Special Report: Cycling

Fragmentary New Painted Bike Lanes on Cannon

New painted bike lanes don't connect to the cycle track and only run for a few blocks.

By Ryan McGreal
Published November 12, 2014

this article has been updated

The Cannon Cycle Track isn't perfect, but it has been a vast improvement over the existing state of Hamilton's cycling infrastructure. The protected two-way cycle track was designed by IBI Group after the Yes We Cannon citizen group wowed Council with an amazing community engagement that drew thousands of supporters.

After the track opened in mid-September, City staff extended conventional bike lanes west from the end of the track at Cannon and Hess. I wrote about the new York Boulevard bike lanes in September, but in brief, they're no cycle track.

Bike lanes on York double as right-turn lanes for drivers (RTH file photo)
Bike lanes on York double as right-turn lanes for drivers (RTH file photo)

Now that the City has installed some bike lanes east of Sherman, it's time for another review.

Eastbound

The first problem is that the bike lanes don't start at Sherman. In fact, there doesn't seem to be any legal way for an eastbound cyclist on Cannon to continue through the intersection.

Looking east across Sherman at Cannon
Looking east across Sherman at Cannon

Presumably, cyclists need to dismount and walk across Sherman. Once you get across, you need to ride in mixed traffic on Cannon because there's no bike lane.

Two block later, a painted bike lane appears on the other side of Lottridge.

Eastbound bike lane starts on Cannon past Lottridge
Eastbound bike lane starts on Cannon past Lottridge

In all, the bike lane extends four blocks from Lottridge to Gage, where it abruptly ends.

Eastbound bike lane on Cannon ends at Gage
Eastbound bike lane on Cannon ends at Gage

There are no bike lanes to connect to on Gage, which is two lanes in each direction. Nor is there a bike lane on Cannon past Gage, though there is one solitary bike sharrow just east of the intersection.

Lonely bike sharrow on Cannon east of Gage
Lonely bike sharrow on Cannon east of Gage

East of Gage, Cannon is four lanes and carries very little automobile traffic. It's just one of Hamilton's many, many overbuilt excessive roadways.

Cannon east of Gage
Cannon east of Gage

According to the City, there is a plan to extend the bike lane east from Gage. Staff will finalize the plan once the 2015 capital budget is approved.

Staff also plan to review the section between Sherman and Lottridge in 2014 for "consideration" of possible cycling infrastructure.

I'm disappointed - though at this point I can't say I'm particularly surprised - that a bike lane connecting with the cycle track is only under "consideration". What on earth will it take to get staff to commit to making our cycling infrastructure connected and continuous?

Right now there's literally no legal way to ride a bike east on Cannon past the intersection at Sherman. The contrast between the generally high-quality design of the cycle track and the dismal-to-nonexistent design beyond it couldn't be more stark.

Westbound

Since we can't go any further east, let's turn around and try riding west on Cannon. Starting at Gage, a painted bike lane appears.

Westbound bike lane on Cannon past Gage
Westbound bike lane on Cannon past Gage

The westbound bike lane continues for a few blocks past the stadium.

Westbound Cannon bike lane passing the stadium
Westbound Cannon bike lane passing the stadium

And by "past the stadium", I mean just past the stadium. The bike lane ends before Melrose after just three blocks. At least the eastbound bike lane started a block further west at Lottridge.

Westbound bike lane ends before Melrose
Westbound bike lane ends before Melrose

Past Melrose, we get another lonely sharrow. Bike sharrows, which indicate that a cyclist is invited to ride in mixed automobile traffic, are the "Don't bother - oh, you didn't" of cycling infrastructure.

Sharrow on Cannon west of Melrose
Sharrow on Cannon west of Melrose

Cannon is four lanes wide - two lanes in each direction - between Lottridge and Sherman. Right now, three of the four lanes between Lottridge and Barnesdale are blocked by an ongoing police investigation into a suspected drug lab. Only one eastbound lane remains open - and Cannon still doesn't have anything even remotely resembling gridlock.

'Say my name.'
'Say my name.'

One final note: the IBI Group's plan for the Cannon Cycle Track included pavement markings through intersections. This is an important design decision, because cyclists are most at risk in "conflict zones" like intersections, where their paths cross the paths of turning cars.

For some reason, the City decided not to include intersection pavement markings with the exception of Cannon and Sherman when it was installing the lanes.

However, an October 15, 2014 Information Update noted that the City had decided to install the intersection markings after all. So far, that has not happened.

