Cyclists tell us how the city plans to count traffic on New Street. Did the Transportation department lose their tongues or did the communications people lose their pencils?

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

September 30th, 2016



A number of the articles we publish draw comments from readers – where the debate can continue for some time. The cycling lanes on New Street is one of those debates that isn’t over yet.

Will this MAyor on this bike ever get to ride on a separate and safe bike lane on the LAkshore Road? Not if they MAyor folds at city council this evening.

Will we see the Mayor on his bike driving to city hall along New Street?

We usually leave the debates in the comment section however a comment from Chris Amiens, a cyclist for whom we have a lot of respect, is one we decided to pull from the comments section and put it into the ongoing news category.

Responding to a short piece I wrote about the traffic I experienced on New Street during a rush hour earlier this week Amiens said:

“Not one of your best articles, Pepper. Did you ask anyone from the city what they are doing to measure? More investigative journalism and less supposition is required.

He went on to say: “ At Tuesday’s (September 27) Cycling Committee meeting, the Transportation department shared an update on the New Street pilot.

“One of the recommendations we made to Council was to “measure everything”. I came away from this update encouraged that the city’s Staff are doing just that.

“They aren’t using the tubes in the road, because those are less effective. They are using Bluetooth technology to measure travel times and installing cameras that will count vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians 24/7 (including both the street and the sidewalks). They will be installing the tubes on parallel and side streets like Spruce to measure traffic impacts there. They are even having drones capture video of rush hour traffic. They are getting feedback from not only the public, but transit, police and emergency services to measure the impacts.

“Whatever your position on the New Street project, it is clear to me that staff are doing their utmost to capture all of the relevant metrics so that the City can make the most informed decision.”

This is great stuff – but why is the public learning about it in a comment made by a member of the Cycling Advisory committee?

I am impressed with the lengths the city is going to – what’s it going to cost?

However, I want to know why there hasn’t been a single word from the Transportation department on what they plan to do.

Mayor Goldring: Is there an event he won't attend? He doesn't have to get out to everything - but he usually does.

Mayor Goldring: Thinking it over?

Given that the cycling lanes are one of the hotter issues for a number of people.   Given that the Mayor said he is approached by citizens on this issue constantly – is this not an issue that the city’s communications staff could get something out on?

It is an issue – not all that big when compared to others – think budget, Strategic Plan and the Transportation New Directions that have been put on the table, but it has people agitated.

What is particularly telling is the city’s inability to get in front of a story and just tell people what they are going to do.

Could they not just talk about being accountable and transparent and actually ‘walk their talk’ rather than continually being reactive ?

Peter Paul and Mary made the point in their song: “When will they ever learn?”

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26 comments to Cyclists tell us how the city plans to count traffic on New Street. Did the Transportation department lose their tongues or did the communications people lose their pencils? do

  • David Fenton

    I like the idea of licensing. but not as a revenue stream, but as a means of identification, large enough plates back & front to be picked up by a dash cam.

  • David Fenton

    I like the idea of licensing. but not as a revenue stream, but as a means of identifying these delinquents. A large number plate front & back so they can be reported to the police. The smug replies I am reading regarding the legitimate concerns of commenters on this issue is very telling.

  • astheworldturns

    Jim, that’s exactly it. It’s not even about bikes lanes vs no bikes…it’s deeper than that. You hit it on the head. It’s about not consulting with the citizens…not getting their vote in. Council (government has too much power). They should be there to implement policy, be our leaders but based on our opinions NOT theirs (often behind closed doors). With internet, pretty easy to reach out to us to get our final say. If they can do online council recorded votes…then they can do online tax payers recorded votes!! We should not have things thrust upon us and hear our councilors MY TAKE!!!

  • Sounds like Council has completely abdicated responsibility for consulting with citizens prior to implementation of a major policy change. This condition is being repeated more and more these days.

    How many times has the New Street cycle path assumed ANGRY FOCUS with our neighbours? The cycle path has become the basis for widespread expressions of total dissatisfaction with all council members.

    Add to that, the ash tree removal and replacement actions. The boulevards were literally torn to pieces by the contractor who cut and removed the ash trees. No notice was given for the unceremonious replacement of the ash trees. City’s forestry operations failed to consult with or communicate with citizens for the actions which took place last week. As a consequence, two things happened;

    1. The boulevard was nothing but an unprepared weed bed and a terrible eyesore totally unfit to receive any new plantings.

    2. The replacement tree planted by sub-contract personnel was not identified to the residential property owner with the result that it will more than likely remain a mystery for its lifespan.

    I am reminded that members of council only survive until you vote them out of office. It seems Council has given good and sufficient reason to cause re-election hopes to become remote.

  • Stephen White

    I loved this recent statement in the July 19th Minutes of the Cycling Committee posted on their website (page 1). I think it is very telling about where this entire debate is going:

    ‘Don reminded members that BCC is an advisory committee to Council and need to be careful that the line
    isn’t crossed to becoming an advocacy group.”

