Special Report: Cycling

Hamilton LRT Design Excludes Cycling for Most of its Length

Toronto's Eglinton Crosstown LRT will include protected bike lanes. Hamilton's LRT, not so much.

By Kevin Love
Published May 13, 2016

This article has been updated.

The Hamilton Cycling Committee met on Wednesday, May 4. In attendance were Fred Eisenberger, Mayor of Hamilton, Daryl Bender, the Committee's staff support person, and the members of the Committee. A considerable amount of the meeting was devoted to a presentation of the current LRT proposal.

Rendering: Hamilton LRT Scott Park station
Rendering: Hamilton LRT Scott Park station

Renderings were mounted on easels along the entire west wall of the meeting room, and the consultants explained the proposal and answered questions. Although I am a strong LRT supporter for Hamilton, I was dismayed to learn that this excellent concept is currently planned for a very poor implementation.

In Toronto, the Eglinton Crosstown LRT that is currently under construction has had Toronto City Council unanimously approve full, separated bike lanes for the entire length of Eglinton.

Rendering: Protected bike lanes on Eglinton
Rendering: Protected bike lanes on Eglinton

Please note one feature of the rendering in that link, and in other renderings of the Crosstown project: The street is being used for transportation and not for the storage of private property.

Rendering: protected bike lanes on Elginton with surface LRT
Rendering: protected bike lanes on Elginton with surface LRT

No Cycling Infrastructure with LRT

The consultants presenting the LRT plan to the Hamilton Cycling Committee made it clear that a different decision is being made in Hamilton. We are not getting cycling infrastructure because in Hamilton the use of the street by people for transportation is a second priority to using the street for the storage of private property.

The consultants also trotted out the old excuse that King and James North are "not in the Cycling Master Plan." We have heard that particular tired old excuse many times before.

Of course, the Cycling Master Plan was prepared long before the provincial government decided to fund the LRT. The City has no problem building new car infrastructure in response to changing circumstances. Has anyone ever heard of such car infrastructure being vetoed by the City with the excuse, "it is not in the Transportation Master Plan"?

Finally, the consultants had the nerve to say that it was "not possible" to fit cycling infrastructure into the right of way. Since this is simply not true, my response was to call them on it and say that their own drawings show that it certainly is possible. They are choosing to do other things with the right of way. They had no response and went on to the next subject.

Many other things were said and done by the Committee, including electing me as its Vice-Chair. This article does not pretend to be any form of official minutes or to describe all that happened. The opinions presented are entirely my own and do not necessarily reflect the official policies of Hamilton City Council.


Update: updated to add a rendering of protected bike lanes on a section of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT that runs at surface.

Update 2: updated title to reflect the fact that bike lanes are planned for the LRT section in West Hamilton.

Kevin is a professional accountant and a retired infantry officer with the Canadian Forces. Kevin keeps encountering people who were students of his father, Dr. Robert Love, who was a professor at MacMaster University from 1977-2008. He lives near Durand Park in Hamilton and is currently Vice-Chair of the Hamilton Cycling Committee.

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By JoeyColeman (registered) - website | Posted May 13, 2016 at 07:02:21

Thank you for sharing this. I immediately thought upon reading this article - I'd like to learn more about this meeting. Unfortunately, as part of the punishments imposed by Council for "RSS hacking" (linking to public agendas on the City website), the City no longer provides me the same access as accredited media of all the meetings. I have to rely upon the City's website and they do not list the Cycling Committee. This is why I wasn't able to cover this meeting. Again, thank you for posting this.

  • Joey

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 07:16:40

just one minor correction, the Eglinton images show curb side parking for cars, Hamilton's proposal does not have curb parking. Point still taken: we should be adding bike lanes, even if they're narrow Paris-styled ones

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By Surbanite (anonymous) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 07:23:21

I commend the author on his efforts, but this appears to be an apple and oranges comparison. The section on Eglington on the renderings is where the LRT is underground. Above ground, the trains will require 9.54m of the road allowance. How is there also room for dedicated bike lanes? I'm having a hard time visualizing this is possible.

