Special Report: Cycling

Cannon Street Cycle Track Coming Together

The cycle track runs continuously between Sherman and Hess, and it is physically protected from the automobile traffic by both a space buffer and physical barriers.

By Ryan McGreal
Published September 03, 2014

Installation work is ongoing on the Cannon Street Cycle Track. Judging from how it looks so far, it's going to be even nicer than I had hoped.

Paint and knockdown sticks on Cannon east of Wentworth
Paint and knockdown sticks on Cannon east of Wentworth

Over the past week or so, your humble RTH correspondent has egregiously violated the "Bike Lane Closed" signs on the big orange pylons marking the Cycle Track to ride its full length between Sherman and Hess Street.

The cycle track is not complete yet but Cannon Street already feels like a public space where cycling is safe and welcome.

During a short westbound lunchtime ride today, I passed over half a dozen cyclists already taking advantage of the track to ride eastbound on Cannon.

Cannon already feels nicer
Cannon already feels nicer

Physical Protection

The two-way cycle track on the south curb lane of Cannon has been painted all the way from Sherman Avenue west to past Bay Street: a thick white outer boundary line, a green line marking the inside edge of a physical buffer space between the cycle track and the adjacent automobile lane, and a yellow line dividing the east- and westbound bike lanes.

Painted cycle track west of Bay
Painted cycle track west of Bay

So far, knockdown bollards have been installed from Sherman to just west of Wentworth. They will be extended all the way to the end of the cycle track at Hess.

Knockdown sticks just west of Wentworth
Knockdown sticks just west of Wentworth

In addition to the knockdown sticks, rubber curbing will be installed along the full length of the cycle track and black planter boxes will be installed along the track east of Victoria Avenue. This work is expected to happen over the next couple of weeks.

Cycle track west of Victoria
Cycle track west of Victoria

Rush-Hour Driving

The planter boxes won't extend west of Victoria because the north curb lane is being retained as a full-width lane for rush-hour automobile traffic.

East of Victoria, the north curb lane has been shrunk in width to an all-day curbside parking lane and the extra space has been used to widen the buffer between the cycle track and automobile lane.

North curb lane reduced in width to all-day curbside parking
North curb lane reduced in width to all-day curbside parking

West of Victoria, the City determined that the Cannon bus would run late if there are only two driving lanes during rush hour, so the north curb lane has been left full-width to accommodate rush-hour driving. As a result, the buffer between the cycle track and the next automobile lane is too narrow to accommodate planter boxes.

In addition, the north sidewalk will no longer be protected from fast automobile traffic during the time of day when children are walking to school and people are walking to work. As well, local residents will have to move parked cars before rush hour begins.

Bike Boxes, No Left Turn on Red

Several green-painted advanced stop lines, or "bike boxes", are being installed on Cannon at intersections with northbound cross streets.

Advanced stop lines allow westbound cyclists to pull ahead of automobile traffic at red lights in order to make a right turn more safely.

Green painted wedge just east of Sherman marks the beginning of the cycle track
Green painted wedge just east of Sherman marks the beginning of the cycle track

Bike box at Sanford
Bike box at Sanford

Bike box at Victoria
Bike box at Victoria

At southbound cross streets, the City has installed new No Left Turn on Red signs.

New 'No Left Turn on Red' sign at Wellington
New 'No Left Turn on Red' sign at Wellington

Cycle Track Done Right

The Cannon Cycle Track was approved by Council in a special motion brought forward after the Yes We Cannon citizen initiative engaged thousands of Hamiltonians and demonstrated broad community support for a high quality east-west cycling link across the northern lower city.

Prior to the cycle track, there was literally no good way to ride a bike between Central and Gibson neighbourhoods. Cannon was terrifying for westbound cyclists and illegal for eastbound cyclists.

Barton is the city's 'official' bike route but has no cycling infrastructure whatsoever and is one of the city's most dangerous corridors for bike collisions. Not one of the other east-west streets between Cannon and Barton runs continuously between James and Sherman.

Council approved the cycle track on March 27 of this year after a four-plus-hour debate, and the project was tendered to IBI Group for detailed design.

The project follows best practices for cycle track design: it runs continuously for 3.3 km between Sherman and Hess, and it is physically protected from the automobile traffic by both a space buffer and physical barriers (knockdown sticks, rubber curbing, planter boxes).