    I think the Cycling Committee and Share the Road have long passed the point of being educational forums and are now entering the realm of political activism.

    Perhaps a cost-saving initiative for the forthcoming budget consultations at City Hall should be to pull the financial plug on Advisory Committees. As a taxpayer I resent having my pockets picked so special interest groups can promote their agenda. Perhaps time to take a serious look too at Share the Ride’s charitable status. CRA have rules about charities masquerading as political advocacy groups.

  • John

    “User pays. Seems fair…or is fairness not part of the lexicon of those promoting more bike lanes?”

    Steve – let’s expand on that.
    User pays. Seems fair…or is fairness not part of the lexicon of those promoting …. now add any event, service or facility that requires a contribution from taxpayers to complete the sentence.

    Is that really the Burlington you want ?

  • Stephen White

    The bicycle licensing option is actually a good idea. Not only would it provide a mechanism for promoting cycling safety but it would also ensure that cyclists understand and follow the rules of the road.

    The responsibility and onus for promoting cyclists’ safety can’t entirely reside on the backs of motorists. Motorists have to pay for a drivers’ license and a plate renewal so why not cyclists? After all, it is considered a vehicle under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. I would exempt anyone riding on secondary or side streets but those who absolutely insist on riding on major arterials (i.e. New Street; Appleby Line; Walkers Line; Fairview; etc.) would be obliged to get licensed and pass a annual safety inspection.

    User pays. Seems fair…or is fairness not part of the lexicon of those promoting more bike lanes?

    • Richard W

      I’m not sure I agree that licensing ensures anything:

      User pay? I’m not an expert by any means, but the cost of Burlington roads come out of the City Budget, which is based primarily on the property taxes which we all pay. On that note, we should have a toll for Hamilton and Oakville residents who use OUR roads.

      I do appreciate the points being made that Burlington is not a cycle friendly city given how spread-out things are. We definitely don’t need bicycle lanes on every road. But perhaps at least planning to link transit hubs with communities via bicycle lanes be a smart investment which would benefit everyone. I’m being purely selfish here, I ride my bike to a GO Train station.

    • James Schofield

      It might be a fine idea if there was any evidence of it working. Just this past week, the City if Toronto took another look at it – at least the fourth time they’ve considered the issue of bicycle licensing. Their conclusion: it would be a waste of time and money, and wouldn’t achieve any of its intended goals (e.g. reducing bad behaviour by cyclists, improving safety). The vote at Toronto’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee was 4-1 to defer the licensing proposal indefinitely.

      Cycle Toronto has a good summary of the issue, which includes a link to a comparative analysis of other Canadian, US, and overseas jurisdictions.’s-leave-bicycle-licensing-trash-can-history-5-reasons-it-doesnt-work

      • Phillip Wooster

        Cycle Toronto’s summary is, of course, the politics of disinformation and self-entitlement; I would have more respect for cyclists if they would just admit they want a “free-ride”.
        1. Cost of the program. Cycle Toronto’s conclusion on cost vs. revenue may be true for a specific city but as shuggers suggested, on a PROVINCIAL BASIS, it is highly efficient. The province’s infrastructure for such a program already exists at Service Ontario. The marginal cost of administering each licensing of a bicycle would be less than the revenue from such a licence and be a huge revenue gain for the provincial government with each subsequent year of a sticker renewal.
        Wynne needs more “revenue tools”.
        2. Compliance is largely a matter of police enforcement of the HTA and the direction to police by government to start taking such enforcement seriously.
        A licence on the cycle only make this more effective.
        3. Cyclists have an inequitable bonus from their free ride. I believe that they pay taxes like the rest of us, especially if they own a car. But here’s the difference: if a car driver has a hobby car which he occasionally takes on the road, he has to pay for a licence; if a cyclist takes his hobby cycle on the road, he doesn’t currently pay. How is this equitable? And, of course, if the cyclist doesn’t own a car, he pays substantially less taxes to use the road.
        Again, inequitable.
        4. I would exempt seniors and students from the licensing annual fee. But adults should pay.
        5. As a kid growing up in a relatively poor north-east Hamilton, I had to purchase a license for my bike. All the kids had them–we EARNED the money.
        The licence was no disincentive.

        • James Schofield

          Not looking for a free ride, just an evidence-based approach. If you had clicked through the link I referred to, you would have seen the following: Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Augusta Maine, Portland Oregon, and Tucson Arizona have all recently studied the issue and concluded it was not worthwhile. Moreover, Toronto, Regina, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Minneapolis, and Switzerland (the entire country), all previously had bicycle licensing laws but have repealed them. In practically all cases, it was found that the administrative costs outstripped the revenue of the program.

          Switzerland is an interesting case. I lived there for a brief time when bicycle registration was mandatory. You had to purchase a sticker from the grocery store for about $10, which you affixed to your bike. The sticker was good for one year. As far as administrative overhead goes, it doesn’t get much simpler than that. And yet even there, it was found to cost more to run the program than it brought in in revenue. If you honestly believe doing this on a provincial basis through Service Ontario would produce a positive revenue stream, I would seriously question those assumptions.

