Special Report: Cycling

Why a Protected Cycling Network?

Unprotected bike lanes discriminate against women and seniors and exclude 92 percent of the population.

By Kevin Love
Published May 11, 2015

This is the first article in a five-part series entitled Building Hamilton's Protected Cycling Network.

Today's article is Part 1: Why a Protected Cycling Network? To answer this question, we have to look at the population in terms of who does and who does not engage in transportation cycling.

Who Cycles? The Portland Demographic Model

The Portland Model asserts that there are four demographic categories of transportation cyclists:

Four types of transportation cyclists in Portland
Four types of transportation cyclists in Portland

  1. The "Strong and Fearless." These are people who are willing to cycle without any cycling infrastructure. They are less than 1 percent of the population.

  2. The "Enthused and Confident." These are people who are willing to cycle on unprotected cycling infrastructure. They are about 7 percent of the population, and are disproportionately men between the ages of 18-65.

  3. The "Interested but Concerned." This is 60 percent of the population. They will only cycle on protected or car-free infrastructure.

  4. The "No Way, No How." This is 33 percent of the population. These people just don't like cycling. They will only cycle on protected or car-free infrastructure AND cycling must be faster, easier and more convenient than alternate means of transportation. Many members of this demographic are willing to undergo considerable inconvenience to avoid cycling and take alternate methods of transportation.

Full details and the research evidence supporting the Portland Model may be found on their official government website.

A considerable amount of subsequent research has validated the Portland Model. Cities ranging from London, England to Melbourne, Australia have confirmed the Portland Model.

Most importantly, of a survey of 700 cities, no city in an industrialized country has been able to achieve over 8 percent cycling mode share without protected infrastructure.

Gender, Age Imbalance

The gender breakdown is also significant. In the USA, less than 25 percent of cyclists are women, with traffic violence being the #1 cause stopping women from cycling.

However, in The Netherlands, 55 percent of cyclists are women.

Failure to provide protected cycling infrastructure means that we have a transportation system that systematically discriminates against women.

And not just women. In the USA, 0.4 percent of all trips made by people over the age of 65 are on bicycles. In The Netherlands, 25 percent of all trips made by people over the age of 65 are on bicycles.

My mother is an excellent example of this. She refuses to ride a bicycle in Ontario. Why? Traffic violence. She says, "At my age, I am not going to play tag with two-tonne lethal weapons."

Transportation for Everybody

The problem with unprotected bike lanes is that only 8 percent of the population will use them, and that 8 percent are predominantly men between the ages of 18-65. This type of infrastructure discriminates against women and excludes 92 percent of the population.

If we are going to build a transportation system for everybody, it has to be one of protected bike lanes.

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 May 11, 2015 at 08:32:05

great piece. Saturday afternoon I noticed all the users on Cannon St in the bike lanes. Of particular note were a couple different small groups of young kids out riding along in the bike lanes. Even with this less than proper design at intersections it's still miles better than painted bike lanes. When in the past has anyone seen young kids riding bikes along Cannon?

Build an entire network and watch ridership soar.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 11, 2015 at 10:19:55 in reply to Comment 111491

Yes, intersections are critical. In Ontario, 63.5% of injury causing crashes in 2011 took place at intersections. The last article in the series, on the Pipeline Trail, takes a detailed look at intersection design for the Trail.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted May 11, 2015 at 10:17:03

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted May 11, 2015 at 10:57:40 in reply to Comment 111495

We're not buried in snow for a third of the year. Especially if you factor in snow removal, you can count with your fingers the number of days we are actually "buried". I ride year round for over 7 years now, and nearly all of it is on bare pavement.

Some European cities that were bombed to the ground in World War 2 have rebuilt nearly completely - at first in the mid-20th century auto-centric model, then converted it to the complete streets they enjoy today. It was a series of decisions and commitments followed by action, not the duration of time they existed.

And our large population centers are spaced farther out, but inside cities, particularly downtowns, human form factors make densities pretty similar.

In my opinion there is no significant difference between Europe and here, other than our cultural worship of cars, and our procrastination in modernizing streets and making them more complete.

