CATCH News – January 3, 2010
Little funding for bike improvements
Over the next ten years, the city is budgetting to complete only about one-fifth of the cycling improvements endorsed by council last summer. Thanks to a volunteer community group, the full plans can now be viewed on-line.
Transportation for Liveable Communities (TLC) hopes their on-line map will encourage residents to lobby councillors to speed up implementation.
“We decided to make the map available online so people can see where the new bike lanes and multi-use trails will be and think about how the new routes can be used in their day-to-day routines.” said Nicholas Ellens of TLC in a media release last month. “We encourage people to pick up the phone and let their councillors know that they support the plan".
The city’s long-term plans were approved in principle last June and call for 223 projects to improve Hamilton’s cycling network in the urban area plus 49 in the rural region. The projected total cost is $51.5 million – somewhat less than the $55 million council has decided to take from the Future Fund to cover the city’s contribution to the 2015 Pan Am Games.
For 2010, the city has approved capital budget spending of $1.3 million to complete eight bike lane projects. But the expected expenditures over the rest of the decade average just $950,000 a year for new cycling infrastructure.
New lanes are to be established this year on Woodward Avenue, Burlington Street, Queensdale Avenue, York Boulevard, and Wilson Street at a total cost of just over $1 million. The remaining $250,000 will go to rehabilitating existing cycling facilities on Longwood Road and Stone Church Road.
The Woodward project is the most expensive at $400,000 and will add bike lanes between Melvin and Brampton as part of a $3.5 million road reconstruction project. This year’s new lanes on Burlington Street will run from Birch to east of Ottawa – the first phase of a planned bike route all the way from Ferguson Avenue to Parkdale.
A multi-use bridge over the QEW near the Red Hill Parkway for the use of both cyclists and pedestrians is also expected to be opened in 2010. That’s being paid for by a provincial government grant. TLC argues more bike lanes will help reduce auto dependency and encourage increased numbers of commuters to cycle.
“Cycling is a healthy, clean, efficient, and affordable alternative to driving,” said Ellens. “A connected network of lanes, paths, and in some places bridges will make cycling in the city a much safer option, overcoming a major obstacle that discourages many from participating.”
Last month Reuters reported that cycling to work in the United States has increased 43 percent in the last decade. The US Census Bureau figures put Portland Oregon at the top of the list with 6 percent of commutes carried out by bicycle, but these numbers are still far below European cities.
More than a third of the residents of Greater Copenhagen, for example, use a bike to get to work or school and that number climbs to 55 percent if you only count those within the city limits, reports Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason.
“Bikes are everywhere: in vast lots outside train stations, leaning against buildings, locked to racks that are as ubiquitous as Carlsberg signs,” he observed. “The people riding them are dressed for all occasions. You see men in pin-striped suits and women in skirts and high heels. Few ride anything but old, traditional one-speeds.”
Copenhagen’s efforts to build a “bike culture” have included setting traffic signal coordination for cycling speeds instead of car, stop lines for bikes five metres ahead of cars, and giving cyclists a green light several seconds ahead of cars.
In Canadian developments, Montreal added 104 kilometres of bike lanes in the last two years to bring their total to over 500 km. And last spring they joined Paris, London and New York in putting thousands of rental bikes on the streets, a move described as “huge boost to cycling” in the Quebec city.
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