Special Report: Cycling

Cycling Master Plan: Solid Network, Slow Implementation

City staff are asking councillors to approve a comprehensive cycling master plan that would complete a continuous bicycle network through the entire city - eventually.

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 16, 2009

After extensive public consultation, city staff are asking councillors to approve a comprehensive cycling master plan that would spend either $1.25 million a year for the next 40 years or $2.5 million a year for the next 20 years to complete a continuous bicycle network through the entire city. This plan is an update of the 1999 "Shifting Gears" regional plan.

The main infrastructure component will be on-street reserved bike lanes - essentially a painted lane on the road - but also includes multi-use paths, signed bike routes on bike-friendly streets without designated bike lanes, and paved shoulders on rural roads.

The current budget allocation for cycling infrastructure is $300,000 a year, though the city only started actually spending that much after hiring an alternative transportation coordinator (Daryll Bender), a position that is now temporary but would be made permanent under the cycling master plan.

If council decides to increase the annual budget to $1.25 million, staff suggest the city can maximize the connectivity of the network by concentrating on the urban portion.

The higher budgetary commitment option, $2.5 million per year, amounts to $5 per resident per year, a little less than Burlington and Toronto's commitments of $5.25 per year for the next 25 years.

The lesson from other cities that have committed to aggressive timelines for bicycle network construction confirms the adage If you build it, they will come. Several European cities have managed to achieve bicycle commute rates that equal or even exceed the rate of automobile trips. In a few short years, Portland has managed to increase its bicycle commuting rate to 15 percent of total commutes.

Further, as the rate of cycling goes up, the rate of accidents falls dramatically. In New York, during a period in which cycling increased by a third, the actual number of accidents fell.

Compared to the expense of vehicle lane construction, cycling infrastructure is extremely cost-effective. The total cost of the Cycling Master Plan, $51.5 million (of which $28.9 million is allocated to rural infrastructure and the rest goes to urban infrastructure), is only slightly higher than the cost

Among the manifold benefits of cycling are the fact that it is nonpolluting after manufacture, supports community and neighbourhood development, is consistent with the provincial goal of dense, walkable development and consumes a much smaller land area footprint than the automobile.

Cycling also confers tangible health benefits to cyclists, increasing life expectancy by several years, and is associated with significantly lower rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity. Overall, cycling is safer than driving, particularly once you take into account the extend life expectancy from active transportation.

The bicycle is also the most energy-efficient transportation mode ever invented, getting an amazing 0.68 L/100 km (1,400 mpg) equivalent in fuel economy.

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 jason (registered) | Posted June 16, 2009 at 11:44:00

awesome plan. Let's hope it is implemented and doesn't have the same fate as most of the Shifting Gears plan did back in the 90's.

Hamilton is so compact, dense and relatively small, it makes cycling a real option for a majority of our population. Great work by all involved.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 16, 2009 at 11:55:45

Great work by all involved.

Agreed, with the proviso that this should be completed in two or four years, not in twenty or forty.

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By JM (registered) | Posted June 16, 2009 at 12:42:31

why is there still a complete disconnect at stonechurch road and dartnall?

is there no way to bridge over, or tunnel under the Linc?

this trail extends way out beyond glanbrook, on the former CPR line (or TH&B?)... i would hate to see the poor suckers face who rides in from out of town and hits a dead end on the trail - just like that

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2009 at 13:33:50

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By davidvanbeveren (registered) | Posted June 16, 2009 at 13:34:16

Comments attributed to certain members of council in today's Spectator article suggest that city staff may face an uphill battle getting the plan approved. It's important that residents who value choice and balance in the local transportation mix contact their councillor and express support for the proposed plan. Contact information for all members of city council can be found here: http://www.myhamilton.ca/myhamilton/City... Many of us prefer the quickest possible implementation, but we should focus on shoring up support for the broader idea before going to war on the details.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted June 16, 2009 at 14:49:43

Here`s what I just posted on the Spec Hallmarks blog (stuck in moderation right now):

I dont see any mention of kids in this debate. The only reason my older kids can ride safely from our house to Kenilworth Library (the libraries are so far apart here, unlike our old west Toronto neighbourhood-- another topic, I know) is the paved path that begins behind the Dairy Queen at Ottawa and Main and takes them directly there. They dont ride anywhere else out of the neighbourhood much. It would be great if my teenage daughter could ride her bike out to her part-time job near Eastgate, for example, but theres no safe route. The HSR, given their weekend-holiday schedule, is a distant second-best. It doesnt seem to occur to council that a healthy city also makes it possible for growing children and teens to do interesting and productive things as independently as possible. Good cycling infrastructure would go a long way towards this.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted June 17, 2009 at 14:25:33

My intention is to be safe, predictable, and visible, but I intend to continue using a whole lane of traffic for safety, otherwise cars pass way too close. Wherever bike lanes are installed I use them and appreciate them. I like getting out of traffic's way. Otherwise I do not care about being in the way. Actually I do feel bad sometimes holding up a lane on my bike because almost everyone is patient and nice ... but this is what the planners are causing with this moronic undermining of social progress while other places just get improvements done. 40 years for the cycling plan? Don't even bother, I'll be an old man ... the 3 meter bike lane called the right lane is very comfortable actually.

Anyway it is encouraging to see larger numbers of cyclists out this summer ... purely observation but I think the numbers are increasing. It is my hope that people do what is best for their situation and lifestyle and hopefully the streets fill with cyclists and they are simply left with no choice but to proceed. Their award winning traffic management will implement a cycling plan for the cars' sake ... to get bikes out of their way :)

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