Special Report: Cycling

Councillors Approve Cannon Street Cycle Track

Hamilton City Councillors voted unanimously to approve the detailed design and implementation of a protected two-way bike lane on Cannon Street.

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 19, 2014

this article has been updated

Hamilton City Councillors spent more than four hours boiling the ocean at today's General Issues Committee before voting unanimously to approve the detailed design and implementation of a protected two-way cycle track on the south curb lane of Cannon Street between Sherman Avenue and Bay Street. They also approved an amendment to extend bike lanes on York Boulevard from Bay Street to Hess Street to connect with existing bike lanes on York to Burlington and on Dundurn to King Street.

Update: Thanks to Joey Coleman, you can watch the whole thing - all four-hours-and-twelve-minutes of it:

The decision must still be ratified by full Council next week.

The capital cost, estimated at $867,200, will be covered by the Wards 2 and 3 capital infrastructure funds and the Red-Light Camera Project Reserve.

Citizen delegations in support of the plan included Justin Jones on behalf of the Yes We Cannon campaign, Lynda Lukasik of Environment Hamilton, and Sean Burak of the Hamilton Bike Share.

Additional Consultation Period

A few Councillors expressed concern that the City should undertake more public consultation before proceeding with the project, despite thousands of citizens expressing support through the Yes We Cannon campaign and the active support of the neighbourhood associations around Cannon Street.

A proposed amendment by Ward 9 Councillor Brad Clark to undertake a 30-day written consultation period before approving the plan was soundly defeated, with only Clark and Councillors Maria Pearson (Ward 10) and Brenda Johnson (Ward 11) voting in favour.

Johnson compared the bike lane to the Winona Wal-Mart, which she said was approved without adequate public consultation.

Ward 3 Councillor Bob Morrow, who first tried to introduce bike lanes in 1971, said, "I support it very strongly. I'm not worried about public input."

Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie noted that delaying the detailed design and implementation would risk missing the 2014 cycling season. He suggested that the demand for more consultation is "being used as a bogeyman" to put off a decision.

Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr, sounding frustrated, noted that extensive consultation has already taken place and that the Cannon Street Study Group and the local neighbourhood associations all support it.

Typical mid-block cross-section east of Victoria
Typical mid-block cross-section of Cannon Street Cycle Track east of Victoria

Operating Costs

Councillors were also hung up on the projected operating costs, which could be as high as $728,000 over the three years of the pilot project, even though some of those costs would replace current operating costs for the south lane of Cannon Street, and the biggest component is a high estimate of $180,000 to clear windrows (piles of plowed snow) in winter.

They spent a long time agonizing over whether the City can afford to clear snow from the bike lanes. At various points, councillors considered closing the bike lanes during winter or removing the physical barriers in fall and re-installing them each spring.

Transportation Manager Don Hull promised to come back to Council if winter maintenance becomes a significant problem during the three-year pilot.

Just Do It

At one point, Ward 4 Councillor Sam Merulla took his colleagues to task for throwing so many obstacles in the path of the bike lanes. Calling Cannon "the epitome of an incomplete street," Merulla demanded, "Enough with the nonsense and the gamesmanship and the politicking and let's just do it."

Thankfully, this sentiment carried the day - but not until after a very long, drawn-out and at times painful debate. This was a clear case of bikeshedding - expending disproportionate time, energy and "angst" to what is ultimately a very small budget item with a very large return on investment.

As Justin Jones noted, studies from across North America find that every dollar invested in high quality cycling infrastructure delivers five dollars in benefits. Complete streets bring rising property values, higher retail business and improved quality of life.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By DissenterOfThings (registered) | Posted March 19, 2014 at 15:38:10

And Clark wants to be mayor? This guy is as bad as Bratina.

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By Kevin (registered) | Posted March 19, 2014 at 16:57:37 in reply to Comment 98639

My neighbour calls him "Hamilton's Rod Ford."

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By ping (anonymous) | Posted March 19, 2014 at 15:41:55 in reply to Comment 98639

Worse, actually, because he's smarter.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted March 19, 2014 at 18:39:20 in reply to Comment 98640

Yes, he is more like Doug Ford. Just as evil, but smarter.

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By Core-B (registered) | Posted March 19, 2014 at 19:58:15 in reply to Comment 98667

Nobody was more pissed at Clark's idea than me. I wond be voting for him. Comparing him to Rob Ford is ridiculous.

