Special Report: Cycling

High Quality Cycling Infrastructure Saves Money

The amount of scrutiny placed on the public investment in a three-kilometre protected bike lane would never apply to the much larger costs the city routinely shoulders for automobile infrastructure.

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 20, 2014

Yesterday, the General Issues Committee unanimously approved the plan to implement a protected two-way cycle track on Cannon Street. Today, talk radio host Scott Thompson posted the following question on twitter:

Should #cyclists pay for using dedicated #bikelanes? #HamOnt #itsonlyfair

Okay, let's take this one step at a time. First of all, we must repeat that drivers do not pay for roads. City streets are funded through the municipal property tax levy, while provincial highways are funded through general revenues (i.e. provincial income tax, corporate tax, and so on).

It's true that drivers specifically pay several taxes and fees, including vehicle tax, gas tax, driver's licence fee, licence plate sticker, and so on. But even if we include all sources of revenue, like speeding tickets and so on, the total amount that drivers specifically pay falls short of the total cost of roads by billions of dollars a year.

(A Conference Board study published last year found that Ontario drivers contribute around $7.7 billion in revenue but the Province and municipalities spend $10-13 billion on roads.)

And that's assuming none of that money goes toward other costs. However, it costs money to maintain the system of drivers' licences and vehicle registrations, which is over and above the cost of roads.

It costs money to maintain police services that enforce the Highway Traffic Act and municipal driving laws - a lot more money than the state collects in tickets, despite motorists grumbling about speed traps.

It costs money to provide medical care to the people who are injured and killed in collisions - around 530 fatalities and 65,000 injuries a year in Ontario. Locally, that translates to around 20 fatalities and 2,250 injuries a year in Hamilton.

It costs money to provide medical care to people who are sickened by air pollution from automobiles. In Hamilton, air pollution is responsible for around 700 hospital visits and 100 premature deaths every year, and half of our air pollution is from automobile exhaust.

So let's put to bed the tired canard that "it's only fair" to start charging cyclists to use the road.

Infrastructure Costs

Now let's take the analysis further and look at things from the infrstructure cost side.

Road maintenance costs around $2,300 per lane-kilometre, plus around $3,800 in winter maintenance, for a total of $6,100 per lane-kilometre.

On top of that, roads must be reconstructed on average once every 25 years at a cost of $750,000 per lane-kilometre.

Divide that cost by the 25-year life of a road and you've got a lifecycle replacement cost of $30,000 per lane-kilometre per year - five times the total annual cost of maintenance.

How potholes get made: Heavy vehicles compact the roadbed. Water seeps in, then freezes and expands, causing the roadbed to erode and the asphalt to crack. Then the asphalt collapses into the hollow, leaving a pothole.

But wear-and-tear on a road is related exponentially to the weight of vehicles riding on the road. A subcompact car is around ten times as heavy as a bicycle but causes around 1,000 times as much damage to the pavement. A SUV produces 8,000 times as much damage as a bike, and a transport truck produces millions of times as much damage as a bike.

By extending the life of a roadway, protected bike lanes save the municipality money in lifecycle costs.

Economic and Health Benefits

At the same time, protected bike lanes are proven to boost local retail business and lift nearby property values, which help increase municipal property tax revenues.

On top of that, by replacing some automobile trips with bike trips, protected bike lanes reduce air pollution, which reduces the number of hospital visits and premature deaths. Cycling also improves public health by getting more people to exercise.

And on top of that, the transformation from a fast, four-lane arterial to a complete street makes it measurably safer for all road users - including drivers. That means fewer and less serious collisions, with its own commensurate reduction in injuries, hospitalizations and deaths.

Double Standard

Of course, the amount of scrutiny placed on the public investment in a three-kilometre protected bike lane would never apply to the much larger costs the city routinely shoulders for automobile infrastructure.

For example, there was no outcry from fiscally-conscious councillors or populist commentators when the City decided, without any significant debate or public engagement, to spend $2.3 million replacing a single intersection: the grade-separated interchange of King Street and Kenilworth Avenue.

No one gasped at the lost potential for another $200,000+ in annual property tax revenue from the massive amount of surface area required to make room for all the on- and off-ramps necessitated by this highway-style interchange.

