Transportation

Dangerous Cycling Conditions on Hwy 403 Bridges

By Kevin Carmona-Murphy
Published December 19, 2011

The following was sent as a letter to Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie and the City of Hamilton Traffic Engineering department.

I would like to express my discontent regarding the management of the work being carried out to rehabilitate several of the bridges crossing highway 403, between Aberdeen Avenue and York Road.

I am a student pursuing my Engineering degree at McMaster University, and am a resident of the Westdale neighbourhood. While I do enjoy a safe commute to school and back, my cycling travels bound for downtown are not very safe. The construction on Main and King Streets has made traveling east into the city from Westdale a dangerous proposition for any cyclist.

Please allow me to elaborate and offer suggestions for improvement.

Heading east on Main Street near Macklin Street, the two north-most lanes are the only two vehicular lanes that currently continue onto the 403 bridge. The third lane from the north, which carries a high volume of traffic, merges suddenly with the other two lanes without any formal indication that the lane is ending. As a result, vehicles are forced to merge suddenly and at high speeds.

Occasionally, a vehicle unable to merge properly will be forced into the bike lane to prevent a collision with another vehicle. A cyclist could be hit and injured in such a situation. My suggestion is to block the third lane from the north with pylons at Macklin, so that dangerous merges are avoided.

Another dangerous situation for cyclists occurs on the King Street bridge heading west over the 403. I frequent the Fortinos at King and Dundurn, and worry about making it home safely with my groceries.

First, traffic travels way too fast past Dundurn. Traffic calming measures in this section should be researched and pursued.

Second, there are currently no cycling facilities on the King Street bridge. Cyclists are forced to ride with 60km/h+ traffic in two lanes, or else share the narrow sidewalk with several other pedestrians. I dislike both options, as they are show a lack of thought regarding the safety of cyclists and pedestrians.

I believe that the dual-direction bike lane should be reinstated as soon as possible on King Street despite the construction. Traffic is never backed up as a result of the lane reduction, and I would hypothesize that due to the speed of the traffic, the bridge would still not be a bottleneck even if it was reduced to just one lane westbound.

The dual direction bike lane offered a safe and convenient way to get back to Westdale using King Street, but now it is gone in the interests of traffic movement and expediency.

Please consider my arguments and suggestions as one representing the experiences of many cyclists traveling across the 403. I really enjoy cycling in the city, and make frequent trips downtown. I feel as though making it dangerous for cyclists to cross the 403 is keeping many from using their bikes to access many of the interesting places outside of Westdale.

I would really appreciate your thoughts on the issue, and welcome any inquiries.

Kevin Carmona-Murphy is currently pursuing his Bachelor's Degree in Software Engineering at McMaster University. A Toronto native, Kevin came to Hamilton not only for the excellent educational opportunity, but because the city beckoned him in a seductive way. The waterfalls, the red brick houses, the burgeoning arts sector, and numerous brown-field redevelopment sites screamed come to the Hammer! One of his goals in life is to make Hamilton a more recognized and appreciated city.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 19, 2011 at 13:15:01

iirc, there's signage indicating the cyclists are supposed to get off and use the sidewalk on the King St. bridge and walk the whole length of it. Which is kind of a nasty failure of a solution, but they do have cyclists in mind... in a flipping-you-off "you don't belong here" sort of way.

I'm just happy that this whole mess forced them to finally put a North-facing ramp on the sidewalk instead of requiring strollers and wheelchairs to go out in the bike lane and stand in the face of oncoming traffic while they wait for a gap.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted December 19, 2011 at 15:59:55

I thought that they got rid of the "cyclists dismount" sign and replaced it with a "share the road" sign.

And I discovered yesterday as I biked home to Westdale from the Dundurn LCBO that there is - effectively - a decent little bike lane on right next to the construction barrier. It may just be a painted shoulder, but it sure looks like a bike lane.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 20, 2011 at 08:06:50 in reply to Comment 72396

Yes, they did change that sign. Or added a second one - I can't remember.

The Main Street "bike lane" is a joke. It is too narrow to be at all comfortable and at the east end it just kind of tapers off to a sliver. Then an additional car lane sort of materializes halfway between two other lanes. The paint is all messed up - and at the same point, the cars from the highway are merging onto Main. I swear that section is a liability for the province and the city, and if anyone ever gets hurt there the lawyers are going to go crazy for that case.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted December 20, 2011 at 02:05:46

I find riding in traffic on the King Street bridge high preferable to the bike lane on the Main St. bridge. A fun throwback to a time when it was the only option I had. Hadn't realised until recently how much I missed the eastbound bike lane on King, though.