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By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted March 20, 2014 at 09:51:49 in reply to Comment 98679

Agreed. Clark's suggestion wasn't based in malice nor desire to have these lanes happen. I've talked with him a few times about them, and he's 100% supportive. Honestly, Clark is a procedural guy, and he saw a project coming forward that hadn't had any "public hearings" done by City Staff, and he's right on that. City Staff never went out, hosted an open house for a dozen people and heard what they thought about the design that was put in front of council yesterday. We at Yes We Cannon, however, did the City's job for them here. We talked with the BIAs, we met with every neighbourhood association, we went to over 20 events and talked to people where they were, we didn't wait for them to come to us. And the City isn't used to that level of sophistication in projects like this, so some Councillors don't necissarily know how to handle it, and then they still want to go about the usual dithering that's involved in a City-led project. This is a community-led project, and public consultations (which were done, by the way, in the form of the Cannon Street 2-Way audit group - a city-run project), aren't going to give any new insights - that road HAS to change. This is a pilot project, with public input built in as part of its ongoing operations, so we need to stop looking for perfect and start getting something done.

As for Clark, sure he's a Conservative, but he's as red as they come, by my experience. He's not a bad guy - he's a pragmatist, and listens to reason. He's no Rob Ford. Not even close. I think he's a decent enough Councillor, but my Mayoral allegiances lie elsewhere.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted March 19, 2014 at 15:49:04

"Maintenance activities are the least costly methods, and are intended, to preserve or extend the service life of a road, until an asphalt surface replacement or a complete reconstruction is required. A typical maintenance activity will extend the service life of a road from 1 to 5 years and costs can range from $0.50 per m2 to $90 per m2 to complete the repairs, depending on the type of treatment used.... Capital costs for resurfacing a road range from $87,500 to $500,000 per lane-km depending on the treatment used."


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By MikeyJ (registered) | Posted March 19, 2014 at 16:14:50 in reply to Comment 98641

Was digging around also...

2012 Operating costs for paved (hard top) roads per lane kilometre: $4,073.71

2012 Operating costs for winter maintenance of roadways per lane kilometre: $2,586.25

Hamilton Financial Results: 2012 Municipal Performance Measurement Program (Page 4)

Comment edited by MikeyJ on 2014-03-19 16:16:45

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 19, 2014 at 15:49:33

I was listening to it while I worked. There were times I was cringing with the endless repetition of the same questions that had already been answered, the constant bikeshedding and hand-wringing... Councillor McHattie's patience is exemplary, especially after Councillor Farr's nerves obviously had frayed past the breaking point and he began arguing with the chair.

Was it Councillor Clark who seriously suggested completely removing the separation every winter for convenient ploughing in favour of cat's eyes?

Either way, I'm mostly disappointed that traditional roadway expenditures don't go through the wringer like this.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 19, 2014 at 19:08:11 in reply to Comment 98642

how McHattie hasn't thrown a pencil across the room yet I'll never know.

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted March 19, 2014 at 16:02:51 in reply to Comment 98642

Imagine if it wasn't just a three-year pilot...

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By nitpicker (anonymous) | Posted March 19, 2014 at 16:11:14

I for one am excited this might be ready for the 2013 cycling season!

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By Steve (registered) | Posted March 19, 2014 at 20:22:55 in reply to Comment 98645

Using the waybackmachine?

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted March 19, 2014 at 16:27:04

I find it REALLY difficult to believe that in all of the reports Councillors received, there was nothing about the public consultation that had been accomplished to-date.

And really, are their heads (Pearson, Johnson and Clark) completely buried in the sand that they've missed the YesWeCannon activity and somehow don't realize that the people who live on Cannon Street want this.

Delay tactics by Council such as the "need for public consultation" make my head spin around.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 19, 2014 at 17:11:27 in reply to Comment 98647

That's what old dinosaurs who are too obtuse to see the current needs of a community do, over and over, on every topic they don't want to see come to fruition. One positive is that they are identifying themselves as such.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 19, 2014 at 18:15:15 in reply to Comment 98654

Still plenty of old dinosaurs around to vote them back in. That's why they're identifying themselves.

Comment edited by highwater on 2014-03-19 18:15:59

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 19, 2014 at 16:38:02 in reply to Comment 98647

There is the very realistic concern that the clamour they hear for things represents a vocal minority of politically-engaged activists and the general public is completely unaware of these plans. Dozens of people on Twitter do not really represent "the public", even though they'll have a substantial footprint on the media conversation. This also applies to call-in shows, magazines, and other self-selected groups. Ryan often rants about self-selected reader polls, but twitter and #HamOnt and even RTH aren't really any better for gauging public interest.

