Special Report: Cycling

Proposed Design for Bay Street Cycling Improvement

City staff plan to submit an application to the Province for capital funding on a new cycling facility on Bay Street.

By Jason Leach
Published October 05, 2015

City staff plan to submit an application under a $10 million Provincial cycling infrastructure capital fund to build new cycling infrastructure on Bay Street.

The City has not shared any plans yet, but according to Daryl Bender, Public Works manager for cycling, staff are currently working on a concept that would include curbside parking on one side, one-way vehicle traffic and two-way bicycle traffic.

Bender said staff are open to suggestions while developing their proposal, so I have come up with a couple of options. But first, a few points for consideration:

I don't know how much provincial money will be available for this project, but I would suggest we go for the 'best possible design', and leave ourselves room to scale back a tiny bit if necessary.

The best design in this case would be a raised cycle track on the west side of Bay from Herkimer to Cannon.

Raised curb cycle track in The Hague
Raised curb cycle track in The Hague

Maintaining the raised profile through intersections will go a long way towards creating a safer pedestrian/cycling environment along this very busy pedestrian street.

A slightly scaled-down version of the same plan would be a concrete curb installed as separation between the cycle track and traffic lanes, a la this example from Montreal:

Curb separated bike lane in Montreal
Curb separated bike lane in Montreal

These design elements are exactly what we should be aiming for city-wide with bike design. Those cities are world leaders in cycling precisely because of their safe bike lane designs.

Here then, are my proposed cross sections.

Aberdeen to Herkimer

I suspect wealthy residents here won't put up with losing their street parking on both sides, and it's a super quiet stretch of road, so I suggest northbound bike sharrows with a southbound contra-flow bike lane:

Contraflow bike lane in Paris
Contraflow bike lane in Paris

Herkimer to Hunter

Two-way cycle track on west side of Bay. One northbound travel lane, curb parking on east side. I choose the west side of Bay for the cycle track as it would receive less interference from the busy one-way cross-streets such as Herkimer, Main and York.

Render of Bay from Herkimer to Hunter (Image Credit: Streetmix)
Render of Bay from Herkimer to Hunter (Image Credit: Streetmix)

Being on the 'left' side of Bay, the only real busy crossing is King, and that corner vehicles are used to waiting before turning left due to the high pedestrian volume there. Much greater than the SE corner of Main/Bay.

Also, the west side of Bay avoids busy car movements entering/exiting City Hall, new McMaster Campus, Jackson Square, First Ontario Centre.

Hunter to Cannon

Two-way cycle track continues. 2 NB travel lanes for cars.

Render of Bay from Hunter to Cannon (Image Credit: Streetmix)
Render of Bay from Hunter to Cannon (Image Credit: Streetmix)

Only have one left turn lane from Bay onto King (with an advance green if it is really necessary). Scale back the pedestrian bumpout on the northwest corner of Bay and King if necessary to allow the cycle track to continue.

For the parking spots on the west side of bay between King and York, veer the cycle track in next to the sidewalk and bump out the parking spots similar to what was proposed in 2014 for the Hunter Street GO Station.

Rendering of Hunter Street bike lanes at GO station, overhead view
Rendering of Hunter Street bike lanes at GO station, overhead view

North of Cannon

North of Cannon I would suggest raised bike lanes in each direction on their respective side of the road. This would leave one car lane each direction, and the southbound bike lane would be parking-protected.

North of Barton, things get tight. Clear, safe connections to the future Caroline/Central Park Greenway as well as Park Street would probably make sense to continue north to the waterfront, or remove the street parking north of Barton to the new bridge to allow for bike lanes. There are already bike lanes on the CN rail overpass to Strachan Street and Bayfront Park.

I look forward to hearing what comes of this application, and I appreciate the opportunity to share some design ideas. I suspect many others in the cycling community would also love the opportunity to contribute to this much-needed north-south link.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

19 Comments

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By walter_hbd (registered) | Posted October 05, 2015 at 10:35:37

Great pitch, except I disagree with any sort of sharrow use.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted October 05, 2015 at 14:12:37

I'm all for raised/protected lanes - ideal for bike wimps like myself. This would be a great connection to the cannon lane which I have never used because I can't get my bike to it (see above 'bike wimp')...

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted October 05, 2015 at 15:32:19 in reply to Comment 114052

I wouldn't say you're a 'wimp'. Quite normal in fact. Over 70% of Hamilton residents say they would cycle more if they felt it was safe to do so. Developing a city-wide, connected, safe network of bike lanes like this would see many of those people hop on their bikes.

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By Bruce lee (anonymous) | Posted October 05, 2015 at 21:23:03 in reply to Comment 114053

Or they are mostly chuck norris.

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By Sharro (anonymous) | Posted October 05, 2015 at 21:25:00

I hate sparrows. I feel they're pretty useless, slap in the face of cyclists if anything, like paying lip service to cyclist safety.

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By matthewsweet (registered) | Posted October 05, 2015 at 21:51:48

FYI the maximum Provincial funding available for any one project is 50% of project costs with a cap of $325,000. The municipality and any other funding partners are responsible for the balance of the capital costs. Someone could probably get a good idea of what the rough costs of a two way cycle track on Bay would be by using Cannon as a point of comparison.

I like Jason's suggestions with a few minor quibbles / points to consider. I agree with the comments of others about the sharrows; if not extending the cycle track further south, do some traffic calming with physical changes to the road to slow traffic and go full out bike boulevard. Also the proposed cross-section from Herkimer to Hunter shows 1.4m sidewalks which do not meet AODA guidelines for accessibility.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted October 06, 2015 at 07:46:27

On the one hand: hooray!

