Special Report: Cycling

Long Road to Get to Gold

The 2015 Transportation Summit shows we have work to do to achieve the goal of making Hamilton a bike-friendly city.

By Kevin Love
Published April 01, 2015

The City of Hamilton's 2015 Transportation Summit was entitled "Getting to Gold."

This is a reference to achieving "Gold" level of Bicycle Friendly Community Certification from The League of American Bicyclists. As the name implies, the League is an organization in the USA, but they have expanded to Canada their Bicycle Friendly Community program.

The goal of the 2015 Summit was to describe the City of Hamilton's efforts to achieve Gold certification and to get feedback from the delegates to improve and develop Hamilton's plan for Gold certification.

However, it quickly became obvious that Hamilton is very far from meeting the criteria for Gold certification and the City's existing plans are incapable of getting us there.

The Summit

The Summit began with breakfast at 8:30 on Monday, March 23. As I have previously written I am somewhat nervous about leaving my nice Pashley bicycle exposed on the street all day long. So to get to the Summit I took a SoBi bike from the Durand Park bike station near where I live.

The Summit was at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. Unfortunately, the SoBi stations nearest to the Gallery are at Gore Park and City Hall. Fortunately, out-of-station parking is still free during SoBi's initial launch period. So I locked up my SoBi bike at an ordinary bike rack outside the Gallery and went in.

For the next half hour I enjoyed a rather nice breakfast of pastry and fruit while saying "hi" to all of my friends at the Summit. Then it began!

Welcoming Address

The welcoming address was given by Chris Murray, Hamilton's City Manager, and Dr. Ninh Tran, Hamilton's Associate Medical Officer of Health.

Dr. Tran is one of my personal urban heroes. He is one of the authors of the Improving Health by Design [PDF] report on the health consequences of our existing car-sick transportation system.

Dr. Tran has also been consistent in putting out solid, factual information about the health benefits of public transit and of cycling to Hamilton's citizens and to City Council.

In his talk, Dr. Tran repeated the data from his IHD report about how car drivers poison and kill people as well as showing the beneficial effects of transportation cycling upon people's health. I made sure to clap very loudly after Dr. Tran's presentation; I believe in supporting our urban heroes!

Rod McPhail, former Director of Transportation Planning with the City of Toronto, was the next speaker. He talked about the successful conversion of Toronto's inner city industrial zones to residential uses. Obviously very relevant to Hamilton.

Going for Gold

Next was Justin Jones of the Share the Road Cycling Coalition. Mr. Jones presented the requirements for Gold level certification for Hamilton. This included a description of the five E's, which are the categories of evaluation of a Bicycle Friendly Community.

Mr. Jones also presented some of the key measureables used to determine what level a community is at.

One thing I noticed was that Mr. Jones's list was missing a few of what I personally would consider to be key measurables. Those missing included the most important measurable of all: Cycling transportation mode share.

I later found out that this is indeed part of the League's measureables [PDF] - and that Hamilton is very far from measuring up to Gold status, which has a target of 5.5 percent bicycle commute mode share.

SoBi Bike CEO Speaks

Our lunchtime speaker was Ryan Rzepecki, founder and CEO of Social Bicycles. The SoBi system is off to a great start. Among other things, on the day of the Very Big Snowstorm in February there were eight people riding SoBi bikes!

Right now in Hamilton, we have the largest 4th Generation bike-share system in North America.

After a moderate Google search, I'll go out on a limb here and assert that Hamilton has the largest 4th Generation system in the world. If anyone has a counter-example to disprove this, please let me know in the comments.

Riding Hamilton

We had a choice of two out of three afternoon workshops. The first workshop I chose was the bike ride tour of Hamilton's cycling infrastructure. It was interesting hearing the City staff's take on our cycling infra.

Getting to Gold

The next workshop was described as, "Participants will work together to develop the action blueprint for getting to Gold." It was great talking with people to develop a plan for improving our city. The League has a fairly good set of criteria and key measurables. What Hamilton lacks is the political will to make the necessary improvements.

Key Measurables required for Gold Certification

Here are some of the League's Key Measurables that Hamilton has to improve if we are to achieve Gold certification.

1. The target for Gold is 5.5 percent bicycle commuting mode share. According to Transport Canada, Hamilton's bicycle commuting mode share in 2006 was 0.9 percent.

2. At least 65 percent of arterial streets must have bike lanes.

3. The ratio of total bicycle network mileage to total road network mileage must be at least 43 percent 4. At least 50 percent of primary and secondary schools must offer cycling education. 5. There must be at least two annual offerings of adult cycling skills classes.

Some of these are fairly easy to achieve. Hamilton used to offer CAN-BIKE adult cycling skills classes. We can do that again.