Land required for King/Kenilworth vs. Main/Kenilworth (Image Credit: Sean Burak)
Land required for King/Kenilworth vs. Main/Kenilworth (Image Credit: Sean Burak)

No one fumed that we have committed future taxpayers to cover the comparatively huge lifecycle costs of an overpass/underpass interchange system where an intersection would do.

If we applied a consistent cost/benefit analysis to automobile, cycling and walking infrastructure, the shape of our public realm would be a lot different.

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 kevlahan (registered) | Posted March 20, 2014 at 17:40:41

... and there was no need for public consultation, a four-hour by Council meeting and a huge multi-year community campaign to justify spending $4 million on re-building 1.5 km long Beckett Drive.

It just happened because the City staff recommended it and council quietly ratified it. What about maintenance? What about the cost! Maybe we shouldn't plow it in the winter to save money (people can just drive their cars in the summer if they want somewhere to drive ... I've heard winter driving is pretty unpleasant and terrible for cars)? Could we have got away with narrower lanes? Maybe we could have a special toll to recoup costs from motorists?

AND they managed to spend $4 million to rebuild and widen the road while avoiding providing any improved facilities for pedestrians or cyclists, like, say sidewalks or a cycle lane. The extra space was dedicated to a buffer zone in the middle of the road, presumably to make it safer for motorists to drive fast.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2014-03-20 17:46:15

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 20, 2014 at 18:31:42 in reply to Comment 98729

43 seconds of consultation for Beckett Drive would have seen everyone say the same thing I said the first time I drove on it: Forget the stupid painted middle section, put that painted section on the up-bound shoulder for a bike lane!
City Hall culture is so 1960's still it's crazy.

Comment edited by jason on 2014-03-20 18:33:12

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By jobo (registered) | Posted March 22, 2014 at 13:57:14 in reply to Comment 98732

Agreed. We certainly need a bike lane on this access

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted March 21, 2014 at 06:46:08 in reply to Comment 98732

Beckett Drive would have made a good car-free route up the mountain. We had a convincing several-months-long demonstration that the world does not come to an end by making Beckett car-free.

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By Ms Me (anonymous) | Posted March 20, 2014 at 18:39:49

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted March 20, 2014 at 20:04:31 in reply to Comment 98733

What next? Walking insurance? What about jogging? Rollerblading? How about "sitting on a bench" insurance?

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted March 25, 2014 at 12:58:05 in reply to Comment 98747

Opening-a-door-hoping-a-bucket-of-whitewash-doesn't-fall-on-you insurance. You never know!

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 20, 2014 at 18:55:04 in reply to Comment 98733

Every time I open the spec website the last couple of weeks, there is another fatality in a big smashup. Or a pedestrian left in a pool of blood.

The number of those caused by bicycles : 0

You are either delusional or deliberately obtuse if you think bikes are a danger to anyone, unless maybe careening down the sidewalk, which is illegal for that reason. The number of roadkills left by bicycles: 0. Even the animals are safer. The reason we need insurance to get in our cars is because we're operating two thousand pounds of metal that is capable of crashing through the side of a building.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2014-03-20 19:05:25

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By Source? (anonymous) | Posted March 20, 2014 at 22:21:49

Hey Ryan,
Thanks for the article and analysis. I know you wouldn't make numbers up, but I think you should state the source for the lane/infrastructure costs.

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted March 20, 2014 at 22:34:40

According the thespec.com's online poll, the cost is now $1 million for the bike lanes. I can't believe the negative press the Spec has been giving this project, leading all of their reporting with the higher-than-expected cost estimates without referring to the source of the capital costs.

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By Brian C (anonymous) | Posted March 20, 2014 at 23:13:13

Downtown already has a bike lane in place ready to go! It is the west bound lane on the north side on Wilson St. The stoplights are in place. Put curbside parking on the southside. Two east bound lanes in the middle. Ryan calls this street TWINO, Two Way In Name Only. Imagine a one way complete street for virtually no cost to the city. Everyday I walk south on John to work and I cross Wilson. Currently it is two way with silly designated turning lanes where cars are passing at high speed within metres of pedestrians. A bike lane and curbside parking would provide a comfortable buffer for people walking east and west through the downtown. Cyclists could go straight to the market.

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By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted March 21, 2014 at 00:16:55

Why do you never take into account the indirect monies that various levels of government collect from the car industry? Maybe because the amounts are truly staggering. From the taxes coal and iron ore miners pay at the start of the process to the taxes paid by the used car salesperson when the car is resold for the last time. Without all those taxes the government would be broke. Bicycles not so much.

