Let's all move to the Hammer! Hamilton approves separated bike lanes while we keep plodding along

Hamilton City Council just approved a separated bidirectional bike lane along the length of Cannon Street, a distance of over 5 km in downtown Hamilton. And did so despite it being controversial (Photo: Raise the Hammer)

"This is a tough call," said Councillor Bernie Morelli, who added he's heard from bike-lane supporters as well as residents enraged by the plan. "But I want (councillors) to know you're doing the right thing."

Over in Hogtown, our new Transportation General Manager Steven Buckley - who originally oversaw the building of 250 miles of bike lanes and trails in Philadelphia - told Kuitenbrouwer of the National Post saying he doesn't want to offend anyone when a bike lane is proposed.

“I try to site a bike lane where nobody ends up feeling that they are a loser,” he says. “Where pedestrians or businesses or drivers start seeing that they are losing something, you have a problem. Many cities are seeing that now and even New York is in that boat.”

That's just depressing. Just mentioning bikes is enough to bring out the crazies. Even a bikeshare station bizarrely offends some people, such as seen with the launch of Citibike in New York. A bike lane always breeds controversy in car-fetish cities.

I really hope that was just Buckley's way of saying he is listening carefully to the community and not a signal that he will roll over and play dead whenever a bakery or bank wants to preserve its primordial, god-given right to a curbside parking spot.

And while Hamilton councillors praise the amount of community support for the separated bike lane plan, Toronto has had to push back against the likes of Councillor Vaughan who has resisted separated bike lanes on Richmond and Adelaide (unlike Councillor McConnell's strong support) and even now seems to be angry and resentful that he has been forced into supporting them, according to the National Post:

But Councillor Adam Vaughan is no fan of these bike lanes. Recently I sat on the public benches during a council meeting, chatting with Mr. Minnan-Wong. Mr. Vaughan came up. The two councillors went at each other hammer and tong, with me in the middle, about bike lanes on Richmond-Adelaide.

I wonder if Hamilton can sell us some of their multivitamins that's giving their councillors so much backbone and clear heads.

Note: Buckley also noted that they just don't have the capacity and a shortage of staff. To be fair this might be an issue in Hamilton as well for all I know. Only 1% of Toronto transportation staff work on cycling and they're stretched to the limit. Buckley suggested he'd be open to using consultants to help with capacity though he didn't mention why he hasn't done it already. This is not new: for years the cycling budget hasn't been spent because they are short-staffed.


Windsor, Sarnia, Mississauga, Sudbury, Ottawa, Kingston. These are all Ontario cities who are either installing protected bike lanes, discussing installing protected bike lanes, or else HAVE already installed protected bike lanes.

Toronto has 1, too. Just the one, though...
Oh, and we're talking about installing another one, too...

I asked this question on the other thread, no answer there, perhaps Herb can help me out here instead.

If I'm in a bidirectional separated lane and I decide I want to make a left turn, do I stop at the intersection and signal the turn? If so, what about cyclists behind me? There is not enough room for them to pass me, so they would have to wait, yes?

Similar problem if I want to make a right turn, I would have to wait and signal if there was oncoming traffic, what about cyclists behind me?

What I currently do when there are non-separated lanes is make my way over to the left turn lane like regular traffic. I can't do that in a separated lane, so I suspect I would probably have to cross the intersection, exit the bike lane, dismount and cross with the pedestrians, then get back on the road. I don't see many cyclists having the patience for this, but I'm not sure how else one would do it. Some separated lanes have posts you can get between, rather than solid barriers, so this is one possible solution.

Unless someone can suggest that I'm missing something obvious, this strikes me as an argument against separated lanes when there are many intersections.

Anyone have any insight on this?




Your first assumption is incorrect: there is room to pass.

Left turns will be made indirectly - indirect left turns, which is basically how I see 95% of the people make turns on all major streets. First cross the intersection, wait in the left turn box for light to turn, then cross.

This is how people use a bidirectional in Utrecht:

Check out Sherborne Street at Gerrard (I think). They've designed the intersection so that there is a separate space for bikes turning left from Sherborne onto Gerrard. It works okay. It mimics what I do now if I don't feel secure moving in the left turn lane with motorized vehicles.

Closer to home, you could just try the Eglinton west cycle path, it's about 7 Km long. Or check out the new section of Queen Quay cycle track between Bay and Yonge. I will open soon. It even has granite curbs. The Bay to Spadia sections of Queen Quay will open in a year or so.


Thanks to Herb for the video.

I would note a few things:

It’s a clever solution, cyclists are never turning where the cars are, so I approve of it. No one actually turns at this intersection where the buses are going by, they turn further on in the video. If you look at the candy stripe pole on the right, go just past the end of it and you will see the point where cyclists congregate to make the eventual left turn.

There is a very large exit point to the right at the bottom for people coming towards the viewer and turning left off the main road, this requires a lot of space, I don’t see that being used where we are.

A few other observations, I watched cyclists coming towards me in the video and not one of them stopped before making the exit to the bottom right of the screen. They all turned into it while riding, some signaled.

