Special Report: Cycling

Review of Whitehead's Herkimer Claims on the Bill Kelly Show

The West Mountain Councillor is called out for making up numbers out of his head to try and substantiate his ludicrous arguments.

By Kevin Love
Published September 12, 2016

On Friday, September 9, Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead was on the Bill Kelly Show on AM 900 CHML. Here is a transcript of part of the program, with some commentary added.

01:12-01:20 Mr. Whitehead: This is an experiment. It's never been done in Hamilton and this is one of those things where you take something that may be working in California and apply it in Hamilton.

To be clear, this is not an experiment. It is not a pilot project. This is the new permanent design of the street, as directed by Hamilton City Council in the Cycling Master Plan, which Mr. Whitehead voted to approve.

As with all permanent infrastructure, minor improvements or tweaks may be made as a response to citizen feedback. But unless City Council changes its mind and votes to remove them, bike lanes on Charlton and Herkimer are permanently here to stay.

The Hamilton Cycling Committee and Durand Neighbourhood Association Cycling Committee used New York City as a benchmark example for this infrastructure design. See, for example, the description and videos in an earlier RTH article.

No current example from California was used. Mr. Whitehead appears to have made that up out of his own head.

02:11-02:25 Mr. Whitehead: Snow removal completely paralyzes the lane... Now I know that Waste don't support it, I know that Snow Removal don't support it.

That is incorrect. All relevant City departments were extensively consulted, and they all approved the design. Mr. Whitehead's statements are 100% false. For example, the original design set the width of the general travel lane at 3.0 metres. As a result of feedback from snow removal, this was increased to 3.5 metres.

02:38-02:42 Mr. Whitehead: The queueing on Herkimer has gone all the way up to Aberdeen. It is now backed up the Queen Street hill and obviously Garth Street.

Mr. Whitehead appears to have made this claim up out of his own head. This claim has been shown to be false by Ryan McGreal in his article on Friday.

03:30-03:55 Mr. Kelly: Let me back up just a bit there because there's a lot to digest here. You just mentioned now, and I had not heard this previously, that you are suggesting that Public Works, in other words garbage collection and snow clearing and other divisions of Public Works are not in favor of this. Is that what you are telling me?

Mr. Whitehead: Well, when I was talking to staff, I heard the Waste person said that their, that they got concerns. From the Waste, ah, ah, the Waste, yeah absolutely.

Once again, Mr. Whitehead appears to have made this up out of his own head. The truth is that all relevant Public Works personnel were consulted and approved the design.

04:10-04:30 Mr. Kelly: Why wasn't this brought to Council's attention before? A city department did not think this was such a good idea. I am puzzled as to why we are just hearing about this now.

Mr. Whitehead: Yeah, my understanding is this is just an experiment. These are the concerns being raised. They are allowing the experiment and getting the feedback. So right now is the feedback period.

This is not an experiment. There is no "feedback period." City Council, including Mr. Whitehead, has voted for and directed that bike lanes be installed on Herkimer and Charlton streets. Until City Council changes its mind and votes to remove them, this is the new permanent design.

As with all permanent infrastructure, tweaks and improvements can always be made based upon public feedback. But the bike lanes that Mr. Whitehead voted for are not an experiment. They are now part of the permanent design of the street.

05:06-05:15 Mr. Whitehead: For every 15 bicycles you get approximately 1,000 cars.

Mr. Kelly: Now where did you get that stat from?

Mr. Whitehead: That's estimates right now. Like I said, they still have to do counts.

These estimates appear to have no other source than being made up out of Mr. Whitehead's head. Although we do not currently have counts of all traffic, we do have counts of the Hamilton Bike Share (SoBi) bicycles used on Herkimer and Charlton. These counts indicate that Mr. Whitehead's claim is almost certainly false.

05:25 Mr. Whitehead: Obviously and clearly there's a lot more vehicles using Herkimer than there are bicycles.

Bicycles are vehicles. This remark reveals an appalling level of ignorance.

05:55-06:17 Mr. Kelly: Again, where did the numbers come from? You are reminding me right now when you are doing this of a councillor I used to work with years ago, who is no longer there, who used to make numbers up out of his head to substantiate his argument, and you know people are going to accuse you of doing the same thing here.

Mr. Whitehead: Well, I actually talked to staff and they never disputed this ratio. So when they didn't dispute it then that's the number I used.

So Mr. Whitehead admits to making this number up out of his own head? Since the installation is new, staff does not have traffic counts yet and cannot say, "No, that number is wrong." That is emphatically not staff validation of a number that Mr. Whitehead just made up.

09:30-09:40 Mr. Whitehead: Could they make an adjustment only at peak hours so that it doesn't impact the many, many hard working men and women in this community getting to work?

Mr. Kelly: Some of whom take bikes.

Mr. Whitehead: Well certainly not from the Mountain.

This is perhaps Mr. Whitehead's most offensive statement yet. How could he possibly know that there are no commuters from the Mountain using this infrastructure?

Mr. Whitehead has to have made this up out of his own head. And it is fairly easy to prove this statement to be false. All we have to do is find one person using this infrastructure to commute from the Mountain.

