Special Report: Cycling

Jolley Old Sam Lawrence

What if we could create a safe path for pedestrians and cyclists from lower Hamilton to Concession Street and beautiful Sam Lawrence Park, which would cost very little to build?

By Sean Burak
Published February 19, 2021

What if we could create a safe path for pedestrians and cyclists from lower Hamilton to Concession Street and beautiful Sam Lawrence Park, which would cost very little to build? With the recent improvements to Claremont and upcoming changes to the park itself, it turns out we can. And the best part is, the project would improve access for drivers as well.

Much has changed since I first wrote about the potential for a better Jolley Cut for all road users in 2009. The overpass section crossing the Claremont was reconstructed in 2011.

As part of this work, 280 m of sidewalk was rebuilt to include a physical barrier. But there still remains 540 m of unprotected narrow sidewalk (orange) between the bottom of the separated section (blue) and St. Joseph's Drive. There is also no sidewalk above the "hairpin" (red).



In 2020, the Keddy Access Trail (KAT) was completed along the full length of the Claremont Access. As part of this, a connecting trail was built between the KAT and St Joseph's drive. Connections to the Jolley Cut were also included.


Things on and around the Jolley have certainly improved. But these improvements haven't solved the fundamental problem of pedestrian and cycling access to Concession Street. In my previous proposal, I suggested converting a single downbound lane to a protected multi-use path.

However the new addition of the Keddy Trail, and the forthcoming Sam Lawrence Park upgrades have created a perfect opportunity to revisit the needs of the Jolley, and now a direct connection to the park is possible without pouring any new asphalt or altering any existing road edge barriers.

As part of the Sam Lawrence renovation, the two slip ramps at Concession and Upper Wellington are thankfully being removed (A, B). This is great news for pedestrians and cyclists navigating that intersection.

The colloquially named "jug handle" (C) is currently slated to remain as-is. It is this superfluous car infrastructure combined with the Keddy connection that has opened up the possibility for a better Jolley.


The traffic counts at this intersection indicate that both the North-South and East-West volumes at Wellington and Concession are less than 20,000 vehicles per day, making them candidates for a road diet - that is, the reduction of car lanes from two in each direction to one.

Understanding that uphill travel has unique challenges, a full two lanes of traffic could be maintained in the upbound direction, allowing for passing slow vehicles and adequate queueing space at the top.

Downhill traffic on the other hand, does not have the same needs. Providing a passing lane for cars creates uncomfortable (and unsafe) experiences for pedestrians and cyclists.

The summary of the proposal is that a single downbound lane of the Jolley be converted to a higher use - as a turning lane for cars where necessary and as a separated multi-use path (MUP) from the Keddy to Sam Lawrence Park.

The proposal comprises 3 sections, with advantages for all road users.


Section A

Proposed change: Two lanes up, one lane down, centre turn lane.

In this section, a new turn lane is provided for drivers who need to access driveways that enter Arkeldun from both sides.


Section B

Proposed Change: Two lanes up, one lane down, one lane converted to physically separated Multi Use Trail. To avoid excessive construction costs, jersey barriers can be implemented for the separation.


The connection at the bottom of Section B allows pedestrians to access the new multi use path from both sides via the new KAT underpass, and gives access to cyclists from John Street below via the KAT side trail to St. Joseph's Drive.

Because of the wonderful job that the city did on this KAT connection, cyclists and pedestrians can choose not to navigate the bottom section of the Jolley at all. It also means that there is no requirement to alter intersections at the bottom of the new Jolley multi-use path.

As an added bonus, a MUP on the escarpment side of the Jolley unlocks the ability to create an access stairway to Sam Lawrence halfway up, so pedestrians do not need to detour to Concession to reach the park.


At the top, the new multi use path would use the "jug handle" to terminate at Concession giving access Eastbound to the business area Westbound to Sam Lawrence Park. This termination happens at a low volume intersection and does not require any bicycle signals.


Section C

Proposed change: Provide high capacity double left turn lanes to accommodate upbound traffic access to Concession. This replaces the unintuitive (and unsafe) "jug handle" which currently bisects the park.

Uphill of the divergence of the multi-use path from the vehicular traffic, the road has four full lanes available for cars. Of these four, one would be for upbound straight and right turn, one for upbound straight and left, and a third for upbound left only. The fourth would be for downbound traffic.


In order to accommodate upbound and downbound traffic, the double left turn lane will allow ample queueing on the upper section of the Jolley where the grade is minimal. The signal would be converted to three phases.

First, upbound traffic priority (with right turns allowed from Westbound Concession).

Second, downbound traffic priority.

Third, east-west normal green phase (the requirement for advanced left turn priority to be determined by traffic needs).

By using intelligent dynamic signalling, upbound and downbound phases can be shortened or lengthened based on time-of-day needs.


This project would create a unique opportunity for two upper and two lower Hamilton councillors to piggyback off of the upcoming park rehabilitation and collaborate on an inexpensive project that can unite residents from above and below.

Will you join my call to Councillors Jason Farr, Nrinder Nann, Esther Pauls and John-Paul Danko to invest their discretionary funds into this project?


Sean Burak was born in Hamilton but raised elsewhere in Ontario. He returned to his birth town at the turn of the century and has never looked back. Sean is the owner of Downtown Bike Hounds.

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