Special Report: Cycling

Herkimer and Charlton Bike Lane Installation on Hold

The City of Hamilton has halted the installation of new bike lanes on Herkimer and Charlton Streets after the Durand Neighbourhood Association raised serious safety concerns about their designs.

By Ryan McGreal
Published October 10, 2014

The City of Hamilton has halted the installation of new bike lanes on Herkimer and Charlton Streets after the Durand Neighbourhood Association (DNA) wrote a letter highlighting concerns with how they will be implemented.

Sign announcing planned bike lane installation on Herkimer Street (Image Credit: Kyle Slote)
Sign announcing planned bike lane installation on Herkimer Street (Image Credit: Kyle Slote)

Janice Brown, President of the neighbourhood association, sent a letter to Public Works managers and Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr citing four specific safety issues:

1. The bike lanes are unprotected and vulnerable to "dooring" because they are between parked cars and the vehicle lane. As suggested by many people this could be fixed by moving the bike lane to the curb lane, protected by parked cars.

2. The lack of bike boxes for left turns at intersections, as have been installed on Hunter Street and Cannon. This makes it quite dangerous for cyclists to turn left as they have to unexpectedly veer out of the cycle lane across several lanes of traffic.

3. The fact the lanes are not continuous between James and Dundurn. There is a problem with turning left from Herkimer to James since the lane ends at MacNab.

4. The dangerous conditions at the Herkimer/Queen intersection. The need to re-design this intersection as a normal signalized intersection has been highlighted many times, also in the context of pedestrian safety.

These issues were first raised in an investigation by local resident Kyle Slote, who wrote about the issues in an RTH article and in correspondence with the city and the DNA.

Councillor Farr followed up with staff, noting that he had not received advanced notice about the planned bike lane installations and writing, "May I respectfully request that we honour the good working relationship with the Neighbourhood Association and hold off on any implementation until such time that everyone can sit down a engage? I am sure we can work this through together."

In response, senior staff in the Public Works Department agreed to hold off on further work until after staff meet with the Ward 1 and 2 Councillors, representatives of the Kirkendall and Durand neighbourhood associations to discuss how best to resolve the safety issues.

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 brendansimons (registered) | Posted October 10, 2014 at 14:06:11

Way to go Janice Brown, Kyle Slote and Councillor Farr. Everyone involved wants a bike lane that works, but there's a lot of risk associated with doing it wrong. Farr's quote is such a good example of political teambuilding!

My only fear is that the lanes are delayed indefinitely.

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By theninjasquad (registered) - website | Posted October 10, 2014 at 14:17:37

This is awesome news, great job from everyone for getting this implementation re-evaluated.

As I've been riding down there this week and thinking about it, to me it seems to really make the most sense to have the bike lane on the north curb lane. The majority of people taking Herkimer are likely going to be turning left to head down towards downtown. Having the lane there to avoid having to go across two lanes of traffic would be great. I know we can use bike boxes for that if it's in the south lane, but you still need to stop and wait at the light in that case in order to get over.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 10, 2014 at 14:47:37

Wow. This is unexpected great news.

Whoever has this level of pull to get this project re-evaluated will hopefully advocate very strongly for the inclusion of bike boxes, the extension of these bike lanes to Dundurn and for the simple shuffling of lanes so the bikes are protected by parking instead of being sandwiched between parking and live lanes. There is zero extra cost to this change in design, it's simply putting the bikes beside the curb, instead of parking. The rest is still all paint. Wherever there are concrete bumpouts (Herkimer and I think Hess??), simply end the street parking one car length before the bumpout and have the bike lanes swing around the bumpout and back against the sidewalk.

The only extra cost is for bike boxes, and this is minimal.

The bike lane being on the north side of Charlton makes sense to me, especially since one long stretch runs adjacent to the HAAA grounds where no street parking would be allowed. I would suggest knockdown sticks perhaps along a stretch like this with no parking protection.

Herkimer I see the merits of having the lanes on either the north or south curb lane. North curb would make life easier crossing Queen and remove one lane of car traffic from zipping next to Durand Park, as well as making life easier for left turns onto James.

However, the south curb makes life easier crossing Bay and would be parking-protected the entire length. Again, a bike box at James is ultra important. There's simply no need for 3 turning lanes at a dead-end street.

