come downtown from Aberdeen). This lane would be a huge boon to safe travel. A game-changer for the robustness of our protected/safe network.

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted April 21, 2016 at 17:49:29

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By Get Some Help (anonymous) | Posted April 21, 2016 at 17:58:36 in reply to Comment 117815

What is wrong with you?

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 21, 2016 at 18:05:25

it's important to remember that this does NOT need to go through Whitehead. He just would have tried to veto it, but won't say that now of course.

Council approved Bay St for these bike lanes 7 years ago. Staff are hired to do their job as experts, and in some cases, find alternate sources of funding for council-approved projects.
They don't need to go back to councillors to reconfirm something that was already approved.

This has long been a pet peeve of mine, and is one of the reasons nothing progresses in Hamilton. Other cities approve plans and allow their experts to go and bring them to fulfillment. Here, whiny councillors stick their noses into everything and veto everything under the sun and bog down the entire system.

Staff should be loudly and publicly commended for doing the job they were hired for.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted April 21, 2016 at 22:59:39 in reply to Comment 117817

The problem identified, that the matching-funds application commits the city to a particular unapproved expenditure (note that I said expenditure and not project) is one I understand. I don't know what procedure or protocol is normally for such applications; Clr. Whitehead insists it's to inform council and honestly I would think that's generally a very good idea.

I think we can acknowledge the issue without taking issue with what staff have done in selecting and applying for this particular project.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted April 23, 2016 at 07:56:03 in reply to Comment 117830

...the matching-funds application commits the city to a particular unapproved expenditure

Whitehead has claimed this on Twitter but I don't see how it is true. Council could still decide not to approve the project, in which case it wouldn't get built and the grant would lapse in March 2018. That's not a spending commitment.

I think what Terry is mad about is that he didn't get a chance to quietly quash this by pressuring staff, and now that it has been publically announced, it will be politically unpalatable to vote against a project that is so obviously worthwhile. But that's not a process issue, it's just politics.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted April 22, 2016 at 14:15:41 in reply to Comment 117830

Except that the application does not commit the City. Council has approved the project. If Council changes its mind and repudiates/repeals the project before it begins, all that happens is that we don’t get the matching funds.

Also, I believe that Council has to allocate the matching funds, but I am not certain of this point. Perhaps because it is an approved project it is simply part of the roads/cycling infra budget. Perhaps someone who has greater knowledge than I can comment on this.

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2016-04-22 14:34:35

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted April 22, 2016 at 15:58:30 in reply to Comment 117855

The project doesn't start til 2017, and the 2017 budget deliberations start this fall. So in the fall, council can discuss how to allocate the 800-900 grand they will probably spend on bike projects in 2017, and at that point they can discuss the merits of including this one (to get the bonus 300) or whether it would be better to pass on it (obviously that would be silly).

Meanwhile this funding application had a deadline, and staff who are specifically hired to plan and manage cycling infrastructure saw an opportunity to get matching funds for a project that fit the grant requirements, so they applied for it.

I fail to see how this is at all controversial. Staff did not spend any money nor commit to spending money. They secured a promise from the province to match funds IF council decides to approve the project.

If the province had required a pre-commitment before approving the application, that's another thing. And in that case, Terry should be asking the province for an apology for accepting an incomplete application.

His behaviour is just gross. I am confident this project will be built but this will almost certainly stifle other progressive work. Staff is likely upset/depressed/scared by all of this, and that will affect their motivation. It's totally unacceptable behaviour from a public official.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted April 22, 2016 at 18:40:59 in reply to Comment 117856

I hope not. He is just one councillor after all, and he is making a fool of himself. If staff is getting similar pushback from other councillors through back channels, that's another matter.

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By maybe but (anonymous) | Posted April 21, 2016 at 23:56:58 in reply to Comment 117830

The city has an approved cycling infrastructure budget that goes largely unspent. If this fits within it then it all just boils down to nitpicking

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted April 22, 2016 at 08:49:39 in reply to Comment 117834

If the approved infra budget usually is unspent, then yes this is essentially nitpicking.

