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Columbus mayor's bike passion drives innovation

Marc Lefkowitz  |  01/13/10 @ 9:39am

How important is Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman's vocal support of the city's bike plan and his participation in cycling events like the annual Bike Week? The mayor's enthusiasm for bikes has engendered a culture of 'can do' around him. When Columbus received a pot of federal Stimulus funds from the Department of Energy recently, its Parks and Recreation Department pushed for some of it to be used for downtown biking infrastructure. You see, Capital Crossroads, a special improvement district (SID) for downtown Columbus-similar to the Downtown Cleveland Alliance-had recently completed a right of way study for downtown streets which included a plan for improvements. The city will peel away $490,000 from their energy efficiency Stimulus funds so that Capital Crossroads can purchase bike racks, lockers and shelters for 300 bikes for downtown commuters.

"This comes on the heels of the city finalizing its Bicentennial Bikeway plan, which was a big deal not only for bike advocates but the mayor was personally invested," says Marc Conte, a staffer at Capital Crossroads.

The bike project will be first in a downtown beautification plan, which includes pedestrian and auto wayfinding signs, street benches and lighting.

"We're pretty confident once we put this in, private property owners will say we want to do this too," Conti says. Class A office buildings either don't allow or discourage cyclists from bringing their bikes inside. Bike lockers will provide full shelter from the weather. Conti says the shelters are similar to those used in Portland, Oregon.

Add that to a growing array of bike amenities in Columbus, including:

  • Pedal Instead, a special-event valet services launched by the city in 2006 that encourages bicycling by providing secure, supervised bicycle parking at major events and at OSU football games.
  • High Street, the main drag through OSU, has Share the Road signs and 'Sharrow' bike pavement markers.
  • The Columbus Metro Bike Users Map is a snapshot of the current conditions for bicyclists (as reported by cyclists of varying skill level) of major roads during non-rush hours.
  • In 2008, Ohio State University started operating Buckeye Bikes where students can check out a Schwinn Heavy Duty Cruiser for 48 hours for free.
  • Columbus joined Portland as one of the first cities to pilot a Bike Box, a color pavement marker signaling to cars the position of bikes at a traffic light.
  • COTA, Columbus' transit agency, installed a bike locker and rack at a Park-and-Ride, something bike advocates in Cleveland have been pushing RTA to do.
  • The city has a bike rack program where they install 70 to 80 racks per year. They're exploring a contract with a local metal working company for their inverted U racks instead of using a national company.
  • The city has adopted a Complete Streets policy, and is working on a number of projects that incorporate them.

To follow the progress in Columbus, check out the web site of bike advocacy group, Consider Biking.

To see examples of bike parking types under consideration in Columbus, go here.

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