That said, I am singularly impressed with the progress Hamilton has made in cycling infrastructure over the years. Very inspiring and good progress so far, demand for cycling infrastructure has pushed the region toward a tipping point where it's starting to happen.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted May 11, 2015 at 13:39:53 in reply to Comment 111498

In my opinion there is no significant difference between Europe and here, other than our cultural worship of cars, and our procrastination in modernizing streets and making them more complete.

I think there is a significant difference in that European cities have committed to density and human scale wholesale in a way that North American cities have not. The best city regions in North America are 100+ years old and borrow from the layouts of European cities, but we do have a much more significant commitment to auto-oriented development, which leads to our apparent love of cars (in other words, I'd say its not that we love cars so much as that we have built so much of our communities so that cars are often necessary).

That being said, these are not reasons why cycling should be different in North America, and in fact I would argue that its all the more reason to build cycling infrastructure. Dense, human-scale urban form is much harder to embrace when you are trying to sell it to a populace that feels they can't live without a car. Bike infrastructure is the anecdote to that need, and can allow communities to re-imagine themselves as not dependant on the car but able to function with two wheels or two feet.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted May 11, 2015 at 12:26:42 in reply to Comment 111498

'Our' cultural worship of cars? So the Autobahn, the Vatican of driving, doesn't count? What about 80% of the F1 drivers? BMW, Fiat, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Mercedes are not worshiped? Europeans like their cars too don't worry about that.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted May 11, 2015 at 13:08:24 in reply to Comment 111504

You fail to distinguish between the existence of highways and nice cars, versus allowing them to envelop cities in their entirety to the exclusion of complete streets.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted May 11, 2015 at 13:52:18 in reply to Comment 111509

Oh brother...

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By chasball (anonymous) | Posted May 11, 2015 at 13:24:31 in reply to Comment 111509

Just got back from ten days and 1500 miles of highway driving in Europe. Awesome highways. Lots of them. 70 - 75 mph and everyone keeps to the right (or left in England.) Better and more highways around major cities than in Southern Ontario which seems to be terrified of building proper road networks. London is actually better in many ways than Toronto now.

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By Stephen (anonymous) | Posted May 11, 2015 at 13:54:35 in reply to Comment 111514

In France, highways passing through metropolitan areas see speed limits reduced to 90 kilometres per hour (from 130 in some cases) in order to reduce pollution. And they’re enforced; that piece of the puzzle is largely missing around here.

In most places in Europe, speed limits are appropriate to the areas they pass through, and roads are designed for these speeds. In towns where highways pass through, motor traffic is expected to slow to 50 or 40 from 80 or 100. In residential areas, speed limits are often 30 kilometres per hour. And they are enforced.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 11, 2015 at 15:00:24 in reply to Comment 111528

In fact, many French cities are now experimenting with reducing the speed limits on "rocades" (urban freeways or ring roads) from 90km/h to 70km/h to reduce pollution and improve traffic flow. Paris is going even further, reducing the speed limit on the peripherique to 50km/h to limit pollution (after an initial reduction to 70 km/h last year).

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted May 11, 2015 at 16:36:01 in reply to Comment 111538

So sad.

The northern portion of the Paris ring road is a joke at rush hour. Motor cyclists zooming between lanes. Traffic at a standstill. No need to reduce the speed limit - you cant do 20k let alone 90!

I drove from Norwich to Gatwick around London during morning rush hour and did it in 3 hours stopping only at the toll bridge over the Thames.

Paris is a Joke. Under built and the worst example of modern traffic design in Europe. I think Paris is trying to become Toronto.

Comment edited by CharlesBall on 2015-05-11 16:42:50

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 11, 2015 at 17:14:55 in reply to Comment 111540

That's one reason to reduce the speed limit: the higher speed limit increases pollution outside rush hour and it doesn't make any difference during rush hour. The périph (built on the land formerly occupied by a military defence ring) definitely harms the urban design of the edge of Paris and cuts it off from the inner suburbs. There have even been calls to remove or cover it!

Greater Paris (Ile de France) is an extremely dense metropolitan area with a population of about 12 million. It is far denser than London and has a much better integrated public transit system. You have to remember that the périph is only 5km from the centre of Paris, roughly equivalent to the inner London ring road (which is the boundary of London's congestion charge zone). If you just want to drive around Paris you wouldn't drive all the way to the périph!

