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Rally for bike and pedestrian path on bridge draws big crowd

Marc Lefkowitz  |  12/07/09 @ 12:13pm

More than 100 advocates rallied for a bike and pedestrian path on the new Innerbelt Bridge yesterday, signing letters of support and calling on decision makers to adopt the design for a multi-modal bridge that serves all Clevelanders.

U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich addressed the crowd, promising to take their fight to Washington and Columbus. Rep. Kucinich presented a letter he wrote to Governor Strickland. In it, he insists:

...There is no reason not to provide a separate roadway for pedestrians and cyclists within the architecture of the bridge?Providing access for non-motorized traffic would enhance the Innerbelt Bridge by making it multi-modal and enabling more people to have access to neighborhoods the bridge connects.

The advocacy campaign kicks into high gear this week at Friday's public comment session for the region's transportation agency ? when letters from the rally and personal testimony is most needed.

As Steven Litt pointed out in Sunday's Plain Dealer article, the coalition to design a better bridge and the drawings commissioned by the bicycle activists in Cleveland are so important because, "they're an attempt-a laudable one-to break ODOT's monopoly on how design options for the new bridge are explored."

Another purpose of the rally was for supporters to ride their bikes on the two alternative routes proposed by ODOT. As part of the group that rode down Scranton Road and through the industrial Flats to the other side of the river, I witnessed two cyclists whose tires were popped flat because the roads were strewn with glass. Another challenge when riding from Tremont to Gateway through the Flats is the steep grade changes and the lack of good roads leading you back to the main business district. Cycling advocates did convince ODOT of the disadvantages of the Flats, which lead the agency to propose the Abbey Avenue bridge as an alternative.

As pointed out in a previous blog, too many flaws can be found in ODOT's plan to reroute bike and pedestrian traffic to Abbey Avenue. The biggest is ODOT plans to cut off its design where the Abbey bike route meets West 20th Street-without giving a clear reason why. West 20th is THE connection to the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, where the agency expects cyclists and pedestrians to go. If this is a preferred surface street route, then W. 20th today is not suitable-its 27 ft. width means it is not wide enough to add a five foot bike lane from Abbey. A number of other flaws can be found in the Abbey plan including ODOT's calculation of the bridge width (a site visit casts suspicion on ODOT's measurement of the bridge ? it doesn't appear wide enough to add a bike lane and a sidewalk on the existing infrastructure which is what ODOT proposes).

As ClevelandBikes president, Kevin Cronin, and Ohio City Bike Co-Op director, Jim Sheehan, point out, we have great reasons to support bike and pedestrian access on the bridge. Feel free to use these and include your own. Here's a sample letter of support to email to key decision makers ODOT Innerbelt project manager Craig Hebebrand craig.hebebrand@dot.state.oh.us and NOACA's John Hosek jhosek@mpo.noaca.org (please cc bridge@greencitybluelake.org)

A) Thinking Globally: The rally was our local action to address climate change. While politicians in Copenhagen talk about big, ambitious goals, the goals will only be achieved by actions like ours today, brought to a successful conclusion, and repeated countless times here and throughout the world.

B) Local Issues: Residents need this bridge, in this location. GCBL's research shows that the neighborhoods in proximity to the bridge have fewer motorists and our government should be doing things to help them, too. Federal investment in biking and walking infrastructure is terribly low (around 1% of federal transportation spending). That low level of spending reflects their thoughts about cyclist and pedestrian safety. If the government won't invest in cycling infrastructure, they are deciding that motorists are more important than the safety of cyclists. This is an issue of fairness and equity in terms of distributing tax dollars.

C) Northeast Ohio is in the midst of a health crisis, a crisis being passed along to the next generation. We need to change things, with positive opportunities and positive messages. Biking, walking and jogging the Innerbelt bridge serves those functions.

D) Tourism and Economic Development: This bridge is about regionalism and leveraging the value of our Towpath Trail extension into Cleveland investment and attracting people to visit downtown. This is related to...

E) Regional Vitality and Creating an Attractive Place to Live, Work and Play: Bridge access inserts some needed energy back into the community, addressing the "brain drain" and the desire to attract and hold the "creative class."

F) Effective Government: Cities served by NOACA are leaving money on the table when they follow the "old ODOT" way of thinking, which focuses on cars, not people. As I recall, Ohio is still a "donor" state on gas taxes, receiving less in transportation spending than is collected from us at the gas pump. Cycling and walking investment helps turn that around. For those outside Cleveland, not having bridge access creates another "pinch point" that blocks smooth transportation into the city. Cycling and walking helps residents respond if there are transportation disruptions. What if the war and the Middle East hostilities worsen and gas prices rise again? Cities and residents that have transportation options are better prepared for that disruption.

G) Air Quality: Northeast Ohio is routinely in violation of federal clean air regulations (ozone non-attainment). NOACA is responsible for plans that help the region comply with air quality so that we don't face fines and don't disadvantage the region when it comes to new business attraction.

H) Water Quality: We are not applying the best management practices to issues of stormwater management. Fewer cars on the road will reduce spills of fluids and tire dust into the river, and a natural stormwater feature will help slow the first flush running off the bridge. NOACA is also responsible for water quality with its oversight of the Cuyahoga Remedial Action Plan (RAP).

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