Special Report: Light Rail

Ontario Budget and LRT: Are We Screwed?

The Province has effectively abandoned its commitment to transfomative transit investment.

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 26, 2010

Transit advocates cheered a few years ago when the Ontario Government followed up its progressive Greenbelt and Places To Grow frameworks with MoveOntario 2020, an ambitious plan to drag the underfunded, fragmentary regional transit network in the GTA+Hamilton into the 21st century.

The province moved quickly to form Metrolinx, a provincial arms-length body to coordinate planning and funding for new subway, LRT and streetcar investments to knit the region together and ease pressure on our congested highway network.

Suddenly the prospects for a new LRT system in Hamilton looked optimistic. The Liberals even ran for re-election in the 2007 provincial election by warning Hamilton that a Conservative win would threaten their promised two new light rail lines.

GO Transit, the long-suffering regional transit system first established in the 1970s, was drawn into the fold so the parts could all interoperate smoothly and the GO infrastructure could get much-needed improvements.

When the Metrolinx board members - the mayors from the various GTA municipalities - shied away from bold, transformative plans that might threaten their local electoral prospects, the province announced they would replace the board with an appointed set of planners and technocrats.

With great fanfare, Metrolinx announced that they were preparing a benefits case analysis for rapid transit in Hamilton. They proudly stated that the analysis would consider the big picture - environmental, social, economic, and community factors rather than a narrow cost-benefit analysis.

Momentum Stalls

And then - nothing. Months and months of delays, official silence and reports of internal disorder as Metrolinx struggled to integrate GO Transit and the new board struggled to get up to speed.

About that new Metrolinx board: instead of transportation and economic development policy experts, it turned out to be a grab bag of patronage appointees with mostly irrelevant expertise in such fields as mortgage securities trading and marketing.

Hamilton's representative, Richard Koroscil, is the President of Hamilton International Airport and a huge proponent of expanding the urban boundary by thousands of hectares to develop new greenfields around the airport.

When the Benefits Case Analysis was finally published earlier this year, it carefully avoided making any actual recommendations on whether Hamilton should get LRT or bus rapid transit - though the comparative analysis strongly favoured LRT.

Even worse, Metrolinx passed the funding buck (no pun intended) by stating that any funding commitment must come from the Province. So much for taking politics out of regional transit planning.

Province Abandons Transit Plan

Speaking of politics: this week, the province provoked outrage in Toronto by delaying $4 billion in planned transit investments in its 2010 budget. Toronto Mayor David Miller exclaimed:

This is beyond short-sighted. It makes absolutely no economic sense, it makes no sense from a social policy perspective.

It looks like the Province has effectively abandoned its commitment to transfomative transit investment. Like so many governments before it, the McGuinty Government spent all its enthusiasm on studies and bureaucracy only to run out of money determination once it actually came time to sign the cheque.

Eventually the studies pass their best-by dates, the government will turn over, other crises will grab its attention, and the dismal status of the GTA's regional transportation framework will remain quo. One day, years from now, a government may rediscover enthusiasm for transit, at which point it will be time to commission a new raft of studies.

That's in Toronto, a dynamic world city with a proven high quality transit network and strong Liberal representation in Queen's Park.

What hope does poor Hamilton have, without a strong contingent of Liberal MPPs or even so much as a funding commitment to cancel?

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 writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By jasonaallen (registered) - website | Posted March 26, 2010 at 10:31:00

You nailed it Ryan. Provincial funding in the face of a record deficit was alway the potential spanner for Hamilton LRT, and Mr. Duncan just tossed it end over end into the machine.

There's going to be a ton of naval gazing and wound licking over this, but the bottom line is that we were dangled tidbit after tidbit from the province, and then had the rug pulled out from under us.

Were we all naive to think that the province would ever come through with it? Or were we naive to think the record economic growth of 2000-2008 would never stumble - which would then precipitate a very predictable reduction in govt spending?

I'm a realpolitik kind of guy, and in the face of an economic hit as big as Ontario's - 'big spend/five' type projects are the easiest to cut, and face the least fallout.

Perhaps the solution is to continue (as the readers of this blog are doing everyday) local solutions to these problems that can be addressed with things like land use intensification, walkable communities, and re-localization of Hamilton's economy?

Or maybe I'm the one being naive now?

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By Really? (registered) | Posted March 26, 2010 at 11:04:04

Note to Self: Find A Job in BC!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 26, 2010 at 11:21:26

The saddest part of all is that the feds and provinces just burned through billions and billions of dollars in stimulus spending - spending that could have funded a generation of forward-compatible infrastructure that provided a solid foundation for future economic growth and development.

Instead we blew most of it on highway widening, roadwork and hockey arenas.

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted March 26, 2010 at 11:38:55

I'm with jasonaallen. It's time we stopped relying on other levels of government. Start finding ways to fund these investments at the municipal level and let the province and feds justify their existence in other ways.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 26, 2010 at 11:56:16

The saddest part of all is that the feds and provinces just burned through billions and billions of dollars in stimulus spending - spending that could have funded a generation of forward-compatible infrastructure that provided a solid foundation for future economic growth and development. Instead we blew most of it on highway widening, roadwork and hockey arenas.

Governments aren't interested in sustainable, long term projects that can profoundly shape the future. They are interested in one thing - getting re-elected.

Comment edited by jason on 2010-03-26 10:56:46

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By Don McLean (anonymous) | Posted March 26, 2010 at 11:57:25

Agreed that "stimulus" monies should have been used for transformative projects like LRT; and agreed that the massive deficits that have come from stimulus funding make spending on LRT less likely. Note that there was almost no debate at the time of the 'crisis' about the appropriateness of bailing out the financial and auto sectors, and the business media had little to say about how this spending would be repaid and at what cost.

The early Metrolinx board wisely talked about funding the Big Move transit projects with other revenue sources - including tolling highways. Hamilton could fund a big part of its transit future with tolls on the two expressways we own. At minimum, the monies collected could be used to pay off the $550 million in public monies spent on the Linc and Red Hill roads - much of it still hanging over our heads as debt.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted March 26, 2010 at 12:07:32

Most of the public 'stimulus' was offered to sprawl-favouring projects, so what did one expect, really!?

The majority of it went towards construction; what did that get Hamilton? Sprawl and some door knobs on Federal Office doors, maybe. Maybe a single glass panel on the Market's new façade? Or maybe it simply funded the Canadian Sign-Making Community since the only real visual proof I have of stimulus spending is those damn rising-arrow signs I see everywhere!

