Saturday, August 30, 2008

peace in the valley

Ron Albertson, the Hamilton Spectator
A bridge too old on Valley Inn Road
Bylaw would halt only vehicle access

The Hamilton Spectator
(Aug 30, 2008)

The city is one step closer to closing the Valley Inn Road bridge to vehicle traffic.

Plans have been in the works for a while, but the bylaw that needs to pass before the move can go ahead will be brought to a city committee Sept. 8.

It then needs the approval of council to move ahead.

Lorissa Skrypniak, senior project manager in environmental planning with the city, said the plan is to permanently close the bridge to vehicles while allowing pedestrians and cyclists to continue using it.

She said there will be "no vehicles, because the bridge is in poor condition. But it's safe for pedestrians and bicycles."

Once Hamilton council has passed a bylaw to close the bridge, Burlington council will also need to take a similar step, Skrypniak said.

The bridge is owned by Hamilton but falls in both municipalities.

Skrypniak said access on the Hamilton side will be blocked off at York Boulevard, but people will still be able to get to the Royal Botanical Gardens and Spring Gardens Road from the Burlington side.

In addition, the bridge is set to undergo improvements that will maintain the heritage component of the structure.

"People like the character and the heritage flavour of the single-lane bridge," Skrypniak said.

She speculated work could get under way in the spring.

If everything moves through the two municipal councils with no problems, the Valley Inn Road bridge could be closed to cars by the end of the year.


No new crossing guards on Governor's Road

Craig Campbell, Dundas Star News. Published on Aug 29, 2008

Despite ongoing pedestrian safety concerns around three Governor's Road schools, no crossing guards are being added.

With classes set to start within days, Dundas students will begin the year with only seven crossing guards, compared to the nine in place a year ago.

Three local crossing guard locations were removed over the past year. Only one crossing guard was added, at Bridlewood and Governor's, since the opening of Sir William Osler School last winter. The elementary school took on the student populations of both Dundas District and Central Park, as well as some Dundana students.

The City of Hamilton rejected a request from St. Bernadette Catholic Elementary School's principal to relocate the Creighton and Governor's guard to Huntingwood Road - an uncontrolled intersection more commonly used by students than the stoplight-protected intersection at Creighton. A 15-year-old Highland High School student was struck by a car while crossing at Hungtingwood two years ago. There have been many near collisions and several vehicle collisions there.

Participants in a pedestrian safety walkabout of the three neighbouring Governor's Road schools supported the requested relocation of a guard, as well as potentially adding an extra crossing guard for Sir William Osler.

Friday, August 29, 2008

august ride

Recumbent rider Richard Dominick sends this photo from the August Critical Mass bicycle ride in Hamilton. Still going strong, since May 1998 - next month is the Car Free Week Critical Mass - so if you have yet to try it, it's not too late to join the movement. That would be the last Friday of the month, meet at Hess and George Streets in Hess Village at 5:30pm.
September 26, 2008...

Monday, August 25, 2008

never too late

At last, thirteen years after the socially accepted age to be biking without training wheels, I can balance myself on two wheels and a saddle. It took much peer pressure – from friends who play bike polo, a brother who repairs bicycles for a living, and the newly implemented bike racks on the HSR – but I did it.

On June 14th, my brother arrived at my place in Hamilton feeling it was his duty to teach me the methods and lifestyle of a cyclist. Figuring training wheels didn't come my size, we decided it was best to skip this step and go straight to balancing. My brother had me stabilize my left foot on the pedal and push off with my right, thus mimicking a scooter motion. It took me a while to perfect this motion, especially with neighbors suddenly appearing on the streets and having my self-consciousness get the best of me. But eventually with my gliding skills intact, I was brought to a grassy field. With the security of my brother's hand wrapped beneath the bike seat, I placed both feet on the pedals and began to well… pedal! Being hard enough to run alongside a six year old on wheels, it was even harder to do so alongside a nineteen year old, so naturally, my brother let go, and I was biking on my own!

I spent the next couple of days after work in the staff parking lot of St. Mary's Secondary School perfecting my left turn, hand signaling, gear-shifting, and whatnot. And if you're wondering about the outcome 2 months and 10 days later—I've been biking to and from work everyday; I've been able to reach far past the 4km mark on the Hamilton-Brantford rail trail; I've made use of the new bike lanes on York Blvd.; no longer do I have to revolve my schedule around the HSR; and most astonishingly, the once foreign-to-me terms such as fixed gear, derailleur, and
pannier rack have now inserted itself into my everyday vocabulary.

With each stroke of the pedal, I now feel the awe and thrill of every neo-cyclist, only without the flashiness of pompoms and straw-baskets.

Sarah Kam

Sunday, August 24, 2008

trailer park

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I wouldn't be able to do as much as I can without my bike trailer. When the kids were small, it was them, diaper bags, and groceries, some library material.

For a while the two oldest would sing loudly as we pedaled through residential streets "hang down your head, Tom Dooley, hang down your head and cry..."

Now they are too big to fit in the trailer, riding their own bicycles instead, but I still use the trailer for jobs moving things. Still need groceries, library material, and things like beer, or any shopping that i can fit in, strap on and pedal up hills.

