Special Report: Cycling

Farr Introduces Motion to Build Two-Way Bike Lanes on Cannon

Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr has introduced a notice of motion to implement a protected two-way bike lane on Cannon Street in time for the 2015 Pan American Games.

By Ryan McGreal
Published August 14, 2013

Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr has introduced a notice of motion to implement a protected two-way bike lane on Cannon Street in time for the 2015 Pan American Games.

Cannon Street (Image Credit: Mike Goodwin)
Cannon Street (Image Credit: Mike Goodwin)

Inspired by feedback from community meetings and workshops, the Cannon and Queen Two-Way Study Groups, the Yes We Cannon citizen campaign, the City's Cycling Master Plan, positive examples from other cities and a generally increasing awareness of the many benefits of Complete Streets, Councillor Farr's motion asks staff to design a bi-directional, physically protected bike lane between Sherman Avenue and Bay Street.

The motion also suggests options for physically separating the bike lanes, including bollards, paint, knockdown sticks or, preferably planters to delineate the lanes. Funding for the bike lanes would come from the Area Rating levy and other sources "to be identified by Public Works".

Currently, Cannon Street is configured as a four-lane, one-way street westbound. It is extremely inhospitable to pedestrians and cyclists.

Desperate Need

East-west travel in northeast Hamilton is a major gap in the city's bicycle network, as Justin Jones argued so eloquently in his RTH article introducing the Yes We Cannon campaign.

In the past few weeks, I have spent some harrowing and instructive hours trying to bicycle back and forth between the Central/North End neighbourhoods and Landsdale/Gibson. Despite my efforts, I was not able to find a single continuous east-west route on a secondary street, even including alleyways.

No matter which street I tried, I ended up having to bite the bullet and take either King, Cannon or Barton Street - none of which are in the least bicycle-friendly.

Just to be clear that I'm not exaggerating, here's a map of the east-west streets between James Street North and Gage Avenue North. Cannon and Barton are highlighted in blue, whereas the other east-west streets are highlighted in red (and the James North GO Station and Pan Am Stadium are identified with markers).

Even with a generous trip plan including sidetracks north or south on cross-streets, there is simply no way to get between Gage and James without taking King, Cannon or Barton at some point. And that doesn't even take into account the fact that some of these streets are one-way, to boot. (Sidenote: Burlington Street is also continuous, but aside from being quite a bit north of both the station and the stadium, it turns into a limited-access highway format east of Wentworth.)

Great Opportunities to Build Cycling Network

The case for protected bike lanes is strongly supported by the evidence, not only for increasing ridership but also for reducing injury and even boosting local retail business.

With emerging best practices from other cities, Hamilton is well-positioned to make its own commitment. After all, cities that don't move aggressively on building out their bicycle networks risk "being left behind" cities that do.

Hamilton already missed a great opportunity to repaint King Street with protected bike lanes on the cheap, by putting the bike lanes in a curb lane and making the next lane parallel parking. Since traffic volumes on King are so low (east of Catharine, King carries 14,400 cars a day on two lanes; east of Wentworth, King carries 16,400 cars a day on four lanes), there's absolutely no excuse not to re-allocate excess lane capacity to build badly-needed cycling infrastructure.

King Street East, repainted to look like it's still the 1960s (Image Credit: Jason Leach)
King Street East, repainted to look like it's still the 1960s (Image Credit: Jason Leach)

The traffic situation is even more amenable on Cannon. Just west of Sherman, it carries a measly 9,100 cars a day on four one-way lanes, or just 2,275 cars per lane. Even west of Mary, Cannon only reaches 16,700 cars a day on its four lanes.

Two lanes are plenty of capacity for that amount of traffic: the city should be aiming for around 7-9,000 cars per lane on city streets.

I've already made a case to convert Cannon to two-way and add protected bike lanes, and Jason Leach has written widely and enthusiastically about the kinds of things we can do to realize a successful transformation of Cannon from a community-crippling highway into a street that serves everyone's needs.

