Special Report: Cycling

Repaint King Street With Protected Bike Lanes

White paint is as low-cost a bike-friendly street as you'll ever find, and we can do it right now on King Street.

By Jason Leach
Published July 11, 2013

King Street is being repainted from the Delta to Wellington Street right now.

While the road is bare and new paint still needs to be laid down, this would be a great chance to maintain the two travel lanes that have been functioning quite well the past few weeks and do something more useful with the excess lane capacity.

King Street East, facing east between Steven and Ashley (Image Credit: Laura Farr)
King Street East, facing east between Steven and Ashley (Image Credit: Laura Farr)

We could repaint the street similar to this:

Rendering of a street redesigned to include protected bike lanes (Image Credit: Streets.MN)
Rendering of a street redesigned to include protected bike lanes (Image Credit: Streets.MN)

Six foot curbside parking, two ten-foot travel lanes, six foot curbside parking, three-foot painted buffer, and a five-foot one-way bike lane will fit perfectly on the 40-foot road allowance from the Delta to Wellington.

This maintains parking on both sides and two travel lanes, and adds a complete street with a physically protected bike lane and 24-7 parking.

Here are some more renderings, courtesy of Streetsblog:

Overhead view
Overhead view

At street level
At street level

The following before-and-after photos of Prospect Park, Brooklyn will give you a rough idea of what this would look like:

Propect Park roadway design, before and after (Image Credit: Gothamist)
Propect Park roadway design, before and after (Image Credit: Gothamist)

Cities with a heck of a lot more traffic than Hamilton are repurposing traffic lanes for protected bike lanes. Places like New York City and Chicago are fitting bike lanes onto downtown streets a lot more congested than King ever is.

Protected bike lane in New York (Image Credit: Kelsey Cruz)
Protected bike lane in New York (Image Credit: Kelsey Cruz)

I remember living in Portland and being highly impressed that their public works and traffic division would be out looking for opportunities to do this very sort of upgrade cheaply when re-painting a street.

They would generally be the ones initiating the plans with neighbours and letting everyone know that the 1950's design is outdated and not needed now, and they wanted to add safety and complete streets as much as possible.

Imagine our public works taking this same approach instead of just repainting four freeway lanes we no longer need from the Industrial heyday of 65 years ago. King Street has low traffic volumes even during rush hour.

King Street looking east between Sanford and Wentworth during rush hour (Image Credit: Bob Berberick)
King Street looking east between Sanford and Wentworth during rush hour (Image Credit: Bob Berberick)

White paint is as low-cost a complete street as you'll ever find.

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

27 Comments

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By King Street (anonymous) | Posted July 11, 2013 at 10:04:40

As I stated over on the Blog entry you need 7' for parking as the average vehicle is 6' wide, otherwise this is a very good concept. The choice really becomes to
a)remove the parking on the bike lane side increase the bike allowance from 5' one way to 10' two way with 3' allowance 2 10' lanes and 7' parking on the right
b)narrow the bike lane to 4' with 2' buffer and leave the rest as outlined in the article

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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted July 11, 2013 at 10:22:53

As cheap as the above plan is (to a certain extent, you're justs re-allocating road paint), it's obviously a change of plans. I suspect that means stopping the current work orders and putting it through the approvals mill again.

Might anyone have a sense of how long such a process would take? Is it a minor tweak held back by political obstinance, or does the elegantly simple concept belie a tangled bureaucracy?

We did see changes instituted quickly on Locke & Herkimer, but (even aside from the not-insubstantial matter of political advocacy) that was emphasizing existing features at a single intersection, not altering lane allocation along a 3km stretch of road.

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 11, 2013 at 10:30:21 in reply to Comment 90177

I think we all know the answer to that question. The very fact that city hall would even dream of simply repainting the current 4-lanes shows where the vision level is at.

The only real change I'm suggesting to the lane allocation is removing the rush hour 'no parking' designation. The rest of the day the street has parking on both sides and 2 lanes.
So that's the only change in operation, and as the stats (and anyone who stands on a sidewalk and watches) clearly show, we have too many lanes on this street. It's a dangerous freeway littered with flower memorials all over the place for pedestrians who were killed trying to walk through their own neighbourhood.

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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted July 11, 2013 at 11:56:23 in reply to Comment 90178

Please don't think I'm against the concept. It's clear, cheap and sensible. I'm just curious how long it might take to go from concept to reality.

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 11, 2013 at 12:52:14 in reply to Comment 90183

in other cities, ideas like this can be turned around rapidly. Especially such a simple concept that literally only requires paint, and removing 'no parking from 4-6' signs.

In Hamilton, I'm guessing it'll never happen. We're the last city on the continent (that I can find. And trust me, I've looked) that is clinging to 1950's planning like grim death.

I chatted with a BIA bigwig from International Village this week and said "at the very least, can't you ask the city to un-time the lights so King isn't a freeway all day through there?" They replied "I've asked a million times in the past year. They say they can't mess with traffic flow".

The very fact that answer would even come from their mouths in 2013 shows how far behind we still are.

Comment edited by jason on 2013-07-11 12:53:24

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 11, 2013 at 12:05:54 in reply to Comment 90183

At the current rate, never. It will take some kind of process discontinuity to produce a different outcome than the status quo.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2013-07-11 12:06:39

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 11, 2013 at 10:33:01

btw, Councillor Merulla replied that he is going to send this to staff and report back on their reply.

