If Hamilton is serious about making cycling a viable, attractive choice for more people, we should be investing in protected cycle tracks everywhere we can.
By Ryan McGreal
Published February 01, 2017
With Hamilton Light Rail Transit (LRT) staff saying they may need to adjust the vehicle lanes on York Boulevard to accommodate westbound automobile traffic, we actually have an exciting opportunity to do something really exciting: extend the Cannon Street Cycle Track on York all the way to Dundurn.
Cannon Cycle Track (RTH file photo)
The Cannon Cycle Track is the most high-quality piece of cycling infrastructure in Hamilton - two-way traffic, physically protected, traffic signals, advanced stop lines (bike boxes) at cross-streets, pavement marking across intersections, and so on.
It was built in 2013 running between Sherman Avenue in the east and Hess Street in the west, and it established high expectations for what the connecting infrastructure to follow would look like. Unfortunately, those follow-up facilities have been a disappointing regression to the mean.
East of Sherman, there are no bike lanes at all between Sherman and Lottridge (but there is a surplus right-turn lane on the eastbound side), and there are just painted lanes between Lottridge and Britannia.
West of Hess, the York Boulevard bike lanes are painted and buffered with a physical space from the adjacent car lane, but they not physically protected and they disappear into right-turn lanes at intersections.
Buffered bike lane on York (RTH file photo)
In addition, the connection from the Cannon Cycle Track westbound to the York bike lane is awkward, as it requires cyclists to make a two-step hop to a small bike box on Hess, and then make a left turn to the far side of York to pick up the bike lane.
At York and Dundurn, the connection to the Dundurn bike lanes is even worse: there is no obvious way for a cyclist to make the turn without joining the flow of mixed automobile traffic.
York at Dundurn: no obvious way to get to Dundurn bike lanes (RTH file photo)
York is a six lane boulevard with a grassy, tree-lined centre median. At present, one lane in each direction is dedicated to a buffered bike lane. LRT staff are saying they might need an extra westbound lane to accommodate automobile traffic displaced by LRT construction on King Street.
There is a whole argument to be made about whether it makes sense to increase the number of automobile lanes when we are trying to drive a shift in mode away from driving, but let's set that aside for now.
If we are still guaranteed to have the space of the southernmost eastbound buffered bike lane to work with, let's take the plunge and upgrade it into a two-way protected cycle track that links directly to its sibling on Cannon.
Proposed two-way cycle track on York extending from Cannon and Hess toward Dundurn (Image Credit: Google Maps)
There will be some engineering challenges at Cannon and Queen, of course, where there is a high volume of automobiles turning left from Cannon onto Queen. However, this can be addressed by adjusting the traffic signals to add a stage for bikes transitioning between Cannon and York.
At Dundurn, the cycle track will already be on the south side, so the connection to the Dundurn bike lanes (or to an alternate route on Breadalbane) will be much easier. And along the way, it will also cross the proposed greenway on Magill-Pearl-Kent.
Physically protected cycle tracks are the gold standard of cycling infrastructure. They are the safest design for all road users, including people driving cars, and they are the most successful at attracting more people to use a bicycle for more trips.
If Hamilton is serious about making cycling a viable, attractive choice for more people, we should be investing in protected cycle tracks everywhere we can. At present, we only have a cycle track on Cannon, a short segment on King Street West across Highway 403, and an even shorter segment on Main West across Highway 403, plus some off-street multi-use paths.
Staff are also working on implementing a cycle track on Bay Street between Aberdeen and the Cannon Cycle Track, and the two-way bike lane on Hunter could easily be upgraded to a protected cycle track by installing bollards for protection from the adjacent vehicle lane.
With some vision and commitment to excellence, this could become the start of a contiguous network of protected cycle tracks that would really increase the number of people riding bikes safely and comfortably in Hamilton.
This traffic crisis for our current painted bike lanes on York is really an opportunity to do something much better, and we should seize it.
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