On the other: this would make the reversion of Bay to two-way traffic even less likely, I imagine.

Given my druthers (and these druthers are those of someone who cycles around the city much more than he drives), I'd take two-way Bay over bike lanes on Bay.

Comment edited by moylek on 2015-10-06 07:46:41

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted October 06, 2015 at 09:21:53 in reply to Comment 114050

Why? Would it be better if it was just an "unmarked" bike route? I know that sharrows aren't really infrastructure but they are great for wayfinding.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted October 06, 2015 at 09:32:08 in reply to Comment 114056

They aren't so bad - we just need to stop thinking of them as infrastructure and start thinking of them as route markings. Some roads don't have the speed or traffic to justify poured-conrete infrastructure - a great example is Shaw Street in Toronto. As long as we aren't pretending that sharrows do anything to actually protect a cyclist, I don't see them as problematic.

The issue with using them on Bay South is that the road is wide enough that if the parking spaces are mostly empty, there won't be any natural speed control. Bumpouts could be used to solve this problem very cheaply.

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted October 06, 2015 at 10:38:32

FWIW, I can't stand sharrows. They are useless in every sense. For this above proposal, sharrows and perhaps a speed hump or two were only suggested for the quiet blocks between Aberdeen and Herkimer where the street is narrow and has parking on both sides.

Further north, definitely would make sense to get rid of the curb parking and widen the sidewalks in the exact spot where the city current has knockdown sticks set up: Duke to Hunter.

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By Nope (anonymous) | Posted October 06, 2015 at 16:50:05 in reply to Comment 114052

OK then don't go to cannon to get your safe biking fix. It's carnage down there, with people getting left hooked daily. Those who plead otherwise are in denial.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted October 06, 2015 at 20:19:00 in reply to Comment 114079

Sarcasm? trollery? A brave soul who is exposing the scary truth which the Cycling Lobby is strong-arming the press into suppressing?

Comment edited by moylek on 2015-10-06 20:19:52

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted October 06, 2015 at 22:08:23 in reply to Comment 114079

I ride on the rail trail towards Dundas valley normally but it would be nice to have a change. Tried the rail/escarpment trail that goes east starting near Corktown park but getting there was not for me. I had a two year old in a bike seat and my oldest riding with me. Very stressful getting there. I'd like to judge the Cannon track for myself but I suspect getting to it would be much like that east rail trail adventure. I'll pass for now.

I haven't heard of anyone being hit there BTW.

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By Nope (anonymous) | Posted October 07, 2015 at 08:33:34 in reply to Comment 114089

Then pushing the same flawed design on other streets until we have bizarre 3-step bike turning rules for each intersection. Yeah I think you know where I'm coming from.

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By Nope (anonymous) | Posted October 07, 2015 at 08:45:49 in reply to Comment 114097

Search cbc.ca/Hamilton for "cannon street"

And this is just what's been deemed interesting enough to make the news.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 07, 2015 at 10:01:06 in reply to Comment 114061

Ditto. I'm a cyclist and I'm actually disappointed to hear their plans for Bay is a bike-lane. Bay will need two-way traffic even more urgently when LRT goes in, as we saw with the Bus Lane thing - vehicular traffic will be taking Cannon to bypass downtown. If they want to go to a destination along King West, how do they get there? Well, if it's west of Queen, they have to do a weird zig-zag where they use the special U-turn lane to pull onto York Boulevard, then back up to Caroline to get to King. Or they can crawl up James or John and slog through the core of the city where all the buses and the LRT are stopping. Or they can do some crazy loop via Queen->Main->Bay.

I want a north-south bike-lane, but I'd gladly take any other street instead of Bay if we could get two-way Bay and fix the broken wayfinding downtown. Give us cyclists Hughson and Hess (or Caroline if we could get a path across Sir John A's parking lot) and just make Bay a regular 2-way street.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted October 07, 2015 at 10:38:31 in reply to Comment 114114

Hmm. Ok, now I have heard of someone being hit there... Maybe some cyclists are too trusting of the drivers they're riding next to? My assumption would be that a driver that is approaching an intersection and not signaling is going to turn simply because that is a possibility. I was a motorcycle driver for fifteen years and quickly learned that I have to assume the worst of the drivers around me. This is because, like a cyclist, I was on the most vulnerable vehicle on the road.

It's 'nice' to know that this is happening there actually because when I finally do get down there it'll be something to look out for. (I'll be that annoying guy stopping at every intersection).

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted October 07, 2015 at 11:20:15 in reply to Comment 114122

I often get dirty looks from car drivers just for riding next to them! Not eating dead babies people - just riding a bike...jeez.

Anyway, I was thinking the same thing about culture change. As time passes people will become more accustomed to the new infrastructure and hopefully these incidents will decline.

This is one reason why I don't like the idea of 'trial' changes like the bus lane on King. It gives people the impression that this 'thing' will soon go away and so they can resist changing to accommodate it. If a bike lane or dedicated bus lane just becomes the new normal then people will eventually adjust.

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By logonfire (registered) | Posted November 06, 2015 at 16:53:12

I was interested in the judgmental comment about the wealthy people on Bay Street between Aberdeen and Herkimer on Bay not wishing to relinquish parking on both sides of the street. Guess what, if you walk along that part of the street, they all have their own private parking! The truth is that it is used all day by people who either work at St. Joe's or who can't afford the parking at the hospital and use this stretch which is the closest street parking available! Just pity the poor workers or out of town visitors when this parking ability gets chopped!!

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