On top of that every other mode of transportation uses these roads. Over and over you have stated that cycling is very safe. If cycling is safe and helmets and other safety measures are not needed then why should we spend all the money on separated bike lanes?

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By ArnoS (registered) | Posted March 23, 2014 at 12:35:46 in reply to Comment 98758

And what about the indirect benefits of cycling? The health benefits through exercise are enormous. Also, cycling commuters benefit business since they are more productive and take less sick leave. They also arrive to work happier, since Statistics Canada surveys show that cycling commuters enjoy their commute more than any other mode of transportation.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted March 21, 2014 at 06:35:17 in reply to Comment 98758

And let's not forget the 13.7 billion dollars that the government of Canada and government of Ontario paid to bail out GM and Chrysler.

A significant boost to Canada's national debt and Ontario's provincial debt. We will be paying for this for the rest of our lives.

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By arienc (registered) | Posted March 21, 2014 at 11:10:49 in reply to Comment 98771

And the $13.5 billion dollars a year (and climbing) spent over and above what is collected from users on road maintenance and construction.

If we removed this subsidy for driving, which has widened from near zero in 2000 to $13.5 billion a year in 2009/10, we could eliminate the federal deficit, allow full income splitting for families and also eliminate over half of the provincial deficit immediately.

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By arienc (registered) | Posted March 21, 2014 at 06:32:37 in reply to Comment 98758


1) Providing good bike infrastructure doesn't mean no cars, it allows citizens to do with less. The auto industry will still be viable. 2) The money not spent on cars, gas, maintenance and insurance will be spent on something else, or saved for future consumption. Governments will get their cut. 3) Inevitably the spending that replaces automotive costs will add more to the local economy than spending on cars, gasoline or insurance, most of which funnel money elsewhere.
4) Cycling is not safe when the built infrastructure ignores their safety. As a cyclist here in North America, you are 30x more likely to be killed or injured than a cyclist in the Netherlands, even though very few Dutch wear helmets.

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By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted March 21, 2014 at 10:29:28 in reply to Comment 98769

enough already with the comparisons to Holland. It's a totally apples and oranges comparison and you know it, that's why it keeps being brought up. Do you really want to hear all the ways that citys there are different to citys here? If you want that kind of living experience than you need to move to downtown Toronto or NYC. Our cities are just different give your head a shake and get over it

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 21, 2014 at 21:34:12 in reply to Comment 98810

our cities are different because we've completely sucked at planning ours. Dutch cities and NYC were famous for decades for being car-clogged nightmares. They've changed that image by proper planning. Novel idea....you get the city you plan for. Perhaps you should move to a city where 100% of it's residents want it to suck forever. Here, people are working hard to finally improve Hamilton.

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By arienc (registered) | Posted March 21, 2014 at 11:06:38 in reply to Comment 98810

What's wrong with the comparison of accident rates? They have good, dedicated bike infrastructure, we don't. They have low rates of injuries and deaths. We don't. There is a direct relationship which should make sense to anyone with a brain.

Europe is not another planet. They have cars and suburbs and people who have to rush around to get things done too. It's not like they were born with a 'cycling gene' that wasn't given to people born in North America. The main differnece is that they actually made decisions that gave more importance to protecting citizens from the negative effects of cars instead of giving automobile speed the top priority.

The idea of actually learning from what others have done seems to be completely foreign to you, LOL.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 21, 2014 at 10:59:34 in reply to Comment 98810

The comparison to the Dutch speaks nothing to the culture or location.

It speaks only to the very generic and universal fact that safer infrastructure and more of it, leads to safer cycling. This phenomenon is not limited to Holland.

Stop being deliberately obtuse.

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By now2 (registered) | Posted March 21, 2014 at 21:08:21

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 21, 2014 at 22:13:23 in reply to Comment 98886

You seem confused. Cannon Street is not being closed to cars, deliveries, and emergency services.

One lane, of a street with excess capacity, that runs through residential neighborhoods, is being turned into a bi-directional bike lane, that the neighborhood has asked (and in fact, worked hard) for.

You are clearly alarmed but it is based on absolutely nothing that is real.

If there is anything else confusing about that, let us know, we'll try to help.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted March 21, 2014 at 21:23:30 in reply to Comment 98886

Yes, the car-free zones in major Japanese and European cities are burning down to the ground. Leaving nothing but a burned-out cinder where there used to be a city.

