Special Report: Cycling

A Case for a Protected Cycle Track on Park Street in Dundas

A cycle track on Park Street would provide a crosstown cycling link through the downtown and link closely to the commercial centre on King Street.

By Ryan McGreal
Published September 10, 2015

Dundas has a vibrant cycling community, but the town is surprisingly stingy by way of actual cycling infrastructure.

Dundas has the Hamilton-Brantford Rail Trail, of course, which runs through Dundas Valley Conservation Area and connects to downtown Dundas via Old Ancaster Road and Ogilvie Street. But those streets have no cycling infrastructure on them.

Dundas also has the off-street multi-use path running beside Cootes Drive between East Street in Dundas and Main Street West in Hamilton. That path connects to McMaster University and the bike lanes on Sanders Boulevard, but it doesn't connect to any dedicated network on the Dundas side.

There's also a paved shoulder on Olympic Drive between Cootes and where it turns into York Road. Otherwise, there is no dedicated cycling infrastructure at all in Dundas proper. (Sorry, but a "signed on-street route" does not count as cycling infrastructure.)

The City's "Building the Bike Network" page cites a project to add some kind of cycling infrastructure on Highway 8 from Bond Street up the escarpment to Greensville at some point in the future. There's also mention of something planned for Hatt Street, albeit with no details.

I'd like to make a case for installing a protected two-way cycle track on Park Street.

Cycle Track on Park Street

Downtown Dundas is anchored by King Street West, an intact central commercial district framed by two- and three-storey buildings with retail uses on the main floor, sidewalks protected by curbside parking and one automobile lane in each direction.

The street is quite pedestrian-friendly (though there is definitely room for improvement), but it is not cycling-friendly at all - and it would likely be an extremely tough sell politically to trade a lane of curbside parking for a lane of cycle track.

But just a short block north, Park Street runs parallel to King from York Road to Bond Street North and would make an excellent route for a cross-town cycling route that connects easily to the commercial district on King.

I propose that the City consider installing a protected, two-way cycle track on Park Street.

Park is a wide residential street with low automobile traffic volumes. It is just 100 metres north of King Street West, and is connected to King by frequent cross-streets as well as a number of alleyways that currently provide off-street parking with walking access to King.

Park Street West
Park Street West

Easy access to King Street via alley and off-street municipal parking that meets King just east of Miller's Lane
Easy access to King Street via alley and off-street municipal parking that meets King just east of Miller's Lane

By my unofficial measurements at several points along Park Street West, the street has a uniform width of approximately 33 feet (10 metres). That gives us plenty of room to work with, going curb to curb:

For comparison, the protected two-way cycle track on Cannon Street is 2.8 metres wide west of Victoria (widening to 3 metres east of Victoria).

At present, there is only curbside parking on one side of Park Street, alternating between the 1st-15th of the month and the 16th to end, so the addition of a protected cycle track will not remove any existing on-street parking.

Park Street looking west from Sydenham
Park Street looking west from Sydenham

Easy access to King Street via Wilson Lane and off-street municipal parking
Easy access to King Street via Wilson Lane and off-street municipal parking

For a residential street with fairly low automobile traffic volume, there is abundant public space between the curbs that is just begging to be put to better use than very wide lanes that encourage dangerous speeding.

Narrowing the automobile lanes and adding a protected two-way cycle track accomplishes three goals at once: it acts to slow and calm automobile traffic by using narrower roadway as a strong psychological signal to slow down; it adds dedicated, physically protected space for cycling to encourage more bicycle trips; and it physically buffers pedestrians on both sidewalks from automobile traffic.

Park Street West: lots of public right-of-way
Park Street West: lots of public right-of-way

Easy access to King Street via Church Street
Easy access to King Street via Church Street

The total distance from York Road in the east to Bond Road in the west is 1.8 kilometres. Using the cost to install the Cannon Street for comparison, that means a maximum cost of around $350-400,000 to build a dedicated, protected cross-town cycling route through downtown Dundas.

And the actual cost is likely to be considerably lower than that, because it will not require expensive traffic signals - most intersections are currently controlled with stop signs.

Park Street looking west from Matilda
Park Street looking west from Matilda

Park Street near Peel Street
Park Street near Peel Street

Easter Connections

On the eastern end of the cycle track at York Road, there are a few options for how to connect to the Cootes Drive path. One option is a bike lane on York to the York Road Parkette and a path through the Parkette. From there, a protected cycle track on Cootes Drive could link to the multi-use path that begins at East Street.

West of York Road, King Street is one lane in each direction and the buildings adjacent to the street are urban in form. West of York Road, King switches to Cootes Drive, a very wide five-lane, highway-style road that still has a speed limit of 50 km/h until 150 metres east of East Street.

