Special Report: Pan Am

Hamilton Must Leverage Positive Change of Velodrome

Cyclists are all in this together. We need to find ways to leverage positive change where we can, in a way that benefits as broad a section of the community as possible.

By Andrew Iler
Published September 16, 2011

Having a connected series of bike lanes and dedicated bike paths is an asset for any community - no question!

Over the past few years, far too many cyclists, young and old, have been seriously injured or killed on Hamilton roads and around southern Ontario. These are tragedies that send chills through the cycling community and through those who care about safe streets and roadways.

I find it amazing that the last version I looked at of the MTO's Driver's Manual had sections about how to handle driving situations around animals and debris on the road, but nothing about how to share the road safely with cyclists.

The City of Hamilton has been working hard through its Cycling Committee to address safety concerns and accessibility around the City by bike.

Progressive City

Hamilton has been extremely progressive and successful with respect to cycling, specifically in the hiring of an alternative transportation manager, through the adoption of a cycling master plan and a budget for cycling infrastructure, and with a number of successful cycling-related events.

These are all amazing accomplishments and these advancements absolutely have added to the quality of life in the City for kids, commuters, competitive cyclists, and for visiting cyclists.

The City Cycling Coordinator's position did not exist before Hamilton hosted the 2003 World Cycling Championships. This event, and the high-profile nature of the competitors, did a lot to elevate the profile of the sport of cycling and cycling as a recreational activity.

Performance Cycling Inspires Cyclists

It inspired thousands of youth and adults. A number of young kids watching those Championships, who never thought about cycling as an athletic outlet, were so inspired that they are now competing on Canada's National Cycling Team.

By the way, the World Championships also made money for the City.

I can say from my perspective running almost daily group rides out of the Morgan Firestone Arena in Ancaster, that at first, most of the vehicular traffic in the area did not appear to be pleased with have to pass groups of 6-15 young cyclists.

However, once the athletes started to gain recognition for their achievements and the public gained an appreciation for what was happening at the Centre, the attitudes quickly changed from impatience to applause.

People recognized that some of the riders might become Canada's next Olympians or World Champions. We started to get waves of encouragement instead of middle fingers and horns.

All in this Together

The fact is that all cyclists are in this together, whether they be commuters, couriers, racers, or kids riding around the neighbourhood.

We need to find ways to leverage positive change where we can, in a way that benefits as broad a section of the community as possible.

I strongly believe that a successful velodrome with active, vibrant and mainstream youth and community cycling programs, standing alone and feeding high-performance programs will allow for significant progress in increasing awareness about cycling and it will allow for a further development of other essential cycling infrastructure.

You only need to look at Portland, Bogota, Melbourne, Copenhagen, and now pretty much anywhere in the U.K. to understand the benefits of working on both ends of the cycling community.

All of these cities have very successful cycling facilities for recreational, commuter and competitive cyclists. It took all of the various sectors of the sport, working together to achieve their successes.

Remember: we are all in this together.

Andrew Iler is a Hamilton lawyer, practising in the areas of litigation, administrative law and family law. He is the former President of the National Cycling Centre Hamilton. Andrew is also presently working towards his Level 4 National Coaching Certification at the National Coaching Institute in Toronto.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted September 16, 2011 at 10:07:30

We knew there would be a shortfall (I believe of approximately 10 to 15 million) back before we even decided on a location for the Pan Am Stadium, right at the initial Pan Am bid victory. We knew this because the budget was for a temporary facility, and not a permanent one.

It's only now, 1 month before a deadline, that the cycling community has decided to start a fundraising committee to raise money for the permanent velodrome, with their excuse being we didn't know the exact numbers we were working with, and how much was needed.

Had they aimed for a $10 million fundraising target back then, or even a $5 million, and reached that goal over the course of the past two or three years, I think council would be much more willing to throw in an additional $5 million.

However, to say that council should committ an additional $5 million now, and they'll try and find funding from other sources in the next month? No, that seems like it's a day late and a dollar short.

I've always been a fan of the velodrome and believed, like you do Andrew, that it was always the real crown jewel in the Pan Am win for Hamilton, and that it was one of the facilities that would help put Hamilton on the map.

After seeing the way all the parties have handled the velodrome (half baked idea of a teamup with Mohawk that actually costs the city more money than Mohawk is contributing, some City councillors deciding the location in private, funding shortfall "sprung" on councillors last minute, and the fact the Cycling supporters seem to have been asleep at the switch for the past year when it comes to fundraising) I find it extremely difficult if not impossible to support the velodrome out of new funds.

I would support council if they decided to cut back on the Stadium funds to make a permanent velodrome, but I wouldn't support more than $5 million in new funding for the velodrome itself.

We've had too many people coming to the public well to drink, we can't keep dishing it out to everyone. It's unfortuante that the project I saw the most hope for will be on the short end of the stick, but after our deals with McMaster, Lister Block, Pan Am Stadium, I just don't see how we can afford to keep making deals that cost the city enormous amounts of money.