There is no way the road system could ever be built to accommodate the majority of people driving in Paris or the near suburbs: that's why Paris switched to prioritize public transit in the late 1970s (after building expressways along the Seine under Pompidou) and is continuing to expand and densify the public transit system all the time (most notably with there recent Grand Paris project http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Paris...

The goal is a good transportation network for the whole region ... which is simply not possible to achieve by prioritizing driving. London has managed to improve traffic flow in the downtown core with the congestion charge and by improving conditions for pedestrians. But its public transit system is far worse than Paris's ... in fact they eventually outsourced their buses to Transdev/RATP to try to improve efficiency! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Unit...

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-05-11 17:25:14

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted May 11, 2015 at 16:59:01 in reply to Comment 111540

I'm surprised variable speed limits aren't discussed more. Electronically controlled variable speed limits are a very good idea. The London area has used active traffic management since 2006. Did the section you spoke about have this?

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 11, 2015 at 17:31:43 in reply to Comment 111542

In some French cities, the speed limit is lowered during peak air pollution days (and public transit is free).

On French autoroutes the speed limit is 130km/h normally and 110 km/h in the case of rain or snow.

Ontario is a bit bizarre in that the posted speed limit is always 100 km/h, but the average speed is 120km/h if traffic permits (rain or shine). I've never known anywhere else with such a gap between the "official" speed limit and what is actually enforced and what people drive.

It would make far more sense to switch to a strictly enforced 130/110 km/h with a 90 km/h limit in urban areas. Right now traffic can be travelling at anything from 90km/h to 130km/h or more and this big range of speeds is dangerous and inefficient.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-05-11 17:32:44

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted May 11, 2015 at 13:35:38 in reply to Comment 111514

I agree completely! And when you get off the highway and enter the middle of a city, those environments restrict cars and are way more pleasant and healthier. I think we should raise speed limits and improve highways as well. But that is a completely different subject than how the insides of urban areas are configured. It is possible to have high quality road networks and high quality cities. When one is pushed as absolute, to the exclusion of all else, neither gets done properly and everything suffers.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2015-05-11 13:38:08

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By chasball (anonymous) | Posted May 11, 2015 at 13:26:23 in reply to Comment 111514

Also, they have great 6 speed diesel cars.

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By Crispy (registered) | Posted May 11, 2015 at 11:05:42

To say that the transportation system specifically discriminates against women and those over 65 is pandering. They are covered in the 60% of the population who will only cycle on protected or car free infrastructure.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted May 11, 2015 at 13:58:47 in reply to Comment 111499

They are covered in the 60% of the population who will only cycle on protected or car free infrastructure.

No, they aren't covered, because we don't have a significant amount of protected or car-free cycling infrastructure.

They are covered in the chart, but that doesn't mean they aren't discriminated against by our transportation planning failures.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 11, 2015 at 12:57:16

I was just biking along York today and noticed how almost workable it would be to run a parking-protected contra-flow bike lane along the north side in front of Sir John A. Would be so nice to be able to get from Bay to Caroline. There's more than enough road hatched-off except for the bump-out to cross at Caroline.


Comment edited by Pxtl on 2015-05-11 12:57:40

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By highasageorgiapine (registered) | Posted May 11, 2015 at 14:06:27 in reply to Comment 111507

york should really be worked on in it's entirety, it's a lovely street with great connections to trails and outdoor activities. the problem is that it is also a highway connection so the collective whining about car commute times would be deafening. i don't think the new waterfront developments will help lessen that also.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 11, 2015 at 14:41:21 in reply to Comment 111534

This is mostly about connections to the Market/Jackson Square/Library - York Boulevard has bike-lanes in each direction in front of the market, which is nice, but there's no good and legal way to head West from there - you're forced up Bay out to Cannon. End result is most cyclists illegally cut through to Napier.

You could extend the bike-lane from Bay to Hess without removing a lane, the problem is actually the pedestrian bump-outs Hess and Catherine. Too bad nobody thought of it when they were making the conversion.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2015-05-11 14:57:55

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted May 13, 2015 at 22:51:47

Just finished cycling from home to McMaster and back. Wow, Westdale is so pleasant for cycling, even without protected infrastructure. But the minute I crossed over the 403 on Main, the environment changed. High-speed, aggressive traffic, squeezing me out of the right lane, forcing me onto Dundurn with a slightly more civilized traffic flow.

