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Time to split the stock of Shaker's great experiment

Marc Lefkowitz  |  05/20/15 @ 10:00am  |  Posted in Shaping the land

Its unusual when a traffic sign turns into a cocktail party conversation starter. But when the subject turns to biking, suburbanites across the east side of Cleveland have noticed and are talking about one in particular.

<br />The Shaker Boulevard median trail is a hugely popular trail network in Beachwood and Shaker that could be the blueprint for the entire eastside.

Posted on Shaker Boulevard, that incredibly long, straight pair of one-way roads that act like a speedway through the tony suburbs, it reads “Bikes May Use Full Lane.” Posted just below it is another sign that reads, “Change Lanes to Pass.”

Wait, what?

Shaker Heights started installing the signs up and down the popular bike route in 2013. Motorists change lanes to pass cyclists, the sign affirms. It caused a little stir.

On a recent bike ride out that way, this blogger noticed cars obeying the law without a problem. The signs are clearer and more suggestive, perhaps, than the typical, meek Share the Road campaign. Shaker Boulevard feels a little safer from a cyclist perspective, even if the speedway aspect hasn’t changed.

Sometimes, it's a simple act that leads to a conversation, in this case, about what can make the roads safer for everyone. It's the idea behind a plan that is almost fully formed to tie the entire eastside together by replicating the success of the Shaker greenway. The Eastside Greenway—its final plan will be previewed by the public tonight at the popular Cleveland Heights’ brewery, The BottleHouse on Lee Road—starts 14 suburbs down the road Shaker ventured on with the Shaker Boulevard sign. The sign, then, the awareness and then making space on the road for cyclists and pedestrians to feel comfortable. For people to enjoy more parks like the one the City of Beachwood invested in the median between Shaker Boulevard.

Cleveland’s eastside was built up around streetcars and the Shaker Rapid (the Shaker median park was a compromise for not extending the Rapid further east where the density is too low to support its use).

Shaker and Cleveland Heights, in particular, oriented a large part of their community around walking access to the Shaker Rapid. A legacy of that decision is the acres of park land surrounding the light rail corridor. As the eastside stretched outward, the linear parkway of the eastside became a huge draw. People run and push strollers for miles through leafy parks preserved (from the highway builders who wanted it paved over). It connects with the border of Cleveland at Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard east to the Shaker Lakes, and, if you own a bike and want to ride for miles you can enjoy some of the nicest scenery—the tall trees and huge mansions line roads like North Park and South Park. It’s a comfortable link to the Beachwood parkway which connects to Gates Mills Boulevard and on to the Chagrin River valley.

The idea behind the Eastside Greenway is, why delay joy? Why not figure out a way of calming the fast moving traffic on roads that never seem clogged but often share space with cyclists and pedestrians. People would use these great corridors more often if their city invested in them as parks and bikeways. Easier said then done? Not really. See the elegantly simple plans that planners have drawn up after surveying 800 people about their hopes. See what people see—a logic in replicating the great success of the Shaker greenway with the eastside’s many long four-lane green grass median divided boulevards. People living on streets that connect to Monticello Boulevard, Harvard Road, E. 55th Street, S. Belvoir, Euclid Avenue, and Lakeshore Boulevard told the planners of the Eastside Greenway that they, too, would like to have an amazing green park/bikeway outside their doorstep like the upscale Shaker Boulevard residents have. They might want to walk their dog or go for a run or bike somewhere in comfort and not have to worry about cars as much.

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