Special Report: Walkable Streets

Celebrating a Small Victory in the Campaign to Recall Our Streets

The City responded to a request to lower the speed limit on King Street near Dundurn, reducing a needless 400-metre freeway effect.

By Andrew Pettit
Published April 18, 2014

You can look at something a thousand times, and still see something totally new on your next visit.

I started riding my bike from Durand to McMaster every work day back in 2008. I've taken a handful of different routes over the years, but one more than any other, and nearly every day, rain, shine or snow: Across Locke, west on Melbourne to Dundurn, head north on Dundurn across Main and try to pedal hard enough to catch the advanced green to turn left at King, heading over the Highway 403 bridge into Westdale.

I also drive that same stretch along King once or twice a week. Whether in a car or on a bike, we all know the six lanes of traffic - seven if you count the bike lane, and I do - and two highway on-ramps make for some hair-raising moments (the joys and perils of Breadalbane have been well documented), so much so that it took thousands of trips for me to see something new that had always been there:

Google Street View of 60 km/h sign on King Street at Breadalbane, just west of Dundurn
Google Street View of 60 km/h sign on King Street at Breadalbane, just west of Dundurn

60 km/h sign close-up
60 km/h sign close-up

Yes, I refer to that 60 KM/H BEGINS sign on the right. I suppose I had seen it many times before. It's not that remarkable. But back in October 2013, I saw it for the first time in a new context, as I noted in an email to Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie:

In an area that includes a pedestrian and cyclist crossing of a highway on-ramp, speed limits go from...

  • At Breadalbane: 60 KM/H MAXIMUM BEGINS sign
  • 50 meters later at Highway 403 on-ramp: 40 KM/H sign for turn (just past pedestrian / cyclist crossing)
  • 100 meters later at other side of bridge, 50 meters short of Macklin: 50 KM/H MAXIMUM BEGINS sign

Why do we change to 60 km/h for a stretch of ~200 meters that includes an already risky pedestrian / cyclist crossing? Seems silly.

A trip along the stretch via Google's Street View documents the dynamic, and anyone who has travelled that section of King Street knows all too well how it works.

It's a strange thing, how easily we can all just go along with the status quo, even when we know it's not serving us. If there was any doubt that speed of traffic was a concern through that stretch heading into Westdale, the regular presence of police officers waving people over to share tickets is evidence enough, and truly smacks of the need for better design over enforcement.

Councillor McHattie replied to my email and included Martin White, the City's Manager of Traffic Operations and Engineering, who then brought David Ferguson, the City's Superintendent of Traffic Engineering, into the loop.

David promptly responded, indicating he had reviewed the location and was in agreement with my observation. He indicated the recommendation - to reduce the 60km/h zone to 50km/h to bring it in line with surrounding limits - would be taken to Council in January as part of the Delegated Authority Bylaw.

The whole exchange took place within the month. I was pleased, and prepared to be patient - and also persistent.

With my daily commute came a daily reminder - once seen, I couldn't 'unsee' the peculiarities of the speed limits across that stretch.

On April 8, 2014, two weeks ago, the signs had yet to change. I sent a follow-up email to Ferguson, who again promptly replied indicating the change was to be reviewed later this month.

Then, this past Thursday morning, I received an email informing me that the signage had been changed. Of course, I had to stop and take some photos on my ride into work. Sure enough, there they were: two new 50 km/h signs in place of the 60 KM/H BEGINS signs that hung prior.

Caption: New 50 km/h sign on King Street at Breadalbane, installed on April 17, 2014
Caption: New 50 km/h sign on King Street at Breadalbane, installed on April 17, 2014

I emailed David to thank him for his efforts, and, encouraged by the response to my initial request and the small signs of change / change in signs, asked for one more: Additional 'NEW' signs affixed to the bottom of the in fact quite new 50 km/h signs.

As I noted in my email, without them, "I'm afraid (figuratively, and literally as someone who crosses there) that old habits will die hard, and drivers will continue to race through that stretch."

