Even if you are not an architect or designer and don't have a view of the value of preserving the Columbia Building or tearing it down to make way for a parking garage valet service, you may be struck by the speed with which the City of Cleveland discarded a plan, developed only last year, to make lower Prospect a cycling and pedestrian friendly zone.
A 2010 report, funded by NOACA and authored by City Architecture under contract to the City and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, called for bike lanes and a public promenade. Describing Prospect Avenue as "Gateway District's main street, where pedestrian, bike, transit and automobile networks come together" and "balanced," the report adopted a "planning directive derived from the community process … to utilize additional width on Prospect Avenue to safely connect to the Bike Station."
Sure, every street and road is, under the law, a bike route, but by creating a multi-lane car valet station and parking lot complex on Prospect and Ontario, the casino will create significant motor vehicle traffic, discouraging cycling and pedestrian traffic and impeding a major path north and east into Public Square for bicycles. So what's the next strategy for creating a coordinated road plan for cyclists? Where do we go from here?
We are creating important cycling opportunities with the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, The Bike Rack, and the plans for cycling in a revised Public Square and Medical Mart neighborhood, but we need to build on the success in a coordinated, public, open fashion. What is an appropriate response to the net loss of cycling access on Ontario and Prospect?
Perhaps we need to agree on some sort of overarching principal or new investment:
- No loss of bike access (which the traffic at a valet station does);
- A car-free zone (while still allowing RTA buses and commercial truck deliveries during set hours) on Lower Euclid Avenue, Public Square or Prospect Avenue;
- Close East 4h St. through to Huron Rd. for motorized traffic (if not, the new Bike rack Bike Rack is alone on an island, surrounded by traffic looking for the car parking valet);
- Extend the Euclid Avenue bike lane (currently ends at East 22nd St.), through Playhouse Square to Public Square or Huron Road, which may receive lots of bicycle traffic from the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge or add sharrows and signs to advise motorists; and
- Something to help a cyclist going to Terminal Tower or the Warehouse district, who wants to avoid Ontario and Prospect West, which may also back up with motor vehicle traffic.
If a multi-lane car valet will dominate Lower Prospect, drawing traffic from Ontario Street and Prospect Avenue (both east and west directions), we need safe and secure bike routes to receive bicycle traffic.
It was less than a year ago that a Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative (TLCI) grant for Gateway/Lower Prospect talked about a cycling and pedestrian friendly future. Now, the casino valet station is poised to kill one building and create a car traffic jam to enter the area and makes lower prospect (and Ontario) decidedly unfriendly. Maybe we concede the motor vehicle clutter at Ontario and Prospect, but we should also be able to invest in healthy and safe cycling and walking in downtown Cleveland at the same time.
Plans and images of Lower Prospect bike/pedestrian improvements from the Gateway District's Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative. Click on images to enlarge