Special Report: Cycling

Alleys of Hamilton: Downtown to Hamilton General Hospital

Kevin Love will be leading a Jane's Ride on May 7, 2016, 1:00 PM showing how you can ride from downtown Hamilton to the General Hospital on a network of alleyways.

By Kevin Love
Published March 18, 2016

One little-known fact is that it is possible to ride all the way from downtown Hamilton to Hamilton General Hospital using Hamilton's system of alleys. On Saturday May 7, 2016, I will be leading a Jane's Ride which will do just that.

Part of the alleyway route from Gore Park to Hamilton General Hospital (Route overlaid on OpenStreetMap)
Part of the alleyway route from Gore Park to Hamilton General Hospital (Route overlaid on OpenStreetMap)

We will start at 1:00 in Gore Park next to the SoBi Station by the statue of Queen Victoria. The ride takes place rain or shine. After all, my boss expects me to show up at work no matter what the weather is doing.

For those who have never seen me before, I am 203 cm (6'8") tall. Or you can see a photo of me leading a Janes Ride in 2012.

Naming the Alleys

The City of Hamilton currently disrespects its alleys by not naming them. I have given them names because otherwise it is rather difficult to describe the route.

Jane's Ride Route

From Gore Park, we will enter Downtown Alley at John Street.

Entrance to Downtown Alley at John Street.
Entrance to Downtown Alley at John Street.

A key feature is the mural in Downtown Alley opposite 107 King Street:

Mural in Downtown Alley
Mural in Downtown Alley

At Downtown Alley and Ferguson, we see cycling-specific infrastructure. Specifically, signs allowing cyclists to make left turns that are forbidden to motor vehicle operators.

Cycling infrastructure
Cycling infrastructure at Ferguson

At Wellington Park, we will turn left into Wellington Park Alley and travel north to Evans Street. Note that Evans Street itself is a large alley that has been given a name and alley housing.

Alley housing on Evans Street
Alley housing on Evans Street

We will turn right on Evans Street and one block later turn left onto Hospital Alley. Then we will travel north on Hospital Alley to Hamilton General Hospital.

Hamilton General Hospital main entrance as seen from beginning of Hospital Alley
Hamilton General Hospital main entrance as seen from beginning of Hospital Alley

Next, we will travel north on the Victoria bike lanes to Birge Street and the beginning of Grand Alley.

Beginning of Grand Alley at Birge Street
Beginning of Grand Alley at Birge Street

The south end of Grand Alley features a fascinating alley/alley intersection where Grand Alley meets Downtown Alley. We will then follow Downtown Alley back to Gore Park.

Intersection of Grand Alley and Downtown Alley
Intersection of Grand Alley and Downtown Alley

What to Bring

Bring a sensible city bicycle or rent a Hamilton Bike Share (SoBi) bike in Gore Park.

Please wear whatever casual clothes you are most comfortable in. If rain is forecast, bring a rain jacket.

What not to bring: please leave at home body armour, helmets or anything else that makes cycling look weird or dangerous.

The ride will take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. Looking forward to seeing you there!

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 highasageorgiapine (registered) | Posted March 18, 2016 at 10:47:00

i love alley riding/walking, this is a great idea.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted March 18, 2016 at 12:11:49

I'm so sorry I'm not allowed to come! (I can't cycle without a helmet.) I hope you enjoy the ride.

Comment edited by Tybalt on 2016-03-18 12:25:27

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted March 19, 2016 at 18:02:28 in reply to Comment 117050

Mind that Kevin didn't say that you're not allowed to come without a helmet; he asked if you would please come without one.

But I understand your evident ire: I've found myself irked to be unable to attend a few cycling events (e.g. Mike's Ride) because I don't own a helmet (and am not going to buy one just to join a cycling event).

Comment edited by moylek on 2016-03-19 18:02:53

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted March 20, 2016 at 21:57:50 in reply to Comment 117069

Kenneth, if someone says please do not bring X when I have to bring X, I can't come. This is straightforward.

