Transportation

Beckett Drive Rebuild a Missed Opportunity to Improve Walking, Cycling Connections

By Jason Leach
Published November 14, 2013

The Beckett Drive (Queen Street Hill) Escarpment access opened this afternoon after being completely rebuilt from the roadbed on up.

Beckett Drive rebuilt
Beckett Drive rebuilt

Motorists will be happy the access is open again - it carries over 20,000 cars a day - but it's frustrating that the City didn't take the opportunity to add any infrastructure for pedestrians or cyclists.

With the extra space on the Escarpment side and a big gap between the double yellow centre median lines, there would have been enough room for an ubound bike lane, paired with bike sharrows on the downbound lane.

Not ideal, but a lot better than nothing.

I saw a cyclist today riding bravely in mixed traffic on the access. Over 99 percent of people are not comfortable riding in mixed traffic - and especially not going uphill on a mountain access.

Beckett Drive
Beckett Drive

The new access is also missing any pedestrian amenities. There's a new pedestrian crossing sign and a new stairway where the Bruce Trail crosses the street, but no zebra crossing and certainly no pedestrian crossover (PXO) or pedestrian-activated crosswalk. This would have been a perfect spot for something like that.

Ditto for the stairs on the Sherman Cut and the deadly Escarpment Rail Trail crossing where Wentworth meets Charlton.

Beckett Drive
Beckett Drive

We need to get out of this freeway mentality in this city. Our Escarpment crossings are some of our most scenic and enjoyable recreation areas in Southern Ontario, with trails and stairs criss-crossing the escarpment.

Surely a pedestrian crossing signal on the Sherman Cut, Queen Street Hill and Wentworth Escarpment trail should be encouraged these days.

Beckett Drive at night
Beckett Drive at night

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

29 Comments

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted November 13, 2013 at 22:31:36

Frustrating is an understatement. I spilled my coffee I got so angry when I saw this. Once the Chedoke trail is snow covered, this becomes the required mountain access to use. It is going to be insane biking uphill on this access. But the city is going to get what it built - I'm going to be in the way and I'm quite probably going to die. Thanks oh so much for the continued negligence! Extra shame on you planners since there is a college campus literally right at the top of the hill.

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By PearlStreet (registered) | Posted November 13, 2013 at 23:17:40

I just tried it out en route home tonight and thought the same... Trails even lead from this! Stupid, stupid..

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By PearlStreet (registered) | Posted November 13, 2013 at 23:20:01

Better be able bodied in this town and take the stairs.

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By PearlStreet (registered) | Posted November 13, 2013 at 23:26:03

Why did the chicken not cross the road? Because he couldn't - what a joke!

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted November 13, 2013 at 23:29:16

Given the lack of cycling infrastructure on mountain accesses, HSR should give cyclists a free ride up the escarpment, just one stop's worth. Bill the City for it.

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By Simmons (registered) | Posted November 14, 2013 at 08:44:59

Happy it's done. As a west mountain resident, I felt cutoff from Dundurn and Locke which each have businesses I frequented more before the shutdown. I'm glad we're back to normal again.

That said, the city indeed missed several opportunities as you've outlined. Beckett could have easily been a prototype to improve all mountain accesses. When will they have another chance to completely close a critical road and truly rebuild it?

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted November 14, 2013 at 08:59:36 in reply to Comment 94735

I can't carry my winter bike up the stairs. So I'll be slowing down traffic. Good luck!

What kills me is that the teensy little shoulder on James Mtn Road is sufficient, and there was enough width here to do it.

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By Bikedude (anonymous) | Posted November 14, 2013 at 22:19:22

Apart from the missing cycling and ped facilities, the new build is a great improvement. It is at least safer to bike on now than it was in the past. I went down it the other night on my bike and the new lighting is unbelievable. It looks like a new type of lighting and it looks like LED, but I'm not sure. Anyone else know details on the lighting?

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By viennacafe (registered) | Posted November 15, 2013 at 00:43:09

The City of Hamilton rebuilt a road and excluded cyclists and pedestrians? What a shock.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted November 15, 2013 at 09:18:27

That double centre line is such a slap on the face. It screams "drive fast, it's safe" while at the same time telling cyclists "oh we have space for you but we're going to waste it in the middle of the road! don't like it? just drive!"

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 15, 2013 at 09:30:17 in reply to Comment 94757

Yeah, that.

If they'd left out the double-centre and had built it the minimum possible width for 2 cars as an obvious money-saving measure? I'd be defending them. Beckett Drive is obviously very expensive to maintain and every foot of width of that road represents a large investment in reinforcing the terrain beneath. So if they'd gone for the bare-minimum width at the expense of cyclists and pedestrians? Well, it would suck, but at least it would be justifiable.

But that double-line thing? The wide lanes? That's ludicrous. It's encouraging dangerous speeds on a road that can't afford them, at the expense of cyclists, pedestrians, and taxpayers. If putting in bike lanes and bus lanes and pedestrian facilities is a "war on cars", what do you call that infernal thing?

