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Cleveland Bike Week happenings; the state of bike planning

Marc Lefkowitz  |  05/12/11 @ 3:54pm

  • Cleveland Bike Week is quickly approaching: Celebrate spring on two wheels during Cleveland Bike Week, May 16-22. There are events for all ages and abilities. Plus, group bike-to-work rides. Go here for more information and details on the week's events.

    One of the cooler events during Bike Week is Old Brooklyn's Pedal for Prizes. Tour neighborhood sites on a bike and collect raffle tickets (the grand prize is two new Trek 7000 hybrid bikes).

    Ok, one more really awesome-sauce Bike Week event?"Pedaling art: A celebration of bicycle art and culture" at Wall Eye Gallery, 5304 Detroit Avenue (with an opening reception on Friday, May 20 from 6-11 p.m.). Free secure valet bike parking provided by Ohio City Bicycle Co-op. Stationary bike racing by Great Lakes Gold Sprint.

  • Bike-To-School Challenge: 1,001 Bay Village and Rocky River students biked to school on Tuesday in the largest group ride to date. Many of their teachers and principals joined them. Read more.
  • Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority is making the connection between transit and bikes. First, RTA will demonstrate how to use the bike racks on the front of all of their buses this Saturday, 10 to noon at the West Park Transit Station. Then, on May 20 and June 5, RTA will invite all cyclists to ride free. The transit agency has recently invested in bike parking, installing covered bike parking at Southgate Transit Center, Shaker Rapid Station, Triskett Rapid Station, West 117th Station, Stephanie Tubbs Jones Transit Center and the East 55th Street station when completed. RTA's aim is to provide safe, secured parking and to free up space on trains.
  • The Access for All campaign won a major victory in securing $6 million to improve the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge with a multi-use path, historic looking LED lamps and more (click on image to the right). Have your say in some of the design details by taking this 2-minute ODOT online survey (as of yesterday, 51 people had taken the survey ? you can read their responses!)

This week's Healthy Communities Active Transportation conference revealed many things about the state of bike planning. At the nexus of challenge and opportunity we find city planners inventing ways to level the playing field to support cycling and walking. Here are some highlights from the conference's Complete Streets Technical Workshop:

  • Bike and pedestrian amenities are often knocked out of road projects because the Highway Capacity Manual, the Bible for DOTs, used to show a bias-they give roads a failing grade in 'level of service' where individuals congregate on sidewalks or where bikes use the road. In short, anything that gets in the way of cars lowers the grade. A new multi-modal analysis tool on urban roads was added to the HCM 2010 update to bring more balance to rating projects. Cyclists and pedestrian experience is measured, for example, how long do you have to wait to cross the road at a marked crosswalk? Is on-street parking well-used or is it no longer needed? Asking these questions, said Jamie Parks of Kittleson and Associates, has proven the multi-modal tool effective in justifying bike/ped investments that satisfy DOT requirements in the NOMA neighborhood in Washington, D.C. (they want cycle tracks and lane reductions).
  • The current transportation bill changes the reporting on crashes, ODOT's Derek Troyer said. No crashes will be reported if property damage is below $1,000. Under the current law, a crash is reported if property damage is $400 or above. ODOT expects to "lose" 30,000 claims (how many of those will be bikes?).
  • ODOT has for years collected data on cars crashing into bikes and pedestrians, including failures to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks (a finable offense). The data are available to cities if they want to know the most dangerous intersections, and to fix the problem (the state has safety funds to address them), Troyer said.
  • Columbus police conduct crosswalk sting operations ? giving motorists who fail to yield to pedestrians in a marked or unmarked crosswalk a warning (or a ticket if it's a second offense), according to MORPC's Complete Streets newsletter. They targeted dangerous intersections identified through the ODOT crash data mentioned above (Are any municipalities in Northeast Ohio conducting crosswalk stings?).
  • The Akron-area transportation planning agency, AMATS, has a land-use and transportation initiative that includes a 'gap analysis' of where sidewalks are missing, demand generators for pedestrians and preferred bike routes. One insight: 80% of the land around Summit County is zoned for residential. "We're zoned for sprawl," said AMATS planner Krista Beniston. While no funds have been allocated for implementation, Beniston thinks the data could guide policy makers in where to target investments like striped shoulders for cyclists in townships or bike parking in the city. Their draft bike users map can be found online.
  • Norm Cox runs a consultancy for cities interested in bike/ped facilities. His company, The Greenway Collaborative, makes the case for where cities can get the best bang for the buck. They analyze what goes on at intersections, look at conditions of sidewalks, do 24-hour bike counts, land-use diversity and existing road networks for cities that are considering, for example a 4 to 3-lane road diet.
  • The key to a healthy bike network, Cox said, starts by assessing, "how fine-grain are your roads? Can you do a direct trip by zig-zagging around town (better) or are you forced to go to one big arterial (not so good)? Do you have pathways that lead to schools?" Sometimes, what appear to be a plus for biking ? golf courses, parks, railroads ? can be huge impediments.
  • Doing road conversions from 4 to 3-lanes are fairly routine these days, Cox said, especially if traffic volumes are under 15,000 cars per day. Even if volumes are 16-20,000, a city can hire a firm like Cox' to do a detailed analysis of the intersections to see if its possible.
  • Bike count methodologies: There's a rising interest in quantifying the impacts both economic and health for installing bike facilities. Historically, no one's done it particularly well. However, new technologies like induction loop and video are starting to come down in price, making it more cost effective to improve the quality of data, said Ann Friewald of Alta Planning. It is now feasible to count cyclists year round, which can help build the case for maintaining the paths in winter months (showing that demand requires keeping them clear). The new counting methodologies for bikes are markedly different from those used by ODOT for motorized vehicle counts ? why aren't the two counting methods more similar? Can an algorithm be developed using existing technology (i.e. police cameras) to avoid the cost of new equipment?
  • One final thought from the conference: The visibility of cyclists is often lower because they simply take up less space than a 3-ton vehicle wrapped in steel.

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