Special Report: Cycling

Easy, Minor Cycling Improvements Possible on Concession

Cycling is big business in cities all over the world, but unfortunately Hamilton City Hall hasn't yet received the memo.

By Jason Leach
Published November 16, 2015

Merchants, transit users and area residents were thrilled last week to see Concession Street re-opened across the northern edge of the Mountain.

New zebra crosswalk (Image Credit: Ryan McGreal)
New zebra crosswalk on Concession (Image Credit: Ryan McGreal)

Bumpout and tiger tail on Concession (Image Credit: Ryan McGreal)
Bumpout and tiger tail on Concession (Image Credit: Ryan McGreal)

This is the only multi-block retail district on the Mountain built in a walkable, urban form. With new benches, lighting and a few zebra crosswalks, the area is certainly more walkable than it was prior to the full reconstruction project.

No Cycling Infrastructure

Cycling is big business in cities all over the world, but unfortunately Hamilton City Hall hasn't yet received the memo.

Hamilton's Escarpment running through the city affords us a great opportunity for a dramatic local cycling route connecting with both the Escarpment Rail Trail to the east Mountain and Chedoke Radial Trail to the west.

I attempted a 30 km 'Escarpment Loop' ride last week and quickly determined that I won't be making that ride again, at least not until the massive swath from Upper Ottawa to Scenic Drive is safe to cycle. (More on that in a future photo tour with some of the best, and very worst of Hamilton's cycling network.)

There are some fabulous businesses on Concession, and if the area wasn't so hostile to cyclists it would be a great mid-ride stop for a coffee or bite to eat. Like many cyclists, I routinely map out rides that involve stops at places such as Detour Coffee, Democracy, Dundurn Market, Cannon Coffee, Mulberry, and others that are connected to the cycling network and enjoyable places to stop for a breather and people-watch.

Concession Street has the potential to be virtually the only spot on the Mountain where one can people-watch on a pedestrian friendly street, and enjoy a quick snack or coffee (hint, hint).

Cyclist riding in mixed traffic on Concession (Image Credit: Ryan McGreal)
Cyclist riding in mixed traffic on Concession (Image Credit: Ryan McGreal)

Sadly, the new Concession Street is no better than the old one as far as cyclists are concerned. On opening day, Friday, November 13, I was already hearing stories about cyclists almost getting hit by cars on Concession, and other cyclists riding on sidewalks.

Despite the new lanes being painted on the roadway, there is an opportunity at either end of the commercial district to implement simple fixes that could encourage cyclists to come to Concession using nothing more than paint.

Upper Wentworth to Sam Lawrence Park

This stretch has an abundance of wasted road space in the form of hashed-off asphalt, a full lane that is barely used as a right turn lane to East 15th, and turning lanes into Tim Hortons and Shoppers Drug Mart. Public money spent on a public roadway should be focused on public transportation, not turning lanes into private parking lots.

Concession Street near Sam Lawrence Park (Image Credit: Ryan McGreal)
Concession Street near Sam Lawrence Park (Image Credit: Ryan McGreal)

There is a simple solution for this stretch. Remove the second eastbound lane on Concession from Sam Lawrence to E15th and redistribute those ten feet of roadway with five-foot-wide bike lanes on either side of the street.

At E15th, the sidewalk pinches as a bumpout and large, visible bike sharrows should be used to continue the cycling 'infrastructure' east to Belwood Ave where through cyclists can head north to the Mountain Brow.

A block or so past E15th, the street widens again with a turning lane into Tim Hortons, and painted off 'dead space':

Hashed-off pavement on Concession at Upper Wentworth (Image Credit: Ryan McGreal)
Hashed-off pavement on Concession at Upper Wentworth (Image Credit: Ryan McGreal)

This extra road space would again allow for bike lanes on either side over to Upper Wentworth, where bike lanes are planned at some point southbound from Concession.

East of Upper Wentworth

From this point, again, large sharrows look to be the only option east of Concession to allow cyclists into the heart of the commercial district.