Or perhaps not.

As the people who live there attest, the car-free zones are booming hubs of business and commerce with high property values because people really, really want to live there.

But we don't have to go to Europe or Japan. The Toronto Islands form North America's largest car-free urban area. And so many people really, really want to live there that they get over 10 applications for every vacancy that opens on the 15-year waiting list. See:


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By jason (registered) | Posted March 21, 2014 at 21:30:57 in reply to Comment 98889

haha....great response. I love people who can't imagine life any other way than....


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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted March 23, 2014 at 02:33:19 in reply to Comment 98890

Ah yes, the ghost towns of the future.

Of course, in the present, they are economic leeches sucking out taxpayer dollars to support their unsustainable way of life.

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By now2 (registered) | Posted March 22, 2014 at 02:21:23

Here we go again, small specifically designed area with a pedestrian focus is not representative of 99.9 percent of the cities around the world. wonder why ;)The point i was making is the silly cost comparison. how much do bikes contribute to our GDP / commerce. i rest my case. So do not suggest there is not real value in roadways that accommodate cars. Do not make the argument cars cost more money for infrastructure when you do not take into consideration the real value. Lastly do not think taxpayers have deep pockets so they can spend significant money on something that serves so few. The fact that cyclist want want want but are not prepared to financially assist says it all. You just want to eat everyone else's lunch. Meanwhile the city has roads crumbling ,areas with no sidewalks recreation centres that need repair, bridges that need to be replaced, hey lets spend 1.6 million for a four klm stretch of bike lane with an on going operating cost. Cant wait until the stats are in and the credibility of all those that supported this waste of spending will lose all credibility on any stance they take. Enjoy it now it may not last! if If i am wrong which i doubt, i will personally apologize on this very site.

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted March 22, 2014 at 11:18:57

@now 2 (Or are you really LOL in disguise?):

Where the heck do you get the idea that cyclists are freeloaders? Truly, I PAY TAXES. I own a house - property tax, I work - income tax, I drive - all of the related auto taxes. Road allowances are for ALL USERS, including cyclists and pedestrians. The entitlement factor is only held by people who exclusively drive in the form of "My car is costing me a shitload of money so get out of my way all of you other losers". Cycling infrastructure adds value to the city as a whole. If there was a cycling lane proposed for Garth or Mohawk (which would be very good for those streets), I would support the initiative, although it's unlikely I myself would ever use them. Why? Because an uninterrupted cycling network is needed to get more people cycling which leads to lower maintenance costs and better health (and plus I'm not usually a selfish jerk). Sometimes you have to support projects that don't benefit you directly because every city project does not benefit EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE CITY.

And my final point is: Even if I was unemployed, didn't own property and didn't have a car, I would still be a CITIZEN of this city and would have a say in municipal priorities. Your rights as a TAXPAYER do not trump anyone else's rights as a CITIZEN.

Comment edited by fmurray on 2014-03-22 11:27:36

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By now2 (registered) | Posted March 22, 2014 at 16:56:20

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted March 23, 2014 at 02:52:28 in reply to Comment 98946

User fees for car drivers. That's a good idea! Make them pay the true costs of their habit.

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By notlloyd (registered) - website | Posted March 23, 2014 at 20:14:53 in reply to Comment 98985

There are already user fees for "car drivers." They are called taxes. Lots of debate on "true costs." These debates are all over this site and the internet. And driving isn't necessarily a "habit." You are using the word in a pejorative way.

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted March 22, 2014 at 18:44:45 in reply to Comment 98946

Now it's grown to $1.6 million? Amazing mathematics to double the cost in three days.

Keep pounding the drum, buddy, Nobody's listening.

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By now2 (registered) | Posted March 23, 2014 at 15:54:47 in reply to Comment 98954

Ignorance is bliss look again. The total cost for this experiment, n o w are you focused l want you to to clearly understand; the cost is 1.6 million dollars , almost nine hundred thousand dollars in capital the balance in operating costs. It is estimated that the operating will be over two hundred fifty thousand dollars a year a year. iS THAT CLEAR ENOUGH,

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 24, 2014 at 09:55:48 in reply to Comment 99022

Oh, so we're listing the cost of things for their entire approved lifetime? So what's the cost of the new weekend bus-service improvements on Rymal? Infinite? Well, I guess we could list it over the coming 3 years to match - which would make it double the bike lanes.

