Special Report: Cycling

Active Transportation Infrastructure Roundup

Reviewing the good, the not-so-good, and the downright bizarre in recent additions to the city's network of active transportation infrastructure.

By Ryan McGreal
Published August 18, 2014

It's been a busy summer for road work of all kinds, but I want to take a few minutes to note some of the recent additions to the city's network of cycling and walking infrastructure.

Cannon Street Cycle Track

The south curb lane of Cannon Street has been marked with a stencil for the protected two-way cycle track that Council approved last year.

Conceptual design for Cannon Street cycle track (Image Credit: City of Hamilton)
Conceptual design for Cannon Street cycle track (Image Credit: City of Hamilton)

The track was approved after an extensive public engagement campaign and has been developed by an outside company, IBI Consulting, so it is not subject to the incorrigible quirks of the City's cycling office.

Community support for Yes We Cannon (Image Credit: Beasley Neighbourhood Association)
Community support for Yes We Cannon (Image Credit: Beasley Neighbourhood Association)

That means the lanes will actually be physically protected from automobile traffic, which makes a vast improvement over the unprotected lanes that recently opened on Hunter Street.

It also means the cycle track will run continuously for its full length instead of having an almost half-kilometre gap across the most crucial destination on the street.

But this is Hamilton, and even high quality cycling infrastructure is subject to the overriding priority of automobile traffic.

East of Victoria Avenue, the physical buffer between the cycle track and the adjacent automobile lane is nice and wide, leaning plenty of room for planter boxes. The consultant was able to achieve this by reducing the north curb lane to just a curbside parking lane and using the extra space for more protection.

Pavement markings east of Victoria with wide buffer
Pavement markings east of Victoria with wide buffer

West of Victoria, the buffer is much narrower because the north curb lane is being retained as a traffic lane during rush hour. The rationale is that the Cannon bus would otherwise fall behind schedule during rush hour.

Cannon cycle track markings: buffer is narrower west of Victoria
Cannon cycle track markings: buffer is narrower west of Victoria

As a result, it can only be separated with slender knockdown bollards, which not only provide less physical protection but also provide less of a psychological sense of safety.

At its busiest point, Cannon carries only 16,700 cars a day (west of Mary Street), which is a perfectly reasonable volume for two lanes to accommodate.

Cannon cycle track ends at Hess
Cannon cycle track ends at Hess

The Cannon Cycle track ends at Hess Street. I look forward to seeing how the City will maintain a continuous cycling route to the bike lanes on York that are being extended to connect between Hess and Dundurn.

One easy thing they could do to improve connectivity is to wrap the two-way cycle track north on Hess up to at least Peter Street so that cyclists have a better connection between the cycle track and Strathcona neighbourhood.

Hess Street has so much excess lane capacity here that the City literally blocked out a huge swath of pavement on Hess between York and Cannon that is doing absolutely nothing:

Blocked-out swath of pavement on Hess between York and Cannon
Blocked-out swath of pavement on Hess between York and Cannon

Longwood Cycle Track (?)

Speaking of streets with excess lane capacity, I recently noticed something strange about Longwood Street South: a totally unmarked strip of asphalt running parallel to the sidewalk on the east side.

Asphalt strip on Longwood starts at Aberdeen
Asphalt strip on Longwood starts at Aberdeen

Apparently this is a cycle track, or so I have been advised by a few city staffers. It's just a little wider than the sidewalk and runs between Aberdeen Avenue and Frid Street.

Unmarked cycle track on Longwood Road
Unmarked cycle track on Longwood Road

I suppose it might be wide enough to be a two-way cycle track, but without any markings it's impossible to tell what the designer had in mind. In any case, there is no parallel asphalt ribbon on the west side of the street.

No cycle track on west side of Longwood
No cycle track on west side of Longwood

The routing next to the sidewalk is, um, awkward. At one point it is obstructed by guy-wires, which will surely make for a fun slalom at night or during inclement weather.

Guy wires obstructing the cycle track
Guy wires obstructing the cycle track

After just 230 metres, it stops dead at Frid Street.

Cycle track ends at Frid Street
Cycle track ends at Frid Street

North of Frid, any cyclist who has not already reached their destination is thrust back into four lanes (soon to be five lanes) of fast automobile traffic.

It is not at all clear how a southbound cyclist on Longwood might be able to make use of it. (This is similar to the two-way cycle track on Main Street over Highway 403: there does not seem to be any legal way for a cyclist to access the westbound lane without getting off their bike and schlepping.)