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By JoeyColeman (registered) - website | Posted May 13, 2016 at 07:49:31

I don't believe a dedicated cycling lane is cost-effective as part of the LRT.

As proposed the B-Line LRT will require the full road allowance for two lanes of dedicated light rail track and one lane for each direction of traffic. In places, the LRT project will require expropriation to gain the road allowance required, and in many places, the LRT will require legal easement agreements for the allowance.

With expropriation and easements in mind, I need convincing that the Cannon Cycling Track with a combination of improvements to cycling infrastructure south of the LRT line will not be sufficient to provide safe time-effective cycling infrastructure.

Politics is the allocation of limited resources. I'll leave it open to those advocating cycling lanes along the B-Line LRT to convince me that expropriation for cycling infrastructure is an investment with high enough a return to justify the cost.

On the surface, this doesn't seem like a wise investment.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 08:09:31 in reply to Comment 118498

I wanted to show the diversity of Eglinton in Toronto. So I provided a link to one section where the LRT was above ground and one section where the LRT was underground.

Follow the second link to see Eglinton with above-ground LRT and protected cycling lanes. Here it is again:

https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/04...

Perhaps the article would have been better if I had only provided that one link and that one rendering. After all, the article is about Hamilton, not Toronto.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 08:15:27 in reply to Comment 118500

No expropriation is necessary. The place with the narrowest right-of-way is in the International Village. In that area, the initial proposal was to have a car-free zone with pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.

Instead, a decision was made to have a lane for cars and zero cycling infrastructure. This was a free choice that was made.

Another example is on James North. A decision was made to have zero cycling infrastructure and instead use the road space for the storage of private property. Again, that was a free choice that was made for the use of existing road space. No expropriation necessary.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 08:20:54 in reply to Comment 118496

Only the first image shows that. I wanted to show the diversity of Eglinton in Toronto. So I provided a link to one section where the LRT was above ground and one section where the LRT was underground.

Upon sober second thought, I believe that the article should have only showed the second rendering of the part of Eglinton where the LRT is above ground. After all, the article is about Hamilton, not Toronto. I should have limited myself to this image:

https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/04...

This Eglinton image does not have curb side car parking. The Hamilton LRT proposal does, in particular on James North.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 08:22:32 in reply to Comment 118504

Thank you! You are a really fantastic editor!

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By cheap solution (anonymous) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 08:24:54

As far as the distance between James and Wentworth is concerned, simply removing a couple of one way signs would make King William a very viable option. It's about 50 meters out of your way and really a much more pleasant experience. I would be very careful about complaining about the current plan from the 'left', because the 'right' already have there jackhammers out and it is not for constructive purposes. Anyone who holds Toronto up as bastion of good planning has obviously never lived there.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 08:29:50 in reply to Comment 118495

Joey,

I would first like to say that in my opinion the way you were treated was mean-spirited and in profound contradiction to the City's stated goals for respect of the media and public. This is my personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the policies of Hamilton City Council.

HCyC meets the first Wednesday of each month at 5:45 PM. The meetings are open to the public.

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By Suburbanite (anonymous) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 08:42:17 in reply to Comment 118502

Thanks Kevin, but you might want to check that area out further. I believe that section of Eglington, above ground LRT, doesn't require additional space for the platforms - has no stops. Plus at this stage, Toronto Council I believe has only approved the bike lanes for the part of Eglington that runs underground since space becomes available with the removal of the dedicated bus lanes. I just don't think we have the room or have allowed for further expropriation/infrastucture costs.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 08:53:09

The Main Street section in Westdale/McMaster will include a cycle lane, although the current renderings don't show it as protected.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 08:59:26 in reply to Comment 118503

You can bike the alleys from Wellington to John which in my view is a nicer, quieter route. Also, I believe the city is encouraging businesses within the IV to begin providing customer access off the alley to mitigate disruption from LRT construction. This could all come together to create what I think would be a very pleasant off-street commercial area.

