Councillor pushing for fewer lanes for cars on Cannon

The Ward 2 councillor is recommending two-way bike lanes for a three-kilometre stretch of Cannon spanning from Bay Street to Sherman Avenue.

Proposing two-way bike lanes for stretch running from Bay Street to Sherman Avenue

Coun. Jason Farr is proposing two-way bike lanes for a three-kilometre stretch of Cannon Street spanning from Bay Street to Sherman Avenue. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

A downtown councillor has put the wheels in motion for bike lanes on Cannon Street.

Jason Farr, who represents Ward 2, submitted a notice of motion at the city's general issues committee on Monday indicating that he'll ask for a two-way bike lane to be installed on the south side of the street, on a three-kilometre stretch spanning from Bay Street to Sherman Avenue.

The proposal, he said, will go to council in September.

"I've been a proponent of pedestrian-friendly streets from day one," Farr told CBC Hamilton on Thursday. "These are proven methods and good things in terms of sustainability and economic development in a very big way."

The project, he said, would close one of the street's four lanes to car traffic, while the north lane would remain available for on-street parking.

We're really excited. This is exactly what we wanted to see go ahead.

Having bike lanes on the south side of the street, he added, would enhanced safety for pedestrians using the south sidewalk.

"Basically, what we have now is where we see [vehicle traffic] going equal or greater speed exactly on the south side," Farr said. "[The bike lanes] would turn this four-lane roadway through neighbourhoods like Beasley into something more appealing to residents."

Justin Jones, co-organizer of Yes We Cannon, a group that's pushing for bike lanes on the lower-city street, said it's "wonderful" that Farr is moving the project forward.

"We're really excited. This is exactly what we wanted to see go ahead."

Jones said he's heartened that Farr is recommending a "bidirectional" setup, one that would include eastbound and westbound bikes lanes and would have some sort of physical barrier separating riders from car traffic. 

"It gives drivers a clear indication of where cyclists are supposed to be and cyclists a clear idea of where they're supposed to ride."

Design elements

Jason Farr is the councillor for Ward 2. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Farr said he's not calling for concrete barriers, at least not for the initial pilot. The notice of motion asks staff to consider the merits of paint lines, posts, "knock-down sticks" and large planters as options for how the bike lanes could be separated from the broader roadway. In the document, Farr identifies the planters as the "preferred option."

The cost of the project, Farr said, is not yet known. But because the pilot wouldn't be grade-separated, "it's not a break-the-bank scenario."

As for the timelines for the project, Farr said, "we're looking to institute it as soon as possible."

A big motivation for push, he said, is to create "a multi-modal connector" for people moving from the downtown to the new east Hamilton stadium that will host soccer matches during the 2015 Pan Am Games.

"It's about taking you all the way to the new Pan Am precinct."

Two-way conversion

The drive to install bike lanes on the east-west artery, Farr said, comes out of the meetings with the citizens' group that's examining whether to convert Queen and Cannon from one-way to two-way streets. Council voted to launch the committee in the fall.

Farr said he's still consulting with constituents on whether Cannon should be opened to two-way traffic. "I'm not discounting any possibilities in terms of the conversion," he said.

Ward 10 councillor Maria Pearson said she's not necessarily opposed to the bike lane project, but wants council to be "cautious" when examining the plan.

She said councillors ought to debate the project at the same time as they look at the potential conversion of Cannon to a two-way street.

"It's better to take a comprehensive approach than just put interim bikes lanes in when everything could change."