Worth mentioning, of course, that the King bike lanes generally became impassible after the first day of snow anyway.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted December 20, 2011 at 02:22:14

You should change it to "Dangerous Driving and Cycling Conditions". I've been cut off and nearly gotten into an accident three times since the construction began because people don't seem to understand the big orange "Lane Ends" sign that's there.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 20, 2011 at 10:32:34 in reply to Comment 72402

Can't blame them for being surprised. I've never seen a left lane just end/merge like that in Ontario before, especially not with such short notice.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 20, 2011 at 08:09:38 in reply to Comment 72402

It's not the sign or the people reading the sign that cause problems. It's the ridiculous line paint situation. It seems like every week or two the lines change and there is NO indication about when that's happening or what the new configuration is. A real city would have proper merge zones created well in advance of the bottleneck. I guess in Hamilton we can't afford to close a little more of the lane in order to create a merge. Seems that traffic management is all about ramming cars through the funnels as fast as possible, and when it comes to signs and lines, it's a simple case of "let the drivers figure it out"

Perhaps there's a reason the insurance rates are so much higher here than in the surrounding areas?

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By I Agree! (anonymous) | Posted December 26, 2011 at 19:20:52 in reply to Comment 72404

The construction over the 403 on King St, is an even bigger SUR-PRISE to motorists & cyclists alike. The lanes change willy-nilly from day to day without warning. I was heading to King West, in my usual 'safe lane" (unlikely to be hit by cars either trying for the 403 East, or cars heading to the 403 West.)
when my former safe lane took me onto the 403 East. Well I had the choice of that, or hitting some concrete barricades. It took the next exit & spent nearly an hour on back roads, trying to get to Dundas & Westdale.
Are we supposed to GUESS what they are going to do next?

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted December 20, 2011 at 09:01:18

I'll echo Sean's comments about the Main West bridge bike lane: I'm pretty confident biking in traffic, but I don't ride in that bike lane. It feels like a death trap.

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By kooldav (anonymous) | Posted January 07, 2012 at 20:34:47 in reply to Comment 72405

First time I used the Main West bridge "bike lane" after construction, it was at night, so I missed the part about there being uneven ground near the end of the lane. Road bikes don't like 0.5" differences in the middle of a lane. I almost got thrown into traffic.
Perhaps *less* dangerous in the day, but not happy about that one.
At least they have the rail trail bike path extended to a blind hilly intersection on Aberdeen...

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted December 20, 2011 at 13:09:19 in reply to Comment 72405

I don't know that there's a street in Hamilton I'll go as far out of my way to go as Main west. The bridge is a good example of this but it isn't like it's very different for kilometres in either direction from it.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 20, 2011 at 14:03:44 in reply to Comment 72412

I don't know, I've biked on the two-way Westdale region of Main and found it okay. I mean, traffic is fast but there are good sight-lines and plenty of room for drivers to avoid you. Nobody freaks out if you take a lane, and the traffic is a bit slower than the 1-way region (not much, though).

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 20, 2011 at 19:32:18

Meanwhile, up in Minneapolis they are cycling and walking in record numbers.

http://www.peopleforbikes.org/blog/entry...

I KNOW, I KNOW, this could never happen in Hamilton. It's too cold here.
Let's all move to balmy Minnesota.

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By not impressed (anonymous) | Posted December 20, 2011 at 19:49:30

A whopping 20% of riders continue in the cold weather. So 20% of 15% works out to 3% of commuters cycling in the winter. Hardly seems like even a dent in the need for motorized transportation

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 21, 2011 at 13:04:44 in reply to Comment 72424

A bike lane with a snowbank on top of it will have that effect.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 20, 2011 at 19:59:31 in reply to Comment 72424

ahh, yes another typical Hamilton response - the numbers drop in bad weather so let's sit around and do nothing instead. Because as we all know, the next generation of wealth generating investors are just searching the planet for cities that listen to naysayers and sit around doing nothing.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted December 20, 2011 at 19:51:22 in reply to Comment 72424

A whopping 20% of riders continue in the cold weather. So 20% of 15% works out to 3% of commuters cycling in the winter. Hardly seems like even a dent in the need for motorized transportation

Other cities have much higher rates of cycling; those cities are mostly ones which have much more intensive cycling infrastructure. The rates of cycling came second.

So what's your point?

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By Mikael (anonymous) | Posted December 20, 2011 at 19:58:58

I ride my bike to work at Mac from north of King & Dundurn daily.

