Special Report: Cycling

Some Proposed Cycling Improvements for Westdale and Ainslie Wood

Following is a set of suggestions for how we might end up with a cycling network through Westdale and West Hamilton that leaves us in better shape than what we have today.

By Ryan McGreal
Published January 30, 2017

The City is considering removing the new proposed bike lanes on Main Street West between Cootes Drive and Highway 403, a frustrating state of affairs that risks undermining the success of the Provincial investment in Light Rail Transit (LRT) by trying to preserve the status quo.

Due to the alignment of streets in Ainslie Wood and Westdale, in combination with the physical barrier of Highway 403, there are not many options for connecting east-west within West Hamilton or across to adjacent neighbourhoods.

Given the paucity of alternative routes, the loss of a dedicated cycle track on Main West is a major blow to the neighbourhoods that flank Main.

There is one encouraging note: Metrolinx and the City have said they are committed to maintaining or replacing this planned cycling infrastructure around the LRT line.

City staff plan to schedule a meeting with the cycling community in February or March to get feedback on possible alternative routes, not only detours during construction but also permanent routes once the LRT is completed.

Proposed cycling facilities in Westdale and Ainslie Wood (Image Credit: Google Maps)
Proposed cycling facilities in Westdale and Ainslie Wood (Image Credit: Google Maps)

It's hopeful that the City and Metrolinx are looking to the cycling community for guidance on how best to proceed, rather than imposing a direction from the top-down.

Following is a set of suggestions for how we might end up with a cycling network through Westdale and West Hamilton that leaves us in better shape than what we have today.

Westdale

Westdale is a master-planned neighbourhood designed in the 1910s in the "City Beautiful" style with its suburban streets as a set of concentric rings around a denser central business district (CBD) on King Street West. This makes for some challenges for designing cycling routes since, for obvious reasons, any human-powered vehicle wants to take the shortest, most direct route.

Following is a map of possible cycling routes connecting within Westdale and through to other parts of the City.

Proposed Westdale cycling facilities (Image Credit: Google Maps)
Proposed Westdale cycling facilities (Image Credit: Google Maps)

The blue lines represent existing or planned cycling facilities, the red line represents the proposed Main Street bike lanes threatened with cancellation, and the green lines represent proposed alternative routes.

King Street

The primary east-west corridor through Westdale, King Street West, is one lane in each direction with curbside parking on both sides. There are currently bike lanes on part of King Street, but they stop between Cline Avenue on the east side and, er, Cline Avenue on the west side. (Cline is one of those concentric ring streets.)

The most straightforward improvement is to connect the King Street bike lanes through central Westdale. This creates a continuous bike route from east of Highway 403 right to McMaster University, via either King Street itself or Sterling Street.

Unfortunately, connecting those bike lanes through the centre of the business district will be a tough sell. Local merchants tend to revolt at the prospect of removing curbside parking to make room for bike lanes.

In response, I would encourage the Westdale BIA to survey customers and find out how people are getting to local stores, if the BIA has not already done so.

While retail business owners often assume everyone drives, walkable urban CBDs like Westdale tend to generate a very high proportion of walking, cycling and transit trips. In other cities that have replaced parking with bike lanes, retail sales have actually gone up.

The obvious problem with re-routing bike trips around the CBD rather than through it is that it diverts bikes away from all the trip generators along the business corridor: shops, restaurants, cafes, library, residences, and so on.

Cline

If King bike lanes are a total non-starter, we can at least connect the King Street bike lanes east and west of downtown via Cline Avenue, a residential street that curves around the CBD to the north. Cline carries less than 300 cars a day, which makes it an excellent candidate for a neighbourhood greenway.

A neighbourhood greenway is a residential side street that allows local driving but prioritizes walking and cycling and discourages cut-through driving by design.

Local residents like greenways because they reduce dangerous, speeding traffic and greenways are proven to attract significant numbers of people to choose cycling due to the design, which emphasizes safety and inclusion.