Text of Motion

Here is the full text of the notice of motion:

Notice of Motion for Monday August 12th, GIC:

Whereas, Councillors Farr, Morelli and McHattie had earlier established the One Way to Two Way Street Study Group through Council motion, and;

Whereas, community workshops/walkabouts have since occurred on both Cannon Street and Queen Street to evaluate current traffic conditions and consider options and alternatives, and;

Whereas, there is support from the study group along with increasing public support for the implementation of a "complete street" treatment of Cannon Street, which includes, but not limited to a Cannon Contra-flow blueprint from the Jamesville Neighbourhood Action Plan, the NE07 Ward 2 Participatory Budgeting Initiative and the YesWeCannon on-line campaign, and;

Whereas the City of Hamilton's Cycling Master Plan - Shifting Gears, has identified a plan for the implementation of a "Road Diet" configuration for cycling Infrastructure on Cannon Street, and;

Whereas, planning on the implementation of Complete Street approaches has been recently identified through the Social Planning and Research Council's draft Complete Streets Policy, and the joint Chamber of Commerce/HIVE/City of Hamilton Sustainable Mobility workshop featuring Gil Penalosa from 8-80 Cities, and;

Whereas, in cities like New York, Chicago, Vancouver and Toronto, similar pilot projects have served to test the efficacy of complete street approaches.

Whereas, Cannon street may provide for a direct multi-modal link to the Pan-am precinct.

Therefore be it resolved, that:

A) A bi-directional bike lane be installed as a pilot project on the south side of Cannon Street from Sherman Avenue to Bay Street, and;

B) That through the design phase, staff contemplate various methods that include, but is not limited to bollards, paint, knock down sticks, along with a preference toward planters erected to delineate a contra-flow bike lane from the auto traffic lanes.

C) That the implementation of a bi-directional bike lane pilot project on Cannon Street be funded from the following funding source, area rating capital reserves along with appropriate sources to be identified by Public Works.

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 jerr3y (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2013 at 11:59:49

Do you have any examples of what the cross-section would look like if the street was two way and had protected bike lanes?

The best on-street bidirectional bike paths I have seen were all on one-way streets (Montreal, NY, Portland, etc).

P.S. Not a troll I promise.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 15, 2013 at 11:21:39 in reply to Comment 90892

This 2007 documentary from Streetfilms demonstrates a number of different approaches to two-way physically separated bike lanes on both one-way and two-way streets.

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2013 at 12:11:14

Hamilton is home to so many pilots it's no wonder the city has an international airport.

All the same, it's nice to see comtemplative options suggested as a possible element of the draft stage.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted August 14, 2013 at 12:18:00

Want. WantwantwNtwanttwantawant. I commute from Westdale to the Hamilton General daily, and I would totally use this.

between the cost of separation and bi-directional traffic lights and the suburban commuters refusing to budge on any lane capacity downtown, I look forward to the rest of council ruining my hopes...while the mayor silently looks on despite his history of support from downtown.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2013 at 12:37:50 in reply to Comment 90895

Mayor's History of Support from Downtown:

2010: 2,952 votes (38.19%, nominally higher than city-wide share of 37.32%)
2006: 4,001 votes (66.78%)
2004: 1,856 votes (36.74%)

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By jmorse (registered) | Posted August 14, 2013 at 12:36:45

Would be even better if extended west through the end of Cannon along York to Dundurn. There is a needless 3rd vehicle lane along York in both directions as well.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2013 at 12:50:48

Earlier this year, I was standing at the corner of James and Cannon, along with a crowd of people attending the art crawl, the crowd spilling out to the edge of the curb. Suddenly a car zoomed by at a speed I would say clearly in excess of 50 km/h, causing people to jump back from the edge of the curb. In my view, the driver was clearly taking advantage of the fact that cannon was a one way thoroughfare and driving as he would normally, completely oblivious to the number of people around at that particular intersection.

I loudly proclaimed "and that's why we need more two way streets" to which there was a general murmur of agreement from bystanders before the light changed and we were able to continue on our way.

I truly believe that traffic calming is a must on all of our urban streets - downtown and on the mountain.

I am encourage by councillor Farr's motion, but wonder if ultimately, as with the city's response to tactical urbanism, this might be a one-off, a way for the city to say "see, we did listen to you on Cannon street" and use that as a justification for ignoring concerns about other streets.

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By jonathan dalton (registered) | Posted August 14, 2013 at 14:16:05 in reply to Comment 90899

That happens every day at the corner of James and Cannon and it's a wonder more people don't get hit. On the northeast corner the curb radius is large and I see many cars overshoot on the red light or just proceed with their right turns without stopping first.