Please do not say I have ire when I obviously have none. Thanks.

As I said, I hope the riders enjoy the ride, and I am genuinely sorry I cannot. It does sound extremely fun and interesting.

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By StephenBarath (registered) | Posted March 18, 2016 at 14:27:14

That “no helmets” requirement struck me as odd. I don’t really agree with laws mandating that adults wear helmets, but a lot of people choose to, and why shouldn’t they be able to make that choice?

It’s your event and you can certainly exclude whomever you like; I’m not trying to say you need to be inclusive of everyone. But if the objective is to demonstrate to more people how safe and useful cycling can be and how many routes are available to them, it seems strange to say that people shouldn’t be biking unless they’re comfortable biking without a helmet. I would imagine the majority of people who don’t bicycle now will probably choose to wear a helmet when they first try it.

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By No helmet (anonymous) | Posted March 18, 2016 at 15:14:05

Full stop no without the helmet

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted March 18, 2016 at 15:40:34

and likely the safest, severely reducing the chance of interaction with automobile traffic, exactly the sort of initiative our civic planners need to encourage and promote. Good effort

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By stupid (anonymous) | Posted March 19, 2016 at 07:44:04

Why no helmets? Why would you not want to protect your brain!!!

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By Yaaaa (anonymous) | Posted March 19, 2016 at 08:31:09

Ya I can't tell if the helmet comment was sarcasm or not.
Does the author really feel helmets make cyclists look weird?

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted March 19, 2016 at 17:59:51 in reply to Comment 117060

Helmets almost invariably make cyclists look weird; it's a scientific fact(1).

More importantly, helmets make cycling look dangerous.

After all, when do we wear helmets? When doing something dangerous.

So what does wearing a helmet when riding a bike down the street tell people? That the cyclist is doing a dangerous thing.

But the thing is ... riding a bike in town is not especially dangerous. Not unless you consider walking dangerous. Or takin a shower dangerous.

(Gah - there goes my New Years Resolution no. 3: "do not discuss religion or bike helmets in mixed company")

  1. There are some cute exceptions, but they are exceptions.

Comment edited by moylek on 2016-03-19 18:03:38

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted March 20, 2016 at 06:10:08 in reply to Comment 117068

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 Crispy (registered) | Posted March 19, 2016 at 09:07:42

So you are telling anyone under 18 that wants to join you to break the law by not wearing a helmet. I'd say that a special circle of deepest Hell is earned by the sort of violent, dangerous, child abusing criminal who would suggest such a thing.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted March 19, 2016 at 15:35:54

I am outraged that I cannot participate either!

I cannot, simply cannot, leave my helmet at home when I ride my bike! Why should I not be allowed to come just because I don't own a bike helmet to not bring?

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted March 19, 2016 at 15:36:39 in reply to Comment 117065

(need I add that I'm very much looking forward to this guided tour? :)

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted March 19, 2016 at 17:36:15

Some very interesting comments. One of my main goals is to promote cycling safety. The #1 cycling safety factor is infrastructure. #2 is the safety in numbers effect. The more people who are cycling, the safer cycling becomes.

This is because almost all of the danger to cyclists comes from car drivers. Dutch-style protected infrastructure is the best in the world. When it comes to protection, concrete and steel have a good track record for reliability.

Where we do not have protected infrastructure, the safety in numbers effect becomes important for cycling safety. When car drivers routinely and continuously encounter large numbers of cyclists on the streets, they learn to expect and anticipate the presence of cyclists and drive appropriately.

A lot of companies spend a lot of money on marketing and branding because branding works. To negatively brand cycling as something weird, scary or dangerous has the effect of reducing the number of people cycling. This, in turn makes cycling more dangerous by reducing the safety in numbers effect.

A good example of this on a large scale was provided by Australia, which brought in mandatory helmet laws in the early 1990's. The effect of these laws was to reduce the amount of cycling by 30-40 percent overall, and up to 80% in some demographic groups, such as secondary school aged females. This in turn led to a reduction in the safety in numbers effect and to an increase in the rate at which car drivers caused death and injury to cyclists by crushing them.