          • Phillip Wooster

            I think we should give it a try–the province could try it as a “pilot project” (I know how popular that concept is with the Cycling Committee).
            If it proves to be more costly than the revenue it generates, we can always go back to no licencing. I’m sure you would like to generate the data (evidence).

          • James Schofield

            You don’t do a pilot project unless there’s reasonable grounds to expect it will actually work.

            New Street pilot: supported by extensive case studies from across North America, guidance and research from the US Federal Highway Administration (among others), and a detailed traffic count analysis.

            Cycling license pilot: supported by Phillip Wooster’s instinct that he knows better than Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Regina, LA, Washington, Minneapolis, and the Swiss.

          • Phillip Wooster

            With the exception of Switzerland, the majority of the examples James listed were cities. Infrastructure costs alone would dictate too high a cost. I would argue that the Switzerland case had two problems: the price of $10 was too low and admin costs given their distribution system were too high. (Interestingly, the Swiss still require cycles to be insured). Since the infrastructure for licensing cyclists on a province wide basis using Service Ontario, what we are left with is the additional unit cost of licensing vs. the revenue generated. At a reasonable annual cost of $40 per year, I can see this being a real net revenue generator.

        • John

          Phillip- If you think licencing bicycles province wide should be tried, I suggest you contact Eleanor McMahon our MPP.
          Run the idea past her, she knows a thing or two about cycling.

  • James Schofield

    The Gazette needs to hold itself to a higher standard. The previous article (“Who is counting the cyclists on New Street – where will the evidence for the pilot study come from?”) contained not a shred of objective journalism. Pure speculation, supposition, and editorializing in an article prominently labelled “NEWS”. A multitude of questions were posed that could have readily been answered by city staff — but no evidence of the reporter picking up the phone or sending an email. If The Gazette is meant to be a serious newspaper it needs to do better than this. A clearer line between opinion/editorials and objective reporting would be a decent place to start.

  • Stephen White

    That’s right Pepper. Why is the City hearing about this from a member of the Cycling Advisory Committee?

    But here are some equally relevant and unanswered questions:

    1) Besides consulting with Share the Road and the Cycling Advisory Committee, both of which have a vested interest in this issue, how does the City and the Transportation Department plan on obtaining broader citizen input into this consutlation process?

    2) How much will it cost to measure usage?

    3) What is the exact period during which this measurement will occur?

    4) Will the City or the Transportation Department be conducting a survey of Burlington residents to gather and assess their feedback and input…or is it only members of the Cycling Advisory Committee or Share the Road whose opinions really matter? If so, how will this occur, and when?

    What this issue really underscores though is the secretive, elitist and substantively flawed consultation process that exists at City Hall. What has upset so many of us is not just the decision, but the way it was made. The only people whose opinions truly mattered in this process were those who belonged to special interest groups. The opinions and perspectives of average citizens who weren’t aligned with any group or organization counted for nothing. Prior to the so-called “New Street Road Diet” decision there were dozens of people who independenetly voiced very legitimate and real concerns and objections. Did the Mayor and Council listen? I suspect not.

    No, the Mayor, Council and the Transportation Department have not gotten out in front of this issue, and they have made zero effort to directly contact, reach out or engage those of us who philosohically opposed this decision. Kudos to the Burlington Gazette for providing a forum in which all can equally participate…and not just special interest groups.

  • John

    This diet is just one month old, I’m sure the city will keep us informed as this study progresses.

    The city has a web page dedicated to the New Street Road Diet that provides a lot of information, even a link to add personal comments, experiences or ask questions.

    Thanks Chris, for the information and asking the question.

  • shuggers

    I have friends who work for the provincial government, and they are looking at this now. Within a short timespan, all cyclists will have to be provincially licensed, tested, certified, insured, tagged with yearly renewals, safety inspected and ticketed for all non-compliance and criminal acts, like drinking and riding occurrences, as well as the ‘Idaho stop’. Anyone under 16 will be allowed certain leeway, and access to tiered roads for safety, but make no mistake, it’s coming. Too much money to be made for the province. The days of freebies for cyclists is over.

    • Mike Ettlewood

      Sincerely doubt it. First, there isn’t any such thing as “a short timespan” in development of provincial policy (unless you’re a pitbull). Second, and most telling, there is no way that the current and very unpopular government would introduce this within 2 years of an election. Your friends are just blowing air.

  • Chris Ariens

    Do you think maybe they are kind of busy? Getting the road set up, fielding questions and responding to concerns from the public? Planning and setting up the counting apparatus? All on top of managing a huge road construction project that is still ongoing.

    The city does not have extra staff hanging around. People have to do this stuff on top of their regular work. If you’re just going to turn around and publicly cast aspersions on their motives it’s little wonder you don’t receive information. Relax…a great deal of the agitation on this project is churned up by the media looking to whip up controversy. I had hoped that wouldn’t be the case here.

  • astheworldturns