When your Prime Minister comes from a sprawl-loving, oil-crazy region; what does one expect? Has Harper ever once stated he supports Public Transit? Why was Stimulus Spending done on something that only benefits a few rather than a larger number of Canadians --such as Via Rail? (Poor, Calgary!)

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By jonathan dalton (registered) | Posted March 26, 2010 at 13:07:54

So now it should be obvious to everyone that we have no commitment on any sort of timeline to even get an answer on any sort of timeline to get an answer on LRT from the province.

Meanwhile, this city is a living joke of total planning fail, and we're about to host the entire western hemisphere. For the last couple years we've been looking to Toronto and Queens Park to bail us out. LRT did essentially what the games did - made it so easy we had no choice but to get our shit together and get on board. When it comes to our own initiatives however, we'll just piss away every opportunity that comes along.

Now we don't have a choice anymore. We can't count on LRT so let's make a plan for the next 4 years that will accommodate LRT but make an improvement regardless.

  • Restore two way operation on Main and King streets.
  • Expand the current B-line into a proper full time service.
  • Dedicate one lane on Main and one lane on King to all HSR buses
  • Street parking on King throughout downtown
  • Widen sidewalks on Main
  • Bicycle lanes for all current 5-lane sections, between parking and the sidewalk. Bikes share the bus lane through narrower sections.

We won't put a full bidirectional ROW on King (and compromise on street parking / sidewalk width) until there's rail to justify it. Forget BRT, it's called a bus lane and any respectable city has them. This is just paint, we can change it later.

That should take care of our main transportation routes. On the building front, enact a functional sign bylaw, phase in a retroactive enforcement of the heritage facade bylaw, then hire a crew to remove the various foreign materials covering the entire facades of downtown buildings. Also offer loans and incentives to building owners for facade restorations.

Hopefully looming deadline of the 2015 Pan Am Games will give us the kick in the ass we so obviously need to get any of this done.

Comment edited by jonathan dalton on 2010-03-26 12:12:05

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By Really? (registered) | Posted March 26, 2010 at 13:43:18

Sadly enough, Jonathan Dalton, that's a very good plan that I could get on-board! I'd rather painted bus lanes with two-way traffic than full-out BRT any day!

I've emailed Hamiton's Rapid Transit Office for info, but have yet to hear anything back.

Unfortunately, the only 'plan' in the works to welcome the Americas in 2015 is to clean up Hamilton's litter! YAY!

Comment edited by Really? on 2010-03-26 12:47:39

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted March 26, 2010 at 13:51:36

"Governments aren't interested in sustainable, long term projects that can profoundly shape the future. They are interested in one thing - getting re-elected." - Jason

Bingo!

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 26, 2010 at 14:42:33

I'm with jasonaallen. It's time we stopped relying on other levels of government. Start finding ways to fund these investments at the municipal level and let the province and feds justify their existence in other ways.

I'm sure that's what they're counting on. If we do that, it will only encourage the province and feds to abandon their responsibilities.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted March 26, 2010 at 14:55:51

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 michaelcumming (registered) - website | Posted March 26, 2010 at 15:13:42

Getting LRT into Hamilton, which we know is the only appropriate choice for this city, may be a long struggle. We need to keep our eyes on the prize. Two things to struggle against are provincial and federal governments that care little for the idea of public transit. This anti-urban bias in Canadian politics is a hard nut to crack.

The big picture is the development of sustainable transportation and development policies for the industrial heartland of Canada. In this respect Hamilton and Canada have a ways to go to meet current Western standards. Sustainable, progressive policies require a widespread recognition within society that they are worthwhile for governments to spend billions on them. More education is on order.

Other things that must be worked on are the intellectual and creative processes that support complex design processes. We not only need to the money to build things like LRT, we also need the skills to design them well and devise the best design alternatives. Innovative design can save lots of money just on its own.

Also, there are preparatory design tasks that will support LRT in the long run such as the elimination of 1-way streets on Main and King and the creation of bike lanes along all the major arteries. These things are much cheaper than LRT and would greatly increase the quality of life here. They increase the likelihood that LRT is adopted later. [Lots of places in Holland don't have LRT but just about every place has bike paths going everywhere. I cannot overstate how great bike paths are for the health and well-being of everyone in society].

Many people in Hamilton appear to be cynical about the possibility that their quality of life could be affected by ideas like LRT, bike paths or 2-way streets. We have to show them that their cynicism is unfounded by projects that really do help them. These need not be all that expensive.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted March 26, 2010 at 15:21:55

"I'm sure that's what they're counting on. If we do that, it will only encourage the province and feds to abandon their responsibilities." - highwater

True.

What really needs to happen is for political responsibility and share of the tax dollars to become relative. If everything is simply going to be dumped on the cities the feds and province should be taking less taxes, allowing the cities to receive a larger share.

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By jonathan dalton (registered) | Posted March 26, 2010 at 15:36:11

Here's another idea: downsize our roads and redirect some of our $40,000,000 per year roads budget to an LRT fund. Do we really need 7.2 lane km / person of arterial road?

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By thompsmr (registered) | Posted March 26, 2010 at 15:40:22

Governments aren't interested in sustainable, long term projects that >can profoundly shape the future. They are interested in one thing - >getting re-elected.

What about linking LRT to the wider political environment, and making it an election issue? Could it be possible to get politicians to think of a well-funded and well-orgnized Hamilton LRT-lobby (and voters) when it comes time to create the budget? Is it possible to make Hamilton LRT into a major point of interest and concern for the provincial ruling party?

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted March 26, 2010 at 15:45:32

"Lots of places in Holland don't have LRT but just about every place has bike paths going everywhere. I cannot overstate how great bike paths are for the health and well-being of everyone in society: - Michaelcumming

Apples and oranges Michael.

Bikes are part of the culture in Holland, not so much here. Do not expect equal return for equal investment when comparing biking in Canada to biking in Holland. Bike lanes will really only function for 2/3 of the year here (at best) and only see peak action for probably 1/3. Yes the crazy winter bike riders are out there but what % of society is that? In fact beyond the recreational riders what % are active bikers (i.e., commuting and/or main mode of transit)? I see relatively few people using the bike lanes we currently have.

