City won't look at parking on bike lanes after all, but reaction was 'ridiculous'

Hamilton city council won’t look at allowing vehicles to park in the Bay Street bike lanes after all, but some councillors were peeved at the “uncivilized” reaction to the idea.

Council’s public works committee initially voted to look at allowing vehicles to park on a stretch of the Bay Street bicycle lanes during “off peak” hours — namely, outside of rush hour. On Wednesday, council reversed that idea when Jason Farr, Ward 2 (downtown) councillor, withdrew his motion.

Farr moved it in the first place when a resident, Giovanni Puzzo, said the bike lanes took parking away from tenants renting his Bay Street property. Farr wanted to get feedback from the city’s cycling committee on a solution that could even involve installing “sharrows” — pavement arrows that encourage people to share the road.

Farr said public reaction helped him realize the city should stop now.

“There was overwhelming sentiment from the Hamilton cycling committee,” Farr said, that the idea “really doesn’t work.”

Two councillors defended Farr’s intentions, saying some saw the issue as “black and white.”

Sam Merulla says this was about educating residents, not going forward with the idea. The issue, he says, is not “black and white.” (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Coun. Sam Merulla of Ward 4 (east end) said this was about creating awareness and getting residents to buy in to the idea of bike lanes.

“Why does everything have to be black and white, or yes and no, or us versus them?” said Merulla, who seconded Farr’s initial motion. “It can be a process of creating awareness, and that’s all we were doing. He was representing a number of residents on that street.”

“I had a number of people send me ridiculous emails, which I ignored because they were ridiculous.”

‘Just not democratic’

Terry Whitehead, Ward 14 (west Mountain) councillor, said Merulla “nailed it on the head.” Councillors represent people who don’t want bike lanes too, not just people who want them.

“To be criticized that you’re allowing them to raise their voice and concern, it’s just not democratic,” he said.

“I followed some of the tweets and the social media, and I thought it was unfortunate that we are becoming very uncivilized in the approach to these issues.”

The idea of allowing parking lanes drew criticism from many Hamilton cyclists.

Cycle Hamilton wrote a letter this week that called it “an unworkable suggestion.” The group urged council to not look at bike lanes as an “us versus them” issue.

Cyclists are taxpayers too

“Cyclists are also taxpayers, and often drivers too!” the letter said. “The us versus them dichotomy isn’t helpful, nor is it accurate, and it appears to be at the heart of this issue.”

Tom Jackson, Ward 6 (east Mountain) councillor, said he had concerns about the idea too.

He’s worried about having commuter bike lanes on arterial roads, he said. They do take away parking. But the Bay Street bike lanes are there now, so the city should leave them alone.

Having them as part-time bike lanes would “cause tremendous complexity, complication and potentially create a safety issue,” he said.

“For me, once the bike lanes are in, they should remain commuter bike lanes.”