Going west, before the current situation where the two south-most lanes are completed and in operation with (as Ken points out) a decent space for cyclists, there were actually two contradictory signs on the east side of the bridge - one that said "Cyclists dismount and cross the bridge on the sidewalk" and one that clearly showed a car and a cyclist with the text "Share the road". How very Brazil!

Given two contradictory messages, I chose the most convenient, and rode on the street with the cars. For the first week or so, I had people honk at me, angrily gesticulating towards the sidewalk, even flipping the bird. That *really* made me feel community-spirited and willing to do my part through hardships for the betterment of society, let me tell you.

I rarely ride east on Main St, choosing to walk across the sidewalk on King instead, but I concur with the OP that I've felt very unsafe while doing so, and nearly got into a serious accident once.

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By abysmal percentages (anonymous) | Posted December 20, 2011 at 20:39:09

Actually the rates of commuting cyclists is even lower than the 15% suggested. Even in the uptopian Portland the numbers are well under 10%. I'm all for improving cycling options but lets keep it in perspective and not hurt bus and car options in the process because biking will always be a choice for a small segment of commuters

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 20, 2011 at 21:38:24 in reply to Comment 72428

the only thing hurting bus and car options in Hamilton is too many buses and cars on the streets. Take 10% of those single occupancy vehicle trips and convert them to bikes and folks like you who will always drive will be in heaven with the drop in car traffic. Of course, in Hamilton we'll never see that 10% because we don't want to. 4 foot sidewalks, no bike lanes and 5-lane freeways are the Hamilton way.

Comment edited by jason on 2011-12-20 21:38:38

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By I Disagree (anonymous) | Posted December 26, 2011 at 19:52:55 in reply to Comment 72430

I don't think that suburban Hamilton is interested at all in bus' or any method of public transit, & by investing in That, I'm sure those interested in biking to work, 12 months of the year would find things a lot easier.

I'd rather see Hamilton invest in working public transit than in bike lanes on the busiest streets. Bike lanes that run parallel King & Main would be ideal.

In a City as large as Hamilton, with the Escarpment running through it, biking to work is for those who live a decent distance from work. (& hopefully have a Shower at their place of work!)

Given the job situation here, job hunting on the basis of " I Reeeally Reeeally want to ride my bike to work!" is pretty far fetched.
BTW, in my area the construction of the bike lanes has cut off a large section of road for vehicles wishing to proceed straight through the intersection. A bad situation has been made much worse & mile long + traffic tie-ups are normal now, cuz the left turn lane is much too short to accommodate those turning, & the straight through lane will now only accommodate about 5 cars, before it turns into the Bike Lane. The road itself should have been widened to add those bike lanes + a longer left turn lane. It could have been widened & it would have been safer for everyone! There is room to do that, but I guess it was far too tempting to just take the politically correct route & wealthy bike lobby out here, into consideration & slap down the bike lanes, just to say "See how Modern we are? We have Bike Lanes!"
(Sorry, but I don't see a person as 'needy' if he's riding a bike that probably cost more than the GNP of Bolivia, with matching helmet, & Spandex! That person is participating in a Sport, he is Not trying to get to work & back. Worse yet, if he/she feels too entitled to follow the rules of the road.)

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted January 02, 2012 at 19:55:13 in reply to Comment 72540

"wealthy bike lobby out here". Did I miss something? What wealthy bike lobby?

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By I Disagree (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2012 at 16:24:42 in reply to Comment 72669

I guess you must have.

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By abysmal percentages (anonymous) | Posted December 20, 2011 at 20:48:23

http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2011/09/substantial-increases-bike-ridership-across-nation/161/
forgot the link

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted December 21, 2011 at 08:56:59 in reply to Comment 72429

Interesting numbers at that page; and they certainly make bicycle commuting look insignificant at best. For example ...

Portland, which has the highest overall percentage, see only 5.8 percent of its residents commute this way. http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute...

The naive reading of this is that "only 5.8% of Portland commuters use a bike." But that is not what it says; read it again.

We don't know what we're comparing 5.8% to. What percentage commutes at all? what percentage commutes by car? by bus? Without knowing, we can't make too much sense of 5.8%.

But "abysmal percentages" does raise - though somewhat trollishly - an interesting question: how many cyclists is enough cyclists for bike lanes et al. to be worthwhile?