There were a lot of close calls, but the film was sped up, so it was hard to judge.

This sort of set up can’t work where we are talking about right now, take Harbord and Spadina, a large intersection, the space needed for the exit lanes for the bikes (like the one at the bottom right) and the staged turns… I’m open to the possibility it might be there, but it seems to me to be too big a solution given the kind of road space we have. Anyone have numbers on this?

I’m assuming none of our existing bidirectionals are like this? The lakeshore / Ontario place lane isn’t like this, with staggered turning. However, this does address my concern about how turns would be made, seems simple enough, you just have to wait your turn like traffic, right?

Sounds fine to me, do we have the space for it?

So then the only other consideration is frequency of intersections like this. There is clearly potential for accidents in any case where cars and cyclists cross paths. The staggered crossing solves that problem, not the problem of bike/bike collisions.

So what I need to see is some sort of recommendation for the maximum number of intersections before this sort of thing becomes problematic, for cycle traffic speed and for collisions.

I know that bidirectionals work on the waterfront, but things are spread out there.

I’m going to do some sniffing around for accident stats in the Netherlands, I’ve seen Toby Sterling’s site, but I’m now curious.



Here is what Hamilton has been working on to get these bike lanes!!
the YES WE CANNON project is part of the WALKABLE HAMILTON project, from what I understand.

If after study you find bidirectional lanes cause you safety concerns on Harbord because of the number and distance between side streets will you advocate for unidirectional separated lanes on both sides of Harbord which everyone agrees is the safest of every option available?

What you're asking for Ian, I doubt even exists for car traffic engineering.

I don't know if you were going to do this but let's not start spouting accident stats without providing context. The first issue is that looking at countrywide crash (better term than accidents) stats tells us absolutely nothing about any particular bike infrastructure. The second issue is that you have to provide a denominator: is it crashes per thousand kilometres travelled? Or crashes per trip? And even then it won't tell you for street A or street B where bike traffic volume may be quite different.

The Netherlands has much, much higher level of cycling with many more regular cyclists than, say, the United States. And on top of that, Dutch cyclists travel many more kilometres per year than Americans. So just listing raw crash stats is completely useless. But when you look at it in context of km travelled per year, the Dutch are much safer than North Americans.

Short answer Separatist: Yes I would.

Long answer: I have come out publicly against the universal support of non-separated bike lanes, as I believe they can be dangerous, particularly to new riders who overestimate the safety they give you. My contention is that non-separated bike lanes are only "safe" on roads that were already safe as they have low traffic volume or are particularly wide. My stance on this would be known here except that I stopped blogging at IBIKETO and started blogging at my own site when I posted about this subject.

So I would agree that a unidirectional lane or lanes on Harbord would be safer.

Even when I questioned the safety of the bidirectional lanes I did so in the context of an experienced rider, e.g. I explicitly stated that Harbord is fine for me as it is, but I'm an experienced rider, novices would not find it as safe.

And I am definitely committed to increasing novice ridership, that won't be done with an infrastructure entirely dependent on non-separated bike lanes.

I'm not anti-anything, I'm pro knowing the facts and the risks.

My "beef", so to speak, is with ANY bike infrastructure plan that focuses on one solution for all problems. Other than that I'm open to any suggestions.




What I'm looking for is accident statistics. That seems straightforward.

I never cite stats without context, and I choose my sources based on methodology and transparency about the data gathering process. I have a science background and I'm a professional historian. You're talking to the wrong person about the need for context.

So that's a big red herring there.

Not to mention the fact that anticipating my errors is not a way to start a civil conversation, though it is a great rhetorical strategy for discrediting your opponents.

I mentioned gathering information about the Dutch case as bloggers like yourself regularly reference their infrastructure and their greater safety when recommending cycling infrastructure solutions for Toronto. If Dutch evidence is supportive of your case, then there is no reason why someone else can't appeal to that evidence too.

For example, let's turn this on its head for a moment. If Dutch riders generally have more experience on the road, how much of their improved safety record is due to the infrastructure, how much is due to their experience?

Without context statistics mean nothing.

Since there are more Dutch riders on the road it is possible they could have higher per capita accident rates while still having a safer system, as there are simply more riders on the road. So if I looked into the accident stats for say Amsterdam and saw they had more accidents than we do in TO on a yearly basis, I couldn't point to the Dutch evidence and say, "See, the infrastructure doesn't help as it leads to MORE accidents".

But pointing to the Dutch and saying, "They use bidirectional separated lanes, so we should too" is equally mistaken.

It's all about context. That is what informs my position on all these issues, that's why I'm concerned about non-separated bike lanes and why I would question bidirectional separated bike lanes before approving of them.




Ian: that's good. I think my comment came across as harsh but just wanted to be clear that it's more complicated than just looking at accident stats. I tried to convey that I didn't know what you were going to do with it.

The Cycling in Cities research group at UBC have done their own study as well as compiled a good literature review of the effect of different infrastructure on injuries. I would recommend looking there first.


Thanks for the reference, I will check it out.