The speed limit change on the 400 metre stretch of King is not the biggest or most exciting change, and not likely to have a major impact given the overall design of the built environment there - it screams 'Go Faaaassst!' and requires / allows last-minute lane changes - but is certainly low-hanging fruit as we work to recall our streets and make them a better place to live near, drive, ride, walk and roll on.

As I celebrate the change, it's important to keep it in context: You are still faced with playing Frogger across five lanes of speeding traffic (6 with the bike lane!) if you live off Breadalbane and want to go to Fortinos.

Andrew Pettit grew up in Toronto before migrating to Hamilton to study at McMaster. Back in 2006 he noticed a change in his long-standing response when asked "Where are you from?" - Toronto was out, and Hamilton has been home since. Follow Andrew on Twitter at @4Pettit.


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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2014 at 13:12:46

Nice! Thanks for this!

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By scrap (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2014 at 16:28:23

You must walk back to dundurn, in order to cross if you are walking
It is a bad corner, should not people walking come first over cars?

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 19, 2014 at 01:27:52

Still want a yield-to-pedestrians sign at that ramp, though.

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By durander (registered) | Posted April 21, 2014 at 09:25:23 in reply to Comment 100456

Yield to pedestrians? So we can have countless rear-end collisions? Sounds safe to me.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 21, 2014 at 16:21:29 in reply to Comment 100512

... seriously? Seriously seriously?

I mean, besides the obvious difference in magnitude of risk (a dead pedestrian vs. some bent metal) how does this argument not apply to every single stop-sign and yield-sign in the city? Are you arguing we should ban all things that make cars stop? Or only the ones that make them stop for pedestrians?

You're really reaching here.

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By DBC (registered) | Posted April 21, 2014 at 10:08:43 in reply to Comment 100512

Yeah, why should drivers have to pay attention to what's going on in front of them anyway.

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By durander (registered) | Posted April 21, 2014 at 12:30:39 in reply to Comment 100513

Same could be said for pedestrians, if you want to use that argument. I was basing my comment on risk.

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted April 19, 2014 at 09:27:46

That seems like a good cheap solution. If they can put a sign telling through bike traffic to yield to merging car traffic on Main W. on ramp, then why the heck not. I don't mind welcoming the people from Ancaster and Brantford, but why should I unclip and get off my bike if I was there first? Do their brakes not work? I wouldn't mind seeing a ped activated cross walk or full traffic light on the King St on ramp. It is down right scary crossing the on ramp. I have a neighbour who uses a walker to get to Christ the King from Westdale. I can't imagine how scary it must be for her to try to cross that with cars accelerating aggressively towards that spot.

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By rrrandy (registered) - website | Posted April 19, 2014 at 14:07:02

I never noticed that situation even though I ride and walk there all the time, so good call to get it corrected, thanks!

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By Incomplete streeter (anonymous) | Posted April 19, 2014 at 15:44:06

Really? Who even pays attention to speed limit signs that closely? If that's a "victory" for you there are really a lot of options in life you are missing.

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By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted April 19, 2014 at 17:25:57

I too drive that route every day, sometimes more than once. I had never noticed that the speed limit changed, the traffic flow certainly hasn't. If that changed speed limit sign is a victory in your fight then celebrate like there is no tomorrow, go nuts. If I hadn't read your post I would not have known and I bet there are thousands of drivers who drive there all the time who don't know either. If that is a victory for you and makes you all kiddy inside then please enjoy because in reality absolutely nothing has changed

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By scrap (anonymous) | Posted April 19, 2014 at 18:58:33

It would appear that people, drivers do not heed posted signs regarding speed limits. I wonder should email the chief of police to have a blitz at that location?
The problem is that the car rules society, which really it should not.
Poeple should be asking greater questions, however, they do not seem to have the capacity to do that. If change is to happen, then people need to encompass much more info then just listening to MSM. We all need to change our ways.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted April 22, 2014 at 08:49:39 in reply to Comment 100477

How can you blitz a location that is already a regular speed trap?