Comment edited by moylek on 2011-12-21 08:57:30

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 21, 2011 at 07:23:16

I can't bike in Hamilton. I'd love to, but it's just not feasible. Here's why:

  • I live in downtown Hamilton, but work in Mississauga. I can't bike to Mississauga daily. Further, I can't take the GO unless I want to trade my 40 minute car ride for a 1.5-2 hour bus ride to Square One, then city bus to a stop near my office.
  • I live in downtown Hamilton, but don't have any convenient grocery stores to go to. The No Frills is too far to walk or bike to conveniently, and if I am buying anywhere from $50-100 worth of groceries, I can't really juggle those on the handlebars.
  • There's really nothing 'convenient' for me to bike to. Should I bike up the Jolley Cut or West 5th access? Too steep going up, too fast going down.
  • Anything that I want to go to, such as the HPL, Jackson Square, the Farmer's Market - I will walk to since I'm so close.

For me, biking doesn't really make sense. But like I've said before, if my place of business was within a 30 minute bike ride, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

Further to this, I am in agreement with others. The bizarre lanes ending/realigning on a regular basis along King and Main makes it incredibly difficult to navigate. Same with the King St overpass - now that the rightmost lane unexpectedly ends (the dotted line just disappears and there's no signage saying that the lane ends) has made it very dangerous.

Comment edited by DowntownInHamilton on 2011-12-21 08:24:01

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted December 21, 2011 at 12:25:31 in reply to Comment 72438

The bus to square one typically takes an hour, in fact I just took it last week and even though we were delayed 10 minutes to switch buses (ours had engine problems) we still made it there in an hour. So not sure why it takes two hours for you. It's generally pretty fast as it takes the 407, and would be faster if it didn't stop at Mac, and all those car pools.

That said, I wouldn't recommend biking in Mississauga, and Missisauga transit probably lenghtens your commute.

Maybe I'm just jealous because my commute to work takes 1:50 door to door.

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By good question begs another (anonymous) | Posted December 21, 2011 at 09:27:25

We could instead ask: how many drivers would there be if there were no automobile lanes?

How many jobs would there be if there were no automobile lanes?

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 21, 2011 at 14:09:51 in reply to Comment 72446

no automobile lanes?? We're talking about the need for a connected network of 4 foot wide bike lanes. Pretty amazing to me how drivers freak out over the possibility of 4 feet being removed from their 50-60 feet of perfectly connected lanes so that cyclists can safely get to work, school, shopping etc....

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By OK (anonymous) | Posted December 21, 2011 at 14:17:36 in reply to Comment 72456

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By highwater (registered) | Posted December 21, 2011 at 11:19:23 in reply to Comment 72446

How many more jobs would there be if there were more bicycle lanes? Why shouldn't the link between transportation and economic growth apply to other forms of transportation besides cars?

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By the question suggested (anonymous) | Posted December 21, 2011 at 12:54:56 in reply to Comment 72450

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By better questions (anonymous) | Posted December 21, 2011 at 09:31:10

But "abysmal percentages" does raise - though somewhat trollishly - an interesting question: how many cyclists is enough cyclists for bike lanes et al. to be worthwhile?

Should we be focusing on commuting or recreational cycling and can these bike lanes service both goals without unduly disrupting transit,transport and auto traffic?

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted December 21, 2011 at 18:06:31 in reply to Comment 72447

Your question assumes the status quo is desirable, and then seeks to ask "can we have bike lanes that serve both without unduly disrupting" the status quo. Additionally it sees bike service as something de facto less desirable than transit, transport and auto traffic, as bike lanes cannot "unduly disrupt" the other three, but presumably the other three can unduly disrupt biking all they want.

Who is to say the present balance is acceptable, and that we should avoid "unduly disrupting" it? Perhaps unduly disrupting the status quo is exactly what needs to be done?

You need a more neutral question, like, Given the current road widths in many parts of Hamilton what is the appropriate mix of cycling, public transit, auto traffic, and commercial goods transport which the city should pursue in order to best meet its stated objectives (e.g. the best place to raise a child)?

Hand in hand with that question should be, When planning new developments, what is the appropriate mix of cycling, public transit, auto traffic and commercial goods transport which the city should be aspiring to in order to best meet its stated objectives?

Then you'll be able to do a multi-faceted weighing of the importance of commercial transport, public transit, auto traffic,a nd cycling not only to economic development and travel times, but also to their impact on the environment, on health, on the development of livable/walkable cities, and all the other factors needed to be the best place to raise a child. I'm not saying walkable streets trump economic development, but I don't think economic development should trump walkable streets either. The two should be balanced, and its up to the city, through its citizens, to decide where that balance should be.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted December 22, 2011 at 12:41:00 in reply to Comment 72468

I wonder if "undue disruption" would include things like...