Cycle Track Done Wrong

It is impossible to regard the Cannon Cycle Track and not compare the Hunter Street bike lanes, which were designed by the City. The bike lanes are broken by an almost half-kilometre discontinuity across the main commuting destination on Hunter (the GO station) and are separated from automobile traffic with only a thick white line and no physical barrier.

After completing the lanes, the City went back and installed 11 knockdown sticks at a high-danger area just east of Park Street.

Knockdown sticks on Hunter Street bike lanes just east of Park Street
Knockdown sticks on Hunter Street bike lanes just east of Park Street

The addition is a much-appreciated improvement that makes the bike lanes less frightening as the road goes up the rise over the underground train line and veers left. Cars in the next lane were cutting across the bike lanes and pushing westbound cyclists into the oncoming bike lane.

However, it underscores how exposed cyclists remain along the rest of the bike lanes. Stopped and parked cars continue to block the bike lanes in the absence of a physical barrier to stop them, and the lanes remain too frightening for most people to consider using.

With Central School right on the bike lanes at Hunter and Bay, this is a missed opportunity for families to ride their children to school.

Fortunately, this is an easy oversight to fix. The City already installed the first 11 missing knockdown sticks - now all they have to do is install the rest of them.

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.

43 Comments

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By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted September 03, 2014 at 14:46:41

The "Yield to bike lane when turning left" sign (shown in the image with the "no left turn on red" sign) is also a novel piece in Hamilton. Kudos to the city for putting those up.

This actually brings a tear to my eye to see. I'm so damned happy it's actually happening.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 03, 2014 at 14:49:40

I always love the map of cycling in this city. Anyone who considers Barton Street a safe cycling street is welcome to try it.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted September 03, 2014 at 17:18:32

They do look great. Even the section west of Victoria is better than I imagined looking at the rough markings. I haven't had a chance to use the cycle-track yet, but will soon. I did drive on Cannon this morning around 9:45 to drop someone off at Aldershot GO. I like the new configuration as a driver too. Seems better proportioned and safer with two driving lanes. Didn't take any longer than usual to go from John to Queen.

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By CycleAndDrive (anonymous) | Posted September 03, 2014 at 17:36:47

The only thing I'm going to negatively say on this is that the pinch point that has been created at Sherman and Cannon forces all Westbound traffic into a single lane. Perhaps it's just that the stadium construction is already annoying my driving sensibilities or that Barton is only one lane through most of the same area or that the ongoing discussion is removing a lane of Main St. for the LRT ... but we're losing lanes of east/west traffic routes steadily with no new bypasses being planned.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted September 05, 2014 at 00:11:39 in reply to Comment 104260

There is an identical pinch point at Cannon and Ottawa... which has nothing to do with the cycle track.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 03, 2014 at 18:12:55 in reply to Comment 104260

Hamilton has a large oversupply of excessive, unnecessary east-West lane capacity. At Sherman, where it switches from two-way east of the intersection to one-way on the west side, Cannon carries only 9,000 cars a day. That's basically one traffic lane.

The most effective thing we can do is repurpose it to other under-served uses, like protected two-way cycling infrastructure and high-order transit. That will reduce our infrastructure unit lifecycle costs while improving quality of life, attracting new private investment and raising property tax assessments. That, in turn, will improve the city's finances and alleviate pressure to raise tax rates. The status quo is unaffordable in addition to being a needless source of misery and lost human potential.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2014-09-05 06:11:12

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By H1 (anonymous) | Posted September 04, 2014 at 15:35:57 in reply to Comment 104262

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 04, 2014 at 16:22:51 in reply to Comment 104290

Burlington Street can move a tremendous amount of traffic.

Notice that they kept 3 lanes of Cannon west of Victoria, but only needed 2 east of Victoria? Burlington St is why. East of Wellington, Burlington is basically an extension of the QEW. West of Wellington, it's a normal street.

The fast east/west corridor across the city has gotten a little more complicated thanks to the city's developments, but it's still there.

Burlington -> Wellington -> Cannon -> Queen -> King

Notice that all of those streets are maintaining at least 2 lanes of fast 1-way traffic. I've driven that frequently and the only slowdown that ever happens is the left turn at Queen. Even if the LRT is built, you can bet we'll still see 2 lanes of fast 1-way traffic on King, which quickly widens at Locke. It'll be fine.