Or shall we talk about that freaking stadium? I bet you could build a lot of sidewalks with the hundreds of millions of dollars that's costing us.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted March 22, 2014 at 18:11:13 in reply to Comment 98946

Many drivers also ride bikes and walk. It's about the ability to choose the appropriate method for the task at hand. By your logic, all pedestrians should have to buy a ticket from a machine before crossing the street at a stoplight.

Meanwhile, everyone who does not own a car subsidizes the roads and highways for freeloading drivers, but you're OK with that, right?

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By now2 (registered) | Posted March 22, 2014 at 18:37:07 in reply to Comment 98950

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 22, 2014 at 19:41:23 in reply to Comment 98953

Since you hate the idea of cycling infrastructure so much, I'm sure you pass all cyclists very safely when they are using the lane. You would never dream of honking at someone I'm sure. Glad you are such an advocate of sharing the road.

Also I wonder if you live in those wards, or if you're shouting from across the city that those people can't have something their neighborhood worked for.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2014-03-22 19:47:34

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By now2 (registered) | Posted March 22, 2014 at 17:41:08

Many parts of Ontario have created groomed snowmobile trails. You must have a trail pass to ride on these trails. Money is secured from users to offset costs. Just saying;)

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted March 23, 2014 at 02:49:26 in reply to Comment 98948

So it looks like you support road tolls for all car drivers. So do I.

I think that car drivers should pay for the 13.7 billion dollars paid by the governments of Canada and Ontario to bail out GM and Chrysler. And the $13.5 billion per year shortfall in Ontario road construction and maintenance. And the police, fire and ambulance costs imposed by car drivers. And the mortality costs due to the lethal pollution from cars which are $2.2 billion per year in Toronto alone - scale that number for Hamilton.

Yes, those freeloading car drivers should pay the true costs that they impose upon others. I want their hands out of my wallet. And their lethal cancer causing poisons out of my children's lungs.

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By now2 (registered) | Posted March 23, 2014 at 15:30:26 in reply to Comment 98984

That already exists when you provide an alternative route to avoid congestion. It is call the 407, perhaps this enhanced bike lane at a 1.6 million dollar cost over the next three years should be treated the same as those who chose to use the 407'

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By now2 (registered) | Posted March 23, 2014 at 04:36:39 in reply to Comment 98984

You okay. Do you not realize the biggest sector that contributes multiple billions of dollars a year is the auto sector. The steel industry is a big contributor to the auto sector. More than ninety thousand people are employed by the auto sector an ancillary businesses. That is a conservative number. Look if you don't like automobile go back in time you do not belong in this time period you belong in the dark ages, at the same time take the tin hat off your head it is affecting your logic.

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By now2 (registered) | Posted March 23, 2014 at 04:25:24 in reply to Comment 98984

Bikes contribute virtually zip to the economy. Over 500, 000 people live in Hamilton . Less than one present will event attempt to ride their bicycle in the winter. just a small stretch of bike lane over $180000 dollars for removing windrows. My guess is no more than 100 people will use it in the winter. What a waste of tax dollars. How can you take active cyclist seriously when they what everyone else to foot the bill. Use lame excuse about cost for cars. Bikes will never replace the automobile will never ever have the positive social economic benefit that cars provide. Maybe we should dump the public transit and force people to use a bike. Let's consider people with disabilities, seniors, young children they would just have to watch the bikes pass them bye. What a joke. How can I say this respectfully, you want it then you pay for it. It is not a service that a city is required to provide. Don't get me wrong bike lanes that we have else where with no on going operating cost are at least tolerable.

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By then (anonymous) | Posted March 23, 2014 at 17:29:16 in reply to Comment 98990

Wow. So uninformed. So angry. So WRONG. I feel bad. For you - a bit. But mostly for the people who have to tolerate you in real life.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted March 23, 2014 at 19:36:05 in reply to Comment 99027

I suspect that this person is not like this in real life. Which is why he hides behind a pseudonym.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 23, 2014 at 09:32:15 in reply to Comment 98990

It is unfortunate that you can't get over your mindset that bikes are non contributors, but really irrelevant since it's not true. Driving costs a lot. More money to spend when you're not driving. The money still gets spent (and taxed). Yes, that simple. And they don't smash giant holes in the road so the city saves money too, cheaper maintenance. The more basic point is that people who can't drive have cycling available as an option, if they choose it. Advanced societies work this way. I don't see turnstiles at the park for when you take your dog for a walk to crap on the grass.