On the opposite corner the stop line on James is stepped back to accommodate left turns from Cannon onto James. People don't always get it however, and several times a day a bus attempts to turn left but can't make the wide turn because someone overshot that stop line. The bus driver won't compromise on that left turn, so we are all treated to sustained honking as the car on James eventually backs up.

These problems would disappear if Cannon were to go to two way, these problems would disappear. If a bike lane and / or parking took the place of the active left lane, that would do about as much good.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 14, 2013 at 14:24:06 in reply to Comment 90904

These problems would disappear if Cannon were to go to two way

That's a very good point. If the bus was turning from the left westbound lane on a two-way street instead of the left curb lane on a one-way street, it would be able to make the turn without eating into the left turn lane from James northbound onto Cannon westbound.

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By jonathan dalton (registered) | Posted August 15, 2013 at 00:38:48 in reply to Comment 90907

It also illustrates how 'baby steps' towards improvement in our road network do not always work as intended. They introduce problems as much as they soften the blow for those used to the old system. Both problems I described with this intersection didn't exist when James was one way south either and only two turns were possible - left from Cannon onto James and right from James onto Cannon. With both streets two way however, there are 8 possible turns at an intersection. What is that we keep saying about functionality?

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By Core-B (registered) | Posted August 14, 2013 at 14:04:11

Hallelujah!

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By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted August 14, 2013 at 14:13:22

In the next election, whomever blocks initiatives like this, needs to be turfed - mayor included.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted August 14, 2013 at 14:19:46 in reply to Comment 90902

But, they won't be...

I highly doubt any incumbent Councillor who runs will lose and the mayor is a toss up.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2013 at 14:13:54

...and loose anniversary of Councillor McHattie's Mary Street motion.

http://raisethehammer.org/article/1644/proposal_to_convert_mary_street_to_two-way_between_barton_and_king_william

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 14, 2013 at 14:20:47 in reply to Comment 90903

Making Mary Street two-way is outrageous. Where would the cars go?

Mary Street

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By StoneMonkey (registered) | Posted August 16, 2013 at 12:35:28 in reply to Comment 90906

That's a little cheeky Ryan, I am sure you've seen Mary north of Cannon. There is a lot of on street parking and very little space, granted that is only a fraction of the street and is an issue I think can be dealt with but still lets not propagate false perspectives.

[IMG]http://i.imgur.com/FOssynm.jpg[/IMG]

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 16, 2013 at 13:22:28 in reply to Comment 90973

It was cheeky, and for that I apologize. But to my eye, Mary is about the same width north and south of Cannon (though I haven't measured and am happy to be proven wrong). More to the point, there are plenty of urban residential two-way streets in Hamilton that are just as narrow as Mary north of Cannon and they work just fine.

I'll go one farther: given the bridge over the CN line, Mary would make an excellent north-south neighbourhood greenway, connecting downtown to the Waterfront Trail. Perhaps I should add it to the map of proposed Hamilton greenways that Jason Leach and I prepared. Edit - I just added it.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2013-08-16 13:26:50

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By Stonemonkey (registered) | Posted August 16, 2013 at 22:29:58 in reply to Comment 90976

The Beasley Neighbourhood Association and the Corktown Participatory Budgeting assembly are working together to create a greenway from the escarpment to the mary st ped. bridge. However, it looks like it will use the alleyway between Mary st. and Elgin instead of Mary st itself. Check the picture, sorry i don't know how to post pictures in my comment http://i.imgur.com/FOssynm.jpg I don't disagree that the width is probably the same but there is parking on both sides North of Cannon and it's always used. That said, the North End is the same, so if they can do two way on streets like Simcoe (is it ? or picton) then you could do Mary.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2013 at 14:29:26 in reply to Comment 90906

Fait accompli. Ish.

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By Today (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2013 at 19:28:32

Certainly the more two way bikes lanes the better in this city. I walk to work from the old Red Hill area along Lawrence, on a bike lane in the early morning, on some mornings, to the Juravinski Hospital and the circle at the top of the Keniloworth access is anything but bike or pedestrian friendly, not good. I fully support the development of more bike lanes in this city as these also serve pedestrians where sidewalks aren't available.

