CATCH News – June 14, 2009Comprehensive cycling network proposed
The city has prepared a master cycling plan that could put every urban resident within one kilometre of a bike lane or trail and establish a full rural network as well – for less than the city’s financial commitment to the proposed Pan-Am stadium. The plan goes to the public works committee tomorrow morning, but with recommended funding that would require over 40 years to complete the full network.
Over 260 bike lanes or multi-use paths in all parts of the city are listed in the plan to be added to the current network. Most of those (220) are in the urban area and are expected to cost $22.6 million to put in place. The 46 proposals for the rural area would add another $28.9 million, for a total price tag of $51.5 million.
“The core facility type will be the designated, painted lane,” explains the staff report. “The plan is based on the philosophy that a cyclist should be able to access the network in the urban area by travelling no more than 1 km, so a grid based on a 2 km spacing has been developed.”
The current budget allocation for cycling infrastructure is $300,000 a year. That was originally established at one percent of the road building budget, but has not increased for several years. Using that rate of annual spending, it would take 172 years to pay for all the projects. Staff are suggesting increasing annual spending for cycling to $1.25 million – enough to finish the master plan in 41 years.
That schedule could be cut to under 20 years if efforts are concentrated in the urban area – a direction that is suggested in the staff report.
“The funding level suggested in this report is about one-half that level and reflects the realities of our limited capital budget for road improvements,” says the staff report. “While $1,250,000 annually is less than the amount required to complete the entire network in twenty years, it will allow for good success on the urban portion and is compatible with staff’s ability to undertake these projects.”
An option offered to councillors is to double the allocation to $2.5 million a year – equivalent to five dollars per resident per year. That would bring Hamilton closer to Toronto’s annual per capita allocation of five dollars and twenty-five cents.
The city’s last major cycling plan was prepared ten years ago and staff say about 75 percent of its recommended projects have now been completed. But they note that 1999 “ Shifting Gears” plan “did not provide a comprehensive network of cycling facilities across the City.”
The new master plan has been developed over the last year in consultation with the public aims to correct this deficiency. It is “primarily focused on developing new on-road facilities, connecting wherever possible to existing or planned off-road facilities” says the report. It goes on to explain that the intent is to support both “commuter/utilitarian cycling and recreational cycling”, noting that the latter “is often the first step toward commuting or utilitarian use.”
Council is also being asked to approve permanent status for the “ alternative transportation coordinator” – a position that is currently only temporary.
“Integral to delivering the plan is the requirement for a full-time staff member dedicated to delivering the program,” advises the report. Before the temporary coordinator was hired, actual spending on cycling infrastructure was running far behind the annual $300,000 budget.
The majority of the proposed projects in the urban area are budgetted at less than $50,000 each. Of these 39 would cost less than $10,000 each, and another 93 are in the $10-50,000 range. Only two of the first 65 in the priority list attached to the report would cost more than $50,000.
Many of the more expensive projects are multi-use trails. Nine of the 215 in the urban area exceed $500,000 each with one of those budgetted at over $1 million.
Many of the more costly would be scheduled as part of road widening or reconstruction, with the cycling budget picking up any additional costs required for bike lanes. In the rural area, where over 250 kilometres of lanes are proposed, 70 percent of the projects would require paving road shoulders.
The completed plan, if approved by the committee and ratified next week by the full council, will then be posted for 30 days of further public comment required under provincial environmental assessment rules.
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