The reverse route, Main -> Victoria -> Burlington is even faster. Victoria will become a bit constrained as the city is converting the Northmost end of Victoria two-way to help encourage industrial development there Victoria (developers have specifically requested this), but I'm betting on a TWINO conversion because their planners obviously keep traffic flow in-mind... but even right now Victoria flows well with only 2 lanes past the Hospital.

We also have Charlton East at the South end of the lower city providing another high-speed corridor.

These routes will stay fast. The city's own numbers show they will stay fast even with LRT and bike lanes and the like - they might get some normal congestion at rush hour just like any other normal mid-sized city (ie: not Toronto/NYC/Boston congestion, just normal city congestion) but no gridlock.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2014-09-04 16:24:03

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By MattM (registered) | Posted September 03, 2014 at 18:02:45

Similarly another problem that I noticed is where Eastbound cyclists are dumped out at Sherman when the cycle track ends. There doesn't appear to be any markings for a safe exit, cyclists are forced going the wrong direction (South) on a pointless 2 block one way SB stretch of Sherman (it returns to 2 way South of Wilson). Is the city planning on addressing this somehow? I did notice a new pole installed a few feet South of the intersection on the West side of Sherman but I can't imagine what it's for. Wouldn't really make sense for bicycle signals unless they do extend the lane Northbound (the wrong way) on Sherman.

If I could put forward my own suggestion it would be for bike sharrows and signage on Cannon Street, East of Sherman. The traffic isn't as bad as it was on Cannon, West of Sherman before the cycle track but it's still 2 lanes EB and one lane WB with street parking on the North curb which can be pretty hectic for cyclists. In the interests of the whole "Pan-Am" precinct thing, there should be sharrows to carry cyclists onto and off of the cycle track, at least past the stadium (preferably to roughly Kenilworth where Cannon ends and turns into Britannia).

Comment edited by MattM on 2014-09-03 18:03:22

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted September 03, 2014 at 20:42:45 in reply to Comment 104261

I bear good news. A conventional (non-protected) bike lane is currently "In the works" between Melrose & Gage. Then a further extention from Gage to Kenilworth is "In the planning stage."

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 03, 2014 at 19:38:25

Happy-making, save for four little words: Three year pilot project.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted September 03, 2014 at 21:12:05

The project follows best practices for cycle track design.

Errr... The Cannon lanes are a huge leap forward and represent a wonderful breakthrough for Hamilton. But "best practices"? As implemented in The Netherlands? In accordance with the CROW bicycle traffic design engineering standards? No.

I could produce a list of departures from real best practices. Cannon is great, but let's not try to oversell it.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted September 03, 2014 at 22:22:02 in reply to Comment 104265

Here is an example of real protected bicycle lanes. Please note that there is genuine physical protection between people and car drivers, not just a flimsy knock-down stick.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted September 03, 2014 at 22:17:00 in reply to Comment 104265

To be infinitely demanding why don't we ask for Woonerfs too.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted September 05, 2014 at 19:57:42 in reply to Comment 104269

The Ministry of Labour does not consider itself to be "infinitely demanding" when insisting upon zero tolerance of workplace danger.

I have a similar amount of tolerance, namely zero, to street danger. There are proven effective ways of implementing this zero tolerance. It is simply a matter of doing it.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 04, 2014 at 08:20:32 in reply to Comment 104269

Hunter near GO would make great sense for one. A calmer Main at City Hall. We asked and the public preferred one on York by the market when it was rebuilt. Plenty of opportunities in Hamilton for that, but where will the 70km/hr trucks go?

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By RobF (registered) | Posted September 04, 2014 at 08:36:11 in reply to Comment 104274

The market would have been a good spot for one. In front of the GO on Hunter or James North from Barton to Cannon or Wilson would also be good choices, so would the street i live on. There's an art to knowing when to savour victory and to know how far you can push things forward without producing a destructive populist backlash. In response to 30km/h in the north-end one of my neighbours said change that 3 to 8 and i'd be happy. I gather from meetings I've attended he isn't alone in that view, but so far it hasn't amounted to a serious threat to the traffic management plan.