Sharrows on Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo (RTH file photo)
Sharrows on Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo (RTH file photo)

Along the Mountain Brow east of Concession, there is again ample roadspace for bike lanes from the top of the Kenilworth traffic circle westbound right to Upper Sherman and the eastern entrance to the commercial district.

Again, large, bold sharrows would be needed in the centre of the street directing autos and cyclists to share the retail district of Concession.

Concession very wide at E37th (RTH file photo)
Concession very wide at E37th (RTH file photo)

These minor changes would create much safer cycling conditions on the wider, faster edges of the retail district and could allow businesses to add bike parking and cyclists promotions to lure in riders from around the city.

With the fabulous views of the city one block north of Concession, and the ever-growing stable of businesses on the street, it could become a hub for cyclists on the edge of Hamilton Mountain.

Concession Street reconstructed (Image Credit: Ryan McGreal)
Concession Street reconstructed (Image Credit: Ryan McGreal)

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

14 Comments

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 16, 2015 at 08:48:38

Given that Concession was reconstructed completely, sidewalks and all, it would have been vastly easier to redesign it with continuous cycling infrastructure along its full length than it will be to try and shoehorn bike lanes into the layout that was finalized and built. This is a failure of vision and leadership from the local Ward 7 councillor, Scott Duvall, who also had bike lanes removed from Queensdale when it was recently resurfaced. (Duvall just resigned his council seat to serve as the NDP MP for Hamilton Mountain.)

But it's also a failure of the City's "Shifting Gears" Cycling Master Plan, which, as Duvall pointed out last week on Twitter, doesn't specify bike lanes on Concession: "Bike Lanes were not recommended for Concession In the Cycling Master Plan".

This is just one way in which our Cycling Master Plan acts as a limit on growth in our cycling network. Unlike the recently-approved Pedestrian Mobility Plan, which advocates "routine accommodation" of walking on every street, the Cycling Master Plan defines a set of streets that might get some form of cycling infrastructure and by default excludes every street that is not specifically defined. In addition, Councillors gave themselves the right to veto projects in their own wards, which both Duvall and Ward 6 Councillor Tom Jackson have exercised.

The result is a fragmentary bike lane network and huge wasted opportunities to add facilities during once-in-a-generation road reconstructions.

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted November 16, 2015 at 08:56:28 in reply to Comment 114850

oh, and don't forget, these same councillors whine and cry when they aren't loaded up with Sobi hubs.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 16, 2015 at 11:16:20

I keep dreaming of the day when the ward boundaries are re-drawn and the North Mountain gets its own councilor to properly look out for it instead of suburbia. The north-south stretched wards of the mountain effectively gerrymanders it into voting suburban even where it isn't.

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By Graham Thomas (anonymous) | Posted November 16, 2015 at 12:02:27

Hamilton missed the mark again. Unbelievable, in the process of redeveloping the area it's hard to think a city planner or someone wouldn't stop and attempt to include what has made so many other cities people places. Would have been good for business, environment and livability. Looks like a concrete jungle with a 1950's approach and mindset. Ugly and no imagination. Wow!!

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By Bob50 (anonymous) | Posted November 16, 2015 at 12:33:47

I've recently moved to the Concession St area it's a nice walkable urban neighbourhood. It's disappointing the city didn't include bike lanes as Jason mentioned in his post. It would be nice to see the city do something to better connect Concession to the lower city. They could modernize the Wentworth St.stairs including bike gutters. Perhaps even an escalator like some cities have done to make it more accessible for people to conveniently move between the upper and lower city

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted November 16, 2015 at 17:36:30 in reply to Comment 114854

Escalator might cost too much operationally -- electricity is enormous for a long/multistage escalator. To protect it from the elements, you'd need a long shelter for it (like Ontario Science Centre, only much longer -- and probably heated) and this will cost far more than a gondola, and require dynamiting the escarpment -- something not easy to sell to the population nowadays.

A basic small-capsule gondola uses relatively little wattage, and little escarpment modification, and could be done relatively inexpensively here, 500 meters east of the BIA:

Imgur

This is accessible (1 wheelchair, plus a bike hook), so families with strollers can use it.

