Special Report: Cycling

Neighbourhood Greenways for Hamilton

The future of bike infrastructure is protected lanes on main streets, supported by neighbourhood greenways through the hearts of quiet, residential neighbourhoods.

By Jason Leach
Published June 06, 2013

If you're looking for any cycling inspiration, here it is:

It's hard to overstate the importance of the Portland Bureau of Transportation's neighbourhood greenway program. The combination of considerable expertise in, and dedication to, neighborhood traffic safety from veteran staffers and engineers, and the $1 million (or so) annual budget thanks to Mayor Sam Adams, has resulted in a burgeoning and connected network of neighborhood greenways (a.k.a. their previous name of bike boulevards) that just keep getting better and better.

According to the City of Portland, Neighbourhood greenways are mainly residential streets with relatively low vehicular traffic volumes where "bicycles, pedestrians and neighbours are given priority".

Neighbourhood greenway in Portland (Image Credit: City of Portland)
Neighbourhood greenway in Portland (Image Credit: City of Portland)

Also called "bike boulevards", greenways give priority to bikes above cars. The routes are marked with signage, bicycle stencils and sharrows, speed bumps and diverters discourage cut-through driving, and crossings are designed to let pedestrians and cyclists coexist safely.

Portland has learned that greenways are really effective at getting more people riding on bikes - particularly women and children, who are unlikely to ride on more dangerous streets, even with painted bike lanes.

On busy streets, separated bike lanes are great, but on quieter neighbourhood streets, greenways have been hugely successful at attracting new cyclists.

Portland has been busy building an extensive network of greenways and is on track to have a greenway within 0.8 kilometres of 80 percent of residents by 2015.

Portland greenway map (Image Credit: City of Portland)
Portland greenway map (Image Credit: City of Portland)

Naturally, Streetfilms has a great video on Portland's greenways:

It's a beautiful positive feedback loop: bicycle friendly routes encourage more cyclists, which provides more "eyes on the street" to make the street safer, which encourages more people to try cycling. In addition to getting more people on bikes, greenways are safer for all users, even drivers.

Proposed Greenways in Hamilton

I've been in talks with Councillor Brian McHattie and alternative transportation manager Daryl Bender about bringing these greenways to Hamilton.

One early suggestion I've made is Magill, Pearl, HAAA Park and Kent Street in Ward 1. I use this route to get from my place to the rail trail. It's just begging to be a calmer neighbourhood greenway and it connects so many neighbourhoods and destinations.

Another one is Hunt/Head/Napier from Hwy 403 to Bay Street.

Another suggestion is Cumberland Avenue, a potentially friendly east-west route running southeast of downtown. But my favourite suggestion is Dunsmure: a huge, long street between King and Main for much of the central/east end of the City.

We met at City Hall a number of months ago with some representatives from the Strathcona Community Council, and everyone loved the idea.

The future of bike infrastructure is protected lanes on main streets, supported by neighbourhood greenways through the hearts of quiet, residential neighbourhoods.

Supposedly, protected two-way bike lanes on Hunter, two-way bike lanes on Locke and bike lanes on Charlton/Herkimer are coming this year. That's encouraging and will be a big boost if and when it happens.

However, we need to keep adjusting our bike plan based on what we learn about best practices from other cities.

Hamilton's original Shifting Gears bike plan from the 1990s had bike boulevards - which we now call greenways - in it. Portland went ahead and started a major experiment while Hamilton took a pass and lost 20 years of progress.

Now we have a chance to learn from Portland's experience and catch up quickly - if we have the vision and leadership to do it.

with files from Ryan McGreal

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By Hamilton pedestrian (anonymous) | Posted June 06, 2013 at 13:50:07

Never happen in practice in Hamilton. Too many drivers who think the roads are their domain and all on two feet or two wheels (or even four feet) should tremble before them and jump out of the way or perish!! Transit is an example of how City Hall cares (not) about alternate tramsportation to the car.

They are even willing to move wetlands and cut off habitat to build ANOTHER access to Red Hill Expressway on behalf of industry. They are also sinking more moeny into that paved money pit to fix problems with erosion from when they "moved" the creek out of the way to make that lethal deathtrap of an expressway through parkland.

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By dsafire (registered) - website | Posted June 06, 2013 at 13:52:25

Dunsmure and the Delaware/maplewood strip that ends at Gage would be awesome runs for this SouthEast of the core.