A single sidewalk-width path for upbound cyclists and pedestrians would've been a huge improvement. Put a sign at the bottom explaining that cyclists can use the path but must dismount for pedestrians, and a sign at the top that cyclists must take the road going down. It would be mediocre but better than nothing and wouldn't take that much space. Cyclists going up that hill aren't going fast enough to be a threat to pedestrian safety anyways.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2013-11-15 09:41:06

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted November 15, 2013 at 09:39:01 in reply to Comment 94753

It's LED.

http://www.hamilton.ca/HotTopics/Queen-Street-Reopen.htm

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted November 15, 2013 at 09:42:58 in reply to Comment 94757

Additionally, the rumble strips seem like a sign that cars tend to stray on the hill. They should install a concrete barrier the length of the Beckett Drive and be done with it.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 15, 2013 at 10:07:02 in reply to Comment 94760

bingo. 21st Century cities can figure this stuff out in a 5-minute brainstorming session. Drive Main St in Buffalo sometime and check out how incredibly narrow they made the lanes in order to fit in bike lanes and curb parking on both sides. It's remarkable what can be done with road space when priorities aren't 1960's planning based.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 15, 2013 at 10:15:52

This is what Buffalo did this year on Delaware Ave downtown, with 25,000 cars per day. http://www.buffalonews.com/20130630/dela...

For comparison, King, west of Bay carries just under 25,000 per day. Main, east of Bay carries 28,000 per day. Main east of Wellington carries 21,000 per day.

Has nothing to do with escarpments, snow, or suburban councillors, and everything to do with outdated vision and ideas at city hall.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted November 15, 2013 at 11:12:45

It seems like the City didn't face the typical constraints of the NEC or HCA, either.

http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/40FE37C3-6690-4DE9-8673-18D8CA953A88/0/Aug15112__Beckett_Dr_Design_Time_Line.pdf

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted November 15, 2013 at 11:13:15 in reply to Comment 94754

Shame that there wasn't greater interest in making Beckett Drive a complete street.

Also mildly ironic given that Beckett Drive had a starring role in one of the most high-profile events ever hosted in Hamilton.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHm7tKuS90c

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted November 15, 2013 at 13:00:48 in reply to Comment 94760

100% with you here. It only needs the uphill lane, you can keep up with traffic going down.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted November 15, 2013 at 13:03:56 in reply to Comment 94780

There was no reason for the road not to be configured exactly like W5 (James Mountain Road). Except as a deliberate middle finger to cyclists. With Mohawk College at the top of the hill. Sad failure that is.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted November 15, 2013 at 13:06:00 in reply to Comment 94767

Media from prior to the beginning of the timeline don’t hint at impending rework at all.

http://goo.gl/Tosynu

The story notes that Beckett Drive was slated for overhaul in 2015. The City obviously jumped it forward. Guessing that this impacted the decision-making around project scope.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 15, 2013 at 16:43:28 in reply to Comment 94782

... Beckett Drive moved 22,000 cars per-day, while the Clairmont moved 27,000. Anybody who's driven on Beckett knows it actually moves quite well except for the traffic light at the bottom, even though it only sports 2 lanes. That's a pretty strong indictment against the Clairmont's, like, 17 lanes or whatever. How much is maintaining that monstrosity costing Hamilton taxpayers?

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted November 15, 2013 at 17:05:47 in reply to Comment 94794

Pulling stats from that Leap Year story...

Beckett Drive (1 up, 1 down) = 22,000 vehicles/day = 11,000 per lane per day
Sherman Access (1 up, 1 down) 15,000 vehicles/day = 7,500 per lane per day
West 5th (1 up, 1 down) = 13,500 vehicles/day = 7,250 per lane per day
Kenilworth Access (2 up, 2 down) = 26,000 vehicles/day = 6,500 per lane per day
Claremont Access (3 up, 3 down) = 27,000 vehicles/day = 4,500 per lane per day

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted November 16, 2013 at 01:12:08 in reply to Comment 94796

And no room for bike lanes on any of them...

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By Greg (anonymous) | Posted November 16, 2013 at 02:44:36

It’s really a beautiful road, as the article states it’s too bad that there was nothing included for cyclists or pedestrians during the reconstruction

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 16, 2013 at 09:53:50 in reply to Comment 94802

We all know city hall is just moving along with business as usual in the road building department, so perhaps we need to organize a campaign to have the Claremont barriers remain and extended to Charlton at the bottom and Rosedene or Inverness at the top for a protected, two way bike and pedestrian link. I've long wanted to see the same thing on the north lanes of the Claremont from the psych hospital to Main or at least Hunter St. The space is there for a two way cycle track. Just need the barriers.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted November 16, 2013 at 10:05:13

Business as usual is easier in the absence of friction. Don't make it easy.

Contact the relevant councillors, watch the infrastructure planning horizon hawkishly and advocate for change early, often and on the public record.

PLANNING COMMITTEE

J. Farr – Chair
B. Johnson – 1st Vice-Chair
J. Partridge – 2nd Vice-Chair
B. Clark
C. Collins
L. Ferguson
R. Pasuta
M. Pearson
T. Whitehead

PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE

L. Ferguson – Chair
T. Whitehead – Vice-Chair
C. Collins
S. Duvall
T. Jackson
B. McHattie
S. Merulla
R. Pasuta
R. Powers

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By j.servus (registered) | Posted November 19, 2013 at 21:11:07

Someone should organize a series of protest rides on Beckett and King. Spread out the bikes, take the vehicle lane to which we're lawfully entitled, and make the point with a leisurely ride: there are cyclists, and they are entitled to a lane. That lane can be three feet wide or nine feet wide. It can be shared with the cars or shared with the buses. Which would the drivers prefer?

Comment edited by j.servus on 2013-11-19 21:15:33

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By protest (anonymous) | Posted November 22, 2013 at 03:52:44 in reply to Comment 94947

while i understand the spirit of this idea, as a cyclist and a driver i think it would be counter productive. it's not the drivers' fault directly that you would be impacting with such a protest. i don't think that pissing off drivers is the best way to get support for changing the status quo of road design in the city. there is already enough animosity between the two groups.

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By MelodyWilson (registered) - website | Posted June 11, 2019 at 04:46:52

Good work and keep it up thanks.

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