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By Priorities (anonymous) | Posted April 21, 2016 at 19:31:40

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 21, 2016 at 21:19:47 in reply to Comment 117818

yes, because the provincial bike lane grant money could be used for sewers and pipes

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted April 21, 2016 at 19:38:42 in reply to Comment 117818

Sewer retrofits (lining existing pipes with modern materials) were done on several streets in our neighbourhood this March. Work is ongoing.

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By Priorities (anonymous) | Posted April 21, 2016 at 20:17:06 in reply to Comment 117819

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted April 22, 2016 at 09:50:14 in reply to Comment 117824

Although "Priorities" has a point about needing more funding for sewer and water main replacement, $295,000 from the province plus $295,000 from the city for a cycle track over this distance, 1.6 km or a linear mile, would be nowhere near the amount a sewer or water main replacement project over the same distance would require. For 1.6 km you are looking at 7, or most likely an 8 figure number in terms of a budget. In fact any sewer or water main replacement project less than 500 metres would just be to small to begin. Likely, amounts like $590,000 would just be put into the existing sewer and water system maintenance budget. Unfortunately this grant is for Bike infrastructure not sewers and water pipes.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted April 21, 2016 at 23:03:28 in reply to Comment 117824

I don't think you're happy to hear that at all, but I strongly encourage you to press Council for a tax increase to deal with the infrastructure issues. As to bike lanes, like sewer infrastructure (only moreso) they are a critical security, health and safety issue as people are dying on our streets unnecessarily. I would consider both to be quite important, and remind you that cities can have many, multiple simultaneous priorities.

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 21, 2016 at 21:21:12 in reply to Comment 117824

I assume you sent this same concern before council approved a new Hwy 5 beside the half empty Hwy 5? Or the cloverleaf at Clappison Corner Or widening the Red Hill Or widening Rymal Road Or building a new entrance road next to the empty entrance road to the Ancaster biz park etc.......

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By Creeker (anonymous) | Posted April 22, 2016 at 08:57:05 in reply to Comment 117828

.....or a new Trinity Church Rd extension/bypass.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted April 21, 2016 at 20:56:48

I totally agree that basic infrastructure should come first. Cancelling the highway 5/6 interchange project would save about 100 times as much money as cancelling these bicycle lanes. That would seem like a better place to save money.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted April 22, 2016 at 07:34:17

Way to get it done city staff! Keep it going - don't let douchebag councilors get you down!

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 22, 2016 at 08:06:19 in reply to Comment 117836

you may have noticed on twitter, but one of our illustrious councillors is criticizing these staff members for securing 50% of the funds for this project. Yes, for real.

Shouldn't really surprise anyone though considering many of these same councillors complained about the province paying for 100% of our LRT line.

They don't want investment, growth or progress in Hamilton. They want to drive fast to Walmart on empty streets.

Comment edited by jason on 2016-04-22 08:06:37

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted April 22, 2016 at 08:43:42 in reply to Comment 117839

I know, it is not right that they be criticized or chastised for simply doing what they were asked to do.

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By Crispy (registered) | Posted April 22, 2016 at 07:41:13

This should have been 2 different articles. One celebrating the cycling win and another calling out Whitehead's nonsense.

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By Durander3263827 (anonymous) | Posted April 22, 2016 at 07:41:45

With the street being redesigned, this would be a perfect time to make Bay Street two-way again. Not only would it slow the traffic and improve residents' ability to enter and exit the neighbourhood, but two-way traffic on Bay (especially in the Durand) would force cars to stop and look both ways when turning onto Bay, avoiding the injury and death (like happened at Bay and Robinson) when drivers are only watching for cars travelling from one direction, and not pedestrians and now bikes coming from both.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 22, 2016 at 09:02:21 in reply to Comment 117838

As much as I'm a cyclist and adore the idea of a two-way bike-lane on Bay, I'd actually prefer a north-south-end-to-end cycle infrastructure on another street and a nice normal regular two-way conversion for Bay, even if it meant losing bike lanes (obviously I'd prefer both bike lanes and two-way Bay but that seems politically impossible).