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By Continuity (anonymous) | Posted June 06, 2013 at 14:15:57

It's also important to make sure the greenways connect to something on either end. I like that the Hunt/Head/Napier line connects to the 2-way protected bike lanes on King over the highway and on to Westdale. It would be great to see bike lanes on King all the way to Sterling, but if we can't have that it would be great to have a greenway on Glen Rd through Churchill Park and over to Cline, Haddon or Dromore to connect to the bike lanes on Sterling. Then you'd have a continuous bike lane from McMaster all the way to Bay. Add a bike lane on Bay and you could connect it to the bike lanes on York/Wilson. NOW you're talking continuity!

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted June 06, 2013 at 14:26:08

"Public decisions that incorporate human and environmental health will prioritize actions and investments to reduce disparities and inequities and improve residents’ health while protecting the long-term health of the environment."

http://www.portlandonline.com/portlandplan/index.cfm?a=339585&c=54115

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By Simon (registered) - website | Posted June 06, 2013 at 14:43:12

What an amazing concept!

I have a 4 year old who has just learned how to ride a two-wheeler - and I have to tell you its an eye opener.

I am constantly getting after him to:

"RIDE ON THE SIDEWALK!!!"

"GET BACK ON THE SIDEWALK!!!"

"GET OFF THE ROAD - YOU"RE GOING TO GET RUN OVER!!!"

So how exactly do you yell at him when he's little to stay on the damn sidewalk, and then when he's older expect him to stay on the road?

The worst thing is roads that are safe sometimes but not others.

And, do you know the absolute worst time for kids to ride their bikes on the road - going to and from school.

Thanks to the board's infinite wisdom to close every urban neighbourhood school they can - necessitating parents to have to drive their kids in - the traffic to and from school is crazy.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted June 06, 2013 at 15:12:10

February 3, 2010

City Council today will decide whether to invest more than $600 million in planning and projects to increase cycling in Portland over the next 20 years. The Portland Bike Plan for 2030 identifies dozens of projects for improving cycling access, including new trail systems, bike paths and cycle tracks.

But the Portland Bureau of Transportation is facing an extensive backlog of street repairs in the coming years, so it plans to start small in its effort to build the city a world-class biking community. Ellen Vanderslice, PBOT project manager for the bike plan, said her department needs to prove an increased demand for bike projects before money can be pulled from projects intended to aid motor vehicles.

“We don’t have that amount of discretionary funding for any mode of transportation,” Vanderslice said. “To get to a place where we can take funding from cars and give that to bikes, we need to prove that the demand is here first.”

http://www.bicyclelaw.com/news/n.cfm/bike-plan-funding-starts-small

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 06, 2013 at 15:27:43

For those interested, here is a bit more info and some pics from my last trip to Portland in Oct 2012:

http://www.raisethehammer.org/blog/2559/...

Great blog post on the Greenways with photos and more detailed info: http://www.madisonbikelife.com/2012/04/p...

Great quotes from the Dept of Transportation fellow. Imagine ever hearing this in Hamilton: http://bikeportland.org/2012/03/16/the-c...

http://www.neighborhoodnotes.com/news/20...

http://greenlaneproject.org/blog/view/sh...

I happened to be on one of these Greenways when school was getting out, and was shocked to see that the scene in that Streetsblog film was an everyday occurrence, not just a festival or special event. Was cool to see all the families riding home from school.

Comment edited by jason on 2013-06-06 15:29:13

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 06, 2013 at 15:31:13 in reply to Comment 89365

Imagine that discussion even being brought up here - whether to take car money and use it for bikes? We supposedly set aside a certain amount of money for bike projects each year, and for the last several years haven't even come close to using it. Meanwhile, our roads/highways budget continues to climb. I'd be thrilled to get to the place Portland is at where there is a healthy bike budget every year, and it is actually used for bike projects.

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By beancounter (registered) | Posted June 06, 2013 at 18:49:41 in reply to Comment 89360

As Jason points out, Dunsmure would give you a nice long run, but wouldn't all of those stop signs be a problem?

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 06, 2013 at 22:22:18 in reply to Comment 89361

Sadly, the Churchill Park Master Plan was under a lot of pressure from folks who wanted the park to remain a glorified lawn, combined with naturalists... and so last time I checked the plan for the path across Churchill was a granulated surface, not proper bike-friendly asphalt. Yeah, I'm disappointed. Nice to see anything being planned for Churchill after years of stonewalling from grumpy folks who've never tried to push a stroller across that grass, but still.

