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Open dialogue leads to $6 million bike/ped improvements

Marc Lefkowitz  |  07/19/11 @ 4:45pm  |  Posted in Transportation choices

When people ask why it's important to have a bike and pedestrian advocacy group, you can point them to sustainable transportation advocates Access for All who negotiated for a $6 million commitment from ODOT to improve conditions on and around nearby Lorain-Carnegie Bridge. The Access and the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 "STAT" transportation groups continue to provide guidance to the Innerbelt project team on what constitutes safe, comfortable conditions for walking and biking in and out of downtown.

Their meeting with ODOT this morning shows the value of spelling out the return for cities on biking and walking investments. A new spirit of collaboration seems to be emerging from the local office of ODOT road building professionals. Though moments in the campaign to make the Innerbelt Bridge a multi-modal facility had a combative back and forth, a dialogue and opportunities to improve and attract all levels of cyclist as a result of compromises on both sides are emerging.

ODOT and its design consultants met with the 2019 "STAT" transportation group to work out the type, location and details of facilities for experienced or "A" level and the less experienced or B and C level cyclists and pedestrians. What we know is the Innerbelt Project will add 5-ft bike lanes on Abbey Avenue from W. 11 in Tremont to Gehring by the W. 25th Rapid Station in Ohio City. It will provide a route for seasoned cyclists on W. 20th to Lorain-Carnegie Bridge where they will find 'sharrows' or on-road bike stencils on the bridge. And a route for B and C cyclists via W. 18th Street, a side road connector, from Abbey through the neighborhood to a new 15 foot multi-use path on the north side of the bridge.

There were detailed discussions about wayfinding signs for both routes including destination and mileages. Also, the project is signed up to use the latest signs that provide stronger messages such as "Must Share Lane" instead of the more passive, "Share the Road" signs. This will be helpful on the ends of the bridge where even the "A" cyclist may feel intimidated crossing multiple lanes to turn left during rush hour.

And so a bike box – or green painted space that positions cyclists in front of cars at a traffic light – was discussed. While ODOT officials aren't rejecting the bike box, some of this is at the city's discretion. "A" cyclists in the room suggested that bike boxes "couldn't hurt" transitioning from curb to left turn lane, but they may not provide any more ease in getting through the tremendous intersection at Lorain and Carnegie (it was determined that bike box will be studied further by NOACA staffer Michele Johnson who suggested that the MPO conduct a bike count to determine a need based on the number of cyclists on-street and on the sidewalk).

What could improve the conditions for the cyclist continuing east from the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge is a continuation of sharrows through the intersection east to E. 9th Street, cyclists presently suggested. City officials said they would look at adding sharrows through the intersection and on Carnegie to E. 9th Street. City Traffic Engineer Rob Mavec also seemed open to providing a marked space on the pavement for cyclists to cross from the bike/ped path which ends at Eagle Avenue (pictured right). Mavec and ODOT seemed open to the idea of a bike lane perhaps adjoining the crosswalk to indicate where the B and C cyclists-the majority-will connect from the 15-foot wide multi-purpose path on the north side of the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge.

The path is another piece of the Innerbelt Bridge campaign's compromise-it will connect to a stamped concrete bike/ped path made to resemble granite cobblestone built on vacated road way on Ontario between the bridge and Eagle Avenue. Eagle is a mid-block crossing that shuttles pedestrians and cyclists between the ballparks to the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge – and so it's a major connector between the near west side and downtown destinations. An a second crosswalks and part of the faux granite multi-use path will connect to points south of Lorain-Carnegie including a new off-road path along Commercial Road from the Towpath Trail out of the Flats. The city also agreed to a follow up meeting to discuss the connection from Eagle to destinationsdowntown like E. 4th and The Bike Rack (downtown bike station), particularly, how it will traverse the casino welcome center and valet parking and fulfill the plans, including the Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative plan, for bike and pedestrian improvements around Gateway. One of the improvements up for discussion is a cycle track on the wide promenade along Progressive Field and the Q (pictured left) - since this group agreed the promenade is the best space for cyclists, it makes sense to designate a space for them (realizing there will be competing uses during games).

The city, ODOT and designers also agreed to a bike ride through of the project site to flesh out details. All agreed, the implementation of the bike and pedestrian scale improvements will be determined by a close eye on details and a pride in the craftsmanship that Cleveland was and, we believe, can still be known for.

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