The cycle track doesn't do much better on connectivity on the other end, either. There's a westbound bike lane on Aberdeen Avenue that runs for around 200 metres from just west of Studholme Road to just before the highway-style on-ramp for cars turning north onto Longwood.

However, the lane ends before the cycle track starts:

Aberdeen bike lane ends before Longwood
Aberdeen bike lane ends before Longwood

All in all, this is a particularly bizarre dispatch from a city transportation office already not known for engaging with to the constituencies it is supposed to represent.

Bicycle Detours Done Well and Badly

Just a passing note, but after years of requests from customers, the Fortinos supermarket on Dundurn Street between Main and King has finally installed a bike rack near the front entrance, and it is already seeing regular use.

Bike rack at Fortinos
Bike rack at Fortinos

Kudos to Fortinos for making space for its customers to ride a bike. If you shop at Fortinos and need to stop in for a smaller haul, consider taking your bike instead of driving.

Moving south on Dundurn, road construction work has been ongoing at Dundurn and Melbourne Street for the past couple of weeks. I was delighted to see that the detour pylons have defined a continuous cycling route through the construction zone.

Bicycle detour route on Dundurn at Melbourne
Bicycle detour route on Dundurn at Melbourne

Never mind that the bike detour sign was hand-made. The important thing is that someone decided to make it. This is the first time in my memory that a bike lane was taken into account during a road work detour.

Cyclists trying to use York Boulevard during that street's road work aren't as lucky. The lane was partially and in some cases entirely blocked by pylons:

Pylons in bike lane on York Boulevard (Image Credit: Bob Berberick)
Pylons in bike lane on York Boulevard (Image Credit: Bob Berberick)

Is there some particular reason the pylons need to block the bike lane? Or were they just dumped there out of indifference?

Perhaps a similar thinking was at work when staff installed a small number of knockdown bollards on the Hunter Street bike lanes just east of Park Street.

Knockdown sticks installed on Hunter Street, looking west toward Park Street
Knockdown sticks installed on Hunter Street, looking west toward Park Street

They're certainly an improvement over nothing, but we can't help but notice that the sticks themselves were mounted onto the road on the bike lane side of the painted bike lane boundary, and not on the painted line itself or on the automobile lane side.

New Crosswalk

But let's end on a brighter note with the new pedestrian-activated crosswalk on Locke Street South at Hunter Street is up and running:

Crosswalk at Locke and Hunter
Crosswalk at Locke and Hunter

I've tried it out a couple of times and it seems to work properly, i.e. you push the button and the traffic lights turn yellow. Then they turn red, and then the walk signal activates.

This is very encouraging. Other pedestrian-activated crosswalks installed in the past few years were programmed to provide a much lower level of service for pedestrians, with long delays that caused frustration and encouraged people to just give up and cross against the light.

Another encouraging observation is that the light was installed and turned on a lot more quickly than previous installations. It took several months to install the crosswalk at Aberdeen and Kent, but the city seems to be getting faster at putting these things in the ground.

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.

44 Comments

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted August 18, 2014 at 17:31:37

Another fun "lane ends before intersection" is the Dundurn lane leading up to Hunt Street. Like, about 10 meters before the intersection, the lane ends and cars start crowding in, and cyclists squeeze by to turn onto Hunt so we can get to the bridge.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2014-08-18 17:31:51

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted August 18, 2014 at 17:43:02

That MIP 'cycle track' is soo weird. It starts nowhere (you have to cross the sidewalk to get to it from Aberdeen, and goes only 230 metres. I suppose its not finished yet so maybe its too early to say...

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted August 18, 2014 at 19:44:28

Was through Westdale on the weekend and was astonished that its cycling lane just kind of evaporates by the time you reach the storytime station gateway obelisk. Cycling maps allege that two routes traverse the village –– a Cautionary Unsigned Bike Route (Cline) and a Signed Narrow Lane (King) -- but I was unable to spot any pavement markings within the village cordon.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted August 20, 2014 at 16:30:40 in reply to Comment 104032

There's one bike sharrow right after the gateway sign as you come up King towards the business area, but that's it. That said, I bike there often and I agree with Pxtl that it feels safe because of traffic calming features. The drivers in Westdale aren't the best (oh my word we have some bad/inexperienced drivers around) but it's rare that I feel unhappy with the situation.

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By Core-b (registered) | Posted August 20, 2014 at 14:04:21 in reply to Comment 104032

Westdale's cycling infra may not be perfect but it is head and shoulders above most other wards.