The bike lane thing is a nice notion but the actual benefit beyond the "nice to have" is debatable and when there are other initiatives that would benefit a wider and larger segment of the population, bike lanes remain very low on the priority list in my opinion.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted March 26, 2010 at 16:00:51

"What about linking LRT to the wider political environment, and making it an election issue? Could it be possible to get politicians to think of a well-funded and well-orgnized Hamilton LRT-lobby (and voters) when it comes time to create the budget? Is it possible to make Hamilton LRT into a major point of interest and concern for the provincial ruling party?" - thompsmr

That would be nice, but difficult. There is already the urban versus rural divide in this province. Then if you do get the province to focus on urban issues it is often difficult for them to look past Toronto. Do I see a Hamilton lobby being able to scare an entire political party? Probably not... Unless swine start flying and Horwath's NDP get elected.

Best we can probably hope for at a provincial level is to push our MPPs until we get our point across and they start getting things done for this city at Queen's Park. And if they don't/won't/can't, turf them out and elect new ones.

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By Rod (anonymous) | Posted March 26, 2010 at 16:09:56

The grim reality of $20-plus billion provincial deficits is the new reality. Like it or not, that is the new prism through which this government is looking at things, including transit plans.

I am all for the east-west LRT in Hamilton; one of the most deserving of any transit/transportation projects anywhere in the province, and better thought out than others, such as Ottawa's confused, messed-up tunnel LRT plan. It should have become a reality years ago - instead of a Red Hill expressway. But, Hamilton is probably going to have to wait in line longer for the funding and the go-ahead approvals. So many other demands on the government - funding for rail lines between the Soo and Sudbury, Peterborough and Toronton, GO extensions to Niagara, K-W LRT, etc., etc. - everything cannot be accommodated at once.

But, it would be nice to see highway construction approvals (typically secured far more easily than rail line funding) take a second place to rail transit in the funding request line up for a change.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 26, 2010 at 17:55:48

These myths keep getting repeated so once again here we go:

"Bikes are part of the culture in Holland, not so much here."

A proper network for bikes created the bike culture, not visa versa.

A proper network for cars created the car culture, not visa versa.

See how that works?

A proper network for transit would increase ridership, not visa versa.

"Bike lanes will really only function for 2/3 of the year here (at best) and only see peak action for probably 1/3."

False. There are visibly more cyclists on the road year round; many more outside of winter. I'm not crazy, I bike full time, I walk or take the bus if weather is too unsafe for riding:

Number of days this winter the roads were too covered to ride safely: 1

Number of days last winter the roads were too covered to ride safely: 3

That would be 1/365 and 3/365 respectively, not 2/3. Why is this is constantly exaggerated; you'd think there were igloos and penguins outside.

Man are we ever stuck in our ways that cause death and suffering (don't like how that sounds, too bad, it's true). Oh well, we're a technologically advanced society, at least we can produce many asthma puffers for our kids. Someone's ranting how we don't need to change anything meanwhile their grandmother is dying of a respiratory ailment and they don't even consider a connection ... wow.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2010-03-26 16:57:59

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 26, 2010 at 19:11:17

Here's another idea: downsize our roads and redirect some of our $40,000,000 per year roads budget to an LRT fund. Do we really need 7.2 lane km / person of arterial road?

yes, if you want to reap the rewards of having an all out booming economy and stellar economic growth like Hamilton has enjoyed for the past 4 decades.

Unfortunately, the only 'plan' in the works to welcome the Americas in 2015 is to clean up Hamilton's litter! YAY!

Well, unless they plan on closing down every Tim Hortons in the city and installing locks on all car windows they can kiss that plan goodbye.

Many people in Hamilton appear to be cynical about the possibility that their quality of life could be affected by ideas like LRT, bike paths or 2-way streets. We have to show them that their cynicism is unfounded by projects that really do help them. These need not be all that expensive.

So true. I'm going to check out a house that is for sale on Strathcona between King and Main this weekend. I can pretty much already say with 99.9% certainty that I won't be buying it. The house has a ton of potential and recent reno's along that block seem to indicate a healthy, redeveloping street. Lots of families have moved in.
I however, can't bring myself to moving my family off the quieter end of Strathcona North for the hellish existence between Main and King in their current state. If shovels were in the ground already for LRT and two-way streets, I'd probably overpay to buy that home. As things stand now, and look to remain for the foreseeable future, that block is completely useless to me as a place to call home.

Perhaps we need to convert Upper James and Wilson in Ancaster to 4-5 lane, one way freeways with timed lights. Once the property values are negatively affected along with the quality of life, watch how fast folks who live out there will start to understand what we put up with here.
Instead, Rousseaux on the way into Ancaster has nice big median round-a-bout type things to slow the traffic down. I drove out there recently and it's very comfortable to drive 45k through that stretch as you head right into the middle of their downtown. And yet their councillor is one of the first to yell and scream about any traffic calming measures in my part of the city. It's fine to treat my kids like roadkill, but not his.

Keep on truckin Hamilton.

Sorry, rant over.

Comment edited by jason on 2010-03-26 18:11:47

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 27, 2010 at 00:07:30

Bikes are part of the culture in Holland, not so much here.

It has nothing to do with culture. That's garden variety magical thinking, not to mention empirically false.

In the 1970s, Holland (and Denmark, and Germany, and...) was just as auto-dependent as North America. They started building their enviable bike and transit networks in response to the OPEC Oil Crisis. They did this in concert with steep gas taxes to reduce dependence on imported oil and incentivize more sustainable land use and transportation patterns.

North America, in contrast, was a net oil exporter and mostly rejected gas taxes as they would reduce oil and auto industry profits. Instead, we continued the suburban build-out that Europe curtailed after the 1970s.

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By D. Shields (registered) | Posted March 27, 2010 at 11:04:18

I REALLY wanted to believe that Hamilton would get an LRT, but down deep I knew it would not happen. (at least not soon) It's surprising that it was not torpedoed from below, rather than shot down from above, but that is about the only surprise.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 27, 2010 at 12:23:30

hey, not all is lost. The Halton region is getting an extra lane of QEW and north of Toronto is getting all sorts of new highways and widened highways over the next few years.

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By d.knox (registered) | Posted March 27, 2010 at 13:16:40

I have to confess that I am not particularly distressed that the LRT is dead. I read all the reasons why it was a great idea, but it still struck me as a whole lot of money for aims we can accomplish right now in other ways. I got the feeling in much of the LRT discussions that we were losing sight of what our goals are: to make the core more livable and walkable.