  • Blasting, clearcutting and paving of the largest urban natural spaces in this part of the country (The Red Hill Parkway)
  • Prohibiting new development which doesn't provide enough parking.
  • Large scale expropriations (Mid Pen)
  • Leading cause of death for many demographics
  • Largest personal cost after housing for a large number of families, as well as a huge proportion of public spending
  • Leading contributor to peak oil, climate change and many other crises...

But of course, driving is "normal", so we're not supposed to talk about it.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted December 21, 2011 at 10:07:55 in reply to Comment 72447

Should we be focusing on commuting or recreational cycling

"Or"?

Should we likewise choose between destinational or recreational walking?

That said, I'm much more interested in the city working on the practical cycling infrastructure: the better it is, the more I bike and the more others bike; and the more biking, the better ... better for the bikers, better for the drivers, better for the roads and better for the city businesses (the more I bike, the more I shop locally).

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By no problem with your question (anonymous) | Posted December 21, 2011 at 18:46:14

Assuming the status quo is unacceptable, and it is, how should cycling lanes be introduced? What is unduely affected exactly? That is also a question that needs to be defined. Zero change is not acceptable but then again the ridiculous argument that zero driving lanes should even be discussed as an exercise is not either. Where is the balance? One can not simply take either extreme position and have any credibility. One cannot assume that status quo was implied and be accurate either. The thing is that an open mind to ideas you may not agree with is required to reasonably discuss this or any other issue as has been pointed out elsewhere

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted December 26, 2011 at 15:42:04

Ummm, maybe another valid question is "why the heck is the construction taking so damn long??" I can't remember another urban traffic fix being at this stage after years of work (expressways not withstanding).

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By I Agree! but.. (anonymous) | Posted December 26, 2011 at 20:25:18

It's Not going to work for everyone, so let's stop pretending that because a section of the population wants it, that it will somehow work out for everyone else.
Better public transit beats The Bike Lobby's ideas every single time. I completely sympathize with DTH. Been there, done that.
Quite frankly, I'm pretty fed up with The Bike Lobby. Yes, you indeed have some good points.. 'good' in that they will work fine for You. In this area, we have no sidewalks, even in school zones, which creates a situation where people tend to drive their kids to school for safety sake, esp. in Winter when 1/3 of the road is full of snow.. Not good for the kids, or the environment, but that's the way it is. I think that sidewalk construction & walking trails Ought to take president over both car lanes, & bike lanes to promote a healthier lifestyle. (But unless some people show up @ City Hall, with their kids in tow, each in $1000.00 cross trainers with $5000.00 of matching jogging gear, nobody is going to be interested.)

The only areas that seem to have gotten bike lanes are the areas where 'Monied People' rattled their jewelery @ the local council member. (even if those bike lanes were ill conceived & poorly maintained.)

"If Hamilton had no car lanes, how many cars would be on the road?", asks the commenter above.

Gee..I dunno..? None? Hamilton has no horse lanes, or elephant taxis lanes either. Is that why i never see any?

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted December 26, 2011 at 22:17:10 in reply to Comment 72541

Practically speaking, a bicycle is an immediate practical solution. You can have one on the road for under $200 and cut 80% or more off walking times wherever you're going with very little further investment. Public transit is great...if you have an established and frequent bus route near you, which a very large number of people don't. If you think getting new bike lanes is hard for marginalized areas, try requesting a new bus route for your community and see how long that takes. And while bikes can still travel through areas without bike lanes, any gaps in a trip by transit leave you with no other option but to walk.

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By Another Trade off? (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2012 at 17:12:25 in reply to Comment 72543

So what you are saying is, "You can have a bike lane, or better public transit, but Not both?"
Or is that what you are suspecting City Hall will have to say? (In another attempt to dodge a simple basic obligation to residents of any Modern City.)

Look at your stats & demographics. The Boomers may or may not be able to ride a bike 5 miles to the market & carry groceries home. However they most probably can get on a bus for many years before they need DARTS.

How many parents would feel confident sending their 10 or 12 year olds down any of the Escarpment Mountain Access routes on a bike ?

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By Just waiting to be voted Down. v (anonymous) | Posted December 26, 2011 at 20:38:59

Lols!! :D
I haven't been here for a while, & I'd forgotten how myopic this site can get at times.

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By Also Waiting to Disappear (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2012 at 16:50:38 in reply to Comment 72542

Yes indeed! Old RTH just get's the bit in it's teeth & runs with it. :)
Oops...Wrong transportation method. Lols.
I'm fading...fading... fading..

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