Since cyclists almost don't exist in your worldview, then the mighty automotive industry has nothing to fear.

No one has proposed that allowing people to cycle will cause the automobile to be replaced entirely, as you suggest.

No one has proposed kicking anyone off transit and forcing them to ride bikes, as you suggest.

Don't get me wrong bike lanes that we have else where with no on going operating cost are at least tolerable.

Aha, gleaning more clues to your mindset. Perhaps you're upset at the idea of snow removal in the winter, which is adding a good chunk of that bill. Actually this concern I share. The "enhanced" maintenance of the lanes on other routes did not make them usable, but I have no idea what they spent on what looks like absolutely nothing.

See, you are capable of raising a good point. Stop the fake hysteria out of nothing, and debate honestly. It is counterproductive to any goods points that may find themselves buried in your otherwise (sorry) very uninformed and ignorant rants. You are entitled to your opinion, but cycling is known to be a valuable part of transportation options in a city, and that it is why infrastructure is getting built.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2014-03-23 09:41:38

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By arienc (registered) | Posted March 23, 2014 at 08:47:19 in reply to Comment 98990

Absolutely wrong! Nobody wants "everyone else to foot the bill". We pay a substantial amount of property taxes for the upkeep of the roads. Only the entitled a-holes who never learned to share in kindergarten insist that driving (the most expensive and least fiscally conservative form of transport) be the only option available.

Who the F do you think you are to say that bicycles will never, in any instance replace the usage of an automobile? Most of the people in this discussion HAVE in fact replaced some of their automobile trips with bicycle trips. Many more would do so and more often if they had safer infrastructure.

Cars do offer a great deal of positive benefits. However you must also acknowledge that the benefits go primarily to those using them as an individual. When more people make the same decision to maximize their individual benefit, those benefits start to disappear. Car travel becomes slow and irritating. Having more options means greater economic efficiency.

In no way does that mean the end of cars. They will remain useful for the majority of people. We're talking about repurposing a couple of traffic lanes here and there out of some 30-40 that can be used by motorists to traverse the city.

The evidence that that bikes CAN replace automobile use is visible EVERY place on this EARTH that has invested in safe cycling infrastructure, whether in colder or warmer climates, hillier or flatter terrain, richer or poorer cities, denser or more sparse than Hamilton.

Plus, don't forget the added benefits of making speeds slower / safer for motorists, and taking cars off the road which makes it easier for those who DO have no other alternatives to get around.

Heck: even if I was solely a motorist and unable to cycle, spending money on these bike lanes is STILL a far better investment than keeping the existing oversupply of traffic lanes. No matter whether it's a cycle lane or a car lane, it still has to be maintained, which means there are ongoing operating costs that citizens are responsible for.

Comment edited by arienc on 2014-03-23 08:50:45

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By now2 (registered) | Posted March 23, 2014 at 15:32:52 in reply to Comment 98996

You are wrong the cheapest form of transportation is to walk!

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By notlloyd (registered) - website | Posted March 23, 2014 at 20:08:40 in reply to Comment 99019

Saying "you are wrong" won't win you any friends.

Cheapest depends on the defninition of cost. I would think mooching a ride is a lot cheaper than walking. ;)

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By now2 (registered) | Posted March 23, 2014 at 17:22:11

That is why it is important to invest in side walks in areas they do not exist and fix the many we do have. 1.6 million Dollars would go a long way to fix the basic need for the citizens of this great city.

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By arienc (registered) | Posted March 24, 2014 at 09:12:23 in reply to Comment 99026

Now, now2 you are getting somewhere. I agree that walking has to be more of a priority. It is the most natural and low impact form of transport. Everybody walks. Even when you arrive at your destination in your car (or bicycle) you are a pedestrian for a part of every journey. If you're saying that we should put pedestrians above bikes in priority I fully agree with you.

However the reality is that there are enough resources to support pedestrians and also enhance opportunities for cycling if we reallocate a small fraction of the resources we are using to subsidize driving. I have no issue with subsidizing roads, they provide significant benefit to society. However if we are going to use our tax dollars efficiently, we should only do so once we've maximized the potential of the other transportation methods available.