Jonathan Dalton covered the main points quite nicely. But we can be even less ambitious and still make significant progress. Let's not even worry about widening the sidewalks right away - let's just make changes with what we have in place already - convert our significant streets to two-way traffic and eliminate the synchronized lights. That change alone would improve the lower city. Slower traffic = safer streets => more pedestrians, more cyclists, more businesses.

Obviously it would take longer to get through the city than it would with the LRT, but I really didn't worry about that argument either. 10 minutes difference, even 15 minutes difference to get from one side of the city to the other just isn't enough for me to get excited about. Anyway, if the changes to the downtown happened, fewer people would be trying to just get through to the other side; they might actually be headed for the downtown.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted March 27, 2010 at 14:57:22

"It has nothing to do with culture. That's garden variety magical thinking, not to mention empirically false." - Ryan

It has everything to do with culture. That is a rather naive statement on your part Ryan. What is magical thinking is the notion bike lanes are some sort of urban renewal panacea.

North America is addicted and currently economically dependent on cars. Simply building bike lanes is not going to change that, it is also wishful thinking that large numbers of people are going to decide to ditch their cars just because there are bike lanes.

I'm not anti-bike lane, (although I believe dedicated bike paths are better) my question is where do they fall on the priority list. Money doesn't grow on trees, and it appears given the recent provincial budget, we are going to have a very difficult time getting funding for much of anything for the next decade. So we need to use our resources wisely. Doing things because "They have it in Holland" or other unsubstantiated claims is not the way to do things. If bike lanes will have a positive impact and be worth the cost, great, but we need to go beyond a "If we build it they will come" type of justification. We need to consider priority. When I walk around this city I have a hard time seeing bike lanes as anywhere near a top priority. Nice addition to the city? Sure. Driving force of urban renewal? Not so much.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted March 28, 2010 at 17:33:04

Kiely writes "I'm not anti-bike lane, (although I believe dedicated bike paths are better) . . ."

Dedicated bike paths are nice for recreation or for getting from one section of the city to another, but they are not very helpful for everyday use of a bicycle. I ride my bike to work, to the grocery store, to the bakery, to the beer store, to the library, to the LCBO . . . all places which are located on city streets, not on recreational trails. The only time I use the trails is to get from, say, Westale to Dundas via the rail trail, or Westdale to the North End via the waterfront trail.

Many people seem to believe cycling is simply for recreation and that cyclists should be happy with a path here and a trail there. But more and more people are using bikes to get around the city, and that means that bikes need to be accommodated on the city streets. This may mean extra-wide lanes rather than dedicated bike lanes, but it most certainly does not mean bicycle paths.

Comment edited by moylek on 2010-03-28 16:40:37

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted March 28, 2010 at 17:36:54

Kiely writes:

Bikes are part of the culture in Holland, not so much here. Do not expect equal return for equal investment when comparing biking in Canada to biking in Holland. Bike lanes will really only function for 2/3 of the year here (at best) and only see peak action for probably 1/3.

I'll admit that Amsterdam and Hamilton appear to be poor comparators. So let's come closer to home and compare Hamilton to Montreal. Montreal - a city in which being a pedestrian is an extreme sport, a city where red lights mean "take your left turn now" - put in curbed bike lanes and a public bike system in the past two years. And I've never seen so many cyclists in Montreal as I did last summer.

And there, too, goes the argument about winter weather: Hamilton is a bloody tropical paradise in January compared to Montreal.

And you don't need to be a crazy bike fanatic to cycle in this city in the winter. I don't own any lycra, I don't have fancy sun glasses, I don't own a long-tailed windbreaker and I don't wear a swoopy bike helmet. But I bike all year so long as the roads are clear, which means almost any day that it isn't actively snowing heavily.

Let's encourage the city to move ahead without the LRT: two-way traffic and maybe even bike lanes through the downtown.

[argh! why does the markdown system completely ignore my attempts to do block quotes? why does it hate me?]

Comment edited by moylek on 2010-03-28 16:42:27

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 28, 2010 at 17:51:25

why does the markdown system completely ignore my attempts to do block quotes?

It doesn't hate you! Markdown is only applied to comments from registered users.

Edit It should be working properly now.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-03-29 08:09:51

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted March 28, 2010 at 19:53:30

"Dedicated bike paths are nice for recreation or for getting from one section of the city to another, but they are not very helpful for everyday use of a bicycle." - moylek

I expanded on this in a post on a different subject by saying:

"I believe our money would be better spent on initiatives to increase residential and commercial density downtown. Once we see that piece of the puzzle coming together the increase in people living and working downtown will better justify bike lanes. What would be good right now would be a dedicated bike path, similar to what KW has done with the Iron Horse Trail. This would be of more use to a wider range of people and have recreational value as well since families with children could ride safely. If implemented properly you could then run bike lanes from it in the future."

The iron horse in KW provides an almost non-stop walking and bicycling thoroughfare through Kitchener and into Waterloo. It is absolutely helpful to everyday use of the bike (friends of mine us it as such) as well as being better for families, children and the bike rider uncomfortable sharing roads with idiot drivers. In other words, a wider base of citizens will use it.

I seem to be getting beat up a bit about this topic, but that's okay it has got discussion going. Let me just clarify my position a little though. This is more of a horse and cart type argument than a pro versus anti bike lane argument. I am not against bike lanes. I would rather see a well thought out network of cycling and walking paths linking to some well planned bike lanes than some quickly spray painted lanes designed to placate a relatively small group of avid urban cyclists. That however is going to take more money than just the cost of some cans of spray paint.

When I walk around this city I see problems that no bike lane is going to fix. Money is going to continue to be difficult and perhaps even increasingly difficult to come by from any level of government. So, we need to use what funds we do have very judiciously, ensuring we get bang for our buck. In my view, we need to get the density and jobs in the core to warrant the bike lanes first, that's where the money needs to go now. While perhaps looking at getting the path network started if the lands are available to do so inexpensively. Once the density target is achieved and the money is available, a network of well planned bike lanes can be integrated and the streetscapes can be altered to implement some bike lanes where more than a strip of spray paint separates bikes from cars.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 29, 2010 at 06:18:05

http://thespec.com/News/Local/article/74...

