On May 4 and 5, Kevin Love will be leading Jane's Rides that explore how to use Hamilton's network of alleys to travel around the city.
By Kevin Love
Published May 02, 2019
One little-known fact is that it is possible to ride to lots of places using Hamilton's system of alleys. This weekend, I will be leading two Jane's Rides which will do just that.
Hamilton's alleys are a mostly undiscovered gem, not only as a safer transportation route for bicycles but also as a great opportunity for "gentle intensification" through infill housing.
This carriage house would make a lovely conversion to laneway housing
For those who have never seen me before, I am 203 cm (6'8") tall. Or you can see a photo of me leading a Janes Ride in 2012.
The first ride on Saturday will take alleys from the downtown core to Hamilton General Hospital. We will start at 2:00 in Gore Park next to the SoBi Station by the statue of Queen Victoria. The ride takes place rain or shine.
Part of the alleyway route from Gore Park to Hamilton General Hospital (Route overlaid on OpenStreetMap)
The City of Hamilton currently disrespects its alleys by not naming them. I have given them names because otherwise it is rather difficult to describe the route.
I call "Downtown Alley" the east-west alley that is north of King Street. Downtown Alley starts west of John Street and goes to Emerald Street in the east.
"Wellington Park Alley" is the name I give to the north-south alley that starts at Downtown Alley at Wellington Park and that extends north to Evans Street.
"Hospital Alley" is what I will call the north-south alley that starts opposite the main entrance to Hamilton General Hospital between West and Victoria avenues, and ends north of King William Street.
Because it is one of Hamilton's longest alleys, "Grand Alley" is the name I give to the alley that starts at Birge Street east of Victoria Avenue and that goes all the way south to Downtown Alley.
From Gore Park, we will enter Downtown Alley at John Street.
Entrance to Downtown Alley at John Street.
A key feature is the mural in Downtown Alley opposite 107 King Street:
Mural in Downtown Alley
At Downtown Alley and Ferguson, we see cycling-specific infrastructure. Specifically, signs allowing cyclists to make left turns that are forbidden to motor vehicle operators.
Cycling infrastructure at Ferguson
At Wellington Park, we will turn left into Wellington Park Alley and travel north to Evans Street. Note that Evans Street itself is a large alley that has been given a name and alley housing.
Alley housing on Evans Street
We will turn right on Evans Street and one block later turn left onto Hospital Alley. Then we will travel north on Hospital Alley to Hamilton General Hospital.
Hamilton General Hospital main entrance as seen from beginning of Hospital Alley
Next, we will travel north on the Victoria bike lanes to Birge Street and the beginning of Grand Alley.
Beginning of Grand Alley at Birge Street
The south end of Grand Alley features a fascinating alley/alley intersection where Grand Alley meets Downtown Alley. We will then follow Downtown Alley back to Gore Park.
Intersection of Grand Alley and Downtown Alley
The second ride, on Sunday, will take alleys from the downtown core to Hamilton General Hospital. We will start at 2:00 at the SoBi station at Durand Park. The ride takes place rain or shine.
Route of Jane's Ride (Image Credit: OpenStreetMaps)
Once again, I will begin by naming the alleys. Giving alleys a name is not only an act of respect, but makes it much easier to describe the route.
The north-south alley directly west of Bay Street I call Central Alley. This is because it forms part of a safe route to Central Public School.
The east-west alley between Herkimer and Charlton I call Church Alley. This is because no less than three churches are directly on the alley, with another church half a block away.
The north-south alley between Queen and Hess I call Ryerson Alley, because it forms part of a safe route to Ryerson Elementary School.
Finally, the alley between Herkimer and Markland/Stanley I call Durand Kirkendall Alley because it stretches all the way between Dundurn Street and (almost) Bay Street.
The first thing we will do is walk our bikes half a block on the sidewalk to Central Alley just west of Bay Street. We will do this because Herkimer is one-way the wrong way. Before we travel north on Central Alley, we will take a minute to look south and see how Central Alley goes all the way south to Aberdeen Avenue.
Central Alley at Herkimer
After travelling half a block north on Central Alley, we will turn left onto Church Alley at an alley/alley intersection.
Intersection of Central Alley and Church Alley
We will then travel west on Church Alley past Central Presbyterian Church and First Christian Reformed Church.
Alleyway entrance to Central Presbyterian Church
At First Christian Reformed Church, we will turn right onto Ryerson Alley. We will go past another alley/alley intersection with some nice raised flower beds in the back yard on the alley/alley corner.
Raised flower beds at alley/alley intersection
This takes us to Robinson Street, where we will again walk our bikes half a block on the sidewalk to Ryerson School - again, walking since this is the "wrong" way on this one-way street.
From Ryerson School, we will travel through the HAAA Grounds to rejoin Church Alley half a block south on Kent Street. Travelling west on Church Alley, we go directly past St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church and half a block away from St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church on the bustling Locke Street.
Church Alley ends at Dundurn Street, where we will travel on the Dundurn bike lanes one block south to the beginning of Kirkendall Durand Alley.
Kirkendall Durand Alley goes through the Mansion District, so we see some rather nice mansions with swimming pools and children playing in the alley with basketball nets.
St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Elementary School is on Kirkendall Durand Alley, with a rear gate providing a direct entrance to the school.
Entrance to St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Elementary School on Kirkendall Durand Alley.
At Queen Street there is a short discontinuity in Kirkendall Durand Alley, so we have to travel half a block along Herkimer before going back into the Alley.
There is an error in the Open Street Map which shows the Kirkendall Durand Alley ending at Caroline Street. Not true! The alley continues behind the Shoppers Drug Mart and ends in a T-intersection with Central Alley. We will turn left on Central Alley and end the Jane's Ride where we started in Durand Park.
This Jane's Ride is being conducted on public streets and alleys which every citizen of Hamilton has a right to use. However, I would like to gently encourage people to foster cycling safety by encouraging the safety in numbers effect. This involves branding and promoting cycling as an utterly normal, mainstream activity of ordinary citizens traveling from A to B.
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