In its current state, that section of Cootes is unsafe by design. There is no good reason not to dedicate some space for a protected cycle track that connects the Park Street facility with the Cootes path.

Alternately, bike lanes could run from the Parkette along King Street East to East Street North and south to Cootes; or else south on West Street to Dundas Street and east to Cootes.

It would also be really nice to connect the Park Street cycle track to the Rail Trail with dedicated cycling infrastructure. One way to do this is a cycling route down Miller's Lane across King, west on the midblock alleyway between King and Hatt that connects to the municipal parking lot, a dedicated path through the parking lot to Creekside Drive, and on dedicated lanes up Ogilvie to Old Ancaster Road and the Rail Trail.

Alternate Route: Hatt Street

When I proposed this on twitter last night, a few people argued that Hatt Street also makes sense - and may make more sense - as an east-west cycle route through downtown Dundas. And some kind of infrastructure on Hatt Street is already mentioned in the City's list of cycling projects in the future planning stage.

I haven't taken a tour of Hatt to evaluate it for this purpose, but it certainly seems feasible from my general knowledge of the street, coupled with a look at the map.

Like Park, Hatt intersects with other streets mostly in four-way stops, with a signalized intersection at Creekside. That means the cost to install protected cycling infrastructure will also be on the low end, compared to the cost for Cannon Street.

A cycle track on Hatt would be easier to connect to the Rail Trail, but it wouldn't get cyclists as close to the Cootes multi-use path. One option would be to extend the cycling route past the soft dead end of Hatt Street to the intersection of Main Street and Dundas Street and extend east along Dundas to Cootes.

To my mind, a couple of other issues also somewhat inveigh against preferring Hatt over Park. Its route diverges away from King at both ends - it's 160 metres from King at Ogilvie and 280 metres from King at Bond. It's also a more industrial street than Park, at least on the east end, and traffic feels heavier (though this is impressionistic - I'm happy to be proven wrong with traffic data).

Since Hatt has curbside parking on both sides, it seems to make a lot more sense for protected bike lanes on that street to be parking-protected, like the lanes the City is planning to install this fall on Charlton and Herkimer Streets, rather than protected with bollards like Cannon Street.

Frankly, I'd be delighted to see the City install high-quality protected bike lanes on either Park or Hatt (ideally both!). That will require leadership from Dundas Councillor Arlene VanderBeek, who expressed support for complete streets and improving the Cycling Master Plan during her election campaign in 2014. It will also require leadership from cycling advocates in Dundas and their friends and supporters from across the city to make it happen.

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 Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 10, 2015 at 14:45:44

On Hatt St, I think the intent is that cyclists continue east from Hatt and take Baldwin/Court to Dundas, which ends a short hop from Cootes' Drive trail. The hard part, then, would be continuing the bike lane through Hatt to Baldwin - Baldwin/Court are so low-traffic they have no need of bike-lanes, and the short stretch of Dundas between Court and the Cootes' Drive trail could easily accommodate bike lanes. Even today most of this route works well except for the lack of signage - I didn't know to turn right at Court, and taking a bike to Dundas/Governors/Main intersection is awful. Simple signage would be a big improvement here.

I took my bike with my kids in tow on Victoria Day to see the fireworks at Dundas Driving park, and found that Cootes Drive -> East St -> King E -> York -> Park -> Cross worked well except for the mess at York/King/King/Cootes/West intersection-plaza thing. We ended up biking through the parking lot, which sucked.

I think a Hatt greenway and a Park greenway would both be reasonable goals as a first-step, since all they'd require would be painted lines and signage (except for the York parkette crossing).

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2015-09-10 14:59:19

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 10, 2015 at 14:53:54

I've long wondered why there are no bike lanes on Creighton, Dundas, Hatt and Ogilvie. Dundas and Hatt are insanely wide and connect directly to the Cootes Dr path. Creghton is plenty wide for painted bike lanes, and connects across Governors into a residential neighbourhood with trail entry points to the Spring Creek Trail and Hamilton/Brant rail trail. Ogilvie is the direct link to the south end of Dundas and Hamilton/Brant rail trail.

Also, Sydenham Rd could use a multi-use path on the south curb lane climbing the escarpment. No need for 3 wide lanes on such a rarely-used roadway.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted September 10, 2015 at 15:22:46 in reply to Comment 113817

There's no bike lanes on Hatt due to the number of trucks going in to the industrial area that Hatt is.

Creighton is an option for a single lane, but with the winding roads (being wider so that trucks and so forth can get onto Governor's Rd.) and some hills it could make it unsafe for all modes of transportation.