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By Sara (registered) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 09:01:15

Kevin, I am completed baffled by your intention with this article. You are confusing the issue rather than giving the community facts they can use to better understand the issue.

1) Headline is inaccurate - cycling is not excluded from LRT plan. Why do you not mention that LRT on Main West will have bike lanes? And Main W is not on the cycling master plan! This is a big step for city, so isn't it worth mentioning?

2) Where will there be car storage anywhere on King/Main LRT? My understanding is that original LRT plan kept one way King (ie 2 lanes LRT, 2 lanes one way traffic) and that would allow at least part-time car parking. But now with 2 lanes LRT and one lane in each direction for general traffic there is no room in the 2 way section for car parking. Even the image you use shows no car storage. There may still be a few car parking spots in the one way sections at Hess and International Village - this would have been useful to clarify so people don't think there's car parking the whole route.

3) As others have noted, comparison to Eglington makes no sense. Eglinton is 8 lanes wide, twice the width of King or James. So how does that set an example for what can be done on narrow sections of our LRT?

4) From your subsequent comments it seems you are criticising James LRT for prioritizing car storage over cycling. So then make that clear - fundamentally this article is about James, so headline and images should be changed to reflect that.

Comment edited by Sara on 2016-05-13 09:05:22

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By Suburbanite (anonymous) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 09:04:14 in reply to Comment 118509

I should have done this first before sending the above reply. I checked with my sources and that rendering is for Eglington just east of the DVP where the road allowance is 40 ms wide and is showing possible future developments along the route. Again though, I commend you on your visions but I think we'd be hard-pressed to add cycling infrastructure. I drove downtown last night for dinner and had a hard time visualizing a safe mixed-use (train, cars and pedestrians) A line route along James, let alone additional safety measures for cyclists. Just my thoughts, but perhaps an alternate safe route could be worked out close by?

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 09:07:27 in reply to Comment 118509

As we see in this link, protected bike lanes were unanimously approved by Toronto City Council for the entire length of Eglinton, from Jane Street to Kennedy.

You can see the above-ground stations in this link:

http://www.thecrosstown.ca/the-project/s...

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By Haveacow (registered) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 09:10:27

I wouldn't be too hard on any one about Eglinton Ave. It varies from a width of 4-5 lanes were the LRT is underground and few of those 4 lane stretches are pretty thin, giving each lane a width of 8 feet would be stretching it. This is mostly due to the fact that, a good part of Eglinton Ave. from Laird Drive to the Allen Expressway began its suburbanization process in the early 1880's, long before the need to provide wide boulevards for cars. The sections of LRT right of way where the Eglinton Crosstown is above ground varies from 9 lanes at Don Mills Rd. to 5 at Kennedy Rd.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted May 13, 2016 at 09:25:09 in reply to Comment 118500

Possible suggestion:

Car-free Sundays (or Sunday mornings) between downtown and Gage Park, to allow King car lanes to be used as a cycle corridor without worry from cars.

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By Sara (registered) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 09:32:32 in reply to Comment 118503

No Kevin, you are not reporting accurately. The original LRT design did NOT call for a car free zone in International Village, but instead LRT would be in mixed 2 way traffic there (with parking remaining). http://www2.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/748...

The change is now that cars will only be one way in IV but LRT will remain separated. But due to lane direction changes there will be no thru traffic on King at all, so the car volumes will be so light it will operate as a woonerf street, which is a good thing, right Kevin?

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted May 13, 2016 at 10:39:16 in reply to Comment 118510

I was really hoping that a major piece of missing cycling infrastructure would be addressed as these changes are worked through: a simple, safe, and obvious way to get between Westdale/McMaster and downtown.

Given SoBi and the growing presence of the university downtown, cycling could be a useful and popular link between the two locations. It's a fifteen minute ride at the moderate pace from campus to Main & Bay along Main West, but that is a daunting ride for most. And the alternative routes all involve going well out of the way or knowing little tricks, short cuts, and clever dekes.

