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Bike talk: Talking biking in Cleveland

Marc Lefkowitz  |  11/07/16 @ 12:00pm  |  Posted in Biking

That unprotected feeling<br />A new bike lane in Cleveland (Lorain Avenue) does not protect cyclists with a physical barrier and it put the buffer that could have added protection on the curb side.<br />The Midway would raise the game for biking and greening the urban environment in Cleveland.<br />The Wiggle in San Francisco. Image credit: Dianne Yee/Flickr<br />A bike signal in Dresden, Germany for cyclists crossing at an intersection through a bike-designated area of the crosswalk.

“Why doesn’t Cleveland have more bike infrastructure?” my friends who are transportation cyclists ask me over drinks.

“What do you mean?” I respond, telling them that Cleveland will paint 16 miles of bike lanes this year.

“We don’t mean more bike lanes necessarily,” they say, adding “when we go to other cities, we see a lot of things they’re doing to encourage biking.”

Mind you, my friends are experienced cyclists who bike literally everywhere from their house in the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood. They would bike with our without bike lanes.

“We were impressed by the Wiggle,” they say about a recent trip to San Francisco. I gather that this cross-town bike path meanders across streets, bringing to life a riverbed long ago buried under concrete. It also serves a purpose in connecting places.

The really impressive part for them was the bike signals. Special bike traffic signals give cyclists a head start on the cars where parts of the Wiggle use the road.

“Kind of like the bike signals I saw in New York.” I explain how the protected bike lanes added under Janette Sadik-Kahn on 1st Avenue (where I successfully navigated bike share on the busy streets of New York) have bike signals at intersections to help cars and bikes keep safe distances.

“Or like the ones in Montreal," says our third friend who is not a confident rider but is interested in joining us. "They're amazing and so many people use them."

"I would still like to see more protected bike lanes like that in Cleveland.”

Cleveland could even follow the lead of Detroit -- which has made a big commitment to add all protected bike lanes instead of regular bike lanes. The Guardian recently explained how Detroit was inspired by the same barnstorming tour that brought Sadik-Khan to Cleveland.

“I just feel like protected bike lanes would encourage more people in Cleveland to try biking places,” says our interested but intimidated friend.

Detroit has a lot of super wide avenues like Jefferson where the city has recognized that repurposing one lane in an eight lane road won’t be a problem, mostly because there are fewer cars in the city.

“Cleveland has a lot of wide avenues, too.” We all agree that St. Clair is probably the most pleasant already of those—its great old storefronts help it retain a quality that others like Superior with its big warehouses don’t have.

“It’s why biking in the Superior bike lane is still really scary.” The wide road and big buildings aren’t taming the wild traffic. The bike lane being out away from the curb and closer to traffic doesn’t help.

Superior and St. Clair would be ideal candidates for a Green and Complete Streets makeover, we agree, sipping our beers in silence.

“I heard that the eastern base of the Detroit-Superior Bridge is being considered for The Midway,” I volunteer.

The protected, center-lane green bikeway would put Cleveland on the map as a top tier bike friendly city as far as we’re all concerned.

Cleveland is also in the midst of a plan that would repurpose the southern / outer lane of the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge—we hope because it would be a much safer route than now where the bike lane mysteriously disappears halfway over the bridge.

“If Cleveland had a Midway between the Detroit-Superior Bridge and Public Square it would help a lot” for the growing number of cyclists.

“Maybe all of these great plans like the Midway and the Lorain Avenue protected bike lane will get built in our lifetime.”

As we file out, we agree to keep biking and encourage friends to bike with us.

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