hamilton-bike-lanes safety

Emerging Hamilton Bike Lanes – Friend or Foe?

For those of you who live or work in Hamilton, the emergence of new bike lanes throughout the city is no secret. And while there has been much controversy about these new Hamilton bike lanes, I feel the city is doing the right thing.

Why Bike Lanes?

New bike lanes not only promote physical activity and ridership within the busy core, they also keep cyclists safe from motorists; in fact, bike lanes have been proven to reduce cyclist-motorist accidents by up to 90%, which, as a personal injury lawyer, is music to my ears.

Safer cycling routes lead to more cyclists, which means fewer vehicles on the road and less congestion in the long run. This is great news for commuters like myself who make the trek into the city every morning for work.

Bike lanes also create a new option for those who can’t or aren’t able to drive, but still need a safe space on the road to travel. Think: kids who ride their bikes to school, teens and seniors.

The safer the community is for cyclists, the less chance there is of visiting my office to embark on a personal injury case. And that’s something worth supporting.

Hamilton has come far in terms of creating new bike lanes, but there’s still a long way to go when it comes to a seamless transition.

A Need For Clearer Signage And Public Education

While I’m an avid supporter of extending bike lanes throughout Hamilton, the city’s new cycling features have some motorists and cyclists scratching their heads.

There’s been confusion among drivers and pedestrians witnessing cyclists travel the wrong way down bike lanes, not using proper hand signals and halting at intersections.

This issue has sparked the debate that there’s a need for clearer signage and public education surrounding new bike routes and the rules that come with them.

Previously, the municipality distributed information cards about new bike lanes to businesses, residents, libraries and school boards. It’s a great start, but it can’t stop there.

Education must continue until these projects are complete and the city’s residents have a clear understanding of how these lanes work.

Making Bike Lanes Safer

I believe all new bike lines should be protected with flexible poles and bumpers to keep cars from drifting inwards and harming cyclists.

From what I’ve witnessed personally, I’d say about half aren’t.

This is alarming and it’s something that needs to be addressed sooner than later before accidents occur.

A few already have.

In late June, two people were struck using the Cannon Street bike lanes.

Though their injuries were minor, it reinforces the need for streamlined safety buffers, increased signage and public education around new cycling features, so cyclists and motorists can co-exist without issues.

Before You Go…Some Winter Cycling Tips

If you do plan on using designated bike lanes during the winter months, be aware that you should still take extra precaution to protect yourself from injury:

  • Cars are less aware of bikers in the winter. Dress appropriately in reflective gear and attach lights to the front and rear of your bike if you plan to ride at night. You can be fined $110 if you don’t
  • Slow down. Give yourself double the time to reach your destination. A slower, more controlled speed helps you react and recover if you skid
  • Invest in wide rubber tires for winter and consider switching to studded tread to grip the ice and snow
  • Avoid wearing a hood when you ride. Air funnels in as you move, inflating your hood like a sail, throwing off your balance. It also blocks your peripheral vision. Invest in a facemask or ski-goggles instead
  • Consider the weather conditions and use your best judgement. Sometimes it’s best to stay home, choose another mode of transportation or wait until the weather improves before heading out

What are your thoughts on Hamilton’s emerging bike lanes? Do you think they create a safer environment for avid cyclists and riders alike? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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