Cycle Plan Gutted, Motorists Trump Other Road Users

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published April 05, 2012

I am surprised and shocked to learn that once again the interests of cyclists and pedestrians are left out when the City starts making actual changes to road design. Now it is happening to Longwood Road adjacent to McMaster Innovation Park (MIP), which was supposed to adopt a new balanced approach to street design.

Every recent planning document, from the Kirkendall Traffic Management Plan to the site plan for the MIP, emphasized that enhanced pedestrian and bicycle access and improved safety were to be top priorities.

Despite all the public consultation on these plans, and on the cycling master plan, the interests of motorists are apparently trumping those of all other road users. In particular, the cycling master plan has been systematically gutted in the short time since it has been adopted by Council!

Why does the City bother with these plans if we know they will be ignored when the actual decisions are made, particularly if motorists are inconvenienced?

The City has adopted the pedestrian charter and has approved a hierarchy that is supposed to put the needs of pedestrians and cyclists well above those of motorists. When are these policies actually going to start influencing decisions?

It is just not acceptable any more to use "traffic flow" as an excuse to ignore the interests of cyclists and pedestrians, especially in what is intended to be a cycling- and pedestrian-centred campus.

Today is the deadline to submit feedback on the Longwood Road preferred concept plan.

Nicholas Kevlahan was born and raised in Vancouver, and then spent eight years in England and France before returning to Canada in 1998. He has been a Hamiltonian since then, and is a strong believer in the potential of this city. Although he spends most of his time as a mathematician, he is also a passionate amateur urbanist and a fan of good design. You can often spot him strolling the streets of the downtown, shopping at the Market. Nicholas is the spokesperson for Hamilton Light Rail.


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By Cars R Us (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2012 at 17:06:24

Considering that cars account for such a huge number of the miles that the citizens of this city move about, it is only fitting that the roadways be designed to maximize their movement.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted April 06, 2012 at 23:17:03 in reply to Comment 75753

The reason cars account for such a huge number of the miles that citizens travel is because we cater to them. Why not make a plan that works for all parties involved? It is very much doable.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted April 07, 2012 at 13:44:56 in reply to Comment 75757

comment from banned user deleted

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By ViennaCafe (registered) | Posted April 08, 2012 at 12:45:06 in reply to Comment 75763

So have car owners pay the actual costs of maintaining roads through tolls. Surely you would agree cars should pay their full share.

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By arienc (registered) | Posted April 07, 2012 at 17:55:56 in reply to Comment 75763

You're right that motorists pay plenty. But here is realistic accounting of just how much gas taxes, municipal taxes and federal taxes motorists pay in, relative to the cost. And it you're interested in a full-cost accounting (including externalities) it's even worse. Drivers pay about 3-4 cents tax per kilometre driven, but the costs to society range from 16 to 40 cents per kilometre.

Comment edited by arienc on 2012-04-07 17:57:34

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By arienc (registered) | Posted April 07, 2012 at 22:07:46 in reply to Comment 75765

Just to be clear...from Transport Canada...

"In 2009–10, all levels of government combined collected $16.5 billion in permit and licence fees, fuel taxes and other revenues from transport users"

"Of the estimated $39.5 billion spent by all levels of government in 2009–10, $28.9 billion was spent on roads"

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2012 at 21:24:47

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted April 07, 2012 at 16:04:21 in reply to Comment 75754

ALERT ADMINS: pretty sure this is Allan Taylor back out from under his rock...

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2012 at 22:57:09 in reply to Comment 75754

So, can we hear what you consider a co-operative mutually beneficial plan?

Because I haven't heard of any recently, so maybe you can give us an example? What would benefit both bikes and cars in your mind?

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted April 07, 2012 at 08:30:53 in reply to Comment 75755

comment from banned user deleted

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted April 07, 2012 at 22:05:11 in reply to Comment 75760

So you'd be up for removing lanes of traffic to add cycling lanes with a physical barrier? That's certainly progressive.

How can we work with you to make this happen?

I'd be willing to have the policy crack down on cyclists (then we'll see if the situation is as bad as you say) if you'll support protected bike lanes on King/Main.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted April 07, 2012 at 09:17:40 in reply to Comment 75760

I would like to see a 3 foot passing law enacted, with mandatory reduced passing speeds. I believe that the "fines doubled in construction zones when workers present" rule should apply to all vehicles on all roads when passing any human who is not protected by a vehicle. That means giving space and slowing down for pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclits, scooter-ers, construction workers, police officers, garbage collectors, crossing guards and any other human. This should be common sense and common courtesy, but it isn't. The fact that we need a law in order to try to encourage this behavious speaks volumes to the depth of the problem with automobile centric infrastructure. Anyone who argues for speed of the car commute over the safety of all road users does not deserve to have a license.