I would imagine that people doing this are profoundly offended at having their very existence denied by Mr. Whitehead.

13:27-13:41 Mr. Whitehead: Should we not ensure that we have an adequate public transit system to provide a viable alternative for those to get out of their car before we start, you know, providing punitive measures that means that they are spending over 10 days a year, additional days a year, in their car.

Once again, Mr. Whitehead is making numbers up out of his own head. Those 10 additional days in their car works out to 240 hours, since there are 24 hours in a day. Suppose someone works 5 days a week with two weeks vacation and 10 statutory holidays. That comes out to 240 working days per year.

So if Mr. Whitehead's claim were true, each car driver would be spending an extra hour per day commuting due to these bike lanes. That is simply absurd.

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 ConstantGardener (registered) | Posted September 12, 2016 at 07:45:05

I guess Jay Keddy was the only cyclist on the mountain... Hang on didn't Terry want a cycle lane down Claremont for all those people who would "certainly not" cycle to downtown.. My brain hurts.

Comment edited by ConstantGardener on 2016-09-12 07:45:25

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2016 at 11:45:02 in reply to Comment 119975

Relatedly, the planned Claremont bikeway has multiple connections being figured out that would provide access to the southern end of John street. That's only a stone's throw from Herkimer and Charlton. So the new bike service to his ward would be able to leverage these lanes.

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By kdslote (registered) | Posted September 12, 2016 at 08:05:21

Thanks for these corrections and clarifications, Kevin!

One additional falsehood that Whitehead keeps presenting is that these were previously multi-lane roads. The reality is that Herkimer between Queen and James (arguably the most contentious stretch) functioned with a single auto lane prior to the reconfiguration with the exception of 7-9am when the north parking lane accommodated travel.

The removal of that morning rush hour lane was carefully studied by city staff and it was determined to not be needed based on measured traffic volumes.

Other than those 2 hours, the only change to this stretch for cars is a slightly narrower lane (a cue for drivers to actually travel at the speed limit, but certainly not a change significant enough to create the backups claimed by Whitehead).

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted September 12, 2016 at 10:02:44 in reply to Comment 119976

If the only change here was the removal of rush-hour parking restrictions, you can bet Mr. Whitehead would be nowhere to be found. he's a troll, playing to people who are cranky and not to those who actually use the infrastructure.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted September 12, 2016 at 08:46:00 in reply to Comment 119976

You are very welcome!

There are many, many streets in Hamilton that are absurdly overbuilt and need to have lanes repurposed for cycling infra or even parkland. For example, Birch Street. Which also has a totally unnecessary traffic light at Birch and Cannon.

Durand Park is far too small and fails to meet the City's standards for parkland in terms of the population of the neighbourhood served. As part of the park revitalization, I suggested that Charlton and Herkimer next to the park should be one car and one bicycle travel lane, with the car parking turned into parkland. Alas, it did not happen. Although it fails to meet City standards, looks like that park is good enough for the likes of our children. After all, storage of cars is far more important than parks for children. Adults have also been known to use parks...

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted September 12, 2016 at 10:26:09

Note that Ryan McGreal's article has already shown that Whitehead's guess about the number of cyclists is far too low.

On the Bill Kelly show he claimed that only 15/1000 vehicles, or 1.5% is a bike (earlier it seemed he was claiming that on 15 cyclists per day were using the lanes). He just made this figure up since staff haven't actually measured how many cyclists are using the lanes.

However, there are roughly 15,000 vehicle per day on both Charlton and Herkimer and Ryan has shown that already about 264 +/- 29 SoBi bikes alone are using it daily, already 4-30% higher than his figure.

But SoBi bikes are just a small portion of the total bikes (not more than 20% and probably more like 5-10%). The true number of bikes is likely close to 1500 per day, about 1/10 vehicles or 100/1000.

It should also be remembered that the vehicle figures are also old (possibly from the 2002 traffic study) and inaccurate and will need to be updated. Traffic volumes have been falling on many downtown streets in the last decade.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2016-09-12 10:53:15

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted September 12, 2016 at 13:44:30

Thank you Kevin for this thorough investigation of the Councillor's remarks.

So disappointing, especially the willingness to ascribe his own fabrications to City staff. No wonder morale among city staff is so terrible.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted September 12, 2016 at 13:46:13

Also: I rode along the length of the Herkimer lane on my way to Supercrawl on Sunday! What a great lane for cycling in. Kudos to the designers.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted September 12, 2016 at 15:24:09 in reply to Comment 119993

For our ride to supercrawl we went along Herkimer and stopped at Queen. Immediately felt there was no way we could cross as it was busy with fast moving cars - I had my three year old in his bike seat. (We are not cycling pros by any stretch). Ok, I found an opening and just went for it, so far so good. Then I yelled back to my clan that we'll be going down Bay. I thought Bay to York and we're there. Forgot there are no lanes on Bay. No way was I going down Bay as it too was busy. So we rode on with no plan and eventually stopped at Durand park ( I can hear some your eyes rolling! I know!) because again - no way we are going down James St. So, down McNab and realized we had to double back to get on Hunter. Getting sweaty... Then down Hunter for like a block then into a parking lot and basically that was it. We ended up walking our bikes the rest of the way.