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 22, 2014 at 09:39:45 in reply to Comment 100550

Regular speed trap? I've never seen a cop there, and it's part of my daily commute. The regular speed traps in the area are Cootes' Drive and Longwood South.

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By it is a speed trap (anonymous) | Posted April 29, 2014 at 06:00:48 in reply to Comment 100552

It is a speed trap. THey're constantly set up in that little side street, in the entrance to the field behind the plaza, or in the rear of the plaza itself. Not to mention their countless hours sitting chatting in the church parking lot.

But yes the main areas you will more often than not see speed traps on city streets are along Cootes where it changes from 50 to 80 and 80 to 50, on the dip in the road by University Plaza in Dundas, and on west 5th by the college.

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By Brenty (anonymous) | Posted April 21, 2014 at 11:31:41

Why do cyclists feel so entitled to streets? Why should cyclists have the same rights as cars on the roads?

The fact of the matter is, roads are constructed for cars... period. And, for the most part, motorists pay for these roads. If bikes want the same privileges and considerations as vehicles they should:

1) Have license plates and pay $80.00 a year for a registration sticker
2) pay exorbitant taxes on bikes and pay them again every time the bike is resold
3) be ticketed every time they incur a traffic violation
4) be ticketed for parking violations
5) pay for a safety on their bike every time ownership is transferred
6) be insured and carry proof of insurance
7) be subject to pointless and egregious emissions testing

However, the monetary cost of riding a bike on city streets is negligible. Once a bike is purchased, there are no ongoing costs associated with ownership, other than regular maintenance. If cyclists want a true say in how roads are designed to take into consideration their unique needs, maybe they should push for more regulation and taxation of cyclists (yeah right). If not, they should not expect to be anything other than an after thought.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted April 21, 2014 at 18:16:59 in reply to Comment 100514

3) be ticketed every time they incur a traffic violation 4) be ticketed for parking violations

Yes because these always happen to drivers...

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted April 21, 2014 at 17:07:38 in reply to Comment 100514

Holding for a moment the abundance of truth that property taxes pay for the ability to move around one's neighborhood ...

You sound frustrated with the high cost of vehicle ownership, mostly administrative and insurance overhead - it is due to high power and lethality. To the extent that a motor vehicle is capable of writing off an entire building in a collision. Thus there is a system in place to ensure that only authorized and competent persons can exceed a certain horsepower. The emissions tests are a direct result of combustion engines producing noxious carcinogenic fumes.

As you go higher up the horsepower scale, competence-assurance and operating costs increase. Truck drivers have higher costs and requirements. Train engineers and airline pilots still higher requirements - those accidents can write off entire towns. Our system for public automobile use is actually quite lenient, after you pass the initial driving test when you're a teenager. Only now is Ontario starting to address elderly fitness for driving, after many sad fatal accidents involving elderly drivers.

If I am reading correctly your between-the-lines frustration with high cost of auto ownership, I agree. However I don't think cycling cost needs to go up. I think automotive costs can come down via bureaucratic efficiency improvements.

The ability to get around self-propelled should be as natural as walking. Whether you are roller blading or cycling, the lowest footprint methods of getting around town should be supported by default and encouraged.

Especially of concern is the concept that slower classes of locomotion should "pay for protection" from more dangerous traffic. That is inverted morally and practically for a densely populated urban environment.

Also may I take issue with the insinuation that cyclists are cheap and somehow don't want to pay. After being torn apart deciding between downtown Hamilton or Burlington, I am moving to Burlington where every street in my new neighborhood is two way and has bike lanes. I will pay higher rent in Burlington because property taxes pay for the ability to move around one's neighborhood. Would have paid a registration fee in Hamilton, voluntarily, if there was a point. But I would be alarmed at it being mandatory, because kids ride their bike to school, anybody strapped for cash has "free wheels", and the cleanest lowest footprint methods of movement should be free. I think these are good things in an advanced society.

