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Why Complete and Green Streets were held back; Streetfilms on the big screen; thoughts from last night's power outage

Marc Lefkowitz  |  07/22/11 @ 11:28am

·Complete and Green Streets legislation didn't pass Cleveland City Council on a second reading this week, but proponents are taking the news in stride. Bolstering bike and ped advocates are assurances from Councilman Matt Zone, who chairs council's Sustainability Subcommittee, that he held the legislation because he wants to strengthen the enforcement language, taking away what he sees as a lot of wriggle room for exceptions. As it is, the language that allows the city to knock "CS/GS" out of consideration is too vague, says Zone, who also took issue with a lack of defined standards called for in the ordinance (all along, we've heard that street design standards will come after the more general ordinance passes).

Zone and Councilman Martin Keane who chairs the council's Transportation Subcommittee proposed to hold a combined meeting of their two subcommittees in the next three weeks, with the idea of considering amendments and presenting the legislation for August.

Zone and Keane ask cyclists to gather a list of people and groups who should be asked to present views at the combined hearing. At today's STAT 2019 meeting and screening of Streetsfilms at Capital Theater, Councilman Zone reiterated his position, stating:

"I asked that Complete and Green Streets be held, because I don't think it goes far enough. I think we can make it stronger. That's important because once we adopt it, other cities in the region will look to us."

·The Streetfilms screening organized by STAT 2019 group leader John McGovern at the Capital Theater, a $7 million restoration in the Gordon Square Arts District at W. 65th and Detroit, was an inspiring showcase of what bike/transit/ped friendly cities are doing to improve on-road conditions (it was great to see them on the big screen). The take away for me is sometimes we make a bigger deal of how hard it is to go from zero to fully fleshed out plans ? even the early signs of progress can embolden and invite masses of people to start biking, walking and taking transit.

I heard quite a few comments at the intermission about "The Case for Open Data in Transit" ? a film that showed how open source web sites and apps created a wave of anticipation for open access to data (especially true for New York City's Metropolitan Transit Agency which went from suing people for repurposing their bus and train schedules for apps to publishing data and supporting developers. In Boston, stores are spending money to develop apps and LED signs that flash when the next bus is scheduled to arrive outside their door.)

The same goes for the bike-only boulevards in Portland - the casual observer might dismiss it as just an outgrowth of their vaunted bike culture ? and in many ways it helps having leaders in the city and a strong coalition of cyclists pushing for bikes as transportation. In the case of bike boulevards, the roads were 'traffic collectors', explained a Portland Transportation Planner in the film "Portland Bicycle Boulevards", which means the road, SE Clifton, was a too easy cut through that attracted high volumes of traffic in a residential area. While residents were at first afraid of the new (how would we get to our house, they wondered) the bike boulevard is now an attractive place - for kids to play, for biking and walking -- and property values are going up.

Other films explained how bike boxes and intersection redesigns like curb bump outs are working to 'tame traffic' from Chicago to New York where a freak snow storm pushed snow banks out into the street, supplying 'snowy bump outs' that had the unintended effect of slowing cars while still getting them where they need to go. A Safe Routes for Seniors initiative in Washington Heights, Manhattan illustrates some simple additions like plastic-bollard bump outs and pedestrian refuge islands can do to keep seniors living independently.

Audience members expressed enthusiasm about bike boxes and reusing some of the extra wide roads in Cleveland for more bike lanes or even a bike boulevard or two.

·The city of Cleveland plans to begin construction of the Lake to Lakes trail this summer, says Cleveland Bike/Ped Planner Marty Cader. The trail will make a stronger connection between Lake Erie and Shaker Lakes, providing a trail to safely traverse Fairhill and navigate the spaghetti bowl of roads at the base of Cedar-Stokes-MLK-Carnegie. The project includes enhanced pedestrian and bike crosswalks at intersections such as Stokes and Euclid Avenue and where the Harrison-Dillard Bikeway ends at E. 105th Street and the traffic circle (aka the Suicide Circle, which is being eliminated for a proper intersection). For more details see our blog post from 2009.

·At the Cleveland Heights Bicycle Coalition Quarterly Meeting this week, co-founder Mary Dunbar updated the progress of the group, which had a big splash last year when it rode a petition to city hall which led to sharrows painted on popular bike commuter routes in the city (Edgehill and Euclid Heights Boulevard).

The group began in earnest when Dunbar applied for Cleveland Heights to be ranked as a Bicycle Friendly Community ? earning an honorable mention, but also instructions on how to improve (one of the by-products of going after the ranking was a survey of bike commuters which yielded an impressive benchmark of .88% of the population ? which is nearly 50,000 ? who make regular trips by bike. One percent is the target for a Bronze designation.).

After an unsuccessful Safe Routes to School small grant application, Dunbar said the focus on biking to school continued. Helping their cause were the new bike police (two of the three, Larry Reek and Scott Sedlak, were at the meeting, very fit and friendly gentlemen who invited members to ride along on patrols ? they also provided bike registrations). The bike patrol agreed to restart Bike Rodeos, the popular bike training for elementary schools that were popular in decades past but faded from the scene ? the first will start in the fall at Fairfax Elementary (there because a physical education teacher is willing to take it on ? as a side note, Dunbar would like to see all Phys Ed instructors go through the bike skills education course offered by Ohio City Bike Co-op). The Safe Routes grant application also yielded a benchmark of how many students bike and walk to school, distances, gender and other valuable data.

The group is starting a member fundraising drive to help defray costs such as their recently acquired event insurance.

It plans to have a seat at the table July 26 as the Transportation for Livable Communities grant for Cleveland Heights and University Circle to seek better bike/ped connections kicks off its planning session.

Member Ian Hoffman said a survey of bike racks in commercial districts led to a meeting with Coventry SID co-chairs Tommy Fello and Steve Presser, who expressed interest in acquiring new bike racks for the district.

The group's very active member, Nick Matthew was congratulated on his hard work as he prepares for a move with his family outside of the area.

Finally, in September the group is looking for volunteers to help NOACA conduct bike counts in the city ? to provide as much data possible on their master plan and where bike infrastructure money should go. For more information about the group, visit their web site.

·Last night at 11 p.m-after a day of biking in the swelter of (my personal record) 102 degrees (and likely hotter than that on the pavement behind a bus)-the power went out in our neighborhood. Like many, we were running two window A/C units ? one in our bedroom and one in our young son's room ? when the darkness and heat (the thermostat downstairs was registering 87 degrees) crept in. The Illuminating Company 'experienced damage due to the high heat' the report line message said (thankfully the power company moved swiftly and two and a half hours later the A/C was cranking again). Collectively, we've had more than the casual intellectual exercise of life in a heat wave without power back in 2005 when the big black out lasted for days, but the tenuous bargain we have with our power grid was once again front and center. This after an afternoon discussion at the museum of natural history about how to talk about the impacts of climate change made me wonder the following:

  • Will Climate Change lead to even more 100+ degree days and 80+ degree nights in Northeast Ohio?
  • Will extreme heat (and cold) place an unforgiving strain on energy resources, and cause more blackouts?
  • Are there solutions that can relieve the stress on the power grid?
  • What are the benefits of a more "distributed" or decentralized approach to power supply, and should we be exploring ways to diversify or at least make the grid smart in the face of new threats to its sustainability?

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