There's effectively an 800-metre-long wall along Cannon (our major westbound corridor) preventing drivers from getting into the core. From James to Queen, the combination of Jackson Square and Sir John A creates a massive barrier, broken only by Bay... which has the completely artificial and unnecessary barrier of being a 1-way street.

2-way Bay would have helped service the King West BIA when the Bus Lane was driving traffic onto Cannon - the current way from Cannon to King West is a wonky zig-zag onto York Boulevard back to Caroline.

If it were up to me, the end-to-end bike corridor would be on some other road and a small cycle-track would be added on Hess from Cannon to King. Then make Bay 2-way at least from Cannon to Main.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2016-04-22 09:08:29

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 22, 2016 at 09:10:54

This whole situation reminds me again of the Cannon track - when staff realized that going all the way to Hess was needed to make this work and went ahead with changes to make that happen, they got an earful from council. Other projects dont' get half the scrutiny as these bike tracks, and the message is loud and clear: if staffers don't want to get clobbered by council, don't work on cycle tracks.

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By BaySouth (registered) | Posted April 22, 2016 at 09:37:48

As someone that owns a home, and two cars on Bay south between Aberdeen and Herkimer - bring on the bike lane!

Anything that slows down the cars is welcome.

When I was leaving to take my kids to school this morning, a car waiting to turn right from Bay south onto Herkimer came within inches of hitting a kid crossing herkimer. Not sure if the bike lane would improve incidents like this, maybe it would if people didn't treat the street like a highway in the morning.

Bay south car volumes was great when the queen st hill was closed. I think the mountain residents used that large multiple lane thing to get downtown... I think it's called a highway.

After this, please address Aberdeen, Charlton, Queen and all the other one ways in this area.

I walk the kids to school often. Walking along aberdeen to dundurn - nope. Crossing Queen -> hold my breath and run. Looking forward to that new crosswalk.

I don't ride a bike, I do drive a car, and I also walk. I live downtown in a major city. I shouldn't be able to drive down residential streets doing 50 km/hour.

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 22, 2016 at 13:36:13 in reply to Comment 117846

well said. This is a quality of life and safety issue for everyone. Not just cyclists.

Read this article from Boston and just dream of what it would be like to hear such uniform comments from city councillors. It's almost as if Boston councillors care about the safety of their residents. Hippie Commies, I guess.

Also, whats with the reporting? No contrarian quote from a councillor who could care less about anything except his ability to drive 80km/hr 24 hours a day?


Clearly Boston is living in the bizarro world....

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By And Another Thing (anonymous) | Posted April 22, 2016 at 10:18:55 in reply to Comment 117846

What you could have also mentioned was the amount of property tax you pay to live on Bay South.

I am confident that your average uninformed Hamiltonian would be blown away if they took the time to look up what people in Durand are paying in property tax to live next to this ridiculous street network.

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By BaySouth (registered) | Posted April 22, 2016 at 10:46:50 in reply to Comment 117848

How much taxes do i pay, well... You can look up any city address here:


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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted April 22, 2016 at 12:39:52

This is the advantage of bicycle infrastructure, its relatively cheap and very simple to do, compared to other types of transport infrastructure like expressway interchanges.

You know, I'm around this kind of stuff all the time and yet it always astounded me, the sheer amount of construction equipment and materials or "Construction Stuff" as we sometime say, you need to complete even a simple or partial expressway interchange. I'm not against all highway projects, some are needed however, some of these interchanges by them selves, occupy enough space for 30-50 medium sized housing lots, with big back yards as well as full sized wide boulevards and connecting streets. It's astounding sometime the space they take up!

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