Comment edited by moylek on 2016-05-13 10:39:30

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 10:50:49 in reply to Comment 118512

Sara,

The headline was written by Ryan, not myself. The rather boring title I put on my submission to him was “Presentation to Hamilton Cycling Committee.”

Nonetheless, I believe that Ryan was substantially correct. Unprotected cycle lanes exclude 92% of the population and perpetuate sexual and age discrimination as they are disproportionately used by men between the ages of 18-65. To have these unprotected lanes on only one part of the project is excluding cycling from the LRT project for 92% of the population from that part of the project, and excluding 99% of the population from the rest of the project.

Yes, Eglinton Avenue in Toronto is not identical to the proposed Hamilton LRT route in every way. One key similarity is that, due to induced demand, car drivers in dense urban areas will always ask for more road space. Toronto City Council stood up to them. Hamilton did not.

Yes, different parts of the current proposed LRT plan have different problems. To criticize at that level of detail would result in a much, much longer article. One similarity throughout the entire project is the failure to include cyclists, in spite of having the right of way and the capability to do so. That is the essential point of the article.

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2016-05-13 10:58:36

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 10:53:35 in reply to Comment 118517

Sara,

By "initial" I was not referring to the staff investigation of 2007 but to the latest provincial government initiative. Tonight I will dig up the reference.

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2016-05-13 10:54:45

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 10:55:30 in reply to Comment 118522

But cyclists have been included in the Main West section! The renderings do not show protection (although they are very visible with green paint), but I'm not sure that they are intended to give that level of design detail.

There is is a difference between "failure to include cyclists" and "including cyclists with non-protected cycle lanes". I agree that protected lanes are much better, but regular (especially highly visible lanes) are still carving out space for cyclists.

And this is a good time to push for those cycle lanes to be upgraded to protected. But claiming there is no cycling infrastructure planned along the LRT route is just not accurate, even if the standard shown in the renderings is inadequate.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2016-05-13 10:56:22

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 11:49:40 in reply to Comment 118524

The problem with unprotected cycle lanes is that they only include 8% of the population. In particular, the 60% of the people who fall into the Interested but Concerned demographic are excluded by unprotected cycle lanes. Also, unprotected lanes perpetuate sexual and age discrimination; that 8% is disproportionately men between the ages of 18-65.

So a few cyclists have been included in the Main West section, but the overwhelming majority have not been included.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 12:54:03 in reply to Comment 118528

... the ROW is narrow and trade-offs have to be made

Why is it that, in Hamilton, the next words are never, "... Which is why it is impossible to accommodate car driving on this street."

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By JoeyColeman (registered) - website | Posted May 13, 2016 at 13:11:54 in reply to Comment 118517

Expropriation is needed for the current one-lane for cars each direction. To add a bike lane will create further need for expropriation and easement agreements. For that bike lane to be protected requires more width.

In the International Village, the one lane for motor vehicles is needed to allow access to existing parking structures - be it the Effort Trust (Crowne Plaza) parking structure or the apartment building between Ferguson and Spring.

There is no further room to include bike lanes without great cost.

The focus, in my opinion, should be ensuring safe bike travel connecting to LRT stations, and cycling as a crosstown option south of the LRT.

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By Hamletonian (anonymous) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 13:13:47

I believe that was the case when the plan removed 2 way traffic in the International Village.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 13:39:47 in reply to Comment 118517

... so the car volumes will be so light it will operate as a woonerf street, which is a good thing, right Kevin?

At the meeting, the consultants asserted that there will be high-car-volume destinations in this area, such as car parking structures.

To answer your question, no projections of car volumes were given, so I am unable to comment on the "so light" part.

I do share the concerns of David Hembrow about woonerfen or "shared space."

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 13:46:42 in reply to Comment 118535

Joey,

It is a choice by the City to allow cars to have access to existing car parking structures. Driving is a privilege, not a right.