I know it's important that cities support these kinds of initiatives, but it seems to me that there's only so much a city can take on. We can't dish out $10 million to each mega-project that comes our way.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted September 21, 2011 at 09:10:47 in reply to Comment 69727

I know it's important that cities support these kinds of initiatives...

Actually no it isn't, these are the types of initiatives cities should avoid unless they want to go broke.

The days of the bottomless well of taxpayer money for special interests (that's what a velodrome is folks) must end. Our infrastructure is crumbling, the middle class is dwindling, our economy is teetering, poverty is increasing and our political energy and hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on useless shrines to excess and triviality.

No one drives into this city for the first time takes a look around and says "You know what this city is missing? A velodrome."

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2011 at 11:30:04 in reply to Comment 69916

I have to respectfully disagree. Velodromes of this calibre, and any sports facilities, museums, galleries, etc. are rarely - if ever - built without any financial contribution from the municipality.

Every major city has initiatives of a similar type, and provide funding for it.

I think you'll be hard pressed to find a medium sized city that doesn't spend taxpayer money on some kind of cultural/athletic facility.

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By Bobby1 (anonymous) | Posted September 16, 2011 at 10:38:19

Robert D.,
Well written comment and right on point!

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By TLCER (anonymous) | Posted September 16, 2011 at 11:13:03

There is no relation between the 2003 cycling championship and the city cycling position: in fact, 2003 was the year the city cut the $300,000 annual cycling budget. It was the city cycling committee and Transportation for Liveable Communities who were pushing for the staff position, not elite cycling groups.
I also see little to link the velodrome to the needs of every day city cyclists; an integrated cycling network would do far more to encourage cycling than having people (likely) drive to Mohawk, put on their special cycling gear, and do a difficult velodome course.
I love that we have elite cyclists training on our roads and pathways, but how come none of them bother to have a bell to warn of their passing. I guess the drag would slow them down...

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By DiIanni (registered) | Posted September 16, 2011 at 15:37:19

Andrew Iler was on "Hamilton Talks" on Cable 14. The discussion on the Velodrome is re-broadcast tomorrow, Saturday, Sept. 17th at noon. It is also available on YouTube vidoe youtu.be/m3GVLYWiUgl?a

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By Locke (registered) | Posted September 17, 2011 at 13:59:55

"The fact is that all cyclists are in this together, whether they be commuters, couriers, racers, or kids riding around the neighbourhood."

The other point Andrew makes is that we can change attitudes, just as the attitudes of those car drivers encountering his team rides have changed. The velodrome is an opportunity for us to highlight cycling and change peoples perceptions. That is, the velodrome represents an opportunity to:

  1. Change people's (residents and non-residents) attitudes towards Hamilton from rust-bucket to home of Olympians.
  2. Change people's (residents) attitudes towards cycling from something losers do (those without a car do) to something winners do.

The brand-perception of cycling, Hamilton and Mohawk is surely to be positively increased when we start churning out champions 'own-the-podium' style from the 'National Velodrome located at Mohawk College in Hamilton'.

Positive perception will increase the number of people wanting to cycle, move to Hamilton and attend Mohawk.

Right now, it's hard to get the city/councillors to spend money on Bike Lanes. Up the prestige, up the usage and up the influence and Improving cycling commuting in Hamilton will be on most every councillor's get re-elected list.

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By jamester (anonymous) | Posted September 18, 2011 at 09:44:45

Iler is absolutely right, as usual, as is Locke. If Hamilton becomes the cycling capital of Canada, or even the northeast of the U.S. (remember the only other international level velodrom is in L.A.) this will improve the cycling environment for all of us, improve the city's image 100 fold, and bring money, publicity and prestige to this city for decades to come.

As a mountain biker, I know how hard it is to convince various governments and conservation authorities to respect us and work with us in trail building. As an occasional cycling commuter I am frustrated by the suddenly disappearing bike lanes and disrespect shown to us. I am never going to be a velodrome cyclist, but I will benefit tremendously by the prestige and awareness achieved by Hamilton becoming the Canadian cycling capital. All of us will.

Hamilton has achieved national prominence in health care and education. We are on our way to reinventing ourselves as a city, much like Pittsburgh and other "rust bucket" cities have done. But we are behind in this process and need a boost. Becoming the country's leader in anything would help this process.

And as for the funding, the writer should know that smart folks like Iler tried to arrange for a fundraising campaign when the velodrome issue was first presented, but the city and the pan am committee dropped the ball, not the cycling folks. Now the Infrastructure Ontario cost estimates have added to the problem by inflating the estimated cost of the velodrome (and all of their estimates) by about 40% on average. Iler's research has shown that all of the international standard velodromes built in the past decade have come in under 25 million. That amount of money is on the table now between all three levels of government. The "shortfall" is a total falsehood created by Infrastructure Ontario's inflated cost estimates. There is no shortfall in all of the honest assessments, or examples, of permanent velodromes. The only shortfall comes from political B.S. And the real waste would be to spend 11.5 million on a temporary facility....that is the thing we should be outraged about.