Why can we not take one lane from King and Main east of the 403 to create a protected bike lane? I would like to see traffic reduced to three lanes on Main (failing a two-way conversion), but seriously - why FIVE lanes eastbound?

As Ryan McGreal tweeted a few days ago: It's criminally irresponsible.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 14, 2015 at 10:37:09 in reply to Comment 111635

There's actually a pleasant route from King/Dundurn. You turn left at the Basilica ramp with the faded "bike" paint marking into the Basilica driveway, then turn left onto Breadalbane (I guess they thought contra-flow bike riders turning left directly onto Breadalbane would be too confusing). Then turn right onto Hunt, and then briefly onto Dundurn and then Head street up to (and through) Victoria Park's bike-road over to Napier. Then take Napier down to Queen (where you illegally go straight through instead of turning right like they want you to but nobody does that ever) and on to Hess, where you turn left over to the Cannon Track.

It's a bit wordy and the city has put up some green bike signs to help, but it's not enough. It's more straightforward than it sounds. That's my daily commute.

Of course, the city could do a lot to make it better:

1) 2-way Hess North. There's no good way to return via the above route.

2) Some means to allow straight-through traffic at Queen and Napier.

3) Road markings and signage King and Breadalbane to avoid that ridiculous little Basilica turn.

4) More signs along every turn and interruption on the route explaining "Bike Route to McMaster/Downtown". Some of the signs are just a green Bike symbol with no explanation of "bike to where". It's better than it used to be, but still not there yet.

I don't go to Durand very much, but I could definitely see a 2nd Cannon-Track on Main working well. Realistically though, it's politically impossible until we see a lot more ridership on Cannon.

My zany design:

1) Lighted crossings on King and Main at the unnamed Cathedral Park road. This would provide safe crossings into Fortinos Plaza for people coming from the West on the bridges, safe access to Frid Street for drivers (holy crap getting over sucks) and a safe intersection for some of the ramps.

2) Bike path across Cathedral Park connecting these two intersections together.

3) Main Bike Track starts here.

Of course, half of this is just meant to circumvent the fact that Dundurn's bike lanes are killed between King and Main.

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By d.knox (registered) | Posted May 14, 2015 at 20:15:09

@Pxtl - One hack which works well for the return ride to Westdale from the Cannon Track is NOT to move into the bike box at Hess Street to shunt to the right side of Cannon. Instead, take the lane at Hess Street and just bike into the U-turn lane. From there you cross York directly into the parking lot facing the U-turn. You can bike through to the other side of the parking lot to Peter, and then essentially retrace your route home from there. (punctuation edit)

Comment edited by d.knox on 2015-05-14 20:15:58

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted May 15, 2015 at 10:14:48 in reply to Comment 111652

You can bike through to the other side of the parking lot to Peter,

That's a good route and I use it sometimes.

But I maintain that there's something very wrong with a road system which forces cyclists to rely on hacks or other special knowledge in order to just get downtown and back.

I participated in a guided ride from McMaster to James North and back last year, the purpose of which was (iirc) to encourage students to come downtown and to do so by bike. The circuitous, broken route was, to say the least, discouraging. It was an exercise in iron-curtain-quality absurdity.

Comment edited by moylek on 2015-05-15 10:16:16

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 15, 2015 at 11:17:57 in reply to Comment 111656

Absolutely. The proper solutions to this problem would be cheap and easy:

2 way Hess North, or 2-way Bay. Or a properly signed bike-path across Sir John A at Caroline. Or a contra-flow lane along York Boulevard from Bay to Hess.

any one of the above works. There is no shortage of options.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 14, 2015 at 22:10:08 in reply to Comment 111652

I'll try that one. Other day I went through the Sir John A parking lot to get to Caroline, but that's kind of a miserable gravel pit.

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted May 19, 2015 at 22:40:05

Ahem... so, it's great that cyclists can learn to get around the city while staying off the main routes.

My point though, was that Main Street is five lanes. FIVE. Can we please talk about how to make Main Street friendly to cyclists and pedestrians, reducing the lanes and giving one or more over to bike lanes, wider sidewalks and slower auto traffic? At least in the interim while we wait for a two-way conversion (thinking it may be 100 years before that happens).

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