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By pxtl (registered) - website | Posted August 18, 2014 at 21:28:30 in reply to Comment 104032

King's designated lanes stop through the Village but the slow traffic and the bump-outs at Paisley make it feel okay for cycling, IMHO.

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By adrian (registered) | Posted August 18, 2014 at 20:54:54

I'm encouraged by some of the improvements, but wow - some of this stuff makes me lol, literally.

The MIP "cycle track" has displaced my previous favourite piece of cycling infrastructure: the approximately 40 meter stretch of bike lane on Burlington Street near the old Lakeport brewery. It starts and almost before you realize you're in a bike lane, it's gone.

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By SouthpawCraig (registered) | Posted August 19, 2014 at 00:05:05

I ride Aberdeen and Longwood all the time to get to Westdale or Dundas from the James South area where I live, and I didn't even notice the cycle track. I ride on the road all of the time, and while some of the cars drive a little bit closely to me, I've never had any issues so far. The road is certainly wide enough to accommodate bike lanes to connect the lanes on Longwood north of Main and Aberdeen.

My other issue is that the contra-flow bike lane on Markland between James and Queen has had the yellow line delineating the lane almost completely worn away. It would be great to see it painted back.

Comment edited by SouthpawCraig on 2014-08-19 00:11:04

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By StephenBarath (registered) | Posted August 19, 2014 at 08:23:44

Notwithstanding the many many cyclists who bicycle on the road on Longwood, there are many who use the sidewalks between Aberdeen and Main. I can’t say I blame them here, but it used to be occasionally problematic when there would be a lot of people using the sidewalk (like when Westdale students use this route). Now, there is plenty of space for everybody, so conflict is eliminated. And the sidewalks used to be in a pretty terrible state, so at least now they are traversable in all weather conditions (well, looking for bicycles before walking on the asphalt to avoid puddled sidewalks).

Regarding the construction that was going on at Dundurn and Melbourne (it’s wrapped up now, or at least nothing is being blocked any longer): it was neat to see the hand-made bicycle sign, but I’m always curious why the “Pedestrians Use Other Sidewalk” signs are placed where they are. There’s nowhere to cross south of Melbourne until Herkimer (in some places, you’re told specifically not to cross). I saw an older woman the other week at Melbourne waiting in vain for a break in traffic to cross Dundurn before sensibly deciding to just use the bike lane.

Knockdown sticks on Hunter are great, the Dundurn bike lanes need the same treatment…

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By movedtohamilton (registered) | Posted August 19, 2014 at 10:04:47

People who actively campaigned for Yes We Cannon are now finding out that there is no parking on Cannon, north curb lane west of Victoria, 7:00-9:00 and 4:00-6:00. As one person posted elsewhere:

"Why residents (few of whom have driveways) now have to have their cars gone before 7 in the morning is beyond me: I had thought that moving cars between 4-6 was going to be done away with"

This is a valid concern. Because of the lack of driveways, people have few parking options. There's an almost-always-empty parking lot at West Avenue but no one is allowed to park there. I think it's owned by Shoppers.

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By Core-B (registered) | Posted August 20, 2014 at 14:12:51 in reply to Comment 104042

The afternoon rush hour is an issue for Cannon street parking. The 7 am issue really isn't, because parking is prohibited on Cannon between 2 am and 7 am, like all other major through streets. As for the Shoppers lot; I don't know what their problem is, their other large lot is never any where near capacity.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 20, 2014 at 14:20:47 in reply to Comment 104086

In their desire to maintain fast traffic flow during rush hour, the engineers have manufactured two dumb, entirely avoidable problems: the bike lane buffer is too narrow, and local residents have lost all-day curbside parking.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted August 19, 2014 at 23:11:15 in reply to Comment 104042

The sad thing is that those who are inconvenienced by this will blame the cycle track, when really the fault is with the city staff for a poor implementation.

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 19, 2014 at 11:39:18 in reply to Comment 104042

Because the city is worried that the odd car MIGHT hit a red light for the 13 minutes of rush hour in Hamilton if Cannon is only 2 lanes instead of 3.

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By Pudding (anonymous) | Posted August 20, 2014 at 05:56:27 in reply to Comment 104050

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 19, 2014 at 11:02:21 in reply to Comment 104042

The traffic department decided that automobile throughput during rush hour takes priority over all-day curbside parking, physical protection for pedestrians on the north sidewalk and a wide-enough buffer between the bike and car lanes. It's just typical of how this city manages to sabotage every progressive idea when it comes to implementation.