Three quarters of Hamilton is overweight? That is pretty shocking. A few sentences in there appeared related to this thread; also repeat what many of us already know:

"just telling people to eat healthier and be more active is not working."

"For example, the same 2006 StatsCan report noted that U.S. data has found associations between obesity and urban sprawl, suggesting that an increased dependency on cars decreases opportunities and motivation to walk."

"That includes working with the municipality and schools to address issues such as increasing walkability, bike trails, active transportation and food policies. It also includes pitching the city's two biggest initiatives -- participation in the Pan Am Games and building a light rail system. Tran says the games will create more physical activity facilities while light rail will get people out of their cars, walking to and from transit connections."

Once again, a proper network normally precedes an increase in said activity. It may make one unpopular to say it (in this city anyway) but that does not magically make it untrue. Cheers.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 29, 2010 at 08:56:33

Once again, a proper network normally precedes an increase in said activity.

Hear, hear. Get them to come and then build it just doesn't work.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted March 29, 2010 at 09:03:48

"Hear, hear. Get them to come and then build it just doesn't work." - Ryan

"If we build it they will come" may be wishful thinking given this cities history and current state. But I guess on this point we shall agree to disagree Ryan.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 29, 2010 at 09:43:57

""If we build it they will come" may be wishful thinking given this cities history and current state. But I guess on this point we shall agree to disagree Ryan."

As Ryan frequently and skillfully points out, one does not have to speculate or do fresh studies from scratch. There is abundant empirical data already available. "If you build it they will come" is backed up by numerous examples, in diverse locations and cultures, where it has been proven true. Places that were just like us (history and current state). It activates demand that is kept latent. Over and over, it works. The examples are posted throughout this and other sites.

"If they come then we'll build it" is simply untrue of transportation networks. They don't come until you build it. Again, not everything is a dichotomy, this does not apply to everything. It does apply to transportation. And even within transportation this is not absolute, but it is in evidence everywhere that changes for the better are made. Agreeing or disagreeing does not make something true or untrue. Whether it is true or untrue is what makes it true or untrue :)

Do you know how often people express envy at being able to get rid of a car and bike everywhere? There are all sorts of reasons why I can, and there are all sorts of reasons why others can't. But surveys show a substantial percentage would like to avoid the car for short trips, but fear of roads prevents it. I see that gleam in people's eye when they realize I have no car, insurance, gas payments (I pay property taxes, I do chip in my fair share for roads) and you can see there latent demand for healthier transportation, but stifled by poor conditions for it that prevent all but the brave from actually doing it. I think that's where the real fear is with LRT, cycling plan, and other such initiatives. Many are afraid, not that it won't work, but that it will work!!

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2010-03-29 08:51:17

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 29, 2010 at 09:44:17

You don't have to agree to disagree! You're both right!;-) Yes, by all means we should be investing in ways to increase residential and commercial activity downtown (and parts East, but I digress), but since that is a complex, long-term, and open-ended initiative, we can also be working on smaller-scale, near-term, more finite projects concurrently, such as wandering down to the paint store and slapping some lines on the road.

The reason many activists seem so focused on bike lanes isn't because they want somewhere to show off their fancy bike shorts, or because they think that bike lanes are a substitute for the hard slog of achieving the residential and commercial density that we require, it's because it's quick, simple, has a great bang to buck ratio, and accomplishes public health and environmental goals, in addition to complementing our longer-term economic goals.

Build it while they come.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 29, 2010 at 09:54:06

What mikeonthemountain said.

Anyone who is pressed for time should simply read MOTM's post and skip mine altogether. Mine is just a sillier, cheekier version of his that I wouldn't have bothered to post had seen his first. Move along, nothing to see here.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 29, 2010 at 09:55:28

I've never argued that all Hamilton needs to do is install bike lanes (or bike lanes and LRT) and everything else will magically fix itself.

I've been arguing for years that we need an integrated, coherent urban policy including:

  • A property tax system that encourages investment, particularly in areas with existing infrastructure;
  • A zoning and land use system that encourages dense, mixed use development;
  • A street architecture that encourages walking, cycling and transit and de-emphasizes driving (essentially, a rebalancing of modes away from the current overwhelming preference for driving at the expense of everything else);
  • High quality public transit that will encourage dense development around transit nodes and attract more affluent riders;
  • A firm urban boundary to limit the false economy of building on inexpensive farmland;
  • An economic strategy based on forward-compatible business clusters, not chasing past performers.

Overall, we need to proceed with an acknowledgment that the combination of the emerging global energy situation and the demographic one-two punch of retiring Boomers and young adults looking for an urban experience is going to drive a large-scale migration back into cities - but that people will move into those cities that can provide opportunities and amenities and shun those cities that cannot.

I agree that we have to attract people-and-jobs back into the city; but the only proven way to do that is to provide the infrastructure and amenities that people-and-jobs need - both regulatory and physical.

Also, it's important to note that the lower city already has a very high density of people living and working there - as high as those cities that encouraged a sustained growth in cycling by building cycling infrastructure.

After all, it's not like bike lanes cost a lot. The total capital cost of city's cycling master plan is less than what the city pays every year just to maintain our roads.

If you're looking to pick the low-lying fruit first, this is it.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 29, 2010 at 10:02:16

"Build it while they come."

Exactly. Awesome and simply stated post, highwater. Exactly where I'm coming from.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 29, 2010 at 10:16:59

Mike just added a chunk to his post, so I would also like to add that I am the poster child for the bike envy that he is talking about. I am not an avid urban cyclist who needs to be placated, I'm a frumpy soccer mom with an equally frumpy bike who would like to be able to ride (maybe even with my kids!) to the Farmer's Market without taking my life in my hands. Given all the taxes I pay to support our road system, I don't think it's too much to ask that they offer me and my family some cheaper, healthier transportation options.

The Spec had a article not long ago about a province-wide study that asked people if they would cycle more if there were bike lanes. I don't recall the exact percentage of people who said yes, but it was in the 40% range. Of course the headline for the related Spec blog post was "Road Wars!"

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 29, 2010 at 10:38:22

Do you know how often people express envy at being able to get rid of a car and bike everywhere?

Heh. I get this all the time as well - even from people living deep in suburbia but would love to be able to cycle around their own neighbourhoods.

However, it's empirically evident that most people, most of the time, are afraid to ride their bikes in mixed traffic; but many of those people would be willing to ride their bikes in bike lanes.