Comment edited by RobF on 2014-09-04 08:37:08

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 04, 2014 at 06:06:54 in reply to Comment 104269

We sort of have a Woonerf on the sign- and marking-free protected multi-use track running across Hwy 403 on King Street - at least for pedestrians and cyclists.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted September 04, 2014 at 08:22:51 in reply to Comment 104272

I was thinking more of the full-on neighbourhood variant:

http://www.youthforroadsafety.org/activi...

I find the concept intriguing. My point was really directed a Kevin's jab about "best practices". At this point we aren't the Netherlands and I'm interested in achievable excellence in design. Cannon bike-track is a good outcome. Compared with the York or Hunter bike lanes the new bike track is well designed. It surpasses my threshold for ride-able ... I'll actually use it.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 04, 2014 at 11:16:20 in reply to Comment 104275

Hess Village is practically a woonerf as it is. Too bad Hess is so open when it gets to York Boulevard, it otherwise would be ideal for that kind of treatment as it would be a perfect cycling route with its relation to the new Cannon lanes.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted September 04, 2014 at 12:35:14 in reply to Comment 104277

There are examples like this in many NA cities (Kensington Market in Toronto or Prince Arthur Street in Montreal). I'm not arguing against woonerfs ... i find the idea appealing. Aside from those already mentioned, I think the Barton-Tiffany or Pier 8 redevelopments are spaces where it could be introduced more formally in Hamilton without becoming a wedge issue or need to be watered-down. I'm stretching my memory, but I think woonerfs or woonerf-like streets are part of the Barton-Tiffany design concept. And a woonerf is incorporated in the design of the West Don Lands (Pan Am Village) in Toronto.

I think a woonerf would have been an interesting experiment in front of the Market on York, but i also know merchants in the market that think it would have been better to leave York one-way. I don't agree, but i only get one vote ... we can dream, propose, and fight for changes, but we need to be realistic at each moment and seize what is possible, celebrate these victories, and hope they convince more people to join us.

I don't think that happens when we talk-down major victories like the Cannon bike-track with but let's not over-sell it, its not the way the Dutch do it (Kevin Love's initial comment).

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 04, 2014 at 11:43:42 in reply to Comment 104277

All the more reason to make Hess two-way, at least as far as King where it's three lanes wide.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 04, 2014 at 11:49:34 in reply to Comment 104278

Or that little span between Cannon and York where an entire lane (edit: wait, no, two lanes) has been hatched-off and left unused.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2014-09-04 11:50:23

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 04, 2014 at 12:29:51 in reply to Comment 104279

You mean this one?

Big block of nothing on Hess

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted September 04, 2014 at 13:18:57 in reply to Comment 104281

Hess is crying out for a cycle track at least from Cannon to Napier. There is spare lane capacity (see photo above), and it would link the Cannon cycle track to the Napier - Victoria Park - Breadalbane link to the King bridge.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 04, 2014 at 14:11:43 in reply to Comment 104284

Technically it would have to run past Napier to Market since you're not actually allowed to go straight through the Queen intersection when traveling eastbound on Napier. Officially the eastbound Napier cycle route is Napier -> Queen -> Market -> Bay -> York.

Not that anybody actually obeys that particular rule.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2014-09-04 14:12:42

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted September 04, 2014 at 14:40:48 in reply to Comment 104286

Yes, and officially the westbound cycling route doesn't involve cycling south on Bay from York (either on the road or the sidewalk, both of which are illegal) and then cutting through the Swiss Chalet parking lot, but that's still what everyone does for lack of a good alternative.

Which isn't to say that the cycle track couldn't be extended to Market...

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By RobF (registered) | Posted September 04, 2014 at 12:53:42 in reply to Comment 104281

I'm pretty sure this is what Pxtl is referring to. Some things do puzzle. I often wish i could sit down with a member of city staff and learn the logic behind certain things that have been done. It would be a bit like learning what really happened to Hoffa. Great mysteries solved.

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By H1 (anonymous) | Posted September 04, 2014 at 15:33:24

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By DissenterOfThings (registered) | Posted September 04, 2014 at 21:11:08 in reply to Comment 104289

Why do you even bother posting anymore?