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By rednic (registered) | Posted July 11, 2013 at 15:34:12 in reply to Comment 90179

too bad it's not his ward.The entire stretch is in fact the drive thru version of ward 3.

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By Lesselli (anonymous) | Posted July 11, 2013 at 15:43:55 in reply to Comment 90190

In that case it's hopeless.

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By reuben (registered) - website | Posted July 11, 2013 at 11:22:33

Great idea and a good time for it. I've forwarded the article to my Councillor with my voice of support.

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By Core-B (registered) | Posted July 11, 2013 at 22:57:58 in reply to Comment 90180

On two occasions I asked the ward 3 Councillor to comment on this very issue. I'm still waiting. Another issue was responded to but for whatever reason, he is silent on this one.

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By Kevin (registered) | Posted July 11, 2013 at 11:25:35

Jason, I admire your tenacity. This would be great for the city, so let's hope it happens.

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By j.servus (registered) | Posted July 11, 2013 at 13:26:05

This is a fantastic idea. What would it mean for the bus lane pilot?

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted July 11, 2013 at 15:41:52 in reply to Comment 90188

The bus lane pilot is further West. This wouldn't affect it at all.

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By off duty at the moment (anonymous) | Posted July 11, 2013 at 15:41:26

You do realize the reason traffic is lighter is the yearly phenomenon called "schools out and adults on vacation".


[Patrolling the streets of our city for 25 years]

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By Steve (registered) | Posted July 12, 2013 at 09:32:12 in reply to Comment 90192

What do you think it reduces by, 10%, 15%, 20%, or more? Based on my anecdotal experience in driving (I used to drive 50K+ per year), I'd peg it around 10% reduction at morning rush hour in the summer (35% - 40% on the Friday of a long weekend), but heightened during the day and at evening rush hour because people who are off work are out driving during the day.

Totally unscientific.

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By Lesselli (anonymous) | Posted July 11, 2013 at 15:48:10 in reply to Comment 90192

Traffic's not "lighter" it's non-existant. You're a police officer? Know what would make your job easier? If our streets weren't set up to be a drag strip. Take away lanes and it's harder to speed!!

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 11, 2013 at 21:42:10

We have published the stats for daily traffic volumes on various streets, including this stretch of King. It never exceeds a level requiring more than 2 lanes. International Village is a great example. Name the last time you didn't make it through the first light sequence during rush-hour, through the IV. Barring accident or blizzard, it never happens. Ever. And this is smack downtown, and is always 2 lanes.

Comment edited by jason on 2013-07-11 21:42:38

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By Core-B (registered) | Posted July 11, 2013 at 22:59:54 in reply to Comment 90199

BINGO!

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By screencarp (registered) | Posted July 12, 2013 at 00:07:42

I've noticed a bunch of roadwork and resurfacing going on this summer. I don't think there was a budget increase, just a bunch of negative publicity? Now that they have all the asphalt we pay for, and everyone has to put in full days, things are actually getting done.

I have been really disappointed that nothing is changing...anywhere. So many missed synergies and opportunities. Even just painting some lines and adding street parking would do so much. So this idea is cheap and awesome. Maybe it has to change when we see how LRT pans out, but for now I think it's a great idea. Sadly, they're going to want studies, and traffic counts, and endless meetings...proposals, tenders, partnerships and a whole bunch of weasel words only so it can be used as political capital. When it does get done, it will have cost us a whole bunch.

Wait...anyone know where to rent a paint truck and some reflective vests?? I mean..theoretically and all... What's the worst? Vandalism charges for painting our own lines? Would the works guys just show up, see it had been done already and head off to the pub? Just curious. ;)

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By Evie (anonymous) | Posted July 12, 2013 at 16:30:24

Jason, this is another great article on where we are missing out on opportunities to create complete streets. Hopefully this will not fall on deaf ears! Maybe Muerulla can talk to Farr and see if they can get Hunter Street done correctly :)

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted July 14, 2013 at 16:59:17

Could this be done up-town, perhaps on Fennell Avenue?

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted July 15, 2013 at 08:31:23

I was on King street yesterday and it looks like its juste a new pavement done NO bkie lans whats so ever

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By ViennaCafe (registered) | Posted July 15, 2013 at 20:18:21 in reply to Comment 90232

Yep. Lanes painted and, once more, cyclists don't exist in the minds of Hamilton's roads department.

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted July 16, 2013 at 22:41:57

Perhaps it's time to revive the Critical Mass bicycle ride. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_Mass_bike_ride. I've been cursed a couple of times while bicycling and it speaks to Hamiltonians' lack of patience, more than anything else.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted July 17, 2013 at 11:48:36 in reply to Comment 90246

I've been cursed a couple of times while bicycling and it speaks to Hamiltonians' lack of patience, more than anything else.

My biggest problem with Hamilton drivers - by a wide margin - is still the misguided niceness: not taking their turns at four-way stops; waiting for me to roll through stop signs; waving me through when it's not safe; coming to a confused stop when I signal a right-hand turn.

I encounter the misguided niceness daily; rudeness and dangerous driving is a twice-a-month event for me.

(I cycle daily, mostly between Dundas and James St. - so I can't speak for the broader city experience)

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted July 17, 2013 at 19:59:58 in reply to Comment 90247

I cycled on Fennell Ave. between the neighbourhood of Centremount and Upper Gage Ave., then south-ward toward Mohawk Rd. The misguided niceness is a good point; that's really what's at issue here, the complete confusion from drivers regarding what cyclists are doing.

Does anyone know what's the best paint for a road and where to get it?

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