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Circle-Heights Bike Network: Concept to reality

Marc Lefkowitz  |  04/03/12 @ 1:00pm  |  Posted in Biking

Ten years ago, EcoCity Cleveland and the cycling community established a vision for a Circle-Heights Bike Network. A map was drawn, highlighting fast and slow biking routes between destinations like Cedar-Lee and Wade Oval. Meta-data-such as problem intersections and needed improvements-were discussed on the jacket.

It helped to sell the idea of a district to define it first. In this case, Circle-Heights is four compact cities and Cleveland's cultural hub that form a cohesive territory.

Considering the flurry of activity this summer building the Circle-Heights Bike Network, David Beach presciently wrote:

The "Circle-Heights" district covers a compact, four-by-four mile area. It was largely built during the streetcar era and features a fine-grain mix of residential neighborhoods and commercial districts. It has public places in which people actually like to walk around. And, unlike new suburban areas where destinations are so far apart that people have to drive everywhere, activity centers in the Heights district are spaced close together. Thus, the district is ideally laid out for alternative transportation-biking, walking, and transit.

Flash forward to today. The $1.38 million Lake to Lakes bike trail project is currently under construction. This 6,700 linear feet of trail extension between the Harrison-Dillard Bikeway and the border of Shaker Heights will thread the needle of busy streets at the base of Cedar Hill, the gateway from Cleveland to the inner-ring suburbs on the east side. Understandable excitement surrounds this bike trail which includes a path through a park and safe passage along major commuter route, Stokes-Fairhill. It will deliver a family friendly, off-road bike link between Shaker and University Circle where descending the Portage Escarpment has always been the biggest impediment for cyclists.

Once in the Circle, the next leg of the journey will happen along a soon-to-be rebuilt MLK Drive (roadway and the existing bike trail) and intersection improvements at Chester, Euclid and E. 105th Street. This is the subject of a public meeting tonight, Tuesday, April 3.

The Lakes to Lake Trail isn't the only major initiative this summer between the Circle and the Heights. Cleveland Heights and University Circle institutions are working on improving the bike network with a Transportation for Livable Communities planning grant.

Will the Circle-Heights Network TLCI study lead to improvements on bike commuting routes? Hopefully, it will inspire a new spirit of collaboration between city of Cleveland's Office of Capital Projects and Division of Engineering (the sharp point of the stick on the Cleveland's Complete Streets ordinance) and Cleveland Heights' Planning and Public Works departments.

The proof will be in how many projects get implemented to fix problems like perennially broken pavement on major commuting routes (i.e. the curb lanes of Ford, East Boulevard, Mayfield leading in and out of Little Italy, Edgehill, Cedar, Euclid Heights Boulevard, Meadowbrook), and car-bike conflict points at intersections (Edgehill/Overlook and Cedar/Euclid Heights and Cedar/Fairmount. Rumors have been circulating that Edgehill from Murray Hill to the border of Cleveland Heights will be repaved by Cleveland this summer and a long-sought after bike lane will be striped in on the uphill lane / with a Sharrow for the downhill or residential side of the road).

Newly elected to Cleveland Heights Council, Mary Dunbar (also co-founder of the Cleveland Heights Bike Coalition) writes about the 'missing links' initiative:

Among the advantages of living in Cleveland Heights is its proximity to University Circle's cultural attractions, its booming construction and job growth, and multiple transportation modes to downtown. But as University Circle continues to build, less space will be available for parked cars. Partners in University Circle and the Heights are committed to finding ways to move more people between here and there by bicycle, mass transit or on foot.

The hoped for outcome is to strengthen one of the state's highest bike commute sheds – the inner-ring east side suburbs to University Circle (and with the Euclid bike lane to the Clinic and downtown). A recreation bike connection between east side to the lake won't hurt. Few districts in Northeast Ohio possess the bones and the demand (both current and pent up).

Two public meeting will be held to review plans for the Circle-Heights Missing Links initiative. The first meeting will be on Tuesday, April 17, at 7 p.m. at the Cleveland Heights Community Center. The second meeting will be held on April 18, beginning at 5 p.m. at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in University Circle.

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