Cycling in the city can be an enjoyable experience. Hamilton has a multitute of shared trails and a connected network of bike routes that span much of the city, but there are gaps in that network that makes the whole experience somewhat confusing and lacking the overall experience.
I don’t cycle a lot, with much of my commuting confined to the bus. But there are occasions when I do take my bike out. I live in the downtown area and work on the mountain. Unfortunatly on some mornings when I work very early I am unable to take the bus for my entire commute as service does not begin as early as I need. I therefore cycle downtown to catch the bus.
When I do ride my bike in the city, often on the way home from work, I try to follow the bike routes in the city. This can become a challenge for three main reasons.
1) Not all bike routes are signed
2) There aren’t sufficient signs on the ‘signed’ bike routes
3) Some bike routes are on high traffic volume roadways
The most confusing thing about the bike route network in Hamilton is that a lot of the bike routes aren’t signed. This isn’t much of an issue if you don’t use the routes but considering the city would like to promote cycling it might be helpful to have them all signed.
The second thing that can cause confusion is the lack of sufficient signage. There are a few instances that I have come across where the bike route turns from one street to another without a sign indicating this.
One such instance is at the intersection of Gage and Cumberland. When turning from Cumberland there IS a sign stating that the route continues right onto Gage, but when travelling in the opposite direction there is no such sign.
Another instance occurs on Walnut in the downtown. The bike route on this street ends at Jackson St where you can turn either right or left and continue in either direction. However there is no sign stating this at all. I continued north on Walnut until I arrived at the end of the road with no idea where to continue.
If you have knowledge of the network and know where you are going then the signs become a mute point. As mute as having no signs on the QEW and relying on memory or an existing familiarity as to where to find the off ramp for the 407 ETR. Clearly signs are pivitol.
The city is however making strides to improve the cycling experience in the city. The Shifting Gears document on the City of Hamilton website details the many plans in improving the cycling network, from new bike lanes to signed bike routes. The most exciting plan, in my opinion, are the planned bike lanes for the Claremont Access and the Jolley Cut.
on Ferguson Ave.
There is one improvement that needs to be implemented and this is the exclusion of bike routes on medium to high level traffic roadways. These roads should not be considered bike routes, signed or otherwise, without dedicated bike lanes.
One such bike route is Barton St between Ferguson and Walter. If you ever try to ride your bike on Barton St you’ll understand what I mean. The road is very busy and is peppered with parked cars. The street also features one of the busiest bus routes in the city with frequent bus trips. Unless you are a highly experience cyclist I wouldn’t recommend taking this bike route.
If you do get a chance to get to get out this summer I do recommend that you pick up a copy of the map of bike routes to become familiar with the different routes you can take. Additionally there is a great online resource in Cycle Hamilton.