Other people have done a much better job than I at explaining this. See, for example, Mikael Colville-Andersen's excellent TEDx presentation at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07o-TASv...

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By Really (anonymous) | Posted March 19, 2016 at 19:06:35 in reply to Comment 117067

No helmet is flat out stupid. I don't go along with your reasoning. The goal should be to make helmets more acceptable not to concede that they might be unacceptable and promote helmets as being weird or nerdy

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By sigh (anonymous) | Posted March 20, 2016 at 07:59:13 in reply to Comment 117070

Helmets don't work.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted March 20, 2016 at 21:04:03 in reply to Comment 117075

Neither does common sense.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted March 19, 2016 at 23:11:39

What not to bring: please leave at home body armour, helmets or anything else that makes cycling look weird or dangerous.

Does this make biking look weird or dangerous?

The way something "looks" is subjective. If you're trying to foist some idea that wearing a helmet when biking is weird, then you're on the wrong side of the argument. Let's look at what someone like the Hamilton Police Service says about bike helmets: https://hamiltonpolice.on.ca/prevention/...

It is absolutely crucial to wear a helmet. A serious head injury may cause loss of cognitive or mental capacity.

All cyclists under the age of eighteen years are required by law to wear a helmet while riding or operating a bicycle.

When putting on a helmet, level it over your forehead and adjust the chin strap to fit snugly and comfortably. It should protect the forehead without slipping.

Helmets should comply with CSA safety standards. The following standards are acceptable: CPSC, ASTM, ANSI, Snell, BS and the AS although some regulations may be out of date.

Comment edited by DowntownInHamilton on 2016-03-19 23:15:11

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted March 20, 2016 at 09:07:56

I've not made much use of alleys when trying to get across town - mainly because I don't know what to expect in terms of surface, broken glass, sudden obstructions, sketchiness, and other traffic.

But I also shy away from alleys for the same reason that I avoid the quiet side streets: I don't want to have to come to a stop or near stop every single block. With side streets, I'm stopping (or almost stopping) because of stop signs more than traffic.

But it occurs to me that alleys might not have stop signs. Is that the case?

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By Really (anonymous) | Posted March 20, 2016 at 11:36:08 in reply to Comment 117076

By law full stops are required when a minor roadway or driveway enters a major roadway even if unsigned. I believe that means an alley requires a full stop

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By Bike Viking (anonymous) | Posted March 21, 2016 at 07:00:40

Bring a sensible city bicycle? Im sorry but I dont have a chain guard and never will so I guess my bikes dont qualify for your little alley ride. A ride through dirty alleys led by a bike design control freak. Sounds like fun. *rolls eyes* Maybe I should show up on my fun fur covered low rider with fat tires that is outfitted with rope lighting and speakers with no reflectors wearing a horned helmet just to get under your sensible skin. Get over yourself!

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By really (anonymous) | Posted March 21, 2016 at 11:25:41

rain gear is not safety gear, rolls eyes. No doubt in my mind you are discouraging safe riding and would prefer that only unsafe riders show up

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By zzz (anonymous) | Posted March 21, 2016 at 18:05:11 in reply to Comment 117084

Safe riding has absolutely nothing to do with helmets.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted March 21, 2016 at 13:06:29 in reply to Comment 117084

I'm 90% sure Matt is Kylo Ren. By "Matt" I mean "really" and by "Kylo Ren" I mean Allan Taylor.

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By NortheastWind (registered) | Posted March 22, 2016 at 12:29:56

Maybe alleys could be the beginning for Hamilton in the annual World Naked Bike Ride. The first year could start out discreetly in the alleys so not to shock anyone, then move out from there in subsequent years.

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By Northerner (anonymous) | Posted May 04, 2016 at 22:01:15

I avoid the alley between Ferguson and Jarvis as it's almost always blocked by a parked car out back of one of the restaurants.

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