Wow that was a long rant, but rather than just exchange tit for tat, some actual sharing of perspectives may be what's missing here. Hope this helps somewhat. Yes do read Justin's link to a recent conversation on costing.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2014-04-21 17:16:33

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted April 21, 2014 at 12:07:24 in reply to Comment 100514

I pay every cost associated with my car. But I choose to ride a bike when I'm not going long distances. So I should pay twice because I want to choose the right tool for the job?

Your argument is akin to saying that I should pay all the costs associated with owning a backhoe because I choose to plant my garden with a hand trowel.

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By brent.chislett (registered) | Posted April 21, 2014 at 12:58:35 in reply to Comment 100517

Actually, yes you should. If you buy two cars you pay twice.

The point is, you expectations should be in line with what you put in. Cyclists don't pay road taxes, but expect roads to be created with their every consideration in mind. Instead of resorting to flawed analogies, why don't you address the real argument, which is very real and held by many motorists. Should cyclists have the same rights and privileges as cars for a system they don't pay into? If a small yearly registration fee for cyclists could greatly improve road safety for them, would they pay it? Is your safety worth paying a dollar or two for?

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted April 22, 2014 at 08:24:55 in reply to Comment 100521

"Cyclists don't pay road taxes"

There are no road taxes. There are gas taxes, 40% of which are given to municipalities in a roads fund, but there are no road taxes in Canada.

Hope this helps.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted April 21, 2014 at 20:56:26 in reply to Comment 100521

You really need to research this a bit deeper. Several points:

  • If you are concerned about the costs of cycling infrastructure, keep in mind that our current roads budget allocates less than one half of one percent to cycling infrastructure.

  • Municipal roads are paid for by municipal property taxes, which all residents pay, regardless of how many vehicles they own, and what type. So cyclists do in fact pay for local roads.

  • We do not pay "road taxes"

  • Many cyclists also own cars and pay all of the fees associated with car ownership.

  • Gas tax, license and registration fees do not pay for the roads.

  • Insurance is a separate issue, and the reason we pay such high rates as motorists is because of the high risk involved in operating a large piece of machinery.

  • Any cyclist who has a home insurance policy already has "cyclist insurance". Home policies cover damage/injury caused while riding a bicycle (the same way they cover boat usage, rollerblade usage or barbecue usage). The risk of cyclist damaging themselves or others is so tiny that there is no surcharge for this coverage.

  • Not sure what emissions tests have to do with this discussion since the emissions of bicycles is zero.

Why are you so angry?

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted April 22, 2014 at 08:26:40 in reply to Comment 100541

I imagine that Brent is angry because there is a great deal of misinformation that roils around in this country about taxation, and it's made him (and many others) angry.

We pay a lot of taxes in Canada. I think it's understandable that people are sometimes angry about it.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted April 21, 2014 at 18:20:07 in reply to Comment 100521

Cyclists don't pay road taxes

Except for when their city spends municipal property taxes on roads..or when their provincial/federal gov't spends their income taxes on roads...hmm.

...for a system they don't pay into?

not true

You are assuming that somehow your drivers registration and fuel tax fees pay for roads..but they don't. They pay only a fraction of the entire costs of the road. Drivers have to pay more fees because it is exponentially more expensive to build and manage an effective transportation grid that accomodates cars than it is to accomodate cyclists. A good example is that the new intersection at peter's corner was built for something like $8 million (just for one intersection!), while the entire Cannon cycle track is expected to cost around $700,000 to build. You can keep being mad about cyclists but that doesn't make you right.