If anything, with the wide streets along Governor's (at least past Creighton), perhaps on the north side of Governors, a cycle lane could be put in there. They have wide sidewalks and a large ditch, as well as a desire path opposite the high school. There could also be something going in the Senator Homes subdivision as that links up to the lower part of Hatt etc.

Sydenham is not a good location for a bike lane. It's rarely used by cyclists and I am completely unsure where you get the notion that it's a "rarely-used roadway". It connects the upper/rural parts of Dundas, Flamborough and Waterdown into Dundas/Hamilton. It's constantly got vehicles on it. It's also ridiculously graded and I feel unsafe with the way drivers drive it - and when I see people on bikes or skateboards going down I'm surprised there aren't more fatalities along there (I cringe to think of how many people get hurt flying down that bottom turn when coming down the hill!)

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 10, 2015 at 15:35:41 in reply to Comment 113820

There's no bike lanes on Hatt due to the number of trucks going in to the industrial area that Hatt is.

Do the trucks only go 1 way? Because Hatt's layout isn't even symmetrical - there's two live traffic lanes westbound, while eastbound traffic is only one live lane - the other eastbound lane is parking-only. I have never seen two cars abreast in that westbound area. Ever.

Parking on both sides of the road might have to be re-examined west of Market st where that layout changes, or a bike lane might not have to extend west past Market, but east of Market there is zero reason not to put bike lanes - one of the driving lanes is 100% superfluous and has nothing to do with trucks. But then, Hatt isn't so industrial east of Market.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 10, 2015 at 15:25:32 in reply to Comment 113820

Here's something that actually IS cringe-worthy: this is the 2nd most dangerous city in the province for pedestrians. People actually do get hurt and killed by cars. None do by bikes or pedestrians. Hatt only needs 1 lane each way. Ground-breaking research has shown that trucks can drive in 1-lane.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted September 10, 2015 at 15:28:59 in reply to Comment 113821

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Comment edited by DowntownInHamilton on 2015-09-10 15:30:35

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By DownerInDowntownHammertown (anonymous) | Posted September 10, 2015 at 18:11:42 in reply to Comment 113823

Aw shucks, and you were starting to make sense for a little while there before reverting back to your usual douchiness.....

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted September 11, 2015 at 09:33:35 in reply to Comment 113832

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted September 11, 2015 at 12:06:29 in reply to Comment 113838

And it begins...

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted September 11, 2015 at 10:21:20 in reply to Comment 113838

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 10, 2015 at 15:37:41 in reply to Comment 113823

Hatt is a moderately-fast street that runs alongside downtown Dundas and connects to Cootes Drive and has a completely unused car-lane from Market to Ogilvie. How is that not an obvious place for bike lanes?

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted September 10, 2015 at 15:40:40 in reply to Comment 113825

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 12, 2015 at 15:26:05 in reply to Comment 113827

You must be thinking of another Hatt St. I've been traveling that street during the day, street several times a week for over a decade, and never once in all that time has it ever even approached 'busy'.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted September 15, 2015 at 17:53:56 in reply to Comment 113855

Perhaps the issue lies more in your definition of busy. Mine would be trucks that are not normally on residential streets coming and going during business hours. What's yours?

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 16, 2015 at 16:56:23 in reply to Comment 113882

Sorry, there are very few trucks on Hatt, and it is frequently empty for long stretches. If your definition of 'busy' is the odd truck, no wonder your perception of our streets is so skewed.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 12, 2015 at 22:19:08 in reply to Comment 113855

yea, it's a great candidate to lose a couple lanes for safe infrastructure for all modes. Never comes close to being a busy street.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted September 15, 2015 at 17:54:28 in reply to Comment 113859

You don't know the area - you're out of your element. Thanks for adding nothing but good attempt at trolling.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2015 at 16:31:22 in reply to Comment 113855

Even when it is busy, in the section between York and Market there's a lane that's completely unused. Totally. I've never ever seen two cars abreast going westbound on Hatt (where there are two lanes).

Move the median 6 feet north and add a bike lane in each way. Boom, done.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted September 15, 2015 at 17:54:53 in reply to Comment 113856

Or work it out on another road that doesn't have manufacturing on it. Boom, done.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 16, 2015 at 16:58:16 in reply to Comment 113884

Hatt is more than 50% residential with some commercial/light industrial. You make it sound like Burlington St. Your hyperbole is absurd.