This is true in large part because of perception: people simply feel safer in bike lanes.

This perception does have a basis in fact. Notwithstanding some awkwardness at intersections (i.e. a cyclist on the right is going straight while a motorist on the left is turning right), bike lanes in themselves are safer than mixed traffic because of the physical separation of two classes of vehicles with drastically different speed and mass characteristics.

On a personal note, I've been bicycle commuting for years and the lack of bike infrastructure has never stopped me. After years of experience I feel safe and comfortable riding in mixed traffic.

I was actually opposed to bike lanes for many years due to the intersection issue. What changed my mind was the discovery that the biggest factor in cycling safety is the number of cyclists on the road.

As the number of cyclists goes up, the number of bike casualties goes down - not just the rate, but the actual number. Better yet, the presence of lots of cyclists on the road normalizes it for still other people, who see lots of people cycling and decide that maybe they'll try it too.

That additional cycling traffic, in turn, further improves the safety factor for cyclists, which draws still more cyclists onto the road and further normalizes it in a glorious positive feedback loop.

So: given the strong, diverse empirical evidence that a) people won't ride bikes unless there are bike lanes; b) the mere fact of more people riding bikes it safer; and c) increasing numbers of cyclists produce a positive feedback loop, I strongly support and encourage the construction of a bike network through the city.

The reason I support it now and not in some unspecified point in the future when the circumstances are 'right' for bike lanes is that the very installation of bike lanes is an integral part of the bootstrapping process by which cycling is normalized among residents and, hence, the local culture.

As I keep saying, people respond to incentives. We may respond irrationally at times, but, as Dan Ariely so elegantly argues, we are at least predictably irrational and can hence plan our policy strategies around what we know about human nature.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 29, 2010 at 11:19:11

@ Ryan:

People feel safer in bike lanes (and more so in separate bike paths) because it is freaky when cars are whipping past you at high speed. Think of a mom and kids biking in a shared lane with most cars not changing lanes to pass, zooming past at 60kph mere inches from clipping that family with side view mirrors.

You can solve that problem by consuming the whole lane; it is much safer since people change lanes to pass you properly, but then you become an increased target of road rage - rare, but it does occur.

Likewise, I've been bike commuting full time for two years, and I am using roadways will full confidence, lack of bike lanes does not bother me, but even I get scared in some places due to the sheer speed difference. I am not shy to consume a whole lane where it is safer and/or necessary. Road rage does not intimidate me; if someone is driving behind me honking I move out farther and make it clear that lane is taken (after a shoulder check; I'm not reckless).

Families and their kids cannot typically ride with that kind of confidence. It takes fortitude and practiced skill to share some of these busy roads. The feeling of increased safety is indeed a very real and necessary part of the infrastructure to get a larger demographic riding.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 29, 2010 at 12:00:45

You can solve that problem by consuming the whole lane

Absolutely. I ride daily on York Blvd east of the bike lane and lane-block assertively to force drivers to change lanes to pass. For the curious, this is entirely legal and is actually recommended by the Ontario Guide to Safe Cycling:

In urban areas where a curb lane is too narrow to share safely with a motorist, it is legal to take the whole lane by riding in the centre of it.

Interestingly, the only time I ever get honked at is when the weather is poor. During the cold, snowy few weeks early this year, I was honked and yelled at almost daily. Since then, it's been a lot more peaceful.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-03-29 11:04:37

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted March 29, 2010 at 12:19:28

"Families and their kids cannot typically ride with that kind of confidence. It takes fortitude and practiced skill to share some of these busy roads. The feeling of increased safety is indeed a very real and necessary part of the infrastructure to get a larger demographic riding." - mikeonthemountain

This is why I'm not a big fan of the cheaper (but yes possibly more immediate on the positive side) sprayed on bike lanes. If we want to look at Holland as the example. Amsterdam has well established bike lanes separated from traffic by at least curbing in many areas. And to me the separation of the bikes from the cars is one area where we will need to consider our culture and may need to provide better protection for the bicyclists because NA drivers are oblivious to almost everything but the 5 feet right in front of them. To provide that protection will require redoing many streetscapes, which I believe is a positive, but that is more costly and this is where the current debate about priority begins.

I go by the current spray on bike lanes past Dundurn everyday to and from work and I see minimum use and certainly not the level of use of bike lanes I saw in Amsterdam that are like bicycle expressways (look before you cross or you'll get a bike up your rear end!). So with minimally used current spray on bike lanes, are more ill conceived spray on bike lanes going to help much? I don't believe so.

To me this is a situation to be careful what you wish for. Do you want a bunch of half-baked sprayed on bike lanes crammed against the side of a 60 or 80kmh road with sewer grate obstacles, etc, that only expert bicyclist are going to be comfortable using? Sure we can have those tomorrow with minimal expense and then you have your bike lanes, half-baked as they may be.

Or do you want to take more money and yes time (because now priority and planning will play a bigger part) to create a truly useful bicycle network with dedicated paths linked to well designed bike lanes? If you ask for and get the spray on lanes, it may be tough going back to the well a second time to ask for more. Some city planning accountant will say we already have X kilometers of "bike lanes" and adding more will cost X dollars and any money for additional improved bike lanes can easily be painted as fat to be cut. Don't give the "drive till we use every drop of oil" crowd, which when I look at the society we live in still appears to be the majority, the easy spray on solution (which as I have argued I do not view as a solution to much of anything). This again is where we need to consider our culture.

Let's get this right is what I am saying, but also realise getting it right may require a bit more patience on the part of bike lane proponents.

Good discussion going though!

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 29, 2010 at 12:43:58

I know what you're saying and I do agree. Plains Road is an example of a poor quality spray-on bike lane which is actually less comfortable than using the lane would be. It's too narrow and the road is deteriorated. Actually, Plains is exactly what I think of regarding 'careful what you wish for' :)

But we have to start somewhere. Like Highwater stated - build it while they come. We indeed do not have the cash nor culture to redo every streetscape right now. But if we wait for some magical time in the future when it's worth it, we never will.

It's a whole bunch of things working together, like Ryan stated. Sound urban planning and availing of the low hanging fruit - do the easy stuff because it helps today. There are many streets that have wide and/or numerous lanes, where safety can be vastly improved with some paint TODAY. Mountain Accesses, King, Main, etc. Then have the courage to plan some decent projects for an appropriate time on the calendar and budget, and thinking more progressively about streetscapes when approaching them. (York Blvd, LRT, etc).