Some of these are a bit harder, but quite doable. I suspect that our cycling mode share is higher today than in 2006 due to initiatives such as the Cannon St. protected cycle lane and the SoBi bike-share launch.

My own estimate is that Hamilton is currently at 1.5 percent mode share. Which means that we've got the Strong & Fearless top 1 percent cycling and a few of the next 7 percent of Enthused & Confident cyclists.

To get to 5.5 percent or higher mode share, there are three things we can do that have a proven track record of success in high cycling mode share cities.

The first is to comprehensibly eliminate cut-through car driving in residential neighbourhoods.

The second is to install protected bike lanes on arterial streets.

The third is to create and steadily expand a downtown car-free zone.

No Plan to Get to Gold

Our current Cycling Master Plan [PDF] appears to be incapable of taking us to 5.5 percent or higher mode share.

Its cycling network is largely one of unprotected bike lanes; the protected cycle lane on Cannon Street is not part of the Master Plan.

Notably missing is any commitment to eliminate cut-through car driving in residential neighbourhoods or any commitment to a downtown car-free zone. We have also fallen behind on implementation of even the inferior unprotected cycling infrastructure described in much of the Cycling Master Plan.

Perhaps most important, this Plan has no goal for cycling mode share. The closest it comes (page i) is a "vision" in "20-30 years" that "Fifteen percent of all daily trips would be made by foot or bicycle." How absurd that a Cycling Master Plan would lump cyclists and pedestrians in together for its mode share "vision."


We are not ready for Gold certification, and our current Master Plan is not going to be able to take us to the Gold cycle mode share of 5.5 percent or higher.

Many other cities throughout the world have been able to attain this mode share. We need to follow their example.

Kevin is a professional accountant and a retired infantry officer with the Canadian Forces. Kevin keeps encountering people who were students of his father, Dr. Robert Love, who was a professor at MacMaster University from 1977-2008. He lives near Durand Park in Hamilton and is currently Vice-Chair of the Hamilton Cycling Committee.


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By jason (registered) | Posted April 01, 2015 at 13:53:47

Great piece.

We could quite easily get there, but won't. City Hall sees no higher purpose for city streets than high speed freeways to somewhere else.

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By AllanDunlop (registered) - website | Posted April 02, 2015 at 12:04:57

We offer online traffic skills courses that can help a great deal with the education component.

As well, our online Defensive Cycling (ticket dismissal) course has helped Austin, Texas in its ranking with the League of American Bicyclists. It's now available throughout Canada and the US.

Kevin, please feel free to contact me to see how we can get these established in Hamilton.

Allan Dunlop, Director, The Center for Cycling Education

P.S. I'm a Canadian currently living in Austin, but I'll be returning home soon.

Comment edited by AllanDunlop on 2015-04-02 12:06:12

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By Core-B (registered) | Posted April 03, 2015 at 23:04:23 in reply to Comment 110857

Allan, look forward to you returning home. I'm sure you're expertise will be welcomed.

Comment edited by Core-B on 2015-04-03 23:04:41

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By AllanDunlop (registered) - website | Posted April 08, 2015 at 10:20:09 in reply to Comment 110872

Thanks! It's long overdue.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted April 02, 2015 at 12:52:50 in reply to Comment 110857

This is a great idea. I'm going to take the course this spring. Been riding in mixed traffic for years and read all the Ontario rules online, but it's wise to not get complacent. Does the $25 introductory price expire by any specific date? Thanks!

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By AllanDunlop (registered) - website | Posted April 08, 2015 at 10:21:46 in reply to Comment 110859

I think the $25 price will be remaining in place indefinitely, Mike. The price for the ticket dismissal course is $35.

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By jnyyz (registered) - website | Posted April 06, 2015 at 13:51:37

Not to be cynical, but you won't have to get anywhere near the LAB criteria to get gold status according to share the road. Toronto just got gold at the bike summit, which left a lot of us scratching our heads since we don't even reach bronze on most of the measures that the LAB uses.

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By AllanDunlop (registered) - website | Posted April 08, 2015 at 10:23:20 in reply to Comment 110892

Unfortunately, the LAB hands out high status like candy. That's a shame, as the higher levels should be used as inducements for communities to make true, positive changes.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted April 06, 2015 at 18:43:47 in reply to Comment 110892

That's profoundly disturbing. Certification becomes meaningless unless the criteria and standards are upheld.

I am considering sending a letter to LAB saying, "look how your program is being abused."

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By jnyyz (registered) - website | Posted April 08, 2015 at 08:58:34 in reply to Comment 110893

Share the Road doesn't pretend to use the LAB criteria. Their criteria are "proprietary".

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted April 08, 2015 at 12:50:49 in reply to Comment 110901

In which case, LAB should distance themselves. As shown by the links in my article, LAB is currently endorsing the program.

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