Special Report: Walkable Streets

Lessons from Buffalo for Hunter Street

Hunter Street has room for curbside parking and two-way bike lanes, and one traffic lane is more than enough capacity for the number of cars it carries today.

By Jason Leach
Published October 26, 2012

I was in Buffalo earlier this week and was absolutely impressed with the rapid improvements happening to their bike network.

I often visit to hang out on Elmwood Avenue and the Delaware Park area. I was very pleased to see they have installed large sharrows in the centre lane on Elmwood.

Bike sharrows on Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo
Bike sharrows on Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo

A proposal has been put forward in Hamilton do this all across the future bike network. Also, some interest is developing in taking the sharrow concept even further on our quiet residential streets.

Given our geography and quiet neighbourhoods, Hamilton is ripe for neighbourhood greenways to take root, like the ones in Portland.

Hunter Street

A couple of blocks from Elmwood they took a street that was previously two full traffic lanes one-way with cub parking on both sides and turned it into this:

Making room for bike lanes in Buffalo
Making room for bike lanes in Buffalo

The best part? This street carries roughly 3,500 cars per lane per day - the same number that Hunter Street East carries in front of the GO Station, and Catharine Street carries downtown by King.

You can't tell from this pic, but there is parking on both sides. I hung around and observed the traffic flow during rush hour and it was fine.

I'm on Hunter all the time and it's never busy. I hope that when some design work begins on the Hunter cycle track in the spring, there will be opportunity to discuss narrowing the lanes to ten feet and retaining curb parking along the north curb and adding the cycle track by simply removing one of its traffic lanes.

In front of GO, we can retain both parking bays, and a traffic lane, and the cycle track. Ditto for the rest of the route over to Queen.

The current plan calls for retaining both traffic lanes, thereby eliminating the cycle track from John to James and having bikes mix with cars during that stretch. With such low traffic volumes, this is completely unnecessary.

As far as I understand, ten-foot car lanes are already permitted in Hamilton. In other cities, it has become a popular way [PDF] to add bike infrastructure on narrow streets.

Let's hope we see some similar bike improvements as Buffalo, and quickly.

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 meat popsicle (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 11:05:52

Does "bike lane" have such a stigma now that it has to be called something else or am I missing something?

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 26, 2012 at 11:34:39 in reply to Comment 82311

The point of the sharrow is just a marker saying "cyclists will take the lane here". Basically admitting that there's no way to squeeze a bike lane alongside cars and saying that cyclists should just move into the middle and if you honk at them you're a dick because that's what they're supposed to do.

It should be completely unnecessary, but the thought is nice.

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By Kevin Love (anonymous) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 20:31:07

What insanely crappy bike lanes! Among other serious defects, the bike lane is in the door zone of adjacent parked cars. This means that the most dangerous place on the entire road to ride a bike is in the bike lane.

Here is a video showing how to do it right:


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By jason (registered) | Posted October 26, 2012 at 21:46:55 in reply to Comment 82335

might not be ideal, but the lanes were very wide. The pic doesn't do them justice.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2012 at 15:32:14

The city's cycling master plan, which sought to update its 1992 Bicycle Network Study, was rolled out in December 1999 as the decisive-sounding "Shifting Gears".

That plan was allowed to mellow for nearly a decade with little to no progress, then dusted off and revised in the fall of 2008, republished in the summer of 2009.

We're 20 years from the Bicycle Network Study, almost 13 years from the original Shifting Gears master plan and more three years from the sequel. That sequel itself came with a a 20 year implementation schedule, along with a note that "A Master Plan should be reviewed every five years to determine the need for a detailed formal review and/or update." So we'll have a look at it in 2014, which of course is an election year.

I don't know if it's realistic to expect anything "quickly" around Shifting Gears, especially when the price tag (~$24m for the urban portion of the network alone) has apparently wilted the enthusiasm of council.

By contrast, the City is only 12 years behind on LRT...


....and 11 years behind on a modest two-way street implementation schedule.


So I suppose speed is relative.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted October 30, 2012 at 13:57:40

On the mountain these strips of asphalt are called "Jogging Lanes", not bike lanes. The huge, wide, safe and well maintained sidewalks are an issue with runners apparently

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted November 02, 2012 at 16:00:44

It must be really easy to add bike lanes to a city that has lost 60% of its population in the past 50 years.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 02, 2012 at 16:59:08 in reply to Comment 82549

actually, it shows their commitment to move forward and not remain a museum to 1950's engineering like Hamilton. They have less money to work with, yet are still making these 21st Century investments. Priorities.

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