The thing is if we don't start we never will. You really do have to build it 'as they come' - the easy stuff should be already done - not wait for some magical threshold at some unspecified time in the future.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted March 29, 2010 at 12:49:39

Another thing to remember is that bike lanes aren't very useful if they don't connect to anything. The York bike lane starts abruptly runs for awhile and then just stops. Like most of the bike lanes in the city. Imagine if our roads were like that - not connecting to each other but just starting and stopping wherever. Of course no one would drive!

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted March 29, 2010 at 13:03:33

Cycling infrastructure is a real Catch-22 in my eyes. Without large numbers of cyclists (voters), politicians can't justify the expense of European style bike lanes; but without the safety of the bike lanes, many people who would cycle are too intimidated by the cars zooming by.

We all know about the city's stance on closing streets for events like Cyclovia, but maybe now that the weather's nice, informal group bike rides could be organized.

As a large group, the ride would be safer for novices and teach both them and motorists how to properly share the road. Not to mention it would tie into the "Clean and Green" campaign and hopefully promote physical active in a city where 74% of the population is classified as overweight or obese.

Incidentally, I'm in the market for a reasonably priced new or used bike, suitable for city riding. Does anyone have any suggestions for types of bikes and/or where to get them?

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted March 29, 2010 at 13:44:57

"The thing is if we don't start we never will. You really do have to build it 'as they come' - the easy stuff should be already done - not wait for some magical threshold at some unspecified time in the future." - mikeonthemountain

Sure mikeonthemountain, I'll give you that. Let's just make sure what we do now can be expanded on in the future, not used against improved initiatives in the future.

"Another thing to remember is that bike lanes aren't very useful if they don't connect to anything. The York bike lane starts abruptly runs for awhile and then just stops. Like most of the bike lanes in the city." - nobrainer

Exactly nobrainer, as I called them the "half-baked bike lanes". I just worry that a push from the bicycle lobby to provide bike lanes now when money is tight, combined with a desire to quickly and cheaply placate that lobby, may result in just that and nothing more.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 29, 2010 at 13:52:32

Kiely, I share your concern about low-quality bike lanes, i.e. painted lines as opposed to high-quality, grade separated bike lanes.

Incidentally I feel the same way about building BRT as an interim to LRT. The problem is that once the BRT is in place and in use, it becomes very difficult to disrupt it while LRT is under construction and the city gets 'locked in' to a second rate transit system.

However, I'd argue that with bike lanes the principal benefit is the perception of safety. As I argued above, simply creating a continuous network of marked bike lanes will encourage more people to cycle, and the higher number of cyclists all by itself will a) reduce the casualty number, b) normalize cycling for motorists and c) attract still more people to try cycling.

By the time the technical limitations of painted-on bike lanes compared to grade-separated start to manifest, bike lanes will have strong and broad enough public support to overcome political obstacles to upgrading those lanes.

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted March 29, 2010 at 14:06:16

This morning I was biking around in Toronto. As most of you will know, Toronto transit doesn't do diagonal very well (I don't think the HSR does either :) ). My first run was St Lawrence Market to Sherbourne/Gerrard. Not a problem - a painted bike path all the way up Sherbourne! Not very well paved and a ridiculous number of traffic lights but - hey - I had my own path so I'm not complaining.

The next leg was a little trickier: Sherbourne/Gerrard to Lakeshore/Bay. As one or two posters here have noted - when the bike lane network vanishes it is not an incentive to bike. From Sherbourne I veered south to Shuter, took the bike path from there to Yonge and then, well, then I was on my own. As Ryan suggested, I took up the whole lane down Yonge and, once at Front had to run across a few sidewalks to make it to the office. God knows how I'm going to weave my way home (no bike paths at all, unless I go down to QueensQuay and back up again...).

Some learnings for me from my little trip:

  1. Bike paths - even crappy faded painted ones - are better than nothing. In fact, even the chevron markings are OK, as at least they remind traffic to steer clear. Ultimately it would be nice to get dedicated lanes but let's be realistic, paint the network first, see the cycling traffic increase, and then build it out from there.

  2. An integrated network is essential. If I wasn't a seasoned cyclist I would not have ridden today. Zipping down Yonge and along Lakeshore (is that even allowed?) is not for the faint-hearted. And no Councilor Minnan-Wong, I don't want to pedal 3 blocks out of my way to use the existing 'network'.

Keep up the great discussion folks :)

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted March 29, 2010 at 15:16:53

"By the time the technical limitations of painted-on bike lanes compared to grade-separated start to manifest, bike lanes will have strong and broad enough public support to overcome political obstacles to upgrading those lanes" - Ryan

Maybe a broader vision rolled out in stages is the answer Ryan? That would allow the bike lobby to get agreement up front that the spray on lanes are just the first stage and are not the be all and end all. What can we do today, cheaply? What will it link into in the future when demand increases? How will the road side bike lanes tap into a broader bike path network (I think this is important)?

I am a bit biased toward the bike path because I grew up in a city that had this in the 1970s. In KW a bike and walking path network was built alongside the storm sewer system and you could get from the far suburbs (of the 70s anyway) to downtown Kitchener by biking or walking along those paths. Those paths ran throughout Kitchener but ran predominantly north-south and then the addition of the Iron Horse trail, which was an old rail line, added the east-west connection in more recent years. The increased safety and wider range of use these paths provide is much better than just bike lanes. I'm not saying this is all possible in Hamilton - frankly I don't know, someone with a better understanding of land availability would have to answer that - I'm just explaining my bias.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 29, 2010 at 15:47:37

Maybe a broader vision rolled out in stages is the answer Ryan?

Actually, we already have that. Council approved the Cycling Master Plan and budgeted the first scheduled projects for this year. The pace is a lot slower than I'd like, but a continuous network of bike lanes is official city policy today - complete with an accompanying implementation plan.

I am a bit biased toward the bike path because I grew up in a city that had this in the 1970s.

Likewise (I grew up in a suburb east of Toronto that was marbled with bike paths - great for childhood mobility!), though I'd argue that a bike path and a bike lane serve different needs and therefore provide complementary roles in an integrated cycling network.

