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What's holding up Cleveland's signature bike projects?

Marc Lefkowitz  |  08/27/13 @ 1:00pm

Some of Cleveland’s signature bike projects are starting to stack up, leading bike advocates to wonder if the city isn’t setting a high priority in bringing them to plan.

<br />Women and bike share<br />Clevelanders give feedback on bike share in April, 2013Classic road diet<br />Bike advocates are calling for bike lanes on W. 65th Street. Image: Christopher LohrMedium Neighborhood Connector<br />One of Cleveland's streets typologies calls for a road diet and buffered bike lanes.Pop goes the bike lane<br />This unofficial bike lane appeared on Detroit Avenue where the city has promised to paint bike lanes.

Back in January, the Cleveland Office of Sustainability started work on its Streets Typologies Project. Prototypes of how it would build Complete and Green Streets, the typologies were presented at a public meeting in April. Since then, the Sustainability Office has published them online, and is still seeking feedback.

Sources close to the project tell GCBL that some of the initial ideas for bike infrastructure that consultants Alta Planning have tried in other cities came across as too aggressive to Cleveland officials, causing a delay while revisions get hammered out.

For example, Alta calls for removing a lane of parked cars on a typology labeled, Medium Neighborhood Connector, and installing buffered bike lanes. W. 65th Street, a road that has been mired in doubt after a Transportation for Livable Communities study called for a $2-3 million bike path instead of bike lanes, falls into this category. The typologies clearly call for skinnier lanes for cars—and even removing on-street parking—to install bike lanes.

W. 65th Street, which is a route on the city’s Master Bikeway Plan, is a prime case for testing the typologies. But, even after GCBL published a memo from ODOT stating that lanes could legally be slimmed down on W. 65th, the city has not issued a statement that it will proceed under a new directive that road diets are possible and will be studied further.

Other examples where Alta supplied national best practices to Cleveland can be found in their recommendation for an ‘advisory’ bike lane, which offer cyclists a lane during non-rush hour, and for protected bikeways, which are bike lanes separated from cars with a barrier.

If the city isn’t keen on the ‘advisory’ lane, the source says, they may show good faith in the ideas expressed by Alta in other areas (editor’s note: the city could show it believes the Streets Typology project has merit and deserve their support by piloting one or two ideas. We suggest it puts its weight behind the effort to convince local businesses in Ohio City to support the protected bikeway on Lorain Avenue between W. 25th and W. 80th streets and by piloting a “classic” road diet on W. 65th Street).

The situation has gone so far as to inspire “tactical urbanism.” The city’s first unofficial pop-up bike lane appeared on Detroit Avenue over the weekend. Tactical urbanism is a guerrilla tactic intended to strike a nerve and lead to a permanent change. In this case, Anonymous installed a couple hundred feet of temporary bike lane using duct tape and chalk paint where the city of Cleveland has promised to paint bike lanes. The bike lanes on Detroit from W. 25th to Lake Avenue were promised for spring, but the city has dragged its feet, citing the closure of the Shoreway for the Captain America filming as one of the reasons for the delay.

The city also has a draft feasibility report for bike share on its desk produced by nationally renowned firm Toole Design Group. GCBL serves on the advisory committee for bike share (so we aren’t supposed to report on the results in detail). Toole studied where and how bike share might work in the city, and produced data like ‘heat maps’ on where hundreds of survey respondents would like to see a system set up. It is fair to say, Toole found no barriers to bike share working in Cleveland. This is a firm that has advised many other cities and is a go-to on the national scene. Toole giving Cleveland the green light to pursue bike share carries weight. It is unclear what the city’s deadline for a decision or next step will be.

Bike share is emerging as an important way to close a fairly significant gender gap in biking, Atlantic Cities reports. In cities like D.C. and Minneapolis, bike share has gained significant market share among women, because it offers a comfortable, non-judgmental and more social way to bike. The article states that bike share—along with protected bikeways—is going a long way in encouraging women to bike, often doubling the national average.

The city has also promised to paint bike lanes on W. 44th and W. 41st streets in Ohio City and on E. 22nd Street as those projects go out to bid. The biggest issue, observers note, is the lack of a benchmark for bike lanes. In the last year, the city has painted an anemic 1.5 miles of bike lanes. What is a reasonable metric for the city to set in 2014 for painting bike lanes?

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Marc
4 years ago

I just attempted to answer your question on this blog post:
/blog/2013/08/calls-echo-for-a-plan-a-budget-and-a-bike-czar-in-cleveland

Political Leadership
4 years ago

If Councilman Zone's bike friendly (and I take him at his word that he is), what's the hold-up?

Marc
4 years ago

@John - Would you mind expanding on how 25 miles of bike lanes per year is going in Chicago. What are some lessons that the city is learning? I read that Detroit has set a goal of 80 miles of bike lanes by 2014.

@political leadership -- Councilman Matt Zone whose Ward includes Detroit Avenue and part of W. 65 Street is quoted in an article about bike infrastructure ("Stuck in First Gear") in Cleveland Scene this week saying, ""Cleveland must be more aggressive if it wants to catch up to peer cities and attract more residents and businesses."
clevescene.com/cleveland/stuck-in-first-gear/Content?oid=3642136

John
4 years ago

10 miles per year is doable. We are doing 25 plus per year in Chicago and it is a little fast paced.

Political Leadership
4 years ago

Are the west side councilpeople in whose districts Detroit Avenue and W.65th are located cyclists or, at least, bike friendly?

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