Comment edited by AnjoMan on 2014-04-21 18:27:11

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted April 21, 2014 at 11:57:54 in reply to Comment 100514

@Brenty: Roads are constructed for cars" agreed. That is why change is needed. Here is where I disagree:

1)There is no administration for bicycle registration needed, so this nominal fee would be purely vindictive
2) I paid 13% HST on my new $1000 bike just like I paid on my new $19 000 vehicle. Btw, most cyclists also own cars, but since roads are paid for by city taxes, cyclists pay these taxes too. Do pedestrians, skateboarders, and rollerbladers need licences too?
3) Even though I almost die every time I ride across the city, I have yet to see anyone ticketed for improper lane changes and improper passing.
4) That is just silly
5) refer to 1
6) bicyles don't kill people or cause excessive property damage
7) unlike cars, bicycles don't contribute to the air pollution that cause 183 premature deaths a year in Hamilton alone

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By brent.chislett (registered) | Posted April 21, 2014 at 13:09:35 in reply to Comment 100516

Yes, you pay 13% HST when you buy a bike, but that is all. You don't pay it again, every time the bike is resold. "Most cyclists own cars", if you have data to support this argument, I'd like to see it. And just like you've yet to see a motorist ticked for improper lane changes and improper passing, I've yet to see cyclists ticketed for failing to stop at a red light, or cycling against the flow of traffic. However, I relent, that just because we haven't seen things personally, doesn't mean they don't happen.

Cyclists shout from the rooftops about their safety rights when it comes to roads-- but when confronted with the proposition of paying a nominal tax to improve their safety, they run from the argument or form their rebuttals based on the writer's "silliness" or "nitwittedness".

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By DissenterOfThings (registered) | Posted April 21, 2014 at 13:38:01 in reply to Comment 100523

"Cyclists shout from the rooftops about their safety rights when it comes to roads-- but when confronted with the proposition of paying a nominal tax to improve their safety, they run from the argument or form their rebuttals based on the writer's "silliness" or "nitwittedness"."

The fact that you can write this with any level of seriousness is proof of how out to lunch you are. Why the hell should a cyclist have to pay anything for safety considerations that should be in place by default. How about we take a tiny fraction of the sheer waste we spend on automobile infrastructure and divert that to making cycling (and pedestrian) infrastructure more safe?

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By DissenterOfThings (registered) | Posted April 21, 2014 at 11:37:27 in reply to Comment 100514

How many times do people like you need to be schooled? Do some actual research. Every stupid argument you've made has been debunked over and over again. Cyclists pay for roads, cyclists reduce wear and tear on them, cyclists vote and are citizens, cyclists --oh whatever you're just another misinformed nitwit.

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By brent.chislett (registered) | Posted April 21, 2014 at 13:03:47 in reply to Comment 100515

Instead of just resorting to ad hominem attacks, why don't you articulate a real argument. I have yet to be schooled.

I understand that people resort to name-calling when their way of thinking is challenged with legitimate arguments, but perhaps you can explain to me how cyclists pay for roads. Maybe you can start with explaining why you disagree.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted April 22, 2014 at 08:23:29 in reply to Comment 100522

Brent, cyclists pay for roads through the municipal taxes they pay, which is where the city gets most of the funds to pay for all the local roads in Hamilton. (Gas tax fund money coming into the city totalled $28M for 2013 and gross capital roads expenditures were $102M, not counting the extremely high costs of policing drivers.) And, of course, the vast majority of cyclists also are drivers, and pay gas taxes as well.

Hope that helps.

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By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted April 21, 2014 at 15:31:03 in reply to Comment 100522

Here's a very thorough rebuttal.


Read it, and if you have any other arguments based on FACTS, I'll happily engage.

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By DissenterOfThings (registered) | Posted April 21, 2014 at 13:34:28 in reply to Comment 100522

Nah, you're not worth the time. All of your arguments are ridiculous and totally clouded by your deep, paranoid fear of losing even the slightest liberty when it comes to operating a personal automobile. The burden of proof is on you, because the scales are tipped ridiculously in car-culture's favour.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted April 22, 2014 at 08:27:51

At any rate, there's a lot of anger on this thread, and I imagine it would help everyone a lot to go on a nice relaxing walk or bike ride, get some exercise and put things into perspective. Cheers.