Dalewood-Marion-Arkell

Given the density of both university students and families living in Westdale, I think there's a strong case to be made for most or all of its residential streets to be made as walking- and cycling-friendly as possible - especially given that Main Street is going to be six driving lanes in each direction, plus centre-running LRT.

We need an alternate east-west route running parallel to Main that serves Westdale, and the best candidate is Arkell Street, which runs just north of Main.

With some imagination, we can solve several transportation problems with a greenway running on Arkell between Cline and Bond, then continuing northwest on Marion to the Aviary, and doubling back southwest on Dalewood Crescent to connect with the Sterling Street bike lanes.

This gets east- and westbound bike traffic off Main Street and connects to Longwood, King, and the Waterfront Trail. The Marion leg crosses the centre of the Westdale CBD, providing bike access to the retail destinations, and the Dalewood Crescent leg supports bike access into Westdale and out to McMaster for people living in the north end of the neighbourhood.

In all cases, the greenway design benefits local residents by reducing dangerous cut-through speeding.

North and South Oval

Another option for improving bike and pedestrian access to the CBD is to configure North Oval and South Oval as a greenway circulator that gets bikes very close to King Street.

We can close the loop by using the laneway behind Westdale Library to connect North Oval with South oval on the east side.

Main West

I know that this article has been triggered by the proposal to take Main Street bike lanes off the table, but there is one segment that is really non-negotiable: the segment of Main between Longwood Road and Macklin Street.

To the west of this stretch, there are currently bike lanes on Longwood north of Main and more bike lanes are planned for Longwood south of Main. To the east, there is a short, fragmentary protected two-way cycle track on Main between Macklin and Frid.

I really don't see any way to cut out that section of Main entirely without forcing local bike trips to go far out of their way. I would urge the City and Metrolinx to do everything they can to keep the existing short cycle track and extend it at least to Longwood.

Ainslie Wood

It is in Ainslie Wood that the barrier of Highwauy 403 really gets in the way of convenient bike connectivity. If bike lanes on Main Street are taken off the table, it becomes necessary to look for the least cumbersome detour alternatives.

Following is a map of possible routes connecting within Ainslie Wood and through to other parts of the city.

Proposed Ainslie Wood cycling facilities (Image Credit: Google Maps)
Proposed Ainslie Wood cycling facilities (Image Credit: Google Maps)

The blue lines represent existing or planned cycling facilities, the red line represents the proposed Main Street bike lanes threatened with cancellation, and the green lines represent proposed alternative routes.

Haddon-Stroud-Royal-Horning

Just west of Cline on the south side of Main, Haddon Avenue South carries less than 300 cars a day. That makes it an excellent candidate for a greenway that connects to Stroud Road and the Rail Trail, which provides an alternate route across Highway 403.

Now continue the greenway along Stroud to Royal Avenue, which connects to a greenbelt at Bowman Street. A paved multi-use path along that greenbelt can take bike trips across Broadway Avenue, Emerson Street, and all the way to Iona Avenue in south Ainslie Wood.

Iona, in turn, ends at another informal trail cutting across the Hydro corridor to Lower Horning Road. Again, a paved multi-use path on this trail will connect all the houses around Lower Horning.

Lower Horning goes the way to White Chapel Memorial Gardens. The cemetery fronts onto Main Street heading up the escarpment to Ancaster, where it turns into Wilson Street past Filman Road and has existing bike lanes.

Sussex-Westwood

The closest thing to an east-west route parallel to Main Street runs in a jagged line between Leland and Haddon.

A greenway running along Sussex, jogging north on Bowman to Westwood and continuing across Stroud gives us connections to the Cootes Path on the west and the Haddon Greenway on the east, with paths on both ends to the Rail Trail.

In addition, the north-south cross-streets - Emerson, Broadway, Bowman, Winston, Stroud and Dalewood - should also be redesigned to calm dangerous speeding and prioritize walking and cycling in the manner of a greenway.

Whitney Avenue

Whitney Avenue runs between Main Street West heading up the escarpment to Ancaster and Emerson Street. It's quite wide and can accommodate bike lanes. This would connect to the existing bike lanes heading up to Ancaster and the proposed Haddon-Stroud-Royal-Horning greenway, and would intersect two more north-south connectors described below.