NYC just launched to the top of US cycling cities by using parking-protected bike lanes. Montreal has been doing it for decades. Much easier than building entire new curbs or rows of planters. Just requires paint and perhaps some knockdown sticks at the start/end of blocks.

Herkimer and Charlton are quiet/local enough streets to easily receive this treatment and cause huge percentages of people to feel safer on a bike:


Good luck to all involved!

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By kdslote (registered) | Posted October 10, 2014 at 16:31:23

This is a great first step! Thank you to the DNA and councillor Farr for taking such swift action. Here's hoping we can now work together to an effective solution!

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By realitycheck (anonymous) | Posted October 10, 2014 at 18:04:29

What a shame that the Hunter Street lanes wern't being installed closer to the election date, so they could have been put on hold and redesigned properly.

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By Nope (anonymous) | Posted October 10, 2014 at 21:22:41

Sandwiching a bike lane between parked cars and the sidewalk is actually quite dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. Right hooks become more likely as right turning drivers can't see what's between the row of parked cars. And if you think doorings, pedestrian wanderings, and complete obliteration in winter are bad in normal bike lanes, passenger side is much worse. Poor research by the DNA.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 10, 2014 at 21:53:18 in reply to Comment 105331

experience in Montreal, NYC, Copenhagen to name a few of the leaders in the cycling world, say otherwise.

As you can see here, there is actually more visibility for turning cars, not less. http://www.virtuousbicycle.com/BlogSpace...

The extra distance between the bikes and turning cars gives everyone that much more space to see each other. A 2-3 foot buffer zone is painted between the parked cars and bike lanes to eliminate dooring.

NY's protected bike lanes are one of the main reasons they were ranked #1 in American in 2014 for cycling. This is a tried and true bike lane design that is used in the cities leading the pack in attracting the coveted 65% of 'interested but nervous' potential cyclists.

Common scene in Montreal:


Copenhagen and Paris:


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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted October 11, 2014 at 10:10:40

I am a huge supporter of bike infrastructure but I can't help but think that bike lanes in ANY configuration are not the solution these streets need. Better to invest the time and money in proper redesign of trouble intersections than just painting a one-direction bike lane along both streets.

Really, these streets need to be two-way residential designs and then all of the speed problems go away. Cyclists will be more comfortable and pedestrians can cross more easily. This is the real answer. Bike lanes on these streets in their current configuration will only make everyone mad: cyclists mad at the lane design and motorists mad at cyclists...

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted October 14, 2014 at 14:35:46 in reply to Comment 105337

I would agree with you except that this approach has already been tried and has failed. Council was not interested in talking about more one-way conversions, just as they and city staff have not been interested in implementing the conversions that have already been approved.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 11, 2014 at 15:31:35 in reply to Comment 105337

in the absence of that happening anytime soon, these bike plans are a good step forward as it reduces live traffic lanes to 1 for most of the day, and on Charlton there is only 1 lane 24-7 from James to Hess.

Having lived in Portland and spent much time in Montreal, I like to remind people that one-ways aren't bad. Hamilton's freeway style one-ways are bad. Portland is rife with 1-ways. Far more than us. Ditto for Montreal. Montreal uses the space for this exact cross-section - bike lanes beside the sidewalk, parking and 1 traffic lane.

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By Nope (anonymous) | Posted October 11, 2014 at 10:57:16 in reply to Comment 105337

These streets are quite rideable as is. Certainly better than other one-way car sewers. Get rid of the freeway on-ramps on Herkimer and calm Charlton to start.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted October 11, 2014 at 15:21:21

The correct solution for Charlton, Herkimer and all other residential streets is to eliminate cut-through car traffic with security bollards. These make the street a through route only for walking, cycling and public transit NOT car driving. For several examples in Toronto, see:


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By jason (registered) | Posted October 11, 2014 at 15:28:31 in reply to Comment 105340

this is true of the downtown as a whole.
But don't confuse Hamilton city hall with folks in TO or Amsterdam who actually value quality of life, safe streets and a strong economy as something worth pursuing.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted October 12, 2014 at 10:16:36

Ok, cars have doors on the right side as well. So with this configuration a cyclists only option will be to brake in the event of a door opening. Also, I live on Herkimer and park on the right side. Now i'll be parking a metre (and a half?) out into the street? Will the DNA cover the costs of my car getting sideswiped? Or hospital fees for me getting smunched trying to get in the driver side? I'd much prefer a traffic calming solution kind of like they have implemented along Aberdeen east of Queen.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted October 14, 2014 at 10:44:10 in reply to Comment 105345

Cars have doors on the right side as well, but they are rarely used. 85-90% of car trips are with one person.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 12, 2014 at 11:02:46 in reply to Comment 105345

A small buffer area is typically painted between the bike lane and car parking lane to avoid 'dooring'.


