Network of Greenways will Connect our Downtown Neighbourhoods
From the Nest, Issue 2
by Ryan McGreal
Hamilton might be getting a new type of cycling infrastructure as soon as this year. Ward 1 is looking at pilot projects to install two new neighbourhood greenways, one on Breadalbane Street connecting York Boulevard with King Street over Highway 403, and one connecting across Magill Street, Pearl Street, and Kent Street between Strathcona and Kirkendall neighbourhoods.
A neighbourhood greenway—sometimes called a bicycle boulevard or a bikeway—is a residential side street with low automobile traffic volume that allows local driving but is designed to give priority to people walking and cycling. Greenways are continuous for people on bikes while forcing people in cars to divert off the street so dangerous cut-through “rat running” is reduced.
Greenways usually have six distinct criteria including –
- low car traffic volumes;
- traffic calming design elements (like curb bumpouts, speed humps and mini roundabouts);
- barriers that divert non-local car traffic to turn off the greenway;
- safe intersections that give priority to walking and cycling;
- connections to important local destinations; and
- signage and markings to make wayfinding easy.
The first greenway was built in Germany in the 1980s, and greenways have been growing in popularity in cities like Vancouver, Minneapolis, Portland and Montreal for years. Hamilton has been talking about building greenways since the original Shifting Gears cycling plan in 1999. That plan was upgraded in 2009 and then rolled into the Transportation Master Plan in 2018.
We currently have a number of signed bike routes throughout the city, but these are literally just conventional streets that have signs indicating they are considered good routes for cycling. In the City’s 2018 Cycling Master Plan review and update, the City acknowledged that upgrading a signed bike route to a greenway provides a much safer, more welcoming experience for cyclists.
In 2013, a Strathcona Neighbourhood resident proposed a network of greenways, including a north-south greenway on Magill, Pearl and Kent. This route is a great candidate for a greenway, since several design elements—the raised median on York, the pedestrian CP Rail overpass and HAAA Park—already allow pedestrian traffic while forcing cars to divert.
Then-Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie began the process of laying the groundwork for a north-south greenway on Magill, Pearl and Kent by arranging to have controlled crossings installed on Pearl at King and Main and the pedestrian CP Rail overpass rebuilt.
Not much happened in the next few years, but in 2017, then-Councillor Aidan Johnson brought community advocates and City staff together to discuss the project. Staff agreed that it was a good fit for the City’s transportation plan but would need a funding source.
Ward 1 residents voted to fund a greenway pilot in 2018 through the Participatory Budget process (full disclosure, I submitted the proposal) and money was set aside from the Ward 1 Area Rating Capital Budget. In 2019, Councillor Maureen Wilson found a supportive staffer willing to take on the design and began the work of bringing together the various project teams that would need to sign off on the design, including the HAAA Renewal Plan and (at that time) the active LRT project on King.
Then COVID-19 happened and the greenway was sidelined along with many other local projects. As we are learning to live with the pandemic, however, the project is picking up again. Councillor Wilson plans to hold public consultations as part of a multi-mobility connections review that Council approved in late 2019. If all goes well, the design will be completed in June and construction can begin in late summer or fall.
The City is also considering a greenway on Breadalbane Street, a residential side street that runs parallel to Dundurn Street North between York Boulevard (by way of Woodbine Crescent) and King Street West and the protected two-way cycle track across Highway 403. This first came up during discussions about traffic impacts of the Hamilton LRT (which the Ontario Government cancelled in late 2019 before recently proposing a phased version with federal help).
The idea is to provide a safer, quieter bike route between the bike lanes on York and the cycle track on King. There are bike lanes on Dundurn, but they are narrow and unprotected and mainly serve as a space buffer from cars for people on the sidewalk.
My hope is that these initial projects will inspire greenways all over the city on Hunt, Head and Napier in Strathcona; Britannia Avenue in the east end; South Bend and Bendemere on the Mountain; and I’m sure you can think of more.
Ryan McGreal is a local active transportation enthusiast and amateur urbanist