Either way, a big problem with these back-road-based bike routes? Public Works has to be willing to make sure they're not facing a stop sign every block. Yeah, right.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 06, 2013 at 22:26:25 in reply to Comment 89373

another couple hundred thousand of our residents replaced with Toronto transplants would do wonders to rid us of the NIMBY scourge that halts and delays anything not resembling the status quo. I read a Spec headline the other day about Stoney Creek residents yelling and opposing a 6-storey apartment building. Yes, I typed that correctly. Not 60 storeys. SIX.

I'm surprised folks are still allowed to step out their front door in this city without offending some crotchety old NIMBY.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 06, 2013 at 22:28:28 in reply to Comment 89371

In other cities, they turn most stop signs so they face the cross streets and not the Greenway. The speed humps every 350 feet keep car traffic slow, as well as designing the streets to be calm - lots of trees, curb parking, bumpouts, choke points etc..... I would be comfortable with leaving the odd stop sign and add a 'bicycles exempt' sign.

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By Kevin Love (anonymous) | Posted June 07, 2013 at 00:17:52

When I look outside of Canada for inspiration, I usually look to The Netherlands, not the USA. Here is commentary and a video about how greenways are set up in The Netherlands. The key principle is eliminating cut-through "rat-running" car traffic. Roads go straight through for cyclists, but not for car drivers. See:

http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2012/04/100-segregation-of-bikes-and-cars.html

Isn't that much better than the Portland example? Isn't that what we want for Hamilton?

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted June 07, 2013 at 02:25:01 in reply to Comment 89374

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted June 07, 2013 at 05:47:25

Make me whant to move my Family to Portland , im juste sick of Hamilton councile sitting at there table and playing with there finghers

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 07, 2013 at 09:07:42 in reply to Comment 89377

You are correct, and yes the Netherlands is absolutely the king at this infrastructure. I find Portland to be such a great comparison to us due to it's largely lower density, single home design through much of the city as the photos illustrate.

And they do close streets to car cut-through traffic all the time on these greenways:

http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2012/04/100-segregation-of-bikes-and-cars.html

The above suggestions of Dunsmure for example could see this same treatment at Sherman, Gage etc.... Bike allowed through, but not cars. There's no need for cars to drive all the way down Dunsmure with so many main streets around.

It's one of the things I love about the Magill/Pearl/Kent idea. It already has natural features that prevent through traffic for cars: The York Blvd median, the bridge over the tracks at Jackson/Hunter and the HAAA grounds.

Cumberland Ave connects with the rail trail at Wentworth and through Gage Park directly to Montclair, then London to Central. Central runs all the way to the RHVP. As a neighbourhood greenway, this would create a safe, beautiful route from Corktown Park all the way to the Red Hill Valley. And Central could be 'dead-ended' in various spots to cars: Kenilworth and Parkdale.

London could be a N/S route one block off Ottawa St from Lawrence straight up to Cannon.

Again, due to our design as a city, very similar to Portland these ideas would work beautifully here.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted June 07, 2013 at 10:03:04

Now this is a transport initiative I can get behind, it gives cyclists their own roadways to stick to and keeps them away from higher volume automobile traffic veins, making it a win/win for both the cyclist and the motorist.

I certainly though prefer Cumberland over Dunsmure. Cumberland is very close to linking up to Corktown Park (and the rail trail) Gage Park & Lawrence Road (which links to the Red Hill trail) and can easily link up to a similar converted Charlton. It also ends close to the base of the Wentworth stairs as well (I can't honestly remember if they are bike stairs or not). Dunsmure is right between King & Main, doesn't make it past Wentworth and stops short of the Red Hill and links up with no other trails.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-06-07 10:05:00

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted June 07, 2013 at 10:26:55 in reply to Comment 89380

Big fan of a Cumberland conversion, espcially if you run with that conversion through Corktown Park and link Forest Ave direct to Charlton and then convert Charlton through to the HAAA grounds and even all the way to Innovation Park.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted June 07, 2013 at 10:48:42 in reply to Comment 89386

Should also add, links to the alright low car traffic, bike lanes already present on Fergusson St.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-06-07 10:48:56

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted June 07, 2013 at 10:53:19 in reply to Comment 89384

Because this sort of thing typically goes to pilot, and you generally want a pilot to be successful so it is left in place and other similar developments eventually occur.

