Special Report: Cycling

No Sense of Urgency for Claremont Cycle Track

According to a new staff report, it will be close to two years before the City builds a protected cycling facility on the Claremont Access.

By Ryan McGreal
Published January 15, 2016

On Wednesday, December 2, 2015, Jay Keddy was killed while riding his bicycle up the Claremont Access after work. Keddy was a popular Kindergarten teacher at Prince of Wales School and his death, Hamilton's 16th traffic fatality of 2015, evoked an outpouring of grief and frustration that Hamilton streets remain among the most dangerous in the Province for people to walk or cycle while the City continues to fall behind in its already-modest plan to build a cycling network.

'Ghost bike' memorial placed where Jay Keddy was killed on the Claremont Access (RTH file photo)
'Ghost bike' memorial placed where Jay Keddy was killed on the Claremont Access (RTH file photo)

Reacting to the tragedy, Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead quickly introduced a motion to expedite the construction of a protected cycle track on the Claremont Access.

Unfortunately, a little over a month later, the sense of urgency that prompted Council to approve the motion already seems to have dissipated.

At the January 19, 2016 General Issues Committee meeting, Public Works staff will present a report to Councillors with a distressingly lackadaisical timeline for a project that could be designed and built very quickly.

We can't directly link to the report since the City's meeting website is an unusable quagmire, but it's item 4.1 and 4.2 on the linked agenda.

Claremont Cycle Track, initial design concept (City of Hamilton)
Claremont Cycle Track, initial design concept (City of Hamilton)

According to the update, staff will investigate the various design considerations and "report back in the 4th quarter of 2016 with recommendations and costing for approval as recommendations and costing for approval as part of the 2017 Capital Budget."

In other words, we shouldn't expect installation of a cycle track on Claremont for close to two years at least.

The report lists the design considerations that staff will need to make when designing the facility: public input; connectivity options; safety considerations at potential conflict points between cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles; collision data; current and future traffic capacity and routing; operations and maintenance; design options; review of potential funding sources; project co-ordination; and project priority in the context of already-approved cycling projects.

These are all important considerations, but there is no reason, aside from an utter lack of urgency, why we can't go through a good three-month consultation and design process and have a good plan ready to build this summer.

None of the technical challenges are particularly difficult, and the Claremont Access has the benefit of be grossly overbuilt for the traffic it carries. The easternmost downbound lane was closed permanently a few years ago after a rock slide, and that lost lane has had exactly zero impact on vehicle traffic flows.

The biggest capital cost will be the physical barriers - likely jersey barriers - which would cost something on the order of around $300,000 to run from Wellington and Jackson to Southam Park.

A city that is spending $45 million on a highway bypassing Waterdown cannot plausibly claim that this is an unaffordable investment in letting people cycle up and down the escarpment without risking death.

The report also includes a map of current and planned cycling connections around the Claremont Access.

Claremont Access cycling connectivity map (City of Hamilton)
Claremont Access cycling connectivity map (City of Hamilton)

Incredibly, the map shows the Jolley Cut as an existing street with cycling infrastructure. That would be the skinny painted bike lane that a) only runs upbound and b) doesn't even start until one-third of the way up the route.

That fragmentary, dangerous partial bike lane is part of why we need a safe, protected escarpment access in the first place!

The Council vote for a Claremont bicycle access was an acknowledgment that the City is not doing enough to make its streets safer and more inclusive. We have not dedicated enough resources to designing new cycling infrastructure and building the network. We have set the bar too low in terms of both quality and timeliness, and we are falling farther and farther behind with each year.

This is not the fault of City staff: Council signs the budget and Council sets the agenda. If Council commits - really commits - to becoming a leader in making Hamilton a safer, more inclusive, more sustainable city, we will start to see the sense of urgency and dedication to high quality from staff that these projects demand.

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 let's be real (anonymous) | Posted January 15, 2016 at 13:18:07

To be fair, it is possible that the staff whose job it is to handle this, already have their time dedicated to other projects. If we expected staff to always drop everything to get something done that suddenly comes up, then nothing would ever get done.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 15, 2016 at 14:03:53 in reply to Comment 116074

The thing is that we've gotten very used to this kind fo problem with cycling infrastructure. I think it was two years ago where the cycling office ended up not even spending the lion's share of their budget (which was returned to general coffers, not rolled over to next year) because they hadn't gotten around to building anything. And as you can see from the picture up top, much cycling plan has not been implemented.

