Light Rail

Letter: Time to Make Hamilton More User Friendly

By Letter to the Editor
Published July 06, 2011

Dear Mayor and City of Hamilton Councillors,

Just a quick note to tell you that I support the City going ahead with the installation of LRT in Hamilton. It would be my dream to have just LRT in the core, going to the east, west and central mountain, Ancaster, Dundas and Stoney Creek.

It is time to rid Hamilton's core of traffic, make the city more user friendly for bicycles. (Note: the new bike lane up the Jolley cut is wonderful but where is the bike lane down the cut? Soon enough, someone will be taken out on the down curve or are we supposed to use the new walkway?)

Many European cities are making their cities unfriendly toward the car, i.e. no synchronized lights, longer wait times for green lights, less parking spaces for cars but more spaces for bikes etc.

Being disabled, you would think I would prefer taking our car but I prefer walking, taking the bus, or riding my electric bicycle (with the exception of going down the mountain). Going down the mountain is tricky and my husband prefers I use the sidewalk on the Jolley Cut because he is honestly afraid I will be hit by a vehicle.

Sincerely,

Catherine Burden

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By 2 wheels good (anonymous) | Posted July 06, 2011 at 13:19:51

Catherine Burden said: "Note: the new bike lane up the Jolley cut is wonderful but where is the bike lane down the cut? Soon enough, someone will be taken out on the down curve or are we supposed to use the new walkway?"

No, please not on the walkway Catherine! Bicycles and EBikes are defined as "Vehicles" under the Highway Traffic Act, and it's illegal to drive "Vehicles" on a sidewalk. As well as exposing you to the risk of fines and points off your drivers license it's also unsafe for you as the sidewalk is too narrow, and puts pedestrians you may encounter at risk.
You have 2 options for descending the escarpment with a bicycle or EBike. Dismount and walk your bike down using the sidewalk, or ride down on the road.
If on the road you should be in the right hand lane in what motorcycle riders call a "blocking position", that is with the wheels of your bike where the left hand set of wheels of a car would be if it were in that lane.
While the law does not specify a speed, other than to say you should not be so slow as to be obstructing the flow of traffic,for safety you should be moving with, or slightly faster than the other traffic on the road. Since this may mean 60 km/hr or more you need a bike / EBike that is well maintained, and a skill set to match.
If that is an issue you might want to consider the excellent adult cyclist training offered by the Canadian Cycling Association, the "Can-Bike" level 1 and 2 programs.
http://www.canbike.net/cca_pages/index.htm
Most of the courses are in Toronto, but they used to run them in Hamilton to train the Hamilton Police bike cops, you might be able to get loaded in on one of those...

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By Catherine Burden (anonymous) | Posted July 06, 2011 at 21:23:54 in reply to Comment 65651

There is no way my battery powered bike can reach a speed of 60 km/hr let alone 20km/hr. Plus the new sidewalk on the jolley cut is used consistently by many bikers and there is more than enough room for both the bicyclist and the pedestrian,(I do get off my bike and walk it when near people). As for riding in the 'blocking position', I wouldn't do that on any city street because I am positive all car owners would be either yelling at me or honking their horn.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 06, 2011 at 22:06:47 in reply to Comment 65672

As for riding in the 'blocking position'...

I used to think that when I first started cycling on a regular basis. However, once I began lane-blocking assertively (but not aggressively!), I found my experience as a cyclist on the road improved quite dramatically.

When you hug the curb, motorists tend to pass without changing lanes, leading to some uncomfortably close passes. However, when you lane-block, motorists change lanes to pass and actually give you more room.

Over years of riding, I have anecdotally observed that the civility and respect of motorists seems to be directly proportional to the lawfulness and assurance with which I ride my bike.

That is, when I follow the rules of the road consistently and stake my claim to the asphalt confidently rather than meekly and hesitantly, I have much fewer problems with motorists.

The Ontario Government's Guide to Safe Cycling states, "In urban areas where a curb lane is too narrow to share safely with a motorist, it is legal to take the whole lane by riding in the centre of it," and "You may occupy any part of a lane when your safety warrants it. Never compromise your safety for the convenience of a motorist behind you."

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2011-07-06 22:07:28

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 06, 2011 at 13:31:48

Since this may mean 60 km/hr or more you need a bike / EBike that is well maintained, and a skill set to match

or a lane to drive in.

