Transportation

City Afraid to Close Street for Cyclovia

By Jason Leach
Published March 19, 2010

Big surprise: we're still too fearful a town to close James from the Gore to the harbour [PDF link] to host the inaugural 2010 Hamilton Cyclovia.

Instead, we value the high speed freeways known as Main, King, Wilson and Cannon too much. Heck, even if James was closed from the Gore (with King still being allowed to move via police patrol) it would still leave King, Main, Hunter, Charlton and Herkimer as east/west routes.

Did I mention this event is on a Sunday?

Even more hilarious is that the closure ends at Burlington St, not Pier 8. In other words, just as the bikes are getting close to their beautiful waterfront destination, they'll have to gather up all the kids and be sure that nobody gets flattened by a car.

And people wonder why this town drives me nuts some times. Do it right, or don't do it at all. Quit pretending to be progressive when you're not.

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

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By arienc (registered) | Posted March 19, 2010 at 12:43:33

I have to relate my experience last weekend with John Street being partially closed due to a road race, and trying to get a bite with my mom and brother to eat at one of our favourite places - Slainte on Saturday afternoon.

Upon ariving there, and wasting $5 for parking, we find that the restarurant is being used as a base for the road race, and after walking around the block to find the London Tap House and Tailgate Charlie's conveniently closed, we figured that our best nearby options for some decent food was the Undermount at Young just east of James. While this would have been about a ten minute walk, I had the car, and walking in the rain and wind didn't sound like fun, especially for my mom who finds it difficult to walk far in the best of conditions.

We head up Catharine to Young, and then at John we run into a friendly police officer who was there to protect the race course (the right lane down John) from traffic. We sat there for about 10 minutes, cop tells us it's unlikely we'll be able to get across with one runner after another coming down the mountain, so we decide to turn around.

Since all cross streets before Main were closed, to head west, we had to head down Walnut to King. Of course from King, there is no left turn onto James, and MacNab is closed for construction, so the first opportunity to turn back south was Caroline. After heading back east along Main, then up James, we finally made it to our destination.

The point of this story is, closing a single street - even a single lane down in a city so disorganized as Hamilton presents huge problems for those in cars who are trying to do even simple things like getting a plate of wings and a draught.

Maybe if the city gets rid of all those one way streets, these types of events will be less inconvenient. As a cyclist I'm 100% for Cyclovia and making things more pedestrian and bike friendly, but last weekend's experience helped me to realize where the city might be coming from here.

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By schmadrian (registered) | Posted March 19, 2010 at 13:10:35

I have to post this article from ESPN about one of their radio commentators going off on cyclists. Read the Comments section for some pretty enlightening...and enraging...contributions from readers. Speaks volumes about just how entrenched the car culture is. (I'm not putting them forward as noble representatives of their beliefs...merely showing that THIS is how many/most drivers feel.)

http://backporch.fanhouse.com/2010/03/18...

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted March 19, 2010 at 14:51:50

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 19, 2010 at 15:59:48

Arienc, I'm with you. Imagine all streets being two-way and turns being allowed everywhere except James and King. Moving around this city would be a gazillion times easier than it is now - for everyone - cars, people, bikes, transit etc..... Of course, I've watched movies of really long stretches of road being completely closed in NYC and I've been to Bogota to witness hundreds of km of roads closed for Cyclovias. I'm sure it takes some getting used to at first, but in those cities it's been a positive experience which is why it has spread so rapidly around the world. I hope they have cops set up on James at Burlington telling everyone to get on the sidewalk. I know I wont let my kids just drive down the middle of a road where cars are driving in Hamilton.

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By Real Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted March 19, 2010 at 16:22:32

Jason I rarely agree with you but I do on this one. The City failed here.

Capitalist -- grow up, you've been especially childish lately. Please stop pretending to speak for the rest of us.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted March 19, 2010 at 17:51:42

Just in case Jason's article leaves any ambiguity, Open Streets Hamilton had hoped to use James from King to the waterfront. However, they were told early in their planning process that they would not be able to use any part of James north of Burlington or south of Cannon. Apparently the police and the HSR objected to closing those parts of James to automobile traffic. I imagine that the HSR didn't want to have to reroute the Cannon bus where it turns left from Cannon onto James. I'm not sure if it ever occurred to them that Open Streets might be happy to make an exception for HSR buses.