One other benefit of the Cannon bike lanes is they will make it much more comfortable for people to walk on the south side, as the sidewalk is right beside the existing traffic lane where observed speeds frequently exceed 70 km/h. Removing this traffic lane is a necessity to provide some semblance of comfort for pedestrians.

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By now2 (registered) | Posted March 24, 2014 at 23:52:51 in reply to Comment 99062

How deep do you think taxpayers pockets are.? My understanding is this city has one of the highest rates of taxes for residential in the province, highest rate of unaffortability, high rate of poverty crumbling infrastructure estimate to cost over a billion to fix. Sidewalks that currently do not exist in neighbourhoods with school and churches, yet we can afford to build an state of the art bike lane with almost 300,000 dollars annual operating cost for less than 4 klm of bike lane. Wow , what's next skate board lanes.

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By arienc (registered) | Posted March 25, 2014 at 14:01:11 in reply to Comment 99098

Contrast that with the $60 million (not including operating cost) being spent on a single interchange in Waterdown. The $1 billion or so needed to fully service Aerotropolis. This less than $1 million capital expense will ultimately pay off for taxpayers many times over in terms of increased property values and newly attracted development in the corridor that previously was scared off by the proximity to loud, fast, dirty automobiles.

The developments on the fringe have a much lower chance of paying back the enormous amounts of scarce capital invested. If you're concerned about taxes at all, you're attacking the wrong projects.

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By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted March 25, 2014 at 08:31:37

If you think Bikes don't contribute to the economy, just take a few hours to peruse this:


Here's the bottom line:

A car costs between $8,000 and $10,000 a year to own and operate in Ontario (per the CAA). Of those costs, only about 15% stay in the local economy. The rest leave. So a family with 2 vehicles spends between $16 and $20,000 per year on their cars, of which about $13-16,000 leaves the local economy.

Now let's say that building better cycling infrastructure allows that family to become a one car family - they still use the car for big shopping trips, for family vacations and the one parent has a longer commute, but the other parent is able to bike to work most days, and on days when the weather isn't great, they can get a ride or even call a cab. That frees up an additional 8-10,000 in that family's budget, and research shows that people that walk or bike more also visit their local shops more often and spend more money locally. So let's say, on the conservative side, that 60% of their $8-10,000 that they're saving on not having a second car gets spent locally. That goes from keeping about $1500 in the local economy to keeping $6,000 in the local economy. And since money kept in the local economy tends to circulate and generate more local wealth to a ratio of about 3-to-1 when compared with money that leaves the local economy, that has a multiplier effect, adding another $12,000 to the local economy, bringing the total contribution from that one family and their associated local spending to $18,000 versus a contribution of $4500 previously ($1500 in local economy, 3-to-1 multiplier). Not to mention the fact that people that cycle have lower rates of absenteeism, are more productive at work AND have lower health care costs. Couple ALL OF THAT with study after study that shows that homes within 500m of a piece of cycling infrastructure like what is being built on Cannon have property values up to 35% higher than identical properties in an auto-dependent neighbourhood, and you have something that is an absolute economic slam dunk.

Nothing about remaining auto-oriented makes economic sense. Nothing at all. We're using one tool for every job without even considering that another method might actually be better for us, for our environment, for our economy and for our society. I said when I presented to council that this would be the best investment of taxpayer dollars that they made all term, and I have nothing but confidence that my statement will be proven right. Yes, building new types of infrastructure costs money. But maintaining the old style of infrastructure we have, and, more importantly, continuing to pay for the unwanted consequences of that old design, will cost us MUCH MUCH MORE in the long run. It's not a matter of not being able to afford these changes - it's a matter of not being able to afford NOT to change.

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By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted March 25, 2014 at 08:38:27

On a similar train of thought from Thompson et al, we collect a lot of taxes from the sale of cigarettes, so we should really be charging people that don't smoke, since they aren't paying those taxes by buying smokes.

We should also be charging people not to gamble, especially problem gamblers that put millions into the system, but have now quit. That's a lost revenue source.

Every kid that walks or bikes to school should be tolled - that's one less child we can charge school bus fees!

This is the mad, mad logic of charging cyclists. We all know, as a society, that excessive reliance on automotive transportation is bad for our health, our economy, our healthcare system etc, but the response is to charge those that are doing something to try and change their own habits for the better. Yes, cars and roads and driving contribute to the economy. But they don't come close to putting in what they take out, so to charge someone for choosing a mode of transportation that doesn't draw those resources out of the tax base and society is absolute insanity.

