For the 18 suburbs and City of Cleveland who are collaborating on the Eastside Greenway, a special session in Cleveland Heights last night couldn’t have been a better exchange with those most likely to use an expanded bike network. Both sides dug into how four selected corridors could be improved as "a unified trail network that will link neighborhoods." A roomful mostly of cyclists crowded into Nighttown to express that roads—which cover 8% of the land of the county—may be the most mutable for inviting bikes and green space in.
World-class examples, like the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, came up in the conversation.
Consultants from Baker and SmithGroup JJR, brought in by LAND Studio, mentioned a recent trip to Indianapolis where the mayor told them a separated bike trail running through the city has been a huge economic boost—businesses have clamored to open within site.
The Eastside Greenway, with a $100,000 planning grant from NOACA, has similar aspirations. But first, it needs feedback on where to address "missing links."
Big goals such as reducing health inequities and improving access to active transportation were layered onto a map of the county’s existing bike network and greenspace. Hard metrics—like the World Health Organization’s 10 acres of open space per 1,000 residents—were also brought in to the mix.
The map illuminated in red and orange patches a large swath of need for better bike and greenspace access cutting through Cleveland Heights, South Euclid and Lyndhurst. Major travel corridors like Cedar Road and Warrensville Center Road are also some of the least equipped for travel by bike. It raised questions from the audience—some wanted to know why bike lanes would be introduced on these busy streets?
“Are you going to ride some of these roads on a bike?” asked an older gentleman. “Warrensville, Cedar, Belvoir and Montecello aren’t exactly bike friendly.”
Eastside Greenway steering committee member and Bike Cleveland Executive Director, Jacob Van Sickle, answered, “Euclid Avenue used to be six lanes of fast moving traffic, before the bike and bus lanes were added.”
Could a major transformation like Euclid Avenue's "road diet" happen on one of the east side’s four-lane-green-median-divided roads like Belvoir or Gates Mills Boulevard—two of the Greenway’s four targeted corridors?
Baker consultant and east side resident, Nancy Lyon Stadtler, indicated it’s a possibility. The odds of doing so are increased if it’s not a state or federal route and if it has 15,000 cars or less per day traveling on it, added Stadler, who said she bikes thousands of miles a year. She also indicated that Monticello Boulevard is up for further analysis for these reasons.
When asked if the Ohio Department of Transportation would support making the urban road network more bike friendly, Van Sickle noted that U.S. DOT this month approved new rules that require state DOTs to study bike networks, and to deploy “countermeasures” such as road diets and bike lanes.
On the cost difference between building an off-road trail versus a buffered bike lane, Van Sickle noted the former costs about $1 million per mile while the latter is about $70,000 per mile.
Members of Bike Shaker, a local bike advocacy group, asked whether the project was being designed to try to simultaneously serve the needs of transportation and recreation cyclists?
Gates Mills Boulevard is lightly traveled and geared for recreational biking, commented Austin McGuan, a bike commuter who lives in Shaker Heights. It’s parklike setting means it needs little enhancement, he added.
“I would prefer to see the Eastside Greenway pursue a bolder vision with respect to at least one of the missing links identified in the Heights and Hillcrest areas by seeking to transform Mayfield Road or Cedar Avenue into a bike friendly corridor, which would provide more direct connections to civic and commercial destinations,” he wrote later in an email.
Improving Euclid Avenue east of University Circle, and adding a small section of a bike trail between Cleveland and Shaker Heights as part of the Lake to Lakes trail were the only east-west corridors that the Eastside Greenway picked, so far.
Others expressed a pressing need to improve the bike connectivity between Highland Hills and the health corridor sprouting up in the new I-271 suburban highway interchange at Harvard-Northfield roads between the Beachwood, Shaker Heights, North Randall and southeast Cleveland area (where a bike/ped trail network in Kerruish Park near Miles and Lee roads is moving ahead).
The project team will now incorporate the initial feedback from five public meetings it held in September and last night. An online survey is expected out this Winter in order to gather more specific feedback on alignments and priorities, says Stadtler. The hope is that the final plan is adopted by all of the communities so that additional, construction funds can be sought from NOACA.