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Cleveland Mayor's bike-pedestrian advisory committee meets at City Hall

Marc Lefkowitz  |  05/14/10 @ 8:00am  |  Posted in Biking

Back in 2002, Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell went to Chicago and was blown away by a thriving bike culture and a massive, well-organized bike advocacy group there. Mayor Jane decided it was time for Cleveland to get serious about cycling and walking as part of a healthy transportation system, and asked her planning director Chris Ronayne to form an advisory committee.

The committee's purpose would be to establish citywide policies for bicycle and pedestrian-related improvements- and to recommend and review projects that advance those policies-while ensuring that community concerns and ideas are incorporated into the process. In addition, the committee was asked to help craft the bicycle- and pedestrian-related elements of Cleveland's new comprehensive plan.

Last week, the mayor's bike/ped committee met for the first time since August 2008 to review the progress being – and still to be – made in Cleveland.

Since Campbell's time, the bike community has organized the annual Cleveland Bike Week – a chance to bike commute with a group and to celebrate cycling at a bunch of events. Cleveland Bike Week 2010 starts May 15 and rolls to the 23rd, with the official Bike to Work Day on May 21. RTA is making it a multi-modal day offering a free pass to anyone who arrives by bike to the train or bus. The area's big three – ClevelandBikes, Ohio City Bike Co-Op and Walk + Roll – and 'the bike community' will provide breakfast downtown and an after work party on E. 4th for those biking to work. Go here for more details.

Has the cycling culture improved in Northeast Ohio? One indicator may be a record breaking 25 companies who 'signed up' for Bike to Work day, encouraging their employees to ride. See the list and to sign up your company here.

The popular Walk + Roll festivals kick off during Bike Week. Inspired by Bogota, Columbia's street closures where thousands of cyclists, walkers and in-line skaters take to the streets, Walk + Roll heads into its fifth season on May 15 in the Kamm's Corners neighborhood of Cleveland (with three more in July – go here more information ).

Another metric of a region's capacity to shift people from driving to biking: How much dedicated, covered bike parking do we have? Where parts of the country have long incorporated bike parking into transit stations or built free-standing bike stations in the central business district, Cleveland can claim only a smattering of covered bike parking in a few parking garages. Realizing the city needed to offer bike parking if it hoped to build a bike culture, ClevelandBikes started advocating for a downtown bike parking station in 2006. Finally, after much deliberation, the bike station in the Gateway District in a city-owned garage on E. 2nd Street will go out to bid in May, 2010 and open for business, with parking and showers for 50 cyclists, in August, said Cleveland city planner, Marty Cader. Downtown Cleveland Alliance, which will manage the station, recently completed a business plan and hopes to offer bike rentals from the station.

To build a bike culture and to rethink our transportation system with more equitable roadways, we need to coalesce bike advocacy efforts to speak with one strong voice. That was the observation of the Gund and Cleveland foundations who convened local bike groups and tasked them with building capacity for more effective advocacy. As an historical footnote, this happened in the wake of a planning initiative to make Pearl Road more bike friendly. When more voices came out opposed, the bike community didn't respond in an organized manner. "The foundations told us, it was hard to get a strong voice from the cycling community, to know that there is adequate public support on a regional level and in the neighborhoods for better cycling facilities," recounted Jacob Vansickle, Active Living by Design coordinator at Slavic Village and co-convener of a capacity building effort known as Cleveland Bicycle Alliance. Vansickle is interviewing stakeholders in the bike community with the goal of identifying a strategy that may lead to an umbrella organization or restructuring a strong, single 'giant' organization.

If Complete Streets advocacy was in doubt after the Pearl Road process, it was the campaign to design a bike/pedestrian path on the Innerbelt Bridge that may have revived hope. The Sustainable Transportation Action Team (STAT), a work group of the city's 2019 initiative, continues to play an important role coordinating and convening the bridge campaign. STAT brought new, compelling voices and diverse talents into the bike community, and was an organizing force for a (if not yet realized) bright vision for a bridge in the 21st century. Debby Berry, senior planner at University Circle, Inc., invited the mayor's committee to join the regular meetings of the STAT; Brad Chase, climate change project manager at GreenCityBlueLake reminded the group that the central repository of information for the bridge campaign is here.