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By now2 (registered) | Posted March 25, 2014 at 09:09:30

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

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted March 25, 2014 at 12:22:01 in reply to Comment 99106

I like how my theoretical case in which a family is able to downsize from 2 cars to one all of a sudden becomes NO CARS ANYWHERE EVER in your black-and-white mind. Stop thinking about things in terms of absolutes and start thinking about them in terms of using the right tool for the job. 50% of the trips we take as a society in our cars are under 5 km in length - that's an easy bike trip. Fully 1/3 of Ontario residents live within 5 km of their work, and that number is about the same in Hamilton, with about 95,000 of the 270,000 employed residents of our city living within 5 km of their work. Those are a lot of car trips that COULD be taken by bike. I'm not saying every trip should, nor am I saying every trip will, but what I'm saying is that if we only build roads that accommodate cars, then that's the only form of transportation people are going to use.

Let me put it this way: In my kitchen, I have a wide variety of tools. For the purpose of this example, I'll talk about my paring knife and my food processor. Now compared to my paring knife, my food processor is clearly much larger, more powerful and more expensive. In fact, it's the most expensive tool I have in my kitchen, and it comes in handy when I have to make something like a big batch of apple sauce, which requires me to chop a ton of vegetables in a short time. But my food processor is a bit of a bitch to clean, it's heavy, it takes up space, and so even though it's the largest, most expensive and most powerful tool in my kitchen, I don't use it that often. Instead, when I finish typing this post, I'm going to go and cut up an apple using my paring knife. It's smaller, cheaper and more efficient for cutting up just one apple, because by the time I dig my food processor out of the cupboard and clean it after, I could have cut 2 apples in that time. Now imagine you want an apple, but I take away your paring knife. I take away all the tools you have in your kitchen except your food processor, and I tell you to cut up that apple and eat it. You'd probably think I was a bit of a lunatic, right? Because just because it's the biggest, most powerful and most expensive tool you own doesn't mean it's the right one for the job, but that's how we've built our cities for the last 50-60 years. We've only equipped people with food processors, and we see them increasingly using them to cut up apples when a paring knife would definitely do the job just fine. In this analogy, in case you haven't guessed, the food processors represent cars, the apple represents short trips and the paring knife represents a bike. It's not that cars have no place in our lives - they do, clearly, but they just don't need to be the central defining feature of both how we build our cities and how we live our lives.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted March 25, 2014 at 10:00:54 in reply to Comment 99106

Disagree that more dollars are pulled out has result of roads and cars.

Just because you don't understand it doesn't mean it's not true. You are welcome to disagree with facts, but you'll find yourself increasingly lonely out there in the dark.

The rest of your comment doesn't require a response since no one anywhere has advocated for removing roads.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 25, 2014 at 09:40:57 in reply to Comment 99106

Why do you equate cycling infrastructure with "no roads".

Who endorsed tearing up all roads and disbanding public transit.

I can't envision it because it has no basis in reality.

You truly are trolling with the most hyperbolic possible scenarios that are coming from nowhere except your imagination.

It looks like you're just arguing for the sake of being an idiot, not in order to persuade or learn.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted March 25, 2014 at 09:31:28 in reply to Comment 99106

By that same logic, we should be making our streets more dangerous since that will boost the economy by increasing business for car repair shops, car sales (to replace the cars that are totalled), the insurance industry and the health care industry. And don't forget all the extra business that will be generated for the legal industry due to all the new personal injury claims. It will be a bonanza!

Anyone trying to make our roads safer for drivers is obviously just out to destroy our economy and put all these hard-working Canadians out of business.

I've never seen such a naive economic analysis...

Of course, if we outlawed cars overnight that would have a serious effect on our economy. But no one is suggesting that. A gradual transition to other more efficient transport (e.g. fewer car trips in urban areas) would free up money and resources that could be better allocated elsewhere. Does Hong Kong, to take one example, have a moribund economy because almost no one drives?

For example, just consider all the surface parking lots downtown that generate minimal tax for the city and essentially no economic activity. If these were built over with residences and businesses this would be a huge boost to the local economy that would require minimal investment from the City (since the land is already serviced).

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By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted March 26, 2014 at 08:48:21

Here, Now2 - let's talk about what costs money and what doesn't again:


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