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Politicians kick-start Cannon bike lanes

 By Kevin Werner, News Staff

 Hamilton will spend nearly $1.6 million for a three-year pilot project to construct bike lanes alongCannon Street that will stretch from Sherman Avenue to Hess Street.

“This is progressive, this is important,” said Ward 2 councillor Jason Farr, who campaigned on convertingCannon Streettwo-way during his election campaign.

The project, approved by a unanimous vote, will be the first to be constructed within the city’s new Complete Street program. The idea is to make Hamilton’s roads that are safe for all ages and modes of travel.

During a four-hour debate on the issue at the March 19 general issues committee meeting, councillors questioned the feasibility of building what is being touted as a ‘cycle track’ along Cannon Street. Last fall politicians unanimously approved the idea of converting Cannon Street to two way, and building cycling lanes.

City staff presented a feasibility study to outline how to build the bike lanes, the impact on parking, snow clearing operations, and deliveries, and the cost associated with such a project.

The capital costs are estimated to be about $867,000, while the annual operating budget for the bi-directional bike lanes is about $730,000.

Norma Moores, a senior transportation engineer with the IBI Group, didn’t believe the costs will increase as the planning process moved forward.

“It can work,” she said. “I’m confident the costs won’t go up.”

The idea is to reduce Cannon Street from four lanes to three lanes west ofVictoria Avenue, and slice four lanes down to two east ofVictoria Avenue. A more detailed design of the project will be presented later this year. The idea is to have the project available for cyclists by the summer.

“I support it,” said Mountain councillor Terry Whitehead. “What I don’t support is the additional costs.”

But Whitehead felt the full brunt of his constituents’ anger who argued politicians were ignoring their pleas to fix their potholed roads on the mountain. Whitehead said he is examining whether cyclists should be registered with the city in order to help pay for maintaining bike lanes. He said other municipalities have such a program in place.

Meanwhile, Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark, who was supportive of the project, objected to what he believed was a lack of public input into the study. He confronted councillors Farr and Brian McHattie about not providing the public with enough time to review the feasibility study results. Projects he has been involved with, including renovating Battlefield Park and Museum, and King Street in downtown Stoney Creek, has encouraged residents to comment feasibility proposals before entering the more detailed planning process.

He proposed a 30-day comment period for the public, but his motion was shot down in a recorded vote that had councillors Brenda Johnson, Maria Pearson and Clark supporting it.

“This is not downtown Stoney Creek,” said Farr. “Public consultation has already occurred. Businesses (along Cannon Street) are not going to be affected.”

McHattie was also opposed to the idea of a comment period, arguing it would delay implementing the bike lanes.

“This is not coming out of the blue,” said McHattie. “Consultation is being used as a bogey man. Either respect the ward councillor or vote against the project.”

Clarkwas surprised the councillors would say he had ulterior motives.

“I don’t know what the fear is to consult,” saidClark.

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