Thursday, October 02, 2008

gearing up

Ron Albertson, the Hamilton Spectator
City eyes new cycling master plan

The Hamilton Spectator

(Oct 2, 2008)

Hamilton is about to update the "modest" 1999 Shifting Gears plan for cycling in the city, to inject new life on two wheels.

Daryl Bender, city project manager handling cycling, said the months ahead will collect public input on how to improve routes, signage, promotion and more.

"Shifting Gears is modest by today's standards," said Bender. "The past 10 years have seen a big increase in the interest paid to active transportation." The sessions for input are not yet scheduled.

The new cycling master plan, to be done by spring, grows out of studies such as the 2007 Transportation Master Plan and 2006 West Hamilton Bicycle Network Review.

The Transportation Master Plan's near-term goal was to make bikes a choice for 10 per cent of trips (from 6 per cent currently); long term, the goal is 15 per cent, with better routes, shorter home/work distances, education and better urban planning.

Bender said the new plan will also satisfy some environmental assessment rules for a list of projects, so they don't spend years each in separate assessment processes.

Coming soon, Bender says, are improvements at Aberdeen and Longwood, King from Nash to Centennial, and the trickier CP Rail-Main Street West connection, where the city is about to submit an offer to purchase so it can negotiate cyclists across the 403 rail bridge.

It comes as regional transportation agency Metrolinx is also plotting an ambitious course for the future of Toronto and Hamilton.

In the region, Metrolinx estimates 17 per cent of all trips are walkable (less than two kilometres) and 40 per cent are bikable (less than five kilometres). But walking and cycling make up just 5 per cent of work trips and 32 per cent of school trips in the region.

Fifteen years into the Metrolinx transportation plan, the agency plans to invest up to $300 million in new walking and cycling infrastructure in the region, creating up to 4,500 kilometres of dedicated on- and off-road facilities.

From 16 to 25 years from now, a further $200 million will be invested in walking and cycling for an additional 3,000 kilometres.

Jill Stephen, city manager of strategic planning, said Metrolinx already sent $190,000 to Hamilton for bike racks on buses and secure storage at the York Boulevard parkade.She said the city will study its nodes and corridors -- major stops and lines in its network -- to see where more storage makes sense, possibly at GO stations, for example.

The city plans to open the next secure bike locker at the Hamilton Convention Centre in spring 2009. Without Metrolinx help, the city's annual budget for cycling initiatives is $300,000.


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