So they have to run it by the politically-disengaged public who don't follow these things. Consultation means going to the public and talking to them where they are, not inviting them to come visit you with comments. And that's why it's significant that Jones et al already did this and somehow Council acted like that didn't count.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2014-03-19 16:40:53

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By Dave S (anonymous) | Posted March 20, 2014 at 06:39:04 in reply to Comment 98649

I did a lot of door knocking all na's & community hubs have web sites and news letters. Mac serve students flyerd the street to invite them to 2 public meetings i held. The design was based on input that we recieved from them. I have personally sent the final draft of the plan to over 800 residents, Justin sent it out to over 1000. The problem is that sme of the councillors have a mind like a siv. I spoke in august for the notice of motion then in september for the motion, and reported aboutthe outreach to stakeholders. And have been reporting back to theresidents and community leaders. There has been plenty of public consultation.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:06:26 in reply to Comment 98697

That's exactly my point. Public consultation is an important step in a municipal project because municipal projects don't get the kind of media footprint as larger ones. And the Bike Cannon people did that. And they did it better than the city does it, because they went to where the people are instead of just setting up a slide-show at a local church/school/rec-centre/whatever and waiting for the usual suspects to show up.

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By rgenie (anonymous) | Posted March 19, 2014 at 16:53:11

Kudos to all that had the vision & helped to make it happen.

Is the vote in front of the entire council a formality that will get passed (since its been through the 4 hour wringer) or is there a chance the full council will vote against the staff recommendation?

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By Dave S (anonymous) | Posted March 20, 2014 at 06:40:23 in reply to Comment 98651

Yes it is.

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By jeffreygeoffrey (registered) | Posted March 19, 2014 at 18:48:09 in reply to Comment 98651

I'm also concerned about this, especially as this "debate" seemed to come from nowhere, threatening to derail what seemed to me (to many?) like a done deal.

Any sense Ryan/RTH if the vote next week is a formality? Or is there a chance for this same type of delay-debate again? After all the effort by the organizers of Yes We Cannon it'd be a shame for the ball to get dropped at the goal line.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted March 19, 2014 at 16:57:19

comment from banned user deleted

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted March 20, 2014 at 19:01:20 in reply to Comment 98652

If we had full public consultation for every road project that cost $800,000 we'd be in meetings 48 hours a day and have no roads for ANY users.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 19, 2014 at 17:16:25

This is wonderful news and immense hard work went into accomplishing it. A cross-city trip on bike is about to get much safer and pleasant. Worthy of celebration!

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted March 19, 2014 at 18:43:27 in reply to Comment 98655

Except that it is not cross city. I live in Durand and work in a factory on Parkdale. I will use this lane, but it is only about one third of my trip before it ends at Sherman.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 19, 2014 at 19:05:32 in reply to Comment 98668

contact your councillor about having them look to extend this cycle track through to Gage Ave. the PanAm planning process has revealed their intent to add bike lanes both directions on Cannon in that area by 2015. No reason we can't just extend the cycle-track, despite noise from city hall that it won't work on a two-way street. It will, and does all over North America and the world.

Once we get it to Gage, it should make a lot of sense to push this thing all the way to the end of Cannon.

In the meantime, you could jump down to Dunsmure and zip along there (one of the proposed greenways we've written about on RTH)

Comment edited by jason on 2014-03-19 19:06:44

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted March 20, 2014 at 08:18:02 in reply to Comment 98673

Or up Gage to Lawrence Road which has had a nice bike lane all the way to the Red Hill Valley, where they've put newer bike lanes along King St/ going east right to Stoney Creek. Wish SoBi was "utilizing" those lanes.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 20, 2014 at 09:25:36 in reply to Comment 98699

It would be great to see the city start utilizing minimum vehicle lane widths instead of minimum bike lane widths all the time. Two great examples are Stonechurch Road and Lawrence Road. The centre turning lanes on both streets are like small airport runways. A complete and utter waste of space. I ride the Lawrence bike lanes regularly and cars always pass me in the turning lane because the bike lane is so narrow they feel uncomfortable staying in their lane.

Both Stonechurch and Lawrence could be repainted like this:


Imagine the difference in safety for all users of the road with this design instead of our painted lanes of minimum width?

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted March 19, 2014 at 18:09:04 in reply to Comment 98655

That is very true, mikeonthemountain. Congrats to all of the people involved in fighting for this initiative.

It's just a bit of a black mark on City Council that it took four hours to "debate" and it's also worrying since one of the councillors trying to derail the process is now running for mayor.

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By Vincent (anonymous) | Posted March 19, 2014 at 19:03:04

Nice work to all thought involved!

Just saw this on the Vancity Blog, thought this is probably of interest here.

Dutch bike lane intersection.


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By jason (registered) | Posted March 19, 2014 at 19:03:47


It's that type of attitude that Hamilton is going to need for a while if we ever expect to stop acting like it's 1960 all the time. Bogota had a mayor that built hundreds of km of bike lanes and BRT lines along with an extensive park system in a matter of 6-8 years.
NYC has been transformed in less than 10 years by their Transportation Commissioner who took a tough approach to making these changes that otherwise would never happen with the usual N American model of studying everything to death.


Hamilton is embarrassing when it comes to approving anything besides roads, townhouses and box stores. Small neighbourhood cafes, pedestrian/transit/cycling amenities, mixed-use developments, anything higher than 2.5 stories etc.... all turn into a fiasco where nobody wants to dare step out of the 1970's status quo.