So literally, we have cases where builds are planned and budgeted but they simply don't bother to get around to them at all.

This is the same city that has been procrastinating on approved 2-way conversions for 15 years.

So yes, I think grousing about the city's sluggish timelines is often appropriate.

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By Heman (anonymous) | Posted January 15, 2016 at 13:54:20 in reply to Comment 116074

What else exactly are they so busy doing that should take priority over people's physical safety?

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By let's be real (anonymous) | Posted January 15, 2016 at 14:02:17 in reply to Comment 116076

They're also working on other bike lane projects. For example, Charlton, Herkimer, Bay, and a few others that I'm forgetting. The backlog here is on the planning side, implementation won't take long for these Claremont lanes but seemingly the planning staff doesn't have capacity right now.

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted January 15, 2016 at 14:11:00 in reply to Comment 116078

considering the largest % of our annual budget goes to roads, I'm going to guess that 3 bike lanes aren't what's keeping staff too busy....

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By let's be real (anonymous) | Posted January 15, 2016 at 14:13:48 in reply to Comment 116080

Might be worth attending the monthly cycling committee meeting to see what they're up to and inquire as to why all this stuff is taking so long. There's valid concerns here.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted January 15, 2016 at 16:00:09 in reply to Comment 116081

How many planners are working on the cycling projects?

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By let's be mediocre (anonymous) | Posted January 15, 2016 at 13:35:49 in reply to Comment 116074

Hamilton, the $1.5 Billion corporation that can only do one thing at a time.

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted January 15, 2016 at 14:00:31 in reply to Comment 116075

I bet we could remove more than 1 transit lane at a time....if we ever had more than 1

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted January 15, 2016 at 16:27:49 in reply to Comment 116077

The one we had was removed within 48 hours of the Council resolution. When has a project EVER moved that fast?

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By silly (anonymous) | Posted January 15, 2016 at 23:07:28 in reply to Comment 116084

Lots. Go back and look.

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By What Happened? (anonymous) | Posted January 15, 2016 at 14:55:26

Whatever happened to the driver who was in control of the vehicle involved in Keddy's demise?

I remember police said the vehicle (a pickup truck, IIRC) had been located, but that was the end of the story it seems.

Is this another case of 'we can't identify the driver' or is there some other complication like 'my vehicle is so large and its sight lines so poor that I never saw any cyclist'?

As to why the death vehicle didn't stop, wouldn't that be a case of fail to remain at the least? Unless, 'My truck has 22" wheels and I didn't notice any bumps on the road that night' is considered to be a reasonable explanation.

Is it possible that nobody was ever cited in Jay Keddy's death?

Has anyone ever viewed the accident report, assuming one was created?

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted January 15, 2016 at 16:30:22

Ryan wrote:

"Incredibly, the map shows the Jolley Cut as an existing street with cycling infrastructure. That would be the skinny painted bike lane that a) only runs upbound and b) doesn't even start until one-third of the way up the route."

Kevin's comment:

Actually, it is even worse than you suspect. The City of Hamilton counts the useless sharrows that start at the bottom of the Jolley Cut as "cycling infrastructure."

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2016-01-15 16:30:32

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By HAMMER BIKER (anonymous) | Posted January 16, 2016 at 17:50:41

Thanks for the article, Ryan .

I use the Jolly cut to get to and from work, and I don't ever use the 'bike lane'. When they completed the road work two years earlier and decided that they would make a bike lane by putting up a sign, indicating it was a bike lane, I laughed.
There have certainly been improvements in Hamilton with respect to bike lane safety, but the Jolly cut is not one of those examples.

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted January 17, 2016 at 09:11:58

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted January 17, 2016 at 23:04:26 in reply to Comment 116098

I checked prices on concrete jersey barriers. In a good quantity, you only need to spend a few hundred thousand for the length of Claremont to fully protect the lane (aren't you pro-separation? Jersey barrers would pretty much create a complete separate, protected area)

I also checked prices of bike lifts / incline liefts / bike-friendly gondolas -- they seem to be costing much more in the "millions" league.