It would also directly serve St. Mary Catholic High School, which can be expected to generate a lot of bike trips - if the cycling infrastructure exists to allow them.

Leland Street

The multi-use path beside Cootes Drive ends at Main Street. South of Main, Cootes turns into Leland Street, a residential side street. It should have bike lanes to connect trips using Cootes with trips using Whitney. Along the way, it intersects the Rail Trail.

Hydro Corridor

A north-south Hydro corridor on the west side of Ainslie Wood provides a wide greenbelt that could easily accommodate walking and cycling.

A multi-use path running along the Hydro corridor could start at the Horning greenway, cross the Whitney bike lanes and the Rail Trail, pass close to the existing bike lanes on Sanders (via West Park Avenue), intersect Westaway Road (which connects to the Cootes path), and provide bike access for the cluster of University Gardens homes between Osler Drive and Cootes Paradise.

In theory, it could even be extended with a bridge across Spencer Creek to cross Cootes and connect with Olympic Drive.


A previous article considered some possibilities to improve cycling in Strathcona Neighbourhood.

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 January 30, 2017 at 15:20:21

As a Westdale cyclist, it's frustrating that the simple, obvious solution of losing parking on one side of King would be so hard. There's already no street-side parking between Paisley and Marion, and on the East side there's parking lots all along the South for Shoppers, Library, and Tim's, leaving only a tiny handful of gaps for street-side parking... And the West side of Westdale has their street-side parking heavily used.

In the end, it's about 10 parking spots. Which is a really small number to me, but at the same time to a business that depends on that spot like Pita Pit or Burrito Banditos, it's a lifeline. And all of Westdale's lots are very often filled to capacity.

That being said, the city already seems to have some "unnoficial" greenways figured out with this stuff, like the contra-flow bike-lane at Cline and King in front of Cootes' school. Somebody realized that cyclists needed to be able to go the wrong way up cline and made that little lane long before contra-flow lanes were a thing anywhere else in Hamilton. This actually creates a little conflict because Cline is ambiguous about its 1-way/2-way nature as it passes Cootes' school. It's only 1-way at the tight neck where it meets King, but drivers treat it as 1-way right back to Paisley, which creates conflict as left-hand parkers are surprised by unexpected oncoming cyclists.

At any rate, as a lifelong Westdale cyclist: The biggest problems with cycling in Westdale are the King street gap, the lack of any path across Churchill Park to connect the North and West parts of Westdale, and the proliferation of stop signs. I'd love to see local "yield for cyclists" signs added to some of the all-way-stops on these greenways.

On Haddon, IIRC the LRT plan will be blocking Haddon at Main and so Cline would be the only street in the area with direct north/south connectivity.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2017-01-30 15:20:58

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By js298902 (registered) | Posted January 31, 2017 at 14:28:03 in reply to Comment 120633

I really hope you were joking when you referred to street parking at Pita Pit or Burrito Banditos as a lifeline. For two student centric businesses (High school and University) I would say its a safe bet that the majority of their customers walk to reach those locations.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 31, 2017 at 16:26:04 in reply to Comment 120645

I'm not. Students or not, they still are going to get a lot of business pulling over, and losing the one parking spot directly in front of their storefront is not an easy sell.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted January 30, 2017 at 22:29:15 in reply to Comment 120633

Yeah, what pxtl said. The absence of a path across Churchill Park is maddening. I seem to recall hearing that the objections of a few angry homeowners prevailed over the interests of hundreds of cyclists last time this came up.