I'm trying, but we were very close to being better off just walking.

Lesson? We need a full lane on Bay. Apparently one is coming and when it does that will be amazing. It would take us downtown, to York / Cannon and the whole north end. Currently we're cut off by King and Main.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2016 at 16:36:10 in reply to Comment 119996

My big dream would be to try to make John South the connection to/from the Jolley Cut (block some left-turns and fix the lanes so it makes sense), and then add bike lanes to James South and St. Joe's Drive (which is planned to connect right to the Claremont).

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By mountain66 (registered) | Posted September 12, 2016 at 14:13:17

I must confess I am not fond of the new design but I believe I can adapt to it. Personally if this is what the neighbourhood choose, more power to them, it just shows what a good neighbourhood organization can achieve.

I do think it could do with some tweaks, this weekend I drove on Charlton during the rainstorm, when there were no cars in the parking lane on the approach from James South. It would be confusing if you weren't familiar with it. In the rain at night the lines don't show up, I find this common to most lane markings in the city. I think this could be fixed with some sort of soft barriers at the ends of the parking lanes and some cats eye reflectors to mark the sides of the parking lanes.

As a cyclist I wonder about the approach to the bike lane from James to Charlton, it appears to start on the South side (presently closed) and then switch over to the North side. Will there be some markings to show where to switch over?

I don't believe the back-ups on the accesses is any worse than it was before, for some reason I can't explain some days are much worse than others. For example on Thursday last week the traffic on West 5th was backed up as far as Fennell, but this morning there was no back-up in the same time period. There was a mention of staff from St. Joe's using street parking, when St. Joe's took over the HPH we had a similar problem and now almost all the streets in our neighbourhood are posted 3 hr parking. When construction was going on on the site they extended the old parking lot on the North side of what is now St. Joe's West 5th. It would probably hold about 50 cars and is now barricaded off, at one time there was a rumour that they were going to use it to shuttle staff to the Charlton st. hospital similar to the way HHS does at MUMC. If this were done staff could have cheaper parking and there would be a lot less cars on the access with one person in them.

I have also wondered for some time if it would work to switch Herkimer to two ways from James to Queen and switch Queen to two ways from Aberdeen to York like some have suggested.

Comment edited by mountain66 on 2016-09-12 14:20:07

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted September 12, 2016 at 14:42:05 in reply to Comment 119994

The south side of Charlton from McNab to James will be an eastbound counterflow lane when open.

I do not want Herkimer or Charlton to be two-way. Much better is to end the rat-running by requiring car drivers on Herkimer to turn left at McNab. Everyone else could continue going straight through.

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By notlloyd (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2016 at 18:35:31 in reply to Comment 119995

I think the bike lanes have condemned Herkimer and Charlton to be one way forever. there is no way to get two way traffic, parking and bike lanes in the allotted space. You would have widen the roads to do that.

Comment edited by notlloyd on 2016-09-12 18:37:14

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted September 13, 2016 at 22:55:02 in reply to Comment 120002

As much as I prefer 2-way (which Main probably will need to be trialled during LRT construction detouring) I am actually of the mentality that one-way streets (especially residential) aren't necessarily bad, as long as they're not designed as racetracks.

Shorter pedestrian crossings, proper green paint, clearer parking indications, not excessively wide car lanes, traffic calming elements, urban enhancements (like trees in no-go areas like the beginning/end triangles of parking-protected lanes).

I prefer a really nice 1-way residential street, than an ugly 2-way residential street. Do it right, non-expressway-style, and 1-way is fine when used in the right places.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2016-09-13 22:55:58

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By kevinlove (registered) | Posted September 12, 2016 at 19:39:18 in reply to Comment 120002

I think that "condemned" is the wrong word. One way streets are not all bad.

If all we are going to get is incremental, minor change, such as the new Herkimer and Charlton bike lanes, then the next step for those streets is eliminating rat-running "cut through" car drivers. This means a mandatory left turn from Herkimer onto McNab with the last block of Herkimer from McNab to James (where there is no cycling infrastructure) being converted to two-way. This is what was done one block further south, on Aberdeen.

Similarly, the last block of Charlton between James and McNab would be converted to two-way, with bollards at Charlton and McNab preventing rat-running car drivers from cutting through any further to the west.

Of course, people walking or cycling could always go straight through.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted September 12, 2016 at 21:56:06

05:55-06:17 Mr. Kelly: Again, where did the numbers come from? You are reminding me right now when you are doing this of a councillor I used to work with years ago, who is no longer there, who used to make numbers up out of his head to substantiate his argument, and you know people are going to accuse you of doing the same thing here.

Which former councillor is he referring to here?

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted September 13, 2016 at 23:34:12 in reply to Comment 120008

My money's on Bratina.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted September 14, 2016 at 17:10:59 in reply to Comment 120020

You're probably right. I wasn't sure if it was another councillor (former ward 1 from many, many years ago) who did similar things.

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