It could be an opportunity to extend the BIA revitalization eastwards past the Juravinski Hospital.
Although you do have to walk past some old apartment blocks (that looks in relatively poor shape) next to Concession Park. I'm not sure how long these apartment blocks will last, but if they fall apart in 20 years.... Then this might be a future opportunity to rebuild some better mixed-income-retail development someday right next to Concession Park, to extend the BIA right up to the Gage-Mountain Park Gondola, perhaps after it's already built.

There's a Beckett Drive gondola as well, in the Hamilton Trails Master Plan, though does not currently include the proposed Gage-Mountain Park Gondola.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-11-16 18:48:08

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted November 16, 2015 at 14:49:10

I've helped bring attention to an error by the construction staff.

The BIA thanked me & will raise it up at the next meeting:

Mark Rejhon ‏@mdrejhon 22 hours ago

  • @ConcessionBIA I like the new sidewalks! That said, certain benches (E18th St) uncomfortably close to road. Adjust? [Photo of mis-installed bench]

Concession St. BIA ‏@ConcessionBIA 7 hours ago

  • @mdrejhon thank you Mark! Will look into this asap!!!

Mark Rejhon ‏@mdrejhon 5 hours ago

  • @ConcessionBIA I saw a horizontal line where bench should go; but maybe worker misinterpreted arrow as "move it there" than "face that way"?

Concession St. BIA ‏@ConcessionBIA 5 hours ago

  • @mdrejhon thanks again!!!

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-11-16 15:50:42

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted November 16, 2015 at 17:58:31 in reply to Comment 114855

at least they didn't install it like this one on York Blvd:

https://raisethehammer.org/static/images...

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted November 16, 2015 at 14:54:56 in reply to Comment 114855

That is too funny! What were the installers thinking? Probably 'Let's get this !@#$ thing screwed in and go for a coffee'.

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By walter_hbd (registered) | Posted November 16, 2015 at 22:47:23

Cycling on the mountain is a joke, set one wheel on a main road and you literally get shouted at

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By Vincent (anonymous) | Posted November 17, 2015 at 06:20:45

Concession street desperately needs trees. I saw the photo with the street with trees and immediately thought, oh ya that looks nice. Then soon after realized that it was Buffalo.

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted November 17, 2015 at 14:19:23

Was on Concession today. Few observations:

  • while I was driving around 50-55km along Concession heading E from Upp Wellington, a guy in a pick-up passed me at around 70-80k. Why? Because he can. In fact, he is encouraged to by a street design that has built an entirely empty, useless lane next to the sidewalk from Sam Lawrence Park to E 15th. City Hall will be pleased to know that the grand Hamilton tradition of screaming along at highway speeds inches from pedestrians is alive and well.

  • the speed humps and 30km speed limit all along Mountain Park Ave are gone. Because Mtn Park needs to be 50k with no traffic calming. 20-minute city is clearly alive and well.

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted November 18, 2015 at 20:28:49

This is so discouraging. And to think Scott Duvall was elected to be the federal rep for this area after his poor record on progressive policies. Sad.

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted November 25, 2015 at 09:13:56

As was pointed out by someone, why on earth was Concession not lined with trees with this rebuild? Especially since the city added those rather useless stretches of orange concrete. Perfect spot to add a tree canopy with open garden bases to divert rainwater from city sewers. Instead we pave over everything in sight and then complain about the load on our storm water system.

Parkdale North was rebuilt like this about 25 years ago. In other words, Hamilton hasn't touched their road re-building manual in at least a few decades.

Downtown Stoney Creek also just got the same treatment as Parkdale/Concession: http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showpost...

Meanwhile in Toronto, they recently rebuilt Roncesvalles Ave: https://roncyworks.files.wordpress.com/2...

How Hamilton can continue trotting out old infrastructure projects with zero thought towards cyclists, water diversion or tree canopies is really quite mind-boggling.

Comment edited by JasonL on 2015-11-25 10:20:09

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