The "law breaking cyclist" argument is a red herring. The only people who can make that point with any weight behind them are those who don't drive anywhere, as well as those drivers who never speed and who stop for three full seconds at every stop sign (and before every right-on-red manouevre). Which is basically no driver. Now, if cyclists were injuring motorists at the same rates as motorists injuring cyclists, there might be a valid "scofflaw cyclist" argument to be made. But nitpicking at petty traffic law abidance issues only invites the same nitpicking back and gets us nowhere.

This isn't about drivers vs cyclists vs pedestrians vs equestrians. This is about creating roads upon which all users are treated with equal respect by each other, by the law and by traffic engineers. It's about supporting all citizens' freedom of choice to move around their city using the means they choose.

I don't understand how this goal can appear so utterly distasteful to anybody.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted April 07, 2012 at 11:33:08 in reply to Comment 75761

comment from banned user deleted

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted April 07, 2012 at 22:15:57 in reply to Comment 75762

ignore stop lights, ignore stop signs, ride on the sidewalk, ride the wrong way on streets, pass stopped traffic at stop lights

My intention is not to excuse any of this, but almost all of the issues you list sound like the natural result of an absence of proper network.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2012-04-07 22:18:57

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By hardly (anonymous) | Posted April 11, 2012 at 12:54:17 in reply to Comment 75769

It is the result of ignorance and apathy. Too many cyclists are not aware of the rules of the road or the fact they apply to bikes and too many who know just don't care. There is virtually no enforcement so this breeds more and more of the above behavior.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted April 08, 2012 at 16:14:02 in reply to Comment 75769

How is law-breaking the natural result of a proper network?

If I drive on a road that lacks a centre line, does that mean I can drive wherever I like? Does it mean I don't have to obey rules? Get real.

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By abiding (anonymous) | Posted April 10, 2012 at 09:22:36 in reply to Comment 75776

Do you ever go over the speed limit? Do you stop for 3 seconds at every stop sign? Is arguing about individuals' adherence to these laws getting us anywhere?

That's right, I didn't think so..

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By hardly (anonymous) | Posted April 11, 2012 at 12:57:00 in reply to Comment 75819

What is this 3 second crap? Again the ignorance comes out. I believe that you are trying to say that a legal stop for a car is 3 seconds long and that is just total nonsense. The only requirement is that all forward motion ceases.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted April 12, 2012 at 04:09:50 in reply to Comment 75856

I know I shouldn't wade into this silly and eternal argument that somehow cyclists are a menace and don't deserve consideration because they flout the law more than motorists.

However, regardless of the "3 second rule" (which is probably what a driving instructor or police officer advised for safety and to make sure you have really come to a complete stop), the law states the following:

  1. Vehicles must come to a complete stop at at all stop signs, and proceed only when safe.

  2. Vehicles must never exceed the posted speed limit.

(Note that bicycles are considered vehicles.)

As a driver and cyclist and pedestrian it is obvious that the vast majority of cyclists and motorists flout rule 1 most of the time, especially when there are no other vehicles at the intersection.

As a motorist, it is obvious to me that almost all drivers exceed the posted speed limit much of the time, when traffic and road conditions permit.

For example, how many drivers drive less than the legal speed limit of 100km/h on the QEW or 401 when traffic permits? Almost none!

In fact, many motorists and motorist organizations complain against enforcement of speed limits, and lobby against speed traps and other traffic law enforcement:

The above site actually states that "Average speeds in BC are almost always over posted speeds." (Note the use of "posted" instead of "legal".), and argues that motorists should only be ticketed when they exceed the 85 percentile speed of actual motorists, which would be about 20km/h over the legal speed limit!

And they try to help each other flout the law by encouraging speeding, which is dangerous to all road users:

and avoiding red light cameras

Talk about flouting the law...

Have you actually tried driving at 100km/h on Ontario's freeways? As we all know, the average speed is closer to 120km/h, about 20% higher than the legal speed limit!

And, as someone else pointed out, motorists are the ones causing the roughly 2000 deaths and 200 000 injuries in Canada each year, not cyclists or pedestrians. Note that I said "caused" and not "at fault", which is a legal determination. It is the car that poses the danger to the cyclist and pedestrian, not vice versa. And excessive speed is the single biggest factor in fatal accidents. Note that a recent University of Toronto study of Police collision reports suggests that motorists caused about 90% of collisions in Toronto:

In 2009, motorists killed 307 pedestrians and 41 cyclists.

To claim that it is somehow law flouting cyclists that is the problem is to ignore reality: both cyclists and motorists flout the law (and in fact most of the time they are the same people!).