Isn't it possible that creating a theoretical "Keddy Cycleway" on Claremont out of simple jersey concrete barriers -- may actually be the cheapest and most cost-effective way to add another cycle route up the escarpment? It's separated after all, it doesn't create Niagara Escarpment Commission concerns (cutting down trees to prevent leaves jamming a bike lift; or keeping the lift clean/working -- consider that another taxpayer maintenance cost). With a strong concrete jersey barrier like Terry Whitehead seems to be suggesting (he said it would not be just a pained line), it's full traffic separation which you have said in the past, that you prefer?

Also while Rail Trail is fun, it's not necessarily the fastest way to get to many points of the mountain. There needs to be multiple ways for bikes to get up/down at different points of the escarpment. Consder Mohawk University students, as an example. The rail trail goes in the opposite direction away from the University, to literally the opposite side of the city at the top of the escarpment.

No comment on the rest of your commentary, except to neutrally provide the above data/info for due consideration, and let the city experts decide prudently.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2016-01-17 23:11:09

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted January 18, 2016 at 06:23:39 in reply to Comment 116103

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted January 18, 2016 at 04:52:09 in reply to Comment 116103

...Mohawk College, of course.

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By Nailed It (anonymous) | Posted January 17, 2016 at 12:25:42 in reply to Comment 116098

Concern trolling at its finest!

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By midge (anonymous) | Posted January 17, 2016 at 09:39:02 in reply to Comment 116098

I don't think I've ever read so much bullshit in one comment,try carrying a bike up the Wentworth Stairs if you think it's a "safe, effective alternative" and that's after having to go out of your way east to the bottom and then end up way out of your way at the top. The Chedoke steps are even farther out of the way to the west! And for many people riding a bike is about getting there on your own power not riding on a bus. As for " Of course ensuring public safety is not the real end game of all involved in this conversation" you've made it very clear safety is not your real concern or you would SUPPORT a protected bike lane on Claremont Access it's exactly what you keep saying you want, separating cyclists from drivers but all you really care about is keeping streets for cars and not having to give up any space. So just be honest and admit it so we can have a honest debate.

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted January 19, 2016 at 05:56:35 in reply to Comment 116099

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By midge (anonymous) | Posted January 19, 2016 at 08:24:45 in reply to Comment 116143

You say you want to keep cars and bikes separate but you are opposed to any plan to keep cars and bikes separate by setting up separate space for bikes. What you really want is to not have to give up any room for your car to bikes, even on a street that has extra lanes it doesn't need. You're a selfish pig, we get it.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted January 17, 2016 at 12:12:25 in reply to Comment 116099

Don't forget this disingenuous dickhead believes that accidents between pedestrians and cars are 'almost always' the pedestrians 'fault'. Never mind the end result which is the death or injury of a human being.

So, you've got an idea which side of the fence he's on.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted January 18, 2016 at 13:25:30

I was at a meeting of the Hamilton Cycling Committee when it was suggested that the barrier be moved to provide a protected cycle lane. Staff response was that this barrier protected cyclists from falling rocks.

My suggestion was that we run a “risk priority experiment.” People would have a choice about which side of the barrier to cycle on. Signs would warn of the danger due to falling rocks on one side and of the danger due to being people crushed by motor vehicles on the other side. Then we could set up automatic counters and see which danger people considered the greatest.

My suggestion was not acted upon, but it seems to me to be a valuable experiment. I would be willing to bet upon which danger most people would consider more serious. But it is good to have actual data.

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By Crispy (registered) | Posted January 19, 2016 at 08:38:51 in reply to Comment 116115

I highly doubt that the City's risk management department would want anything to do with such an experiment.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted January 19, 2016 at 19:18:08 in reply to Comment 116147

As opposed to the actual experiment currently being conducted of having zero protection? Gee, wonder what happens when we mix squishy people with two-tonne lethal weapons?

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted January 19, 2016 at 19:37:42 in reply to Comment 116163

the street at the bottom is residential, and the street at the top is largely residential with a small street biz district north of Fennell. And these two residential neighbourhoods need a 7 lane expressway between them is???

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted January 18, 2016 at 14:05:34

Clever thought experiment! It makes you think.

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted January 19, 2016 at 05:53:24 in reply to Comment 116117

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