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By jeffzuk (registered) | Posted September 04, 2014 at 17:36:23 in reply to Comment 104289

And look at all those empty sidewalks! Maybe those also can be used for cars.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted September 04, 2014 at 16:22:08 in reply to Comment 104289

Do you mean that it is "amusing" that not many cyclists are using a bike lane that has not been finished or officially opened and has signs asking cyclists not to use it?

Or that cyclists don't cycle on a very dangerous and uncomfortable street when there is no safe bike infrastructure?

Or maybe you are forgetting about the grassroots residents campaign that led to the cycle lane being built: a campaign that showed massive community support.

(Have you ever tried cycling on Cannon yourself? It is a pretty scary experience even for a seasoned urban cyclist.)

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2014-09-04 16:23:19

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By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted September 04, 2014 at 16:33:45 in reply to Comment 104291

^The comment equivalent of SMACK - Shut yo mouth!^

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By JIm Street (anonymous) | Posted September 04, 2014 at 16:37:48

Hell - driving on Cannon can be scary sometimes. The lane markings have already gone a long way to control the speed on the street. Less room to move means cars and trucks are stuck doing the speed limit. This will be a welcome addition to the city.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted September 04, 2014 at 17:57:22 in reply to Comment 104294

I've already read many comments from motorists that the cycle track is making the street safer to drive on as well, since it separates the cyclists from the vehicle traffic and creates a more well defined drive route through the middle of the street. No more jerks crossing over 3-4 lanes at high speed, weaving in and out. The street now rolls at a decent, steady pace and everything is kept separate and comfortable. Cars, bikes and pedestrians. It's what complete streets are all about, making the street safer for EVERYONE.

Comment edited by MattM on 2014-09-04 17:58:07

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 04, 2014 at 20:41:01 in reply to Comment 104296

In general, the evidence indicates that transforming a high-volume, high-speed traffic gutter into a more complete street makes it safer for all road users - including drivers.

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By purbanography (anonymous) | Posted September 04, 2014 at 23:00:11

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By oldcoote (registered) | Posted September 05, 2014 at 11:50:58

Despite the fact that they're not 'open' yet, I have seen many cyclists enjoying the track. This is a positive thing for our city, but I'm worried about cars turning westbound onto Cannon across the cycle track. They are going to have to be aware of cyclists approaching from the west. Not a big adjustment, but old habits die hard when it comes to two way cycle tracks on one way streets. Stay safe!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 05, 2014 at 12:57:51 in reply to Comment 104316

I rode the cycle track at lunchtime today and had a few instances of riding while a car was turning left. In each case the driver signaled, we saw each other, negotiated via hand gestures (no middle fingers raised) and made room for each other. I was pleased at how smoothly the exchanges happened.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 05, 2014 at 11:57:15 in reply to Comment 104316

I actually think the Cannon track is closer to a traditional model than most bike lanes. Cannon is now functionally a 2-way street like any other, except that one of the "ways" is bikes only. Drivers should treat it as such. Drivers know how to use 2-way streets, all they really have to remember is that Cannon is one.

The only unconventional part is the same part as any bike lane - that cars are turning across a lane of same-direction traffic so they have to keep an eye behind them when they turn. That problem is universal to bike lanes.

This is going to be good.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 05, 2014 at 12:32:58 in reply to Comment 104317

the city has also installed 'no left turn on red' signs along the route, so this will help cut down on that problem. Montreal has 'no right on red' city-wide, which I would love to see here.

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By oldcoote (registered) | Posted September 05, 2014 at 13:11:57 in reply to Comment 104320

I saw that. This is good.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 05, 2014 at 12:36:12

Pic from this morning. Cannon is a million times safer now for all users.

https://twitter.com/jason77leach/status/...

Hope to see more planters used like this.

Having driven Cannon at morning and eve rush hour several times this week, it is categorically safer and calmer as a driver too. No more with the morons roaring across all lanes to the curb lane so they can end up one car ahead of everyone at the next light. Everyone drove in a controlled, safe manner the entire length. And yesterday at rush hour there were several cars parked on the north curb west of Victoria, and guess what - traffic was fine.

I personally don't have any use for getting the HSR's input on anything anymore. Their claim that having parked cars for those whopping 2 hours a day would somehow harm their time-table is rich considering they've spent the last 3 decades destroying a once great transit system.

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