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 19, 2014 at 11:42:11 in reply to Comment 104045

The Cannon lanes will be scary to ride in from John to Hess. Speeding transports mere inches from cyclists. No thanks. The portion east of Victoria looks great however. A shame the city reverted back to it's old ways with such a grand opportunity. Of course, they'll end up looking kind of foolish due to the new York bike lanes beginning at Hess meaning that much needed third lane in the north curb of Cannon will suddenly end or become a right turn lane onto Hess. Had they maintained parking on the north curb along Cannon's length, it would have a perfectly aligned 2-lanes from Sherman to the 403.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted August 19, 2014 at 16:00:26 in reply to Comment 104051

I thought Victoria was where everything changed. What's different between Victoria->John from John->Hess?

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2014-08-19 16:00:45

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 19, 2014 at 16:18:17 in reply to Comment 104060

Yes. Things will get more uncomfortable west of Victoria. Maybe I'm wrong as this is just pure eyeballing it but it seems as though the lanes get even narrower at John creating a tight cycle track and little protection space. But yes, east of Victoria this will be a dream. Also, one correction in this article, there will be concrete curbs used as protection for much of the portion between Catharine and Hess. Planters would be nicer but curbs are better than just bollards.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted August 20, 2014 at 12:41:11 in reply to Comment 104061

I don't think you're wrong. I got the same feeling the other day crossing Cannon at Ferguson. The stencil makes it seem very tight, tighter than pictures taken at Victoria. Could just be an impression because as you move further west the feel of Cannon gets more uncomfortable and foreboding as a cyclist or pedestrian ... more traffic after Wellington, fewer houses, and more driveways and parking lots, etc. Or maybe it is tighter ... either way it's not what i had hoped for. Sherman to Victoria is more like it.

Comment edited by RobF on 2014-08-20 12:42:51

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted August 19, 2014 at 19:10:45 in reply to Comment 104061

Proper security bollards work for me. Here is a video of them stopping a 7,500 kg truck that hit them at 80 km/hr.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2Xn7y5D...

I want that kind of bollard replacing the worthless knock-down sticks.

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By Bikey (registered) | Posted August 20, 2014 at 08:57:07 in reply to Comment 104066

Not sure if this is serious or just making a point by using an extreme example? Those are anti-terrorist bollards. Unless the U.S. opens an embassy in Hamilton, we won't be seeing anything similar...

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted August 21, 2014 at 18:58:47 in reply to Comment 104080

Violent, dangerous criminal car drivers kill and injure far more people than terrorists. I want protection for myself, my wife and my children from these criminals.

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By Bikey (registered) | Posted August 25, 2014 at 09:09:33 in reply to Comment 104115

In North America, everything kills more people per year than terrorists. Generalizing drivers as dangerous, violent criminals is unreasonable and undermines many of the good arguments for building better cycling infrastructure.

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By Bollards, Schmollards (anonymous) | Posted August 20, 2014 at 05:57:27 in reply to Comment 104066

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted August 19, 2014 at 16:25:42 in reply to Comment 104061

I often wonder why the city doesn't consider use of concrete or steel bollards. They're narrow, tall, and would protect bikes. They're probably a liability though, since a driver could injure themselves while they careen through the bike/pedestrian area of the roadway.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted August 19, 2014 at 23:09:50 in reply to Comment 104062

I would think its a matter of coat and flexibility. Knock down sticks are much less of a commitment, both fimancially and from a progressive design perspective.

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By Eg (anonymous) | Posted August 19, 2014 at 11:21:26

Is that York St. construction done yet? Completely ruined my cycling commute opportunities this summer, as the 'detour' they set up for cyclists heading into Hamilton was to a) forbid bikes on the bridge b)force us to cross and use the sidewalk on the eastbound side and then c) make 0 provisions for recrossing the street after the road work. It was life-threatening to actually try and maneuver through all that. I tried it twice and gave up and went back to driving.

BTW I'm pretty sure the cones were in the lanes on the westbound side because they wanted bikes to use the sidewalk through there. Which always goes over well with the pedestrians.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted August 19, 2014 at 18:03:54 in reply to Comment 104047

Similarly, every day there have been city works trucks parked in the bike lane of King at Macklin on and off for the past week or so. They block both bike lanes and the sidewalk, and have also blocked the bus stop at times. Going around them Eastbound means riding onto somebody's property (like a front lawn) or heading into oncoming traffic.

