Special Report: Cycling

Council Approves Cannon Street Cycle Track

This project has been bottom-up rather than top-down from the beginning, and its approval last night is a huge success for citizen engagement in Hamilton.

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 27, 2014

It's official: last night, Council formally approved the detailed design and implementation of the Cannon Street Cycle Track under a three-year pilot project. Work should begin in late spring.

Councillors unanimously approved the plan at last week's General Issues Committee, but spent over four hours agonizing over the potential operating cost to clear the cycle track of snow and debating whether the project needs more public consultation before going ahead.

The normal way the City consults with the public for new infrastructure projects is mandated under the Environmental Assessment Act as part of an environmental assessment so that potential environmental impacts of a public project can be assessed before the policy is approved.

Depending on the type of project, the City must hold two or three "mandatory points of contact" with the public, including Public Information Centres (PICs) and/or notices published in the local newspaper.

According to Kelly Anderson, communications manager for the City, environmental assessments are not required for pilot projects like the Cannon Street Cycle Track.

Impressive Citizen Engagement

In any case, as Nicholas Kevlahan recently pointed out, the normal City consultation process amounts to mere tokenism: dry meetings that very few people bother to attend and which usually have little to no impact on the final result.

In contrast, the public engagement on the Cannon Cycle Track was hugely impressive. Ward Councillors Jason Farr and the late Bernie Morelli extensively surveyed their constituents, and the various neighbourhood associations all endorsed the plan.

In addition, a citizen group called Yes We Cannon, which had initially proposed the two-way cycle track, engaged literally thousands of residents in what organizer Justin Jones called Consultation 2.0:

[W]e took the message to where people are. From attending neighbourhood association meetings to community barbecues, from volunteer events to Art Crawls and all sorts of events in between, we took our message to more than 20 events.

And while we certainly had an agenda - we wanted to see these lanes get built - we prided ourselves on taking the time to talk to those who weren't in favour or weren't sure about the proposal, and finding out what their concerns were and addressing them.

Along the way, we engaged more than 2,500 people who signed our petition, we have received more than 300 individual written statements in support of this project (all subsequently sent to both Councillors and City Staff), and we have seen overwhelming support in the neighbourhoods that will be affected by this project.

This project has been bottom-up rather than top-down from the beginning, and its approval last night is a huge success for citizen engagement in Hamilton.

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 Steve (registered) | Posted March 27, 2014 at 09:36:45

Ryan,

Thanks for the post. Were you at the meeting last night? I am eager to hear whether or not council ratified decisions regarding improved busing, particularly on 44-Rymal?

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By nonspamtest (anonymous) | Posted March 27, 2014 at 14:13:56

This is a test to see if rth shoves away all anonymous comments as sp_m as it to a number of people and comments for comments that were, like, legit ¬ spam at all, right? If new polcy then RTH owner should tell every body, right?

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