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By 2 wheels good (anonymous) | Posted July 06, 2011 at 14:31:31 in reply to Comment 65655

"or a lane to drive in." You mean the imaginary down-bound bike lanes that don't exist? Well, in the case of the escarpment that's probably a good thing. It would be expected that a down bound bike lane would have a higher rate of crashes than you will see with bikes riding with other traffic in mixed use lanes.

While it's true that dedicated bike lanes often increase bicycle use on a given route, and increase the level of perceived safety, especially for novice cyclists, if you look at controlled studies of collisions it is also the case that bike lanes tend to increase collision rates, not decrease them.

This is in large part because they complicate vehicle "crossing movements" at intersections, which is where about 80% of urban collisions occur.

But also, and particular to this case, alarmingly high collision rates are seen on high speed (steep gradient) bike paths due to the wide range of speeds chosen by different users within the bike lane.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 06, 2011 at 14:51:14 in reply to Comment 65659

if you look at controlled studies of collisions it is also the case that bike lanes tend to increase collision rates

Citation needed.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted July 06, 2011 at 15:45:09 in reply to Comment 65660

This shouldn't be an issue down the Jolley Cut, where there are no intersections on the right hand side where downbound cyclists could complicate vehicle crossing movements.

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By 2 wheels good (anonymous) | Posted July 06, 2011 at 16:01:27

There is a fairly extensive literature out there, in spite of the fact that it's not the kind of data that gets you hired by folks with money i.e. governments looking to build bike paths, or by so called cyclist advocate groups pushing for their construction. I suspect most of the citations I have are not on line, much work was done in the pre-web 80's on this though if you are interested I could dig them out. Anyways here is one that is representative, the largest such study ever done in Denmark:
http://www.trafitec.dk/pub/Road%20safety%20and%20percieved%20risk%20of%20cycle%20tracks%20and%20lanes%20in%20Copenhagen.pdf

Collisions between intersections were reduced by 10%, and injuries by 4%, But
Collisions at intersections increased by 18% resulting in an increased injury rate in these groups as follows:
Pedestrians: +28%
Cyclists: +22%
Moped riders: +37%

The net effect was an increase in accidents and injuries to non-motorists overall of 9% to 10%

Car drivers on the other hand benefited from the introduction of the bike paths, the injury rate in that group dropped by about 4% after the installation of the bike lanes.


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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 06, 2011 at 22:03:46 in reply to Comment 65662

Thank you for sharing a link to a research paper. I was surprised at your thesis, given that the research I've seen strongly indicates that a) a continuous network of bike lanes encourages significant increases in cycling and b) those increases in cycling are accompanied by significant decreases in the rate and sometimes even the absolute number of casualties.

The linked paper considers four different kinds of bike infrastructure used in Copenhagen, two types of bike lanes and two types of intersection control.

  • Cycle Track - a grade-separated bike lane raised above the road on a curb.

  • Cycle Lane - a painted bike lane on the road.

  • Blue Cycle Crossing - a coloured bike lane running across an intersection.

  • Raised Exit - a slight grade-separation between a main street and a cross street (I think this is it from looking at the photo - the paper does not define the terms).

The statistics you quoted pertain to a cycle track, or a grade-separated bike lane, and not an on-street bike lane.

The paper also cautions against drawing general conclusions from the data:

The safety effects of various construction projects are statistically different in some cases. The safety effects mentioned above cannot therefore be generalised. The reason for this is that the accident composition and the road design are different on those individual streets where cycle tracks have been constructed. Some road designs with cycle tracks are safer than others.

The difference in accidents observed in on-street bike lanes was "not statistically significant".

One important observation from the paper is that the construction of cycle tracks and cycle lanes produced significant increases in bicycle traffic and reductions in automobile traffic.

Note the conclusion:

The construction of cycle tracks in Copenhagen has resulted in an increase in cycle traffic of 18-20% and a decline in car traffic of 9-10%. The cycle tracks constructed have resulted in increases in accidents and injuries of 9-10% on the reconstructed roads.

So an increase of 18-20% in the number of cyclists corresponded with an increase of only 9-10% in the number of accidents and injuries, which means the rate of accidents and injuries went down.

The construction of cycle lanes produced more modest increases in the number of cyclists coupled with equivalent or even higher increases in the number of accidents and injuries, but the authors warn that "the number of road sections and junctions was too restricted to offer any relevant statistical conclusions."

The study closes:

The radical effects on traffic volumes resulting from the construction of cycle tracks will undoubtedly result in gains in health from increased physical activity. These gains are much, much greater than the losses in health resulting from a slight decline in road safety.

Overall, getting more cyclists on the road produces a general improvement in public health that more than makes up for the slight increase in injuries.

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