There are three lanes of auto traffic there. Would it kill them to block a single lane of that traffic to allow pedestrians and cyclists through? Cars would have two lanes to spare, while the current arrangement leaves eastbound cyclists and pedestrians with zero.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2014-08-19 18:04:15

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted August 21, 2014 at 10:01:44 in reply to Comment 104065

Still there again today.

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By bikeographer (anonymous) | Posted August 19, 2014 at 12:56:49 in reply to Comment 104047

"they wanted bikes to use the sidewalk through there" That's illegal!

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By billn (registered) | Posted August 19, 2014 at 17:48:35 in reply to Comment 104055

I've just sent an e-mail to Councillors Farr & McHattie about this. I'm back to my commute after a month away, and ran into the bizarre arrangement there. It would make much more sense to direct motorists and cyclists to slow down (it's a short, single lane stretch) and share the lane for the duration.

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By Eg (anonymous) | Posted August 20, 2014 at 08:07:25 in reply to Comment 104064

Indeed, a 'share the road' or 'cars/bikes single file' sign or something would make more sense. It's a very short stretch and the cars are slowing down anyway because the lanes are narrow from the construction. But of course then cars might have to slow down for 20 seconds, the horror!

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By billn (registered) | Posted August 20, 2014 at 08:21:24 in reply to Comment 104077

I got a very quick reply from Councilor McHattie promising to look into it. This morning I just took my place in the lane-traffic was light so no problems. We'll see how well this works for the home-bound trip tonight.

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 19, 2014 at 11:37:50

the fact you can show this much horrid design without any pics of the magical vanishing Hunter bike lanes says something. And to think this stuff all comes from our cycling office. We might as well save the money and just have the traffic folks in charge. They couldn't possibly design things any worse.

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By bikeographer (anonymous) | Posted August 19, 2014 at 12:54:35 in reply to Comment 104049

I heard the Hunter lanes only got green paint on the bike boxes because the other traffic engineers insisted on it.

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By Keith (anonymous) | Posted August 20, 2014 at 15:02:24 in reply to Comment 104054

The green paint only be a recommended road treatment in Ontario this year. Municipalities are hesitant to use non-recommended treatments since it can increase liability for them. The Studholme box predated them.

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 19, 2014 at 14:50:14 in reply to Comment 104054

this is correct. Cycling office didn't want to use green paint. They successfully resisted in the invisible bike box at Studholme as well. Not sure why we are paying people to come up with worse solutions than non-cycling staff?

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By movedtohamilton (registered) | Posted August 19, 2014 at 15:57:48

Playing catch up. Where does the City Cycling Committee fit into all of this? 14 members, with liaison provided by Brian McHattie. Also, if the staff liaison (reporting to Public Works)is Daryl Bender, is he the "Cycling Office"? I don't see cycling on the Public Works services listing here:

http://www.hamilton.ca/CityDepartments/P...

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted August 19, 2014 at 19:20:36 in reply to Comment 104059

Cycling Committee meetings are open to the public. Anyone can show up and speak. It is the first Wednesday of every month at City Hall at 5:30 PM. Just walk in and the guy at the security desk will point you to the right room. Speaking only for myself, I would love to see more members of the public at the next meeting.

The issues with the Hunter bike lanes have been well aired by Committee members. But the Committee is only advisory. As the joke goes, we get to give advice to City Council and staff. And they get to ignore it. :)

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By movedtohamilton (registered) | Posted August 21, 2014 at 10:36:33 in reply to Comment 104067

Thanks for this info. But I still don't understand the "Cycling Office" term. Who heads it up, how many staff, their mandate, etc. Can you help?

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By Core-b (registered) | Posted August 21, 2014 at 16:11:51 in reply to Comment 104103

I've gone to a couple of the cycling committe meetings. You are made to feel welcome and they have interesting discussions. I can only assume that the cycling office IS Daryl Bender because I'm pretty sure he is the only employee.

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 21, 2014 at 22:26:51 in reply to Comment 104110

Serious?? We have one person responsible for all cycling improvements?? I know that shouldn't shock me but it does.

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By Edmeredith (anonymous) | Posted August 21, 2014 at 09:00:43

Has anyone been inconvenienced by the lane closure on the Jolley cut near Sam Lawrence park? On Tuesday the construction bollards were dropped in the centre of the bike lane. Today they closed a lane and a half with no safe route for cyclists on one of the only major arteries for cyclists traversing the hill.

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