On my walk in to work today I ran in to Cleveland Heights Planning Director Richard Wong who was marking out a bike lane with a yellow Crayon on a freshly asphalted Edgehill Road. As we started discussing the advantages of the bike lane widening as it approaches the intersection at the top of the hill, I asked Wong about the possibility of a bike box. He seemed interested in the idea, but later emailed for examples of bike boxes at stop signs.
Bike boxes almost always get used at signalized intersections because the full stop gives cyclists more time to get in the box, ahead of cars. My thought is, a bike box at the top of a steep hill where a bike lane is getting wider and effectively narrowing the car lane to one lane would help cyclists huffing their way through the intersection—one of the busiest for cyclists in the region, and a wide expanse where bikes have to jockey with cars heading straight and turning right. I haven’t been able to find an example of this situation, so I put it out there for the bike community to consider...
Wong was excited that the Edgehill bike lane would be the first buffered lane in the city, that traffic heading down the hill would be tamed with new stop signs and that the future plan included neck downs at the cross walks with bioswale bump outs. They are seeking funding for the intersection pavement removal and bump outs. The bike lane will be painted tomorrow, Bike to Work Day.
As a side note, the new asphalt stops half way down the hill—at the border with Cleveland. Cleveland has agreed to coordinate this summer its repaving of Edgehill down to the intersection with Murray Hill, but it is unclear when this will happen.
Since I had his ear, I asked Wong if he would be interested in developing a citywide bike plan for Cleveland Heights, similar to Lakewood’s. Again, his interest was piqued. He admitted that bike planning happens on an ad hoc basis now, and that a master bike plan would help make the case for a more robust implementation of bike facilities. I mentioned the recent exchange with the city of Cleveland and ODOT that confirmed road diets are legal in Ohio. He acknowledged it, and recounted a discussion with Cleveland Heights Chief of Police and its Safety Director, both of whom wield a lot of influence on the striping plans of the city. The former Chief was not as open as Chief Robinson to narrowing lanes on city roads that are not part of federal routes, such as Cedar Road, to 11-ft travel lanes. Cleveland Heights has agreed to narrow Cedar Road's four travel lanes to 11 ft. It will create a 3-foot space on the road that the city is interested in painting as a wide shoulder, Wong said.
I commended Wong on thinking this way, and he said it makes the roadway safer, so why not. Wong said his experience bike commuting in a wide painted shoulder on Lee Road showed him that it is preferable to sharrows (I agreed, citing a California design manual which states a preference for wide painted shoulders instead of sharrows on high-traffic routes like Lee and Cedar roads where there isn’t enough width for a bike lane).
In the past, I have been critical of Cleveland Heights' lugubrious handling of bike facilities. It completely bungled an easy opportunity to put South Taylor, a road with six, 12-foot lanes, on a road diet. The city did not follow through on promises to add bike paths and improve the pedestrian experience for residents (it is being sued by resident Douglas Whipple on the handling of the S. Taylor plan, and recently a judge ruled in Whipple’s favor).
It’s why I think Cleveland Heights needs a comprehensive bike plan, one with a target for miles of bike lanes created. The city has relied heavily on the Transportation for Livable Communities plans as an ad hoc bike plan. Wong admits there are gaps that the city’s three TLCI plans don’t cover. Where I give Wong credit is in pushing for implementation of aspects of the TLCI plans, like the Edgehill bike lane, the Cedar Hill bike path (in planning, seeking funds), and the Cedar Hill bike lanes (now painted shoulders). In viewing TLCI as a legitimate path, Wong is ahead of Planning Directors who haven’t been able to make the case to their Public Works and Police departments.
Happy Bike to Work Day!