We have an exciting opportunity to join a movement across North America and around the world of cities recognizing the tremendous economic, social and environmental value that comes from investing in high quality cycling infrastructure.
By Ryan McGreal
Published March 17, 2014
this article has been updated
At this Wednesday's General Issues Committee meeting, Councillors will be asked to approve the implementation of a planned three (3) kilometre cycle track on Cannon Street. The three-year pilot project for a physically separated two-way bike lane will run between Sherman Avenue and Hess Street and could be built this Spring.
You can read the staff recommendation [PDF] and consultant report [PDF]. Update: somehow the City has managed to make the way it stores reports even worse, and it doesn't appear possible to link directly to document files any more. You can access the reports via this clumsy links page.
The cycle track, designed by IBI Consulting, will cost $867,200 to build. The capital will come from the Ward 2 Capital Infrastructure fund ($333,600), the Ward 3 Capital Infrastructure fund ($333,600) and the Red-Light Camera Project Reserve ($200,000).
The operating cost over the three year pilot is expected to be around $728,000. Some of this simply replaces the existing operating costs for the north curb lane of Cannon Street, while $180,000 of it is a high estimate to clear snow windrows (the piles of accumulated snow pushed to the side of the road after plowing).
The cycle track will run in the south curb lane of Cannon with a physical separation/buffer between the bike lanes and the automobile lanes. East of Victoria, the north curb lane will have all-day curbside parking to physically protect the north sidewalk. West of Victoria, the curb lane will only allow curbside parking outside of AM and PM rush hour times.
The physical barrier still needs to be finalized in the detailed design, but it will include a painted buffer strip with "flexible delineators" (knockdown sticks), portable curbs bolted to the pavement, and planter boxes where the buffer is wide enough to allow them.
East of Victoria, the cycle track will be 3.0 metres wide. The separator between the track and the adjacent automobile lane will be 0.85 metres, wide enough for planter boxes. The adjacent automobile lane will be 3.0 metres wide, and the next automobile lane will be widened to 3.25 metres. The all-day north curbside parking lane will be 2.5 metres wide.
Typical mid-block cross-section east of Victoria
West of Victoria, the cycle track is narrowed to 2.8 metres, which will "require cyclists to ride near or over the catch basins and rough pavement near the edge of the road when passing each other". The physical separator will be only 0.5 metres wide, and the other three automobile lanes will be 3.0 metres wide.
Typical mid-block cross-section west of Victoria
The cycle track will not be painted green in full or at potential conflict areas, but IBI is recommending a "green lane line" along the border of the cycle track to increase visibility "and make it more distinctive from conventional bike lanes".
Green bike lane line on Sherbourne Street, Toronto
It is unfortunate that the decision was made to ban curbside parking during rush hours. According to the IBI report, total AM rush hour driving time will increase from 7.6 minutes to 7.9 minutes, while PM rush hour driving time will increase from 6.4 minutes to 7 minutes.
The daily traffic volume of 16,700 automobiles (at Mary Street) would amount to just 8,350 automobiles per lane - a very reasonable volume for an urban minor arterial - if all-day curbside parking is allowed on the north curb lane.
Since one of the objectives of a complete street design is to slow automobile traffic and make the street safer and more comfortable, this is a missed opportunity to maintain best practices along the full length of the cycle track.
A narrower curbside parking lane would free up an additional 0.5 metres to widen the cycle track and the buffer. The report notes that the narrower cycle track width of 2.8 metres is "acceptable for a pilot project". There will presumably be an opportunity to revisit this decision over the course of the three-year pilot.
The staff report also recommends implementing bike lanes on York Boulevard between Hess Street and Dundurn Avenue, which are part of the Strathcona Transportation Master Plan.
Those bike lanes would connect to the existing bike lanes on York west of Dundurn, as well as the lanes running on Dundurn north of York. The Dundurn lanes, in turn, connect to the cycle track on King Street West that crosses Hwy 403 into Westdale and West Hamilton.
The track also goes a long way toward connecting downtown Hamilton - and specifically the James North GO Station - with the new stadium in plenty of time for the 2015 Pan Am Games.
Combined with the Hamilton Bike Share, which is also expected to launch this spring, the Cannon Street cycle track is a major investment in high-quality cycling infrastructure that will vastly improve east-west cycling connectivity across the lower city.
It is very much to the credit of the Yes We Cannon campaign that thousands of Hamiltonians were able to speak up in support of this project and Council was inspired to unanimously approve the planning and design of the route.
Now Council must take the next step and approve the implementation of that design. We have an exciting opportunity to join a movement across North America and around the world of cities recognizing the tremendous economic, social and environmental value that comes from investing in high quality cycling infrastructure: safer streets, healthier citizens, cleaner air, improved local business and increasing property values.
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