Bascially pick you have to pick your battles, and you want to push for the case that offers the best chance for success. Dunsmure doesn't has as many pros as Cumberland and this city has always had a sluggish, cautious approach to projects like this, because it's been burned on so many major development projects, conversions and infrastructure changes and mishaps.

That's not to say eventually Dunsmure wouldn't work, and shouldn't eventually be considered. I'm saying Cumberland is simply a better choice in my eyes and one that should take a higher priority.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-06-07 10:55:10

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted June 07, 2013 at 11:23:11 in reply to Comment 89390

Perhaps I'm misunderstand what you were saying as far as one or the other is concerned. As far as why I favour Cumberland over Dunsurmure, that I think I illustrated. As far as the type of cycling infrastructure...

I feel that completely segrating cyclist and motor traffic, and keeping them on generally seperate infrastructure is more effective for both them having them share streets. Generally having them paralell each other and intersecting at key junctions that make sense (for example Lawrence and Kenilworth intersect, but via a bridge so cyclist traffic on lawrence is uneffected by the higher speed Kenilworth access traffic). With this also comes having points in the infrastructure that favour cyclist traffic over car traffic, like this article recommends, and running it paralell to locations that favour car traffic.

To sum it up, yes protected bike lanes may be safer then unprotected ones or none at all, but bike routes/trails without car traffic (or very little car traffic) are even safer then both and offer the same benefits without running into as many lane reductions that in turn lead to congestion concerns, road widening issues, BRT/LRT lane development concerns and making two way conversion more difficult. You still need some place for at least four lanes of car traffic (two way or one way).

With the abudant lack of cycling infrastructure, this is the infrastructure I would greatly favour and push over protected bike lanes and mixed streets. Not to say there aren't places for mixed infrastructure. Canon is one such place I think needs it. I just don't think that it is as useful and beneficial. It's also something whose installation becomes more warranted after showing large amounts of cyclist traffic being done on the seperate neighbouring infrastucture.

Edit: Cleared up the language of the 2nd paragraph.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-06-07 11:44:07

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted June 07, 2013 at 12:52:57 in reply to Comment 89389

I live on Cumberland and see poeples all day biking and walking and running and its a bike path but why is there NO paited lanes

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted June 07, 2013 at 13:25:48 in reply to Comment 89385

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 07, 2013 at 19:02:14 in reply to Comment 89391

You still need some place for at least four lanes of car traffic (two way or one way).

Depending on which streets you're talking about, this isn't a concern at all. The data shows we have way more lanes than we need:

http://raisethehammer.org/article/1818/c...

This provides us with a fantastic opportunity to take all the extra space on streets like Cannon, Queen, Bay, Wellington, Victoria etc.... and install protected 2-way bike lanes, widen sidewalks, plant trees etc..... With the right leadership and vision, our inner city could look dramatically different and much more livable, safe and attractive in 5 years.

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By Charlie Mattina (anonymous) | Posted June 07, 2013 at 20:44:32

In The Beasley Neighbourhood Surrounded by contaminated properties, abandon buildings ,empty lots, and one way streets, green space comes with a premium. The BNA ,as part of the neighbourhood plan, will be a under taking a Green alley project, the pilot will the notorious" Listerine Alley". http://www.thespec.com/news/article/7606--facing-the-day-in-listerineland.
The project will create a green corridor from Beasley Park to the Mary street pedestrian Bridge.And yes this will include the great Food Basics heat desert.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted June 08, 2013 at 23:49:18 in reply to Comment 89405

I agree, which is why I advocate the conversion of nearly all of them to two way and to expand the bike network provided it's done in a fiscally responsible fashion. Funding provided by say by the area rating project funds or as a small slice of the city budget over time.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted August 20, 2013 at 08:25:17 in reply to Comment 89371

Because of the stop signs, the average speed a driver can travel on Dunsmere is probably pretty low, so it would actually be sensible to remove the stop signs and reduce the speed limit. With a max speed of 30, bikes can no longer be considered 'slow moving traffic'. The beauty is that Dunsmere already looks like a 30kph street because it is narrow, has street parking and has lots of low trees encroaching on the road. All you would need to do is remove the stop signs and maybe install a few bumpouts to reinforce the speed limit.

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