Comment edited by highwater on 2015-09-16 17:08:35

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 15, 2015 at 22:36:57 in reply to Comment 113884

I don't get why you're hung up on trucks. I bike next to trucks when I'm in bike lanes on Cannon and on King West, and the trucks are rarely the source of conflict, it's normal commuters that are usually the problem.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 10, 2015 at 15:11:24 in reply to Comment 113817

Ooh, I like the Creighton thing. I doubt we'll ever see decent support on Ogilvie, though. I've always been disappointed that the rail trail doesn't have a very good connection to Dundas.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted September 10, 2015 at 15:26:55 in reply to Comment 113818

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Comment edited by DowntownInHamilton on 2015-09-10 15:31:06

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 10, 2015 at 15:38:32 in reply to Comment 113822

I meant downtown dundas, of course. University Plaza is functionally an honorary part of Ainsliewood anyways.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted September 10, 2015 at 15:41:21 in reply to Comment 113826

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Comment edited by DowntownInHamilton on 2015-09-10 15:41:37

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 10, 2015 at 15:21:38 in reply to Comment 113818

I use Creighton all the time to go from downtown up to the rail trail and back home. Ogilvie could be great. It's so unnecessarily wide, but as we know, unnecessarily wide in Hamilton is how we like our streets.

Had a funny convo with my kids the other day as they watched all sorts of lunacy happening on King St. They said "do people get in trouble for driving like this?" I said "No. Not only do they not get in trouble, but this is how the city wants them to drive. That's why they built the road like this."

Stunned silence as they continued to watch from the edge of Victoria Park. Finally our youngest daughter incredulously says "why would they WANT people to drive like this?? Someone will get hurt." To which my wife and I replied, "no idea".

Even little kids can see how horrendous and dangerous our over-built roads are, but city hall loves em' like that.

Comment edited by jason on 2015-09-10 15:22:51

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 15, 2015 at 22:38:36 in reply to Comment 113819

I was trying to see this on the map... there is no marked trail connecting Creighton to the Rail trail. How do you get there?

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 16, 2015 at 08:28:30 in reply to Comment 113886

cross Governors and hang a right at the first street. Lyndale. Then it veers right onto Highland Dr. If you look at the map, you can see the trail connection from Highland Dr into the valley. First you take a short stint on the beautiful Spring Creek Trail, which then connects up to the Hamilton-Brant rail trail (but remember folks, only one commenter on this discussion reeeaaaally knows about road/biking conditions in Dundas. I'm just making all this up. haha)

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By Anna27 (anonymous) | Posted September 11, 2015 at 15:12:21

"Sydenham is not a good location for a bike lane. It's rarely used by cyclists"

I can't say I agree with you there - it's one of the most popular climbs in the area for road cyclists. I've gone up it many times as training, and each time there were at least 3-4 other cyclists either going up or down. It's always struck me as extremely popular and well used by cyclists, although not commuter cyclists - definitely us weekend-warrior types.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted September 11, 2015 at 18:20:07 in reply to Comment 113845

Sure, so it's rarely used then - 2 out of 7 days. But all 7 days there's steady traffic going up and down it. I think it's safe to say it's only for serious, dedicated people who use it infrequently. Probably not a candidate for a "phase one" rollout.

I work with someone who lives in K-W but cycles all over SW Ontario. He has done the Sydenham hill several times but hates doing it because it totally kills him. Great workout, great view, but absolute murder on his legs when going up and on his arms going down!

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2015 at 16:34:37 in reply to Comment 113848

I was just driving up Sydenham at 5:00 pm on Thursday on my way to Dyment's for a company picnic. So it was rush-hour.

I saw 3 bikes - two upwards, one downwards. I saw zero incidents of a car trying to pass another car on one of its two up-bound lanes.

Obviously, this is an anecdote, and the plural of anecdote is not data, but if this is typical, that demonstrates that Sydenham hill needs bike lanes far more than it needs two upwards lanes.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 12, 2015 at 22:20:51 in reply to Comment 113857

It's like that 100% of the time I'm there. Usually there is 1 or 2 cars. I've never seen a car pass another car, but that's probably because I've never seen 2 cars going up at the same time.
Hence, it's a perfect spot to lose the unneeded 2nd lane.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 11, 2015 at 20:46:22 in reply to Comment 113848

He has done the Sydenham hill several times but hates doing it.

okaaaaaay then......

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted September 11, 2015 at 18:18:41 in reply to Comment 113845

"Sydenham is not a good location for a bike lane. It's rarely used by cyclists"

No point in building a bridge across that piranha-infested river. Hardly anyone swims across.

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2015-09-11 18:19:30

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted September 11, 2015 at 18:22:37 in reply to Comment 113847

We can apply your flawed logic all over the place, too.

I don't wear the clothes you do. Why make them? I don't need an accountant, why have accounting jobs? I don't cycle often, why build the infrastructure? You don't drive as much as me, why build the infrastructure?

Thanks for adding a lot to the discussion! Much apprecaited.

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