And opening your car door on the traffic side would be the same as it is now, and on all streets. You would look in your mirror before swinging open to be sure cars aren't right there. The extra space for bike lanes will be accommodated by repainting the street so the parking lane is a proper parking lane, instead of a full traffic lane width, as well as by narrowing the car lanes, which throughout Hamilton are usually wider than necessary. So you won't be parked 'out in the street'. You'll be parked in a clearly marked parking lane as shown above, but with a bike lane between you and the sidewalk.

More images from Montreal, Copenhagen and Paris.
This is a common design used around the world, and is one of the reasons Montreal and Copenhagen are world cycling leaders. Parking-protected bike lanes like this are one of the reasons Cycling Mag ranked NYC #1 in America this year.


My dream for Main St from McMaster to the Delta:


Comment edited by jason on 2014-10-12 11:14:10

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted October 13, 2014 at 12:10:44 in reply to Comment 105346

Here is a video of my dream for Main Street:


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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted October 12, 2014 at 19:18:13 in reply to Comment 105346

Ya, what I see in the pic from NYC is just not happening on Herkimer. That bike lane and the parking itself is about 80% of the width of the road. All that would be left is enough room for another bike lane!

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 12, 2014 at 21:31:00 in reply to Comment 105348

don't worry about space comparisons. That's a major 5-lane thoroughfare in Manhattan. Only point of that pic was to show that visibility at corners is absolutely fine.

These pics are more in line with a street like Herkimer:


The way the streets had already been painted was pretty much using the same amount of space, just with the bike lane between parking and the traffic lane. Herkimer residents and the DNA should be pushing HARD for traffic lanes no wider than 9 or 9.5 feet. The 10+ lanes that were dotted are not necessary. They encourage speeding and waste road space.

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted October 12, 2014 at 19:38:52 in reply to Comment 105348

Which should make you happy if you live on Herkimer.

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By Dutch (anonymous) | Posted October 13, 2014 at 09:33:52

How can I get involved in this discussion? I am not particularly happy about the implementation of the Hunter Street bike lanes and I'd like to see a better consideration and analysis for safety and vehicle commuters. I'm all for bike lanes but not if it disables the flow of vehicle traffic and puts cyclist in harms way.

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By theninjasquad (registered) - website | Posted October 13, 2014 at 11:24:10 in reply to Comment 105352

I'm looking to get involved as well. I'm going to start by going to the next meeting of the Hamilton Cycling Committee. They meet once a month on the first Wednesday of each month usually. The next meeting is on Wednesday November 5th starting at 5:30pm at City Hall. It sounds like staff from the city who are involved in cycling are there to discuss cycling matters with the committee and citizens.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 13, 2014 at 10:22:12 in reply to Comment 105352

By the sounds of your concerns you probably don't need to get involved. Everyone who works at city hall has vehicle commuters and flow of traffic as their #1 priority. That's why Hunter is still a freeway past central school, city hall and GO.

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By hyperbole (anonymous) | Posted October 13, 2014 at 20:54:26

Seriously? Is that what you think? Every single person at City Hall commutes by car and doesn't care about the city?

It's that kind of nonsense that makes people not believe you, or take what you have to say seriously. You may be jaded and burned out from fighting what you think is the good fight, but you come across as juvenile and immature with those types of comments. Or worse still, you come off as a troll.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 13, 2014 at 21:00:39

Not sure if this is directed at me, but my comment was sincere. Not jaded or juvenile. Simply suggesting that the time and effort prob isn't necessary if someone is concerned about traffic flow. City hall most certainly has that as their number 1 priority.

Not sure why that sounds offensive.

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