Again, to a considerable extent Hamilton has bike paths today. From my neighbourhood in southwest Hamilton, for example, the nicest and safest cycling route into West Hamilton and Dundas is to pick up the path that starts at the western edge of Glenside, cuts through Chedoke Golf Course, jogs south on Sudholme Rd, cuts through the train yard (the city has secured the rights to a pathway through here) and across the 403, and proceeds on a rail trail through West Hamilton, running to the south of and roughly parallel with Main Street until it crosses Old Ancaster Road.

Similarly, the nicest way into Ancaster is up the Radial Trail, which starts on the loop at the top of Dundurn, meets up with Scenic Dr. near Princess Falls, and bends around with the Escarpment to cross the 403 just north of the Linc exit and exit onto Lower Filman Rd.

The nicest way from the waterfront into Westdale is to take the Waterfront Trail from Pier 4 over to Princess Point. And so on.

The problem with these trails, of course, is that they're like highways - good for traveling across town to a macro-destination, but no good for traveling in town to a micro-destination. Certainly a bike path would be no good to me for commuting to work downtown.

Also, it should be noted that bike paths - especially busy ones - carry their own risks, given that cyclists, pedestrians, in-line skaters, dog-walkers, and so on all have to share the same space.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 29, 2010 at 16:11:37

@ UrbanRenaissance : "Does anyone have any suggestions for types of bikes and/or where to get them?"

I chose my Trek 1200 bike after researching online: I chose a very specific model, after reading about different types to choose the best type for me, reading reviews, weighing pricing, etc, then calling around and finding a dealer that had one in stock. Took it for a test spin of course, to make sure it was comfortable. My criteria was lightweight, fast, but affordable. Your criteria may differ. Because I got it in September, I got the previous year's model at a clearance discount.

If you want a used bike, keep an eye on classifieds such as Kijiji - http://hamilton.kijiji.ca - I myself have had decent success finding secondhand items on there.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2010-03-29 15:17:24

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted March 29, 2010 at 16:18:38

Likewise (I grew up in a suburb east of Toronto that was marbled with bike paths - great for childhood mobility!), though I'd argue that a bike path and a bike lane serve different needs and therefore provide complementary roles in an integrated cycling network. - Ryan

Absolutely true. They serve different but complimentary purposes. You touch on one of the important things about the path in your comment though, that is childhood mobility. If we want to see the shift to bikes that other countries enjoy we do need to see our culture shift (I'll still argue that point with you : ) The best way to do that is to get kids riding bikes, the culture of the car is not going to end by building bike lanes and expecting 40 year olds to park their cars, that battle is going to be a tough one. But kids who start riding bikes and realise they can get most places they need to on a bike will continue to ride bikes. "The problem with these trails, of course, is that they're like highways - good for traveling across town to a macro-destination, but no good for traveling in town to a micro-destination."

True, this is where the integration of bike path and bike lane becomes critical.

"Also, it should be noted that bike paths - especially busy ones - carry their own risks, given that cyclists, pedestrians, in-line skaters, dog-walkers, and so on all have to share the same space."

The original paths in KW were not paved, they were lime stone gravel, suitable for bikes (even skinny tire ones) and pedestrians only. If they are going to be paved then yes, overcrowding could be a problem but at this point that is a problem I'd be happy to see. I've seen attempts to deal with the overcrowding issue in other cities with clearly defined "lanes" within the path… but let's not go there, then we'll be debating spray on bike lanes within paths : )

And thanks for the heads-up, I'll have to read up on the city's plan.

Comment edited by Kiely on 2010-03-29 15:19:59

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted March 30, 2010 at 14:30:37

Kiely writes . . .

But kids who start riding bikes and realise they can get most places they need to on a bike will continue to ride bikes.

I'm all for encouraging kids to bike, but I'm not sure if this holds. After all, the grownups in charge now were kids who were riding their bikes in the 1960s and 1970s, aren't they? I think that part of the problem is, in fact, that many people feel that relying on a bike for transportation is infantile and very uncool.

But where logical inference fails us, I believe that illogical fashion - plus infrastructure - might just come to the rescue: bike riding is becoming cool for adults. Pray god we can catch the wave as it crests.

I have other opinions about children and why they don't ride bikes anymore, but I will spare myself the brickbats from the helmet brigade :)

Comment edited by moylek on 2010-03-30 13:34:39

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted March 30, 2010 at 15:24:12

Ya, to be honest I'm not 100% sure it will hold either moylek, but getting kids and especially whole families biking is still a good thing. Whether or not it keeps kids biking into adulthood does remain to be seen though. The "uncool" thing may still be a factor for some given the NA culture of the car.

But I do agree with what others have said, it has to start somewhere, and building a bike network that promotes activity while (hopefully) allowing people to realise a viable alternative to the car is available, easily accessible, convenient, etc... is still a good thing. Even if some kids still won't get off their butts and put down the videogame controller to use it. Which I assume is at least part of what you were referring to when you said you have other ideas why kids don't ride bikes anymore?

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted March 30, 2010 at 17:21:26

Kiely wrote ...

Even if some kids still won't get off their butts and put down the videogame controller to use it. Which I assume is at least part of what you were referring to when you said you have other ideas why kids don't ride bikes anymore?

I don't blame video games so much: after all, kids still need to get to their friends' houses in order to play video games. I assign primary blame to 1) over-protective parents who feel the need to escort (i.e. drive) their kids everywhere; 2) the six-lane expressways which bound many residential areas; 3) helmet laws, which mean that it's not just grab-your-bike-and-go for kids anymore.

Pulling this back on topic a little bit: I'm not sure if even curbed bike lanes would make much of a difference on any of these three reasons.

Comment edited by moylek on 2010-03-30 16:22:22

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted March 31, 2010 at 13:27:23

Good points moylek!

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By D (anonymous) | Posted April 07, 2010 at 09:11:59

I just sent this email to Sophia Aggelonitis:

"Dear Sophia Aggelonitis,

As a Hamilton home owner I am really concerned about the Province's decision to pull part of their funding for the LRT plan,

If there is any delay in the project to build Hamilton's LRT two train railway this will be a huge blow to the city,

I am writing to you today to fight and make sure the LRT gets built in this city. Now more then ever we need a positive transportation system that will be a big help to the city.
We cannot risk going backwards. We cannot risk affecting the PanAm games ease of transportation.

I voted Liberal believing this project would get done and promises would be honored, I am not so sure I will vote liberal any time soon unless we are back on track,

Please confirm receipt of this email,

Thanks in advance,

David"

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