As someone once said about cities: the only thing that sucks about democracy is all the voting.

Hamilton has this down to a science - debate, vote, debate, study, debate, vote, more study, sit on the shelf for 4 years, debate, study, vote...... Let's start acting like a real city.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted March 19, 2014 at 20:40:24

My wife and I talked about bike lanes on Cannon east of Sherman last night, and figure with the traffic volume it could be reduced to one lane each way. The road is so bad around the stadium and with all the snow this winter, it has pretty much been a single lane each way from Lottridge almost to Ottawa Street for a few months now

There's no way I would go along Dunsmure, there are way too many stop signs to Idaho.

From Durand I'd be tempted to stay close to the escarpment and take Cumberland & Lawrence. The only problem with that route is getting from Lawrence onto Parkdale smoothly.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:30:55

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 20, 2014 at 19:11:01 in reply to Comment 98711

Great examples - west 5th, stone church, golf-links.
Would you hop on a freeway if you knew it was a dead end in 4 minutes with no connecting roads or ramps to anywhere?

Cyclists aren't a dumb as you think. They don't do that either.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted March 21, 2014 at 10:41:28 in reply to Comment 98739

If these are not good examples then where was the cycling lobby to try and stop it and save the taxpayers some money? Maybe redirect those lanes them to someplace where people actually may use them.

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By DissenterOfThings (registered) | Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:16:29 in reply to Comment 98711

Yes because those hundreds of millions we light on fire supporting urban sprawl and unsustainable road infrastructure is a great use of our money.

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By Crapitalist (anonymous) | Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:11:20 in reply to Comment 98711

People in a suburban area don't use crappy bike lanes, therefore people in an urban area won't use good bike lanes. Gotcha.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:01:23 in reply to Comment 98711

I use all of those bike lanes and I live in the area. Well, I don't use them this winter, they're covered in snow so I ride out in the street, but yes they're awesome. They are seldom used because they don't connect to anything. As soon as you leave the safety of the bike lane you either get on the sidewalk or are on a roaring mountain arterial with the Langoliers chasing you to gobble you up. Few type A personalities ride year round like that. Heck, parachuting is safer than going to work.

The tax forms in front of me and on my computer monitor indicate that yes indeed I paid my share toward infrastructure (when we take our cars out is when we are smashing the road to bits and leaving roadkill everywhere). Pretty please, with sugar on top, in return may I travel around the city on bike and run my errands without being murdered?

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2014-03-20 11:14:59

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:44:32 in reply to Comment 98711

Well people in the lower city actually do bike. Every day you see crazy people biking on North-end roads like Cannon and Victoria and Wellington, often the wrong way or on the sidewalk because the "correct" way is so bike-hostile. Maybe your right that there isn't demand for a bike lane on Stone Church or Golf Links, I don't know (and having driven on Golf Links, I can see why nobody uses that one - it looks suicidal).

But Cannon Street has the space and the demand for a bike-lane. And don't even start to complain about the money when we'll be spending $60 million on that freaking interchange at Clappison's Corners and what, $200 million on the damnable Stadium? We could build hundreds of protected bike lanes for that kind of money.

And I'll agree to licenses when cyclists start running over and killing hundreds of Canadians per-year. We don't license pedestrians, why should we license cyclists? And as for the license fee, that doesn't go to city coffers. I pay property tax, I want a bike lane, and I don't want Tim Horton's stadium or a new interchange.

But you already know all this. You just don't care because it interferes with your knee-jerk hatred of cycling.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2014-03-20 10:47:06

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 20, 2014 at 19:12:19 in reply to Comment 98712

Wow...bravo. Post of the year.

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By Proud Hamilton (anonymous) | Posted March 20, 2014 at 10:45:21

This will make the all those homeowners happy with the bike lane creating a buffer between the sidewalk and the speeding cars and trucks.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted March 21, 2014 at 10:47:42

You make an interesting point about winter. Very few cyclists ride in the winter. Unfortunately we don't have a climate like in California so our bike lanes will be underutilized, especially in the winter. There are better things to spend my tax dollars on, like filling potholes caused by this brutal winter.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted March 21, 2014 at 10:49:06

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted April 12, 2014 at 09:09:40 in reply to Comment 98818

i smell burning

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 21, 2014 at 10:53:17 in reply to Comment 98818

At this point you've degraded into a cartoonish satire of a conservative. I honestly have trouble believing you're serious.

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By DanBotham (registered) | Posted April 12, 2014 at 00:45:09

Is it too early to start thinking about tactical urbanism ideas for the Cannon Street cycle track? I see bollards in the city's plans but there have been many suggestions of planters and other quick fixes which could send the signal that more separation is better than less.

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