It is beyond my powers of reason to explain why the single block of James between Burlington and Guise could not be closed to car traffic.

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By Interesting Initiative (anonymous) | Posted March 19, 2010 at 19:05:26

This looks like an interesting initiative based on the linked report. I heard about a similar program in Bogata. In order to get to the Waterfront from King Street, were other alternative streets considered for this event (i.e. Bay, John, Ferguson, etc)?

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 19, 2010 at 19:23:56

I heard that the Beaches Jazz Fest in Toronto is going to be cancelled next year because the TTC won't allow them to close the Queen streetcar tracks..... only in Hamilton.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted March 19, 2010 at 19:32:41

^Interesting Initiative: one of the purposes of Open Streets is to give people the chance to walk and cycle on a major street with a lot of shops and other amenities. None of the streets you named fits that description, whereas James does.

The Open Streets group thought about Ferguson; I'm glad they picked James instead, even though they didn't get the whole length of the street.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 19, 2010 at 19:42:27

yep, James is the only N/S street worth doing this on. It'll take about 90 seconds to cycle from Cannon to Burlington St so I can't imagine too many folks will participate in this event (I wonder if Hamilton will be first city to screw up a cyclovia?). I know I won't. First of all, Cannon isn't a street for cycling, especially with kids.

We'll stick to our neighbourhood park on that day, or do the old bikes in the back of the car down to the waterfront routine. I hate doing it, but I refuse to sacrifice one of my kids just because the city won't spend a few hundred bucks on some paint along the side of one of our many undercapcity roads. And by the way, I'm sitting on my front porch as I type this catching glimpses of the harbour, skyway bridge and steel mills through the trees (hey, is that a PRIMUS sign down there!?). I'm very close to the harbour and yet there is no safe way to cycle there.

I applaud the Open Streets folks and hope they will be able to gather some public support in order to get the city to do the right thing in future years. Based on the success the Mustard Festival people have had in trying to close King down for over a decade during their event, I'm not optimistic.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted March 20, 2010 at 10:13:46

@Jason: I hope you will reconsider. If this event goes well and is well-attended, the city might agree to a better network of street closures in 2011. But if no one shows up, they'll just say "See, Hamiltonians don't want to walk or bike, they want to drive their cars everywhere."

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted March 20, 2010 at 15:01:50

Jason >> we're still too fearful a town to close James from the Gore to the harbour [PDF link] to host the inaugural 2010 Hamilton Cyclovia.

If cyclists want to rent the road from the city, I see no reason why James St couldn't be closed for a few hours.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 20, 2010 at 15:10:58

^ rent the road? Why should they have to rent a road that they own??

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted March 20, 2010 at 16:19:14

I think A Smith's idea is a great one, and I presume that drivers will also have to pay to rent the Linc and RHVP (since cyclists and pedestrians are barred from those streets.)

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By Yeahbut (anonymous) | Posted March 20, 2010 at 16:58:55

But the city had no problem closing the Linc for fundraising runs. So next time, do it for the "charity."

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By Yeahbut 2 (anonymous) | Posted March 20, 2010 at 17:00:20

Oh yeah, I almost forget. Get Ron Foxcroft to bare his knees and run the length of the street for you.

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By Yeah, Butts! (anonymous) | Posted March 21, 2010 at 01:21:06

Now with the RHVP there's no chance the Linc will be closed again, even for charity. The cancer ride has sucked ever since.

I'll come out for Open Streets, just to vote with my feet.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted March 23, 2010 at 16:41:51

I never understood the Cancer walk on the Linc> What a horrible horrible ugly boring walk that must be?

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By AnneMariePavlov (registered) | Posted March 24, 2010 at 10:02:44

So is the June 6th Open Streets on James happening now, or not? The last I heard I was asked to play the guitar there, plus represent the North End Breezes newsletter. I have heard nothing about it being on hold.

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