Spectator Endorses Cycling Master Plan

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 22, 2009

Today's Hamilton Spectator includes an editorial that endorses the city's proposed Cycling Master Plan, which council will consider on Wednesday evening. (The editorial was written by Lee Prokaska but represents the consensus view of the paper's editorial board.)

The city's approach to pedal power is a wise one. It combines a range of bike-friendly modifications to our roads; it can be accomplished in stages; and it recognizes the current depressed economy may not be the best time to be allocating big bucks.


Certainly, the idea of getting people out of gas-guzzling personal vehicles and onto pedal-powered bikes is good for a range of reasons. It's better for the environment. It's a great way to get some exercise at both ends of the day. It costs substantially less than operating a personal vehicle. And if there is a clearly defined network of bike lanes and paths, it's a safe way to get around. It would be good for all of us if this plan goes forward.

After acknowledging the cost of the program - $51.5 million stretched over 20 or 40 years - and acknowleding the opposition of those the paper calls "naysayers", Prokaska rebuts the common argument that the investment would have only narrow appeal:

Naysayers may attack the plan because we don't have a handle on the number of bike commuters in Hamilton. But the establishment of safe and clearly-marked bicycle routes in other cities has attracted cyclists who previously avoided a two-wheeled commute. It may be becoming a bit hackneyed, but a variation on the old saying applies nonetheless -- if we build it, lots of them will more than likely come.

Of course, given that the benefits of investment in cycling infrastructure grow geometrically with the network's continuity and that the total cost of the Cycling Master Plan is less than the city's annual roads budget, I'd rather see the plan completed in four years than in forty.

As Terry Cooke (firing on all cylinders in his bi-weekly Spectator column) noted this past Saturday:

They built the Great Pyramid in ancient Egypt in 20 years. But in Hamilton it's going to take us 40 years to construct a network of bicycle paths. Maybe we should be just a little more ambitious.

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 jason (registered) | Posted June 22, 2009 at 10:05:16

Terry Cooke for Regional Chair....I mean, Mayor.

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By Hopeful (registered) | Posted June 23, 2009 at 12:13:22

I happened to be in Burlington yesterday (a weekday) and couldn't help but notice the number of cyclists in the lanes on Brant Street, Lakeshore and Plains Road. Some were in sweats, some were in suits and some were in spandex. Our Council doesn't need to look too far to see how well bike lanes will be used once they're put in place. It's happening right next door.
Fianlly, right on Terry! It's an embarrassment that we're planning this over decades and still can't make a decision. Why don't we postpone one or two 2010 road resurfacings or expansions and get it done now? How quickly --- and how well --- we can do it... that's the tone I'd like to see tomorrow's debate take.

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By smoosh (anonymous) | Posted June 25, 2009 at 22:57:08

Careful, Terry writing opinion pieces and voting on issues might be two very different things...

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