Cannon and Wentworth: the City has not added intersection pavement markings to the cycle track yet
Cannon and Wentworth: the City has not added intersection pavement markings to the cycle track yet

At this point, it may be too cold to apply pavement markings before next Spring.


Update: updated to add response from the City on whether there are plans to extend these bike lanes further east or west. You can jump to the added paragraphs.

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.

23 Comments

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 12, 2014 at 14:50:28

Also, the pavement markings at Sherman are borderline useless. Why can't we just do what every other city on the planet does and have green markings through intersections and conflict zones? Why must we remain the Ambitious City in reverse- taking simple ideas from around the planet and watering them down to their most useless possible state. Also, no connections at York and Dundurn and York and Hess.

It's not rocket science people. Every intersection and commercial driveway crossing deserves the safest treatment.

http://bikewaysforeveryone.org/files/bik...

http://familyride.files.wordpress.com/20...

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By Fake Name (anonymous) | Posted November 12, 2014 at 15:58:31 in reply to Comment 106155

A dotted green line would have been enough to remind drivers that something happens here. I swear, the use of green pavement markings makes no sense. I mean, the monstrous mess of green paint for people going Southbound on Hess... and nowhere else? What?

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 12, 2014 at 14:52:46

Also, the stadium precinct plans called for Cannon to be painted like Dundurn with parking on one side and bike lanes both ways. This can be done the entire length of Cannon eastward starting at Sherman as residents are used to having parking on one side. Centre turning lanes are among the biggest wastes of road space possible on such a quiet street.

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By Wondering (anonymous) | Posted November 12, 2014 at 15:14:00

Just wondering if and how we can create the kind of community mobilization seen in Yes We Cannon but for the B-line LRT project. Are we learning from successes? What needs to happen and what can be done better?

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By Fake Name (anonymous) | Posted November 12, 2014 at 15:56:46

Funny how they thought about the crossing at Hess. There's that little green box to wait at to cross the road to switch to the right-side lane that runs up York. So they thought about one of the breaks.

But every other intersection where the layout of the bike-lane changes? Nothing. So many sad little gaps. No connection to Victoria's bike lane, no connection to Dundurn's bike-lane, etc.

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted November 12, 2014 at 16:21:21

Are there any standards for road markings like these set out in the Highway Traffic Act or any other similar legislation?

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By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted November 13, 2014 at 16:00:15 in reply to Comment 106165

Hi Charles; There are standards in the Ontario Traffic Council's Ontario Traffic Manual Book 18, which is the guideline for cycling infrastructure design in Ontario that was released last year. In the section regarding intersection treatments, it does list a continuum of treatments ranging from "no markings" to full length, high-visibility paint through the intersections. Given the traffic speeds and the number of turning movements, we were hopeful that the City would choose to go with best practices, but instead the exact opposite occured, and the intersections became the one part of an otherwise world-class piece of infrastructure that did not meet or exceed expected standards.

When we had our meetings with City Staff when the designs were being put into place, I told staff that the intersection markings were ABSOLUTELY VITAL to this project. Those intersections where Cannon meets a grossly overbuilt 4-lane one way southbound road were the ones that gave me nightmares - just so much opportunity for conflict, and the pavement markings were a simple way to remind drivers to look before they make their left-hand turn. In the original design, the markings through the intersections basically looked like closer together sharrows - chevrons going through the intersection. It was a compromise, but one that we, as Yes We Cannon representatives, accepted in order to see the project come to fruition. At no time did we ever agree that the pavement marking should be removed from the design, nor would we have ever suggested that. We weren't consulted when they were removed from the design, and we've been asking about them since the lanes were installed because we feel that they're a vital piece to keep cyclists visible in the places where they are the most vulnerable. Staff and the consultants have been great during this entire process, but this is a sore spot, and one that needs to be rectified and brought up to a standard that is higher than the absolute bare minimum. We owe cyclists, and drivers, better than that on Cannon.

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By DriverandCyclist (registered) | Posted November 12, 2014 at 16:31:50

It feels as if the bike lanes by the stadium are placed there only for a photoshoot.. "Look at our ambitious city, look at our amazing new stadium with bike lanes near it"

Just sad.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted November 12, 2014 at 20:19:01 in reply to Comment 106166

Thats literally what I was thinking when I first saw them, since they serve absolutely no sensible purpose. I am beyond sick and tired of these half-ass jobs from the city. It affects bike lanes, transit improvements, new signalized crossings. Virtually everything that doesn't have to do with constructing new roads. If you're not even going to do it right the first time, don't bother. This is a colossal waste of manpower and tax dollars.