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By Ed Sernie (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2013 at 21:04:36

Another missed opportunity: They recently re-paved King Street West, west of the 403 bridge. The bike lane opposite the Metro store wraps around the parking spaces as was done previously. Why could they not have placed the lane against the curb with the parking spaces acting as a buffer against the car lane? This would have cost no more to do (the lane markings had to be painted anyway), and could have acted as a test to see how this would work in Hamilton.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted August 16, 2013 at 22:52:39 in reply to Comment 90920

Missed opportunity? They've put a traffic bump-out at King and Paisley, implying they're going to be supporting a crossing there. As somebody who's faced honking at this crossing, I'm really excited (okay, I get excited by small things, sue me).

Really, they've done a great job in Westdale lately, complaining at this point feels like nitpicking.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted August 17, 2013 at 09:14:25 in reply to Comment 90992

They desperately need zebra crossings at the highway ramp-style intersection at King and Paradise as well. I'm told by McHattie's office that they're looking at it, but are reluctant because it's not signalized.

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By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted August 14, 2013 at 23:39:25

At the end of the day, things aren't going to be perfect, but what we have here is an opportunity for Hamilton to show leadership and vision, and to make a bold statement emphasizing that cyclists and pedestrians matter in this city. I applaud Councillor Farr for bringing this forward, and look forward to discussing the proposal with the rest of council. I hope that many of the readers and commenters on this site will join us in delivering a delegation at council when it comes to a vote.

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted August 15, 2013 at 00:43:28

As much as I hate our one way streets, I could deal with them much better if I could ride my bike both ways. Two way or counter-flow bike lanes on existing one way streets are a great step towards livability and equality on our roads.

Comment edited by Jonathan Dalton on 2013-08-15 00:44:07

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By Miss (anonymous) | Posted August 15, 2013 at 14:01:06

As somebody who drives along Cannon every day, I can say that one bike lane would probably be a good idea, but along which side (East or West?) A lot of cars need to travel 4 lanes to get from where they turned onto Cannon to Queen Street or Dundurn, which is along the furthest left sides. This can be very dangerous, particularly when there are cyclists who are also trying to make this transition. I'd be in support of this act, but it would need to take careful consideration into traffic flow, particularly between James and Dundurn.

But I give my support for 1 lane only. To give 2 lanes to cyclists, when I rarely see ANY along my commute is silly.

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By race_to_the_bottom (anonymous) | Posted August 15, 2013 at 14:03:09 in reply to Comment 90942

Umm...

"But I give my support for 1 lane only. To give 2 lanes to cyclists,"

You do realize bike lanes are narrower than car lanes, right? Two bike lanes fits into one car lane.

"when I rarely see ANY along my commute"

Of course you don't. Who in there right mind would ride a bike on Cannon as it is? Bike lanes aren't for people who currently ride, they're for people who want to ride but are (understandably) afraid.

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By Miss (anonymous) | Posted August 15, 2013 at 14:18:24 in reply to Comment 90943

My apologies, I misread thinking there would be one bike lane along both the North and South side of Cannon to allow for the traffic to go both ways. Clearly I need to have more coffee before I respond to articles...

I'm still nervous to think of what it would look like to see cyclists going against traffic if the bike lanes were 2 way along a 1 way, but it could work. I'm always so nervous for cyclists when I drive because of the lack of bike lanes, so I think having them would be a HUGE improvement! Who knows, maybe I would feel differently about cycling to work. Right now it's just too nerve racking of an idea. The only gripe I ever have about cyclists is when they think the rules of the road (stop signs, traffic lights, etc) don't apply to them. But that's a whole different issue and more common in West Hamilton anyways.

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By everywhere else (anonymous) | Posted August 17, 2013 at 12:21:39 in reply to Comment 90944

two way bike lanes work everywhere else. they will work here too. Drop in to montreal someday and see how well it works for everyone - drivers, cyclists and parallel parkers alike.

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By Joanna (anonymous) | Posted August 27, 2013 at 09:04:12

This is a great initiative. I would suggest that this should extend farther East to assist in accommodating the children commuting to The New Highschool in the North End. It could be a joint venture by the city for Pan Am precinct and the school board as part of infrastructure development and so on. It would be nice seeing kids on bike's again, exercising and keeping physically fit. Many parents I'm sure would be happy not to have to drive their kids in to the new school.

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