I got this one used for $400 about eight years ago, making it my second trailer.
It folds down flat in seconds, and I hang it at the bottom of the basement stairs from a couple hardware hooks in the ceiling.

Investing a little money in bike gear can make being car free that much more possible. With three kids, my wife and I have managed quite well, incorporating a variety of means to accomplish daily tasks: pubic transit, bikes, and walking mean only occasionally needing use of an automobile.

Trailers are versatile and indispensable for expanding your options when it comes to doing things without using a car.

There is a going to be a "Trailer Park" at the September 6 Locke Street Festival to showcase human power for moving people and things. Get your bungee chords, your panniers, your milk crates, and your trailers out and come compare notes.

Friday, August 15, 2008

go further

Work is underway to extend the Cootes Multi-Use Path between Sanders Blvd (the current eastern terminus) and Main Street West.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

the nine

nine thin bollards defend the Cootes multi-use path from distracted drivers (i.e. one instance) - TLC had called for a much smaller number of bollards (i.e. one or two) to demarcate the path from the road at this intersection.

This current layout is not bicycle friendly for cyclists entering or exiting the path at the intersection with Olympic.
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Monday, August 11, 2008

sanity is a two way street...

City shifts into drive on 2-way streets

The Hamilton Spectator, (Aug 8, 2008)

The city is moving ahead with its original plan to convert several more downtown streets from one-way to two-way.

With council's sign-off, city staff will also review the conversions already done on the south legs of James and John streets to see if they can improve traffic flow.

The two arteries are a regular source of frustration for Mountain residents, who view the conversions as "failures," said Councillor Scott Duvall.

But downtown Councillor Bob Bratina urged his colleagues not to let issues with the two streets hold up an overall transportation plan he believes will help revive the downtown.

"I think we've wasted a lot of time getting to this point."

He noted Main Street, Hamilton's most prized one-way street with its string of green lights, will remain unchanged.

The city's downtown master plan was stalled last month when a group of councillors raised concerns about the necessity and expense of converting several downtown streets.

The plan calls for the conversion of York Boulevard and Wilson Street, Park and MacNab streets and King William, Rebecca and Hess streets. City staff believe the changes will help make the core more pedestrian friendly.

Plans for several downtown projects, including the new farmers' market and library, were put on hold until council reaffirmed the plan originally approved in 2001.

Councillor Terry Whitehead said he's still skeptical the changes will lead to economic spinoffs but agreed to endorse the plan.

"I'm going to support it cautiously," Whitehead said.

Councillors Chad Collins and David Mitchell remained in opposition to it.

"I honestly believe the investment could be better spent elsewhere," said Collins.

The conversions will mainly take place as part of larger construction project. In isolation, the seven conversions will cost roughly $1 million.

Councillors will still have an opportunity to decide how quickly the conversions occur each year during capital budget deliberations.


Saturday, August 09, 2008

the spec steps up

Balance key to city streets

The Hamilton Spectator

(Aug 8, 2008)

A livable city is not just about the people who drive its streets: It is about the people who live beside the streets, who walk the sidewalks beside them, who shop or dine out in the businesses that line them.

Two-way streets help make Hamilton's downtown more livable, more welcoming, more people-friendly. Conversions of some of the core's one-way arteries to two-way streets has been worthwhile and generally successful. Council's decision to move ahead on two-way conversions on more downtown streets is the right one. But it must not be at the expense of maintaining the streets we do have now.

The conversion of James Street North from one-way to two-way is probably the most visibly successful of the conversions that have happened downtown. It hasn't been a cure-all; there are still far too many closed storefronts and other signs of decay -- particularly, it has to be said, the Lister Block and the ruin-like remains of the Tivoli Theatre -- along James North.

But the conversion sends a message the historic artery between downtown and bayfront has more to offer than a quick drive from Barton or Cannon streets to King or Main streets.

The conversion has to get at least some credit for the emergence of a small gallery district, the apparent increase in people spending money there and the small miracles of the Art Bus, the monthly Maker's Market and replica trolleys between Jackson Square and Pier 8.

Councillor Terry Whitehead, who opposed the next stage of two-way conversions, said: "For the constituents I represent, two-way streets are a complete waste of money."

That sort of parochial, ward-centric comment illustrates what cripples council initiatives. It's not surprising West Mountain constituents would prefer a fast route into or through downtown. What would be surprising is if they would like to see their main two-way streets -- say, Upper James, West 5th and Garth streets -- converted to one-way thoroughfares.

Whitehead makes a solid point about the need for city investment in road and watermain repairs. We've argued in this space recently existing roads all over Hamilton are in deplorable condition and council should make fixing them a higher priority than rearranging them. Reporter Rob Faulkner looked this week at the state of Hamilton's bicycle lanes, and there's no doubt continuing investment in repairing and expanding that network is essential.

Two-way conversions are a manifestation of new possibility for downtown -- a possibility of a revitalized core where more people want to live, shop, work, stroll, entertain themselves and do business.

Council's hardest task is to find a balance and compromise between the mundane essentials -- what it has to fix -- with investment in a vision of what Hamilton could be. Continuing the reinvention of downtown is a strong, strategic move.