We need to do a serious audit at whatever department is responsible for the design and implementation of these bike lanes because clearly, they have no clue what they're doing.

Comment edited by MattM on 2014-11-12 20:20:19

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 12, 2014 at 20:25:04 in reply to Comment 106172

clearly not the same person who won awards for the flying squirrel poles and elevated viaduct in the Red Hill Expressway. Apparently we know how to design car infrastructure like geniuses....not much else.

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By DriverandCyclist (registered) | Posted November 12, 2014 at 16:37:54

Gage south of Cannon to Lawrence would be a perfect candidate to connect more cycling routes. Lawrence has bike lanes (albeit ones in very poor shape), but I wouldn't take very much to connect Lawrence and Gage to Cannon with minimal loss of driving lanes. They would have to re-do the lousy pedestrian crossing at Gage park, but that is its own disaster.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted November 13, 2014 at 20:15:17 in reply to Comment 106167

Similarly, a route along Cumberland would provide an alternative to the escarpment rail trail since it's impossible to legally get onto it between Kenilworth and Wentworth. These could also hook around on Wentworth and connect to the Stinson bike lanes.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 13, 2014 at 23:15:16 in reply to Comment 106208

Cumberland would be a great Greenway. Low speed limit, bike sharrows and speed humps. Dynamite connection.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted November 14, 2014 at 13:07:04 in reply to Comment 106211

I use Cumberland all the time and it's a great route for riding. So great that after riding the Cannon Street cycle lanes 3 times, I gave up on them and have gone back to Cumberland.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted November 12, 2014 at 21:49:09

In this area, Cannon Street has four car lanes with no car parking. Here is a look at how more civilized places use the exact same amount of space.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAL4yr92...

I recommend taking a look at the same street and moving the point of view up and down the street. This could be Cannon...

They did it. We can too!

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2014-11-12 21:54:11

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 12, 2014 at 22:29:27 in reply to Comment 106177

great stuff.

Considering all the access points, driveways and cross streets on Cannon, I see it more like this:

http://urbancommuter.files.wordpress.com...

Bike lanes at sidewalk level on both sides of Cannon - basically this is achieved simply by extending the sidewalk 5 feet on both sides. Parking at street level on one-side, and 1 car lane each direction. Viola.

This should be the way of the future when rebuilding roads, such as the butcher job we just did on West 5th by Mohawk College. They expropriated land, widened the road and simply created massive, luxury lanes for cars to encourage speeding. No bike lanes. They could have poured sidewalks 5 feet wider on both sides and added 'raised bike lanes' when rebuilding the street.

Let's tell staff to pretend that bikes are cars. Then we'd get somewhere.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted November 12, 2014 at 23:48:48 in reply to Comment 106180

Good point! Yes, the driveways are an issue on Cannon and elsewhere.

The Cannon protected cycle path actually does a fairly good job of following the three basic rules of:

  1. Driveways may not interrupt the cycle path.
  2. Driveways may not change the level of the cycle path.
  3. Driveways may not have right of way over the cycle path.

The big problem is places, such as east of Ferguson, where accommodating driveways has resulted in too large a gap in the protective barriers.

Here is a video showing the proper way of dealing with driveways:

http://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2011/0...

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By Pearl St (anonymous) | Posted November 13, 2014 at 11:26:31

I would think making a bike path continuing around the stadium would relieve the chaotic game day traffic and leave more safe room for the hords of fans walking around!

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By Steve (registered) | Posted November 14, 2014 at 13:08:41 in reply to Comment 106193

Never ride your bike on Cannon on game day. I can guarantee the bike lane will be completely blocked by vehicles - cars & buses.

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted November 13, 2014 at 11:30:04

How about this for Cannon Street. http://www.boredpanda.com/van-gogh-starr... (Would have to turn the lights off though)

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By Fake Name (anonymous) | Posted November 14, 2014 at 13:45:59 in reply to Comment 106194

Turning the lighst off on Cannon isn't really an option, but the city has many unlit paths that could use this treatment - various rail-trails and parks that carry substantial foot and cycle traffic in the these early November evenings.

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By Crispy (registered) | Posted November 13, 2014 at 11:39:15 in reply to Comment 106194

Actually this is pretty cool I wonder how loud a road like this would be and how it would handle a heavy dumping of snow in freezing conditions. Would plows rip the panels out?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 14, 2014 at 13:16:55 in reply to Comment 106195

That's very cool, but I'd be happy with a bike lane that goes farther than three blocks, connects to other bike lanes, and has some kind of physical protection from cars.

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