Finally, let's think about the future. When our children and grandchildren ask us about some international athletic competition that came to southern Ontario, they will ask us why Hamilton had nothing to do with them. We lost the marquee track and field and now we will lose cycling. On the other hand, imagine a future where our children and grandchildren have one of the rare facilities that can offer them the opportunity to train at an elite level and achieve great things, or just to enjoy athleticism in an indoor cycling facility that is not available in other communities. This facility is planned to include incredible local participation by our children....not just elite athletes, but to offer the experience to all of our community. Over half of it will be paid with federal and provincial money, and we are going to reject that??? What a wasted opportunity that would be.

Let's use some of our future fund money in order to create a truly great legacy for this city....exactly what that fund was intended to accomplish!!!

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted September 19, 2011 at 11:04:56

Hamilton needs a sea change in marketing, and no other city in the country has come up to the plate as "the cycling capital of canada". This is our opportunity.

Hamilton is perfectly positioned to attain and hold the cycling capital distinction and the benefits would stretch well beyond the world of cycling.

The velodrome project should be used as a catalyst to kick off our transformation into a world class cycling city. but do staff and council have the imagination and courage to take that path?

Or will we continue down the road toward being awarded "Fastest automotive traffic in the country"? That'll wow 'em!

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By TnT (registered) | Posted September 20, 2011 at 07:55:24

As a ward 3 resident I can't seem to locate any bike lanes at all in my ward or ward 4 for that matter. As the two flattest, straightest grid designed neighborhoods it should be top priority for lanes.

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted September 26, 2011 at 21:48:34

While we are awaiting an update on the question of funding for a permanent Pan Am velodrome before the October 11, 2011 deadline set by Toronto 2015, there are still many unanswered questions about the $152.5 Million Ivor Wynne Pan Am Stadium plan and the stadium precinct.

On June 1, 2011, the Hamilton Pan Am Stadium Subcommittee established its terms of reference and they defined the scope of the stadium precinct. Here are a few excerpts from that meeting:

“Mayor Bratina discussed the legacy issue and the need to address not just the building of the stadium but the precinct around it.”

“Co-Chair Morelli indicated that it would be his intention that this Sub-committee would deal with the full precinct and not just the Stadium. This would include the areas of Parkview, Scott Park, the pool, and the railway platforms. To accomplish this Co-Chair Morelli indicated that the Terms of Reference should have a wider scope.” http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/8124...

The Pan Am Stadium Subcommittee Terms of Reference were approved by council at a GIC meeting on June 13, 2011: http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/8124...

Questions:

  1. Did the decision to entirely rebuild Ivor Wynne Stadium happen before or after the GIC meeting on June 13, 2011?

  2. If the decision was made by Infrastructure Ontario, Toronto 2015, the city and the Tiger-Cats prior to the GIC Meeting on June 13, 2011, why didn’t they tell council so that the Pan Am Stadium Subcommittee Terms of Reference could be discussed and amended before they were approved by council?

  3. Has Mayor Bratina or anyone from city council, city staff or the Tiger-Cats ever disclosed to Toronto 2015 CEO Ian Troop and Infrastructure Ontario that the GO Train platform being planned at Gage Avenue North as part of the Ivor Wynne Pan Am Stadium precinct is only a block away from the new Hell’s Angels clubhouse at Gage Avenue North and Beach Road that opened in June, 2011? If not, why not? http://www.thespec.com/news/local/articl...

  4. Why wasn’t this important fact discussed at the GIC Meeting on June 13, 2011 before council approved the Stadium precinct Terms of Reference?

  5. Why didn’t council discuss this important fact before the Ivor Wynne Pan Am Stadium proposal was forwarded to Infrastructure Ontario on September 15, 2011 and the Request For Proposals went out to the construction bid teams on September 22, 2011? http://www1.infrastructureontario.ca/en/...

Hamilton has already been nationally and internationally embarrassed due to the loss of the main Pan Am atheltics stadium and the public denigration of the west harbour Pan Am stadium and velodrome site which had been an integral part of the successful Toronto Pan Am Games bid in 2009. Unless some drastic improvements are made to the Ivor Wynne Pan Am Stadium precinct plan, this city runs the risk of an even greater embarrassment. Visitors from across Canada and from 41 other Pan Am countries are expected to visit us in 2015. Do we really want them entering and existing a GO train platform located a block away from a biker headquarters or to make a 10 minute walk up Gage Avenue North to get to the stadium? If our Pan Am guests choose instead to drive or take a taxi or local public transit to the stadium, do we want them to see intermittent patches of severe urban blight along the five kilometres stretches of King, Cannon and Barton Streets between the downtown and the stadium? The Ivor Wynne Pan Am stadium plan is clearly inferior to the original west harbour stadium plan but it is now a done deal. The mayor, city council, Toronto 2015 and Infrastructure Ontario will need to work very hard over the next four years to solve or at least mitigate the egregious problems inherent in their current Ivor Wynne Pan Am Stadium plan.

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2011-09-26 21:52:31

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