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By JimC (registered) | Posted January 30, 2017 at 18:20:02

Does anyone else see the absurdity of spending a billion dollars on a train that is supposed to get people out of their cars and then have the city pledge to widen the streets to accommodate increased car traffic along the main thoroughfares? I could have sworn that LRT supporters were saying that the LRT would reduce car traffic. Here's my plan: put in the LRT tracks, put in bicycle lanes, and if car traffic is reduced to a single lane then that's great because mass transit will only work when car travel becomes frustrating. Where is the courage? Constantly bending over to serve car traffic which is dangerous, polluting, and just plain selfish doesn't make sense. Either roads for cars or roads for people. We can't have both. So make a decision. Ryan, you're as guilty as anyone by trying to come up with some magic solution that will let people stay in their cars while they build an LRT that will only appeal to the same customer base it serves today. I've been saying this from the beginning. All you're doing is replacing the B-Line bus with a B-Line train. It will not make a substantive difference if people don't get on board and people won't get on board as long as they can ride the intra-city highways called King and Main. Kicking cyclists out for cars is as backward as it gets. The current iteration of the LRT plan is absolutely useless. Junk this plan. It's actually shocking that Metrolinx can be this incompetent.

Comment edited by JimC on 2017-01-30 18:20:53

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted January 30, 2017 at 23:29:45 in reply to Comment 120634

Keep in mind that Metrolinx came up with the initial plan in 2011 which was before the bike lanes were there. So, the traffic flows would have modeled differently than they do today with the lanes in place. I'm confident that a solution will be arrived at. It's encouraging to see the LRT planners directly engage the cycling community for assistance in solving this problem.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 31, 2017 at 10:53:27 in reply to Comment 120637

The Dundurn bike lanes were there, meaning no matter what we would be seeing only 1 lane from King and 1 lane from Dundurn feeding into the bridge. With Main staying one-way, there was always going to be a problem at Dundurn and King. The only way this could have been avoided would be to push the LRT to the south side of the street from Queen to Dundurn to maintain some minimal semblance of the current 1-way traffic sewer.... but that would require dead-ending a half dozen streets and driveways south of King.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted January 31, 2017 at 10:45:49 in reply to Comment 120637

But we mustn't forget that the 2010 Metrolinx BCA specifically recommended that Main Street be converted to 2-way as a way of ensuring LRT will be a success.

Unfortunately, for purely political reasons (because Council is too scared to even consider it) Metrolinx and the City staff are refusing to even do traffic modelling on a 2-way Main to see how it might improve traffic flow.

Being scared to even consider an option, because it might turn out to be a big improvement (but controversial), is ridiculous and wasteful!

Do they really think keeping Main one-way is so important to drivers that they would insist on it, even if it made congestion worse? This is not some religious controversy, we're talking about which way traffic flows on one street!

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted January 31, 2017 at 09:44:20

I applaud Ryan for his attempts to offer some solutions, and truth be told, I have a few ideas of my own for this stretch, and Strathcona, but can't bring myself to write them out and publish them because I can't get past the notion that we're actually considering adding more car lanes in lower Hamilton. We have a ridiculously overbuilt road network and are only going to be losing 2 lanes to LRT. The LRT corridor is home to our most dense population and dense employment nodes. Huge potential exists for people to leave the car at home and use LRT....unless we offer them more wide open, high-speed roadways for single occupancy vehicles. I'm not aware of any city trying to add 4-5 new lanes for cars in response to using two lanes for LRT. Enough with the car addiction in this city.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 31, 2017 at 10:59:38 in reply to Comment 120639

Fundamentally, the problem is that with our fixation on 1-ways, we're actually losing 3 Westbound lanes. 4 where there's an LRT platform. Considering that King/Dundurn is already quite a bottleneck (Southbound Dundurn is often backed up very far), the city is realistic that they need to come up with a solution.

As a cyclist, I'm okay with losing York/Dundurn if we see the city provide creative solutions that keep us connected from Dundurn/King to the Cannon tracks... but I know that's not going to happen. Too often the city sees obvious, bone-headed gaps in their cycling infrastructure and says "I'm okay with this".

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted January 31, 2017 at 20:44:34 in reply to Comment 120643

I have a tough time losing any of it when city hall refuses to convert Main to 2-way. A slight adjustment to the 403 ramps and folks can head into Westdale from the 403 without using Dundurn. And Main West...for the love, the last thing it needs is more car lanes.

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