Other updates from the Mayor's bike/ped advisory committee members include:

  • The Fulton Road Bridge will have bike lanes on both sides after reconstruction is complete this June. Brendan Finn reports that the city is looking at continuing the bike lane into the Zoo.
  • It's official-Dike 14 has been renamed The Lakefront Nature Preserve, and the city has agreed to include a bike trail from the entrance to 'the beak' or the western most tip of the 88-acre site. Plans call for mostly walking trails to be built and maintained by the Metroparks, which is trying to raise $1 million for the project.
  • Barb Clint of Clevelanders in Motion reported on recently completed public listening sessions asking, 'What would make Cleveland a bike and pedestrian friendly city?" Safety on the roads was the top concern, Clint said, but those attending knew little about the resources for bike safety (pointing out a need for more education). Next up for Clevelanders in Motion: 20 walking clubs in Cleveland neighborhoods will start on May 15 and go to October 15. For more information, email bclint@clevelandymca.org )
  • The Lake Erie to Shaker Lakes trail will proceed to design and engineering this summer, Cader said. The 'Lake-to-Lakes Trail' will link up the Harrison-Dillard Bikeway-a 3-mile trail that runs from the shores of Lake Erie through Rockefeller Park along MLK Drive-to Shaker Lakes and other points south and east. It would go a long way toward better connecting the eastern suburbs with University Circle. The trail weaves together a number of planning initiatives, starting with the elimination of the 'suicide' traffic circle at E. 105th Street and MLK. Construction is targeted for 2011, with the big focus on building a trail in the area that navigates cyclists safely through the Cedar/Carnegie/Fairhill/Stearns spaghetti bowl.
  • Tim Donovan of Ohio Canal Corridor presented an update of the Towpath Trail extension into Cleveland's Flats. Major, dramatic changes have occurred recently, including a finding of radioactive material on the Harshaw Chemical site which will impact the path of Phase One (from Harvard to Steelyard). Alternatives are being looked at, including bringing the Towpath up onto Jennings Road in that area. Then, part of Phase Three from Tremont to the Flats was impacted when Arcelor-Mittal decided to add 'a mountain of slag' to the land around an existing slag pile that the Towpath was going to use. They're looking at alternatives for that segment as well.
  • County Planning just released an RFQ to find a firm to design and engineer what they're calling the 'Lake Link' trail, which would connect the Towpath from Scranton Road (at Hooples) along an abandoned rail line on the Flats West Bank up to Whiskey Island (this is the old Cuyahoga and Mahoning line that Building Cleveland by Design and Parkworks secured $1.3 million for acquisition.). "We've had a number of responses, including the designers of the North Coast Harbor pedestrian bridge and the firm that designed the Sydney Opera House," said Cader.
  • As the June deadline for all commercial parking garages to install bike racks based on Cleveland's new bike parking ordinance looms, the city is starting to get calls from garage operators on what to do, said Planning Director, Bob Brown. Can we encourage the garage operators to follow best practices on type and placement of racks, and to install signs outside the garage that publicize the racks, asked ClevelandBikes' Kevin Cronin.
  • Mike Farley of Cleveland Area Mountain Biking Association said the growing ranks of mountain bikers in Northeast Ohio are excited about the Cuyahoga Valley National Park updating its plan as a possible first step to inviting a mountain bike path in the park. And with a new, younger Cleveland Metroparks director, CAMBA will be working to make this the year we start growing trails in Cuyahoga County – which has only 1.7 miles compared to Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) which has 112 miles of trail.
  • Cleveland City Planning and the Cleveland Metroparks are hosting a Greater Cleveland Trails and Greenways Conference on June 7.

Cleveland is making progress -- on cycling culture, advocacy and physical infrastructure -- but if it expects to achieve its goal of moving up to a Bicycle Friendly Community, it will need to adopt policy, such as Complete Streets, that has the ability to incorporate cycling and pedestrian facilities into every transportation project (just as Columbus recently did). It will need developers incorporating bike parking, it will need to support Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's campaign to secure federal funds for Active Transportation to build out the Cleveland Bike Network, and it needs an advocate-in-chief like Columbus Mayor Coleman, himself a cyclist who participates in Bike Week and sets ambitious goals such as becoming THE most bike friendly city in the nation.

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