The progress we’ve seen over the past 15 years in Downtown Hamilton is grinding to a halt thanks to well-meaning but poorly informed decision-makers and their influencers. My current case in point is the installation of bicycle lanes on Hunter Street in front of the GO Centre. In the quiet of the pandemic it would seem reasonable, but if and when travel returns to pre- pandemic levels the fallacy will become evident.
I am a frequent user of GO service, having travelled to and from Ottawa about 25 weeks each year. Taxis have been parked in a long line starting in front of the station back beyond John Street, with meters on the north side of Hunter made available for kiss-and-ride private vehicles. There are bike racks by the bus platforms inside where I have counted on average 10 bicycles. The very few cyclists I have seen passing the area can legally use the street without the need for dedicated lanes.
During the large amount of time I have spent in the downtown core I have never seen the councillors who are advocating these changes. In my opinion they wish to be seen as “progressive” in response to a small but noisy group of bloggers and other social media activists. An example is a series of tweets suggesting that the fastest way to get to the hospital is by bicycle. Grandma would not be impressed.
The next and most serious impact on downtown growth is the proposed LRT. The president of the Chamber of Commerce once stated in an interview
“There have been a lot of business success stories, but, in my opinion, none greater than the transformation of our downtown. When you consider that there hadn’t been a new building built in the downtown since the 80s and now you see cranes and new developments all over, and when you stroll up James (North and South) or King William and see the streets bustling with people, you can’t help but be amazed.”
That all happened without LRT or bike lanes.
Bob Bratina is the MP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, former mayor of Hamilton and former councillor for Downtown Ward Two