Perhaps you should talk to restaurant owners who went to great expense to install ventilated separate smoking rooms before all smoking in restaurants was banned by the provincial government.

As a professional Accountant, we call it "business risk." Indeed, it may be a good idea to increase the perceived level of business risk for constructing car parking structures, as this would have the effect of deterring such behaviour.

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2016-05-13 13:58:13

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By Sara (registered) | Posted May 13, 2016 at 21:58:07 in reply to Comment 118534

But Kevin even yourself you haven't advocated anywhere in this article that car driving should be banned from all or parts of King to give space for bikes. Go ahead make the case for that, instead of pretending that non-existant car parking could be removed for cycling.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted May 14, 2016 at 14:14:47

"Cycle Toronto's proposal for a minimum grid is defined generally as 100 km of separated bike lanes and 100 km of bicycle boulevards. Providing separated cycle track facilities on 100 km of side path streets and 100 km of bicycle boulevards would require significant investment. To implement separated bike lanes the approximate cost is $180,000 per km where installed through a retrofit with bollards and planters, with costs escalating up to $1,000,000 per km for the construction of curb separated cycle tracks. To implement bicycle boulevards (which consist of signed and marked route / contraflow bike lane with traffic calming), the cost is generally $75,000 per km. Note that these costs do not include the cost of any traffic studies, consultations required to determine if the bike lanes were feasible, required modifications to intersections, provision of additional traffic signals or pedestrian crossovers, and any additional modifications that may be necessary. Dependent on the nature of improvements provided, the level of consultations required and other
factors, the approximate cost to implement a minimum grid of this nature is $50-$150 million."

toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2016/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-89433.pdf

$150 million is also the City of Toronto's ballpark investment in Eglinton Connects over 10 years.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted May 14, 2016 at 16:42:51 in reply to Comment 118562

Compare if you dare:

"The city spends an average of about $890,000 each year on cycling infrastructure, according to its cycling master plan. But that's not nearly as much as it would take to build the cycling network envisioned in the city's 2009 Shifting Gears study within a 20-year time period. Here's how the numbers break down: The city's report estimates the total cost for the recommended network to be $51.5 million. Of that, $22.5 million would be spent on urban areas and $29 million for rural areas, in 2009 dollars. The city's report says that to build out the entire plan, that would require $2.5 million to be spent each year for 20 years."

cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/news/cycling-advocates-call-for-hamilton-to-boost-bike-infrastructure-1.3437858

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted May 14, 2016 at 21:41:55 in reply to Comment 118563

20 x 2.5 = 51.5. That's the City's legendary attention to detail.

Assume that the City of Hamilton has been spending $890K on average annually since 2009 toward a project estimated to cost $51.5M and that inflation magically doesn't apply and Hamilton's city-wide cycling network will take close to 60 years to complete.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 15, 2016 at 09:36:00 in reply to Comment 118523

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 15, 2016 at 09:57:35 in reply to Comment 118556

Sara,

Again, if I were to put forth my alternative vision for King it would be a much, much, longer article. A very short version of that would be protected cycle lanes throughout its route as per Eglinton and car-free IV as a first step towards an extensive downtown car-free zone such as currently exists in the city of Utrecht.

"Non-existant (sic) car parking"? Have you been to King recently? Here is one example, at 400 King West. Note the car parking meters. Yes, this is the LRT route. Car parking very much exists there.

And yes, I have a big problem with someone who says, "It is OK to reallocate road space from car driving and car parking for the LRT, but not for a protected cycle lane."

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By Sara (registered) | Posted May 15, 2016 at 18:48:21 in reply to Comment 118565

Thanks :)

Personally I think it's a big stretch to say that "the initial proposal was to have a car-free zone" when all you have to go on is "Planners considered a car-free "transit mall" in this location, but scrapped the idea". In my reading, "considering" is not "proposing".

Also a car parking garage of a few hundred cars will not make King a high volume street.

I do appreciate the vigorous debate we've had. :)

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