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By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted April 27, 2014 at 22:51:00

The direct cost of car ownership does not pay for the cost of roads.

The indirect costs of car ownership pay for roads and a whole lot more. Automobiles, their manufacture, usage and maintenance is a huge industry. Perhaps the biggest in North America. Every level of government gets bucket loads of taxes from so many different levels and areas that they literally fight over themselves to attract anything car related.

The direct and indirect costs of bike ownership don't amount to squat. If every penny that bicycles contributed to the GDP where eliminated nobody except the most diligent of accountants would ever notice. Bikes are a fun thing that kids and a very, very few adults use as means of transportation. Lots of adults have bikes and ride them 3 or 4 times a year. Very few adults use them as a regular mode of transportation. I know, I know that in other countries things are different but not here. Some cyclist reading this is already starting to rail about how the Netherlands are so wonderful for cyclists and how terrific their cycling infrastructure is. That infrastructure is so terrific because of the huge number of cyclists not the other way round. It's all about cause and effect boys and girls.

The fact that cars contribute such a huge amount of money to the public coffers gives the car and its use some pretty special rights, and rightfully so. I am a big proponent of the contributors having a say in how the money is spent. As soon as cycling starts contributing their fair share then they can have a say in how the money is spent. Maybe less than 0.1% of the budget is spent on cycling infrastructure but that is still way more than the cycling industry contributes to the tax coffers, in other words cycling is already getting MORE than its fair share.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted April 28, 2014 at 23:48:10 in reply to Comment 100674

Ooooh! Lessons! I love lessons!

The General Motors bailout may have cost the government $10 billion, but GM CEO Dan Akerson rejects any suggestion that the company should compensate for the losses.


GM got a total of $52 billion from the U.S. government and $9.5 billion from the Canadian and Ontario governments as it went through bankruptcy protection last year.

The U.S. considered $6.7 billion of the aid to be a loan, while the Canadian governments held $1.4 billion in loans.


Do the math, and taxpayers in Canada are still short $810-million on the original $2.9-billion Chrysler loan. That will never be recouped, as part of the loan was made to the Chrysler entity that existed pre-restructuring. It was a permanent gift to Chrysler and a permanent loss to taxpayers.


Ford Motor Co. (F), the only large U.S. automaker that didn’t receive a U.S. government bailout, would’ve failed along with General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC if President Barack Obama’s administration hadn’t rescued the industry, said Steven Rattner, who headed Obama’s auto task force.


Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, the truth is that there are a huge number of cyclists BECAUSE of the terrific infrastructure, not the other way around: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuBdf9jY...

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By notlloyd (registered) - website | Posted April 28, 2014 at 23:17:49 in reply to Comment 100674

Chicken and egg though. Many people do not ride because it is simply too dangerous. If there were more safe bike routes, more people would ride.

Our highways are getting far too crowded which calls out for more highways, more rapid rail transit etc. etc... But in communities where travel by bike could make a lot of sense, it doesn't make sense because the infrastructure has never been built. If the graders and pavers are on the road, there is no reason other than being overly cheap that at the very least safe dedicated shoulders are not added to the side of a highway or bike lanes are built dedicated to cyclists.

I ride a lot in NY where you can ride along most State highways very safely because there are wide and safe shoulders whereas you rarely find that in Ontario. I have a car, as does my wife. We both work and pay a ton of income tax and all the sundry car taxes and property taxes, etc. etc. Tell me why some of my taxes can't be spent to fund very basic safe bicycle routes.

Your argument assumes a zero sum game. It is not either or - but a wiser expenditure that is asked for.

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By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted May 07, 2014 at 10:16:46 in reply to Comment 100698

Either you or Ryan is misinformed or are lying to us. Ryan has repeatedly stated that cycling is an incredibly safe activity. Is it safe or not?

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