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Cycling advocates call for Hamilton to boost bike infrastructure

The city of Hamilton spends about $890,000 a year on cycling infrastructure. A 2009 city plan calls for spending double or three times that to build its cycling network in 20 years.

Cycle Hamilton will ask councillors this week to up its funding of cycling infrastructure projects

In December, Hamilton Police closed the up side of the Claremont Access and escorted marchers up to the site where Jay Keddy was killed. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

There have been some high-profile recent additions to the city of Hamilton's cycling inventory: Cannon's cycle track, a successful bike share program. 

And then there are reminders of the gaps in the infrastructure — stark ones, like the death of kindergarten teacher Jay Keddy while he cycled up the Claremont Access in December.

This week, an advocacy group will call for city officials to look at its own 2009 plan and increase funding for cycling projects in line with what that seven-year-old plan recommended.

"We want to hold the city to its own recommendations," said Johanna Bleecker, a cycling advocate with a group called Cycle Hamilton, who will speak to the General Issues Committee on Tuesday.

The plan lists the Claremont Access, where Keddy died, as a preferred location for a protected bike lane connecting the Mountain with the lower city. 

Though there appeared to be great political interest after Keddy's death to fast-track a protected lane on the access, "city staff reported that they just didn't have the staff or the resources" to get to it before 2017, Bleecker said.

What city spends now vs. what it would take

The city spends an average of about $890,000 each year on cycling infrastructure, according to its cycling master plan.

But that's not nearly as much as it would take to build the cycling network envisioned in the city's 2009 Shifting Gears study within a 20-year time period. 

Here's how the numbers break down: 

  • The city's report estimates the total cost for the recommended network to be $51.5 million. 
  • Of that, $22.5 million would be spent on urban areas and $29 million for rural areas, in 2009 dollars. 
  • The city's report says that to build out the entire plan, that would require $2.5 million to be spent each year for 20 years.
Johanna Bleecker walks a bicycle and a trailer carrying a bike painted white as a memorial to cyclist Jay Keddy, killed as he rode up the Claremont Access in December. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)
Bleecker said she and fellow advocates would be happy, as a start, with a commitment to increase the city's funding to $1.25 million, which she said would make a dent in the urban area improvements. 

"That's kind of the minimum," she said.

What happens when spending doesn't follow the plan? 

"Things don't get done," she said. "Things get shifted to the back burner."

As an example, she cites the protected bike lane on Claremont Access.

Bleecker said she will recommend looking at the city's fund generated by red light tickets as a possible source of additional funding for the plan.

kelly.bennett@cbc.ca | @kellyrbennett

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