Special Report: Cycling

City Clearing Bike Lanes After Snowfall

Hamilton is making slow but encouraging progress in building a cycling network, and they have also been maintaining it so far this winter.

By Ryan McGreal
Published December 12, 2014

this article has been updated

Despite all protestations to the contrary, people do ride bikes during winter. Places with much harsher and snowier winters than Hamilton maintain impressive rates of cycling year-round. Their secret is simple: build high-quality cycling infrastructure and then maintain it.

Cities like Montreal, Denver and Minneapolis have grown their year-round rates of cycling impressively by investing in bike lanes. In Denver, the relationship between bike lane miles and number of riders has been almost perfectly linear:

Denver Cycling to Work and Bicycle Lane Miles 2007-2012 (Image Credit: Denver Urbanism)
Denver Cycling to Work and Bicycle Lane Miles 2007-2012 (Image Credit: Denver Urbanism)

Boulder, Colorado gets snow from September right through May, but 12 percent of its residents regularly commute by bicycle.

And that's just North American cities. Oulu, Finland, a city of 200,000, has over 800 kilometres of cycling facilities that are maintained year-round. More than a quarter of its residents are active cyclists (riding at least several times a week) year-round, even in winter.

Oulu cyclist segments (Image Credit: bikelanes.ca)
Oulu cyclist segments (Image Credit: bikelanes.ca)

As I mentioned above, there are two parts to this: the first is to build a high-quality network of cycling infrastructure, and the second part is to maintain it. Hamilton is making slow but encouraging progress on the first part, and based on the response to yesterday's snow, is also focused on holding up the second part.

City workers cleared the Cannon Cycle Track on the same day as the snowfall, leaving the protected two-way cycle track fairly clear.

Cannon Cycle Track cleared of snow on December 11
Cannon Cycle Track cleared of snow on December 11

Likewise, the two-way bike lane on Hunter Street was also cleared on the same day as the snowfall, making for a clear, ice-free ride.

Hunter Street bike lanes cleared of snow on December 11
Hunter Street bike lanes cleared of snow on December 11

In contrast, I noticed last night that the Dundurn Street South bike lanes had lots of snow and slush in them (I didn't have a chance to take a photo).

Some RTH readers also weighed in on Twitter, sharing reports and photos of their cycling conditions yesterday and today:

Last night, Andrew Pettit wrote, "Saw plow clearing the bike lane on Main over [Highway] 403 at 6:00 PM, same day as snowfall." He added, "Looking forward to riding tomorrow."

Early this morning, Kari Dalnoki-Veress wrote, "[Highway] 403 overpass path (Studholme) okay last night, but posts were left down again. Very dangerous."

Christina Vietinghoff wrote, "The Cootes Drive path to Dundas is lovely today." She added a photo:

Cootes Drive path to Dundas cleared (Image Credit: Christina Vietinghoff/Twitter)
Cootes Drive path to Dundas cleared (Image Credit: Christina Vietinghoff/Twitter)

Martin Zarate wrote, "They did a great job ploughing the hatched-out part of Hess." He also added a photo:

Hess Street hatched area with snow cleared (Image Credit: Martin Zarate/Twitter)
Hess Street hatched area with snow cleared (Image Credit: Martin Zarate/Twitter)

Spencer Snowling wrote, "My trip along King was fine except for between Paradise and Macklin - not cleared for some reason." Here's the photo:

Snow not cleared on King Street West bike lane between Paradise and Macklin (Image Credit: Spencer Snowling/Twitter)
Snow not cleared on King Street West bike lane between Paradise and Macklin (Image Credit: Spencer Snowling/Twitter)

Later this afternoon, Andrew Pettit sent in three photos. First, he wrote, "King at [Highway] 403, clear and salted."

King Street crossing Highway 403: clear and salted (Image Credit: Andrew Pettit/Twitter)
King Street crossing Highway 403: clear and salted (Image Credit: Andrew Pettit/Twitter)

Next, he wrote, "Protected bike/pedestrian lane on King Street over [Highway] 403 clear and salted, much better than last snowfall."

King Street multi-use path over Highway 403 (Image Credit: Andrew Pettit/Twitter)
King Street multi-use path over Highway 403 (Image Credit: Andrew Pettit/Twitter)

Finally, he wrote, "Sterling at Haddon, clear and safe riding again. Made for a good ride in. Sunshine didn't hurt!"

Sterling at Haddon (Image Credit: Andrew Pettit/Twitter)
Sterling at Haddon (Image Credit: Andrew Pettit/Twitter)

In addition, Kyle Ford wrote, "Stinson Street wasn't cleared at all. Needs attention in general. Could be great east-west in Hamilton."

Stinson Street bike lanes were not cleared (Image Credit: Kyle Ford/Twitter)
Stinson Street bike lanes were not cleared (Image Credit: Kyle Ford/Twitter)

If we build it, connect it and maintain it, people will use it. It's really that simple. We get the city we plan and design for.

Bikes parked on James Street North near Mulberry
Bikes parked on James Street North near Mulberry

Update: updated to add photos from Andrew Pettit and Kyle Ford. 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.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 14:21:51

There is a high winter cycling mode share in places that have far more severe winters than Hamilton. Here is another video from Oulu, Finland:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pl...

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2014-12-12 14:57:53

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By Wait (anonymous) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 14:35:19

But we can't continue to kill the enviornment more effectively if this trend continues:(

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By Megan (registered) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 14:48:21

The plowing of Cannon illustrated the marked need for City-cleared sidewalks; I saw many people enjoying the cycle track as a cleared walkway this morning.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 16:54:08 in reply to Comment 106988

I was one of them, pushing a stroller. The auto body shops and used car dealers on Cannon have a very bad track record when it comes to snow removal.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 20:00:26 in reply to Comment 107003

Snow Off Sidewalks (S.O.S), they have 24 hours to clear. In not clear call the City and lodge a complaint, 905-546-2782.

I walk a lot and tell whomever answers the phone I've got a list...

Something not many know, if it snows again before a Notice to Comply is issued the original complaint dies. So you have to call after 24 hours every time, even if it wasn't cleared from the previous snow.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 12, 2014 at 16:25:43

been keeping my phone handy for whenever I spot winter cyclist, and I gotta be honest. I'm floored with how many bikes are out so far in Hamilton. I missed tons of great photo opportunities with multiple cyclists traveling in a row on various downtown bike lanes this week.
Good to see.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 12, 2014 at 20:12:15

For the record, for my shot at Hess Street my tongue was planted firmly-in-cheek. After some of the globs of ice we had to deal with last snowfall, I was actually laughing when I saw that they'd ploughed the hatched-off part of Hess. Really, they've done a great job this time around - the only rough patches were Dundurn and the part of King that Spencer noted. Although I do worry about those bits of Dundurn they missed - little slush-mounds that would suck if they froze.

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