But it should be obvious from the statistics and the laws of physics that someone in a 1.5 tonne machine travelling at 50km/h or 120km/h is far more of a risk than someone on a 30kg bike travelling at 20 km/h.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2012-04-12 04:58:07

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By arienc (registered) | Posted April 07, 2012 at 22:14:11 in reply to Comment 75762

The law-breaking motorist idea makes this a complete red herring. I drive daily and daily see the majority of fellow motorists ignore posted speed limits, coast through stop signs, using cellphones when driving, and turn right at stop lights without checking for pedestrians or cyclists. This pisses me off to no end, because unlike cyclists who break the laws, motorists who break the laws can actually kill people!

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By hardly (anonymous) | Posted April 11, 2012 at 13:00:33 in reply to Comment 75768

And yet it happens so very seldom. Even when it does happen the motorist is often not at fault.

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By simonge (registered) | Posted April 07, 2012 at 00:54:20

This idea that Hamilton is populated by motorists, cyclists and pedestrians is a divisive way of seeing things and really not completely accurate. As with most of us I actually fall into all 3 of these categories and can empathize with each to some degree. When I'm behind the wheel I want to get where I am going efficiently and sometimes feel frustration with cyclists not obeying traffic laws or oblivious pedestrians. I also spend a lot of time walking in Hamilton and find crossing 'highways' while walking my kids to school daunting and a bit insane. Since moving downtown from Dundas I ride my bike a lot less, because it feels unfriendly to cyclists here. If we want to have a livable city with vibrant communities we need to address the different ways we get around. Putting one mode on a pedestal though or giving a disproportional voice is not helpful and will not lead to effective solutions.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted April 08, 2012 at 16:15:52 in reply to Comment 75759

Amen. I've done the same as you (move from Dundas to the core) and find that it's a continual battle, an 'us-vs-them' mentality. The anti-car/pro-cycling agenda harboured by some (many?) on this site makes it difficult to compromise on just about anything here.

Comment edited by DowntownInHamilton on 2012-04-08 16:16:09

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By brodiec (registered) | Posted April 08, 2012 at 16:24:49

I don't want to be down-modded by the regulars but I actually find this kinda bourgeois. This benefits who? MIP employees and Durand residents? Take King St. or Main St., Long Wood is essentially a highway on-ramp and services a small and oddly placed survey next to Chedoke Golf Course. But it's this aspect of Hamilton culture, the west end and McMaster has the social currency and skills to serve itself, that really bugs me. Certainly the city should live by it's policy decisions but realistically I don't expect them to start now.

Let's fix Dundurn at King and Main St, respectively. People die there on an annual basis, easily. And there existing bike lanes that service the rest of Hamilton.

McMaster, you can beat the 403. Honestly, it's not a force field.

Comment edited by brodiec on 2012-04-08 16:28:17

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By Be proactive (anonymous) | Posted April 09, 2012 at 15:12:41 in reply to Comment 75778

I believe this site accepts submissions... would it not be a better way to use your time to submit an article of your own, rather than attack someone for advocating on issues as they see fit? Put your money where your mouth is.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted April 09, 2012 at 05:10:14 in reply to Comment 75778

I don't really understand your comment.

The city needs to re-design Longwood between Main and Aberdeen because of the change in use of the Camco site from a factory and warehouse to a research campus with a much higher population.

The campus design will deliberately promote walking and cycling both within the site and in connections to the main McMaster campus, Westdale and downtown.

The City has asked for comments on the proposed plan, which is clearly inconsistent with the original goals of both McMaster and the City itself in its initial consultations.

I agree that we need to look at all roads, but the City is re-designing Longwood now, not King and Main and Dundurn. In any case, if they can't get a short stretch of Longwood right, there is no way they are going to put physically separated lanes on Main and King!

Longwood will also provide part of an alternative route between Westdale and downtown (there will be a path through the site via Chatham to Dundurn St).

By the way, the MIP is in Kirkendall, not Durand, so it would primarily benefit Kirkendall and Westdale residents getting to and from MIP or between Westdale and downtown. In any case, the vast majority of Durand residents live in apartments and it has a very high concentration of recent immigrants, which makes the 'bourgeois' comment a bit mysterious.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2012-04-09 05:22:35

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 10, 2012 at 10:44:26 in reply to Comment 75782

Even without MIP, Longwood is the only functional connection between Westdale and Kirkendall other than going all the way out to King, (or Main for pedestrians, and the Main bridge ain't fun either).

Maybe things will be better when they finish the Frid street connection, but up until now it's always been a problem. How many Westdale SS students commute along Longwood every school day? And how many of those have cars?

Obviously the city should have higher priorities for rehabilitation than Longwood, but if they're looking at Longwood I want to see the right results.

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