Special Report: Cycling

Viking Biking, Hamilton Style

The more we build for a city where people have real choices in how to get around, the more choices people will make.

By Jason Leach
Published January 14, 2016

As we all know, no one rides a bike in winter so there's no point in wasting money clearing bike lanes (or building them in the first place, for that matter!). Except that when a city does build bike lanes and keeps them clear, people go ahead and use them!

Here are some photos I took around town yesterday of people taking advantage of the City of Hamilton's newfound commitment to keep its bike lanes clear and accessible.

Enjoying a clear bike lane on Dundurn near Earl Kitchener School
Enjoying a clear bike lane on Dundurn near Earl Kitchener School

Crossing James on the Cannon Cycle Track
Crossing James on the Cannon Cycle Track

Riding south on Ferguson past a Hamilton Bike Share hub
Riding south on Ferguson past a Hamilton Bike Share hub

Signing out a Bike Share bike at Locke and Hunter
Signing out a Bike Share bike at Locke and Hunter

Bike Share ridership is down this week, of course, but despite the cold and snowy, windy weather, the system has still averaged over 250 trips and almost 400 kilometres a day since Monday.

Here's a bike share heatmap for the period of Monday, December 11 to Wednesday, December 13:

Hamilton Bike Share heatmap, December 11-13
Hamilton Bike Share heatmap, December 11-13

And that's only Bike Share rides, which represent just a small percentage of total bike rides.

The day got colder after the sun went behind clouds, but despite temperatures close to -10C with a wind chill closer to -20C, people kept riding all day - especially on the city's most accessible, physically protected cycle track on Cannon Street.

Cyclists on Cannon near Victoria
Cyclists on Cannon near Victoria

Multiple cyclists on Cannon near Wellington
Multiple cyclists on Cannon near Wellington

Visibility of bike lanes is more important than ever on snowy days
Visibility of bike lanes is more important than ever on snowy days

Bikes parked outside the YMCA at James and Jackson
Bikes parked outside the YMCA at James and Jackson (Image Credit: Ryan McGreal)

The bike rack at the Hunter GO Station was about half-full
The bike rack at the Hunter GO Station was about half-full (Image Credit: Ryan McGreal)

Maybe we're finally starting to turn the corner
Maybe we're finally starting to turn the corner

While the City seems to be getting better at clearing bike lanes, some of them were still covered in snow and slush later in the day. Once that stuff freezes, the bike lane can become impassable for a long time.

Snow-covered bike lane and sidewalk on Young Street west of Wellington (Image Credit: Ryan McGreal)
Snow-covered bike lane and sidewalk on Young Street west of Wellington (Image Credit: Ryan McGreal)

And while it's not quite on topic, I also noticed lots of jammed buses and bikes parked at bus stops throughout the city. I'd love to find out how many more transit riders there are on snow days, when people are uncomfortable driving in icy conditions.

Waiting for the GO bus
Waiting for the GO bus

Big crowd of HSR riders in early afternoon
Big crowd of HSR riders in early afternoon

We get the city we build for. It's really that simple. The more we build for a city where people have real choices in how to get around, the more choices people will make.

With files from 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.

8 Comments

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted January 14, 2016 at 15:14:15

Here are a few aspirational videos of what we could be like here in Hamilton all winter long. See:

https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/tag/s...

http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/sea...

http://wintercyclingblog.org/2014/10/17/...

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted January 14, 2016 at 19:01:05

Good stuff! The heatmap is particularly telling. More people are brightly lighting up the more attractive bike routes such as the Cannon cycle track. People driving on Main/King will see virtually no bikes, it almost doesn't show up on this heatmap.

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By huh (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2016 at 20:27:11

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted January 14, 2016 at 21:51:05 in reply to Comment 116066

what if I told you it was possible for bike lanes to not be plowed one week, then plowed much better the next week?

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By huh (anonymous) | Posted January 15, 2016 at 17:45:54 in reply to Comment 116067

What if I told you we see the some articles from you one week, then the same articles from you the next week?

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted January 16, 2016 at 17:25:11 in reply to Comment 116086

Nothing new -- TheSpec, TheStar, CNN, FoxNews, CTV, CBC, name your media, they invariably report how terrible a response to a problem/flaw/incident/disaster/etc is and then report the good side of the same like firefighters/etc helping people, or city worker following up, etc.

It's always good to follow bad news with some positive news, especially as a thank-you to hard-working government workers of all kinds.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2016-01-16 17:26:10

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 15, 2016 at 10:13:15

I have to agree - there were some little snow-boulders ruining lanes after the initial snowfall of this winter, but since then everything has been great.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted January 16, 2016 at 17:28:49 in reply to Comment 116071

It seems some heads did roll, possibly.

Today, I went to 541 Cafe in the early afternoon (Jan 16), and saw 4 cyclists near me on Cannon while crossing through from Main to Barton. So observations are consistent with the writings of increased winter cycling compared to last year. Cycle track also looked salted too, not just the road.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2016-01-16 17:30:41

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