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City evolves thinking on complete streets

Marc Lefkowitz  |  04/16/13 @ 11:30am  |  Posted in Vibrant cities, Transportation choices

Why should we care about Cleveland’s Complete and Green Streets (CGS) campaign?

Because we all live or work on a street, and at some point contend with how safe it is to cross or travel on it.

More legible types<br />Cleveland street typology for a Small Commercial Road. Bulb outs reduce the width for pedestrians. The grey area on the right is an under development design for an advisory bike lane or a shared bike and car lane. A calming effect<br />Cleveland street typology for a Medium Neighborhood Connector show 3 lanes with a buffered bike lane.

In a larger sense, Complete and Green Streets, presented at Cleveland City Hall last week, set the stage for how the city will attract and keep young people and families.

These two age groups want to stroll, to bike with friends to a park or the lakefront or a local watering hole. They place a higher value on roads that have bike lanes, and commercial districts with ample racks to lock up. They don’t want to dance in to six lanes of traffic.

Matt Gray, Director of Cleveland’s Office of Sustainability, explains last week’s first cut:

“Street typologies define streets by relating them to the adjacent land use and their function for pedestrians, bicyclists, public transit, and vehicles.

Unlike many other cities, we will also define our streets by their potential for green infrastructure, such as trees, bioswales, and permeable pavement.

In the end, the typology should serve as a 'palette' of street types that help establish a basis for the next step in the process, which is creating a complete and green streets design manual.

The draft typology has classified Cleveland's streets into 10 different types, organized by large, medium, and small.

Within these sizes there are various types of streets, such as commercial connectors, industrial, neighborhood connectors, and alleys.

Creating a common language for Cleveland's streets is a key step in making sure our streets meet everyone's needs.”

Why focus on the walkability or bike friendliness of streets? Won't people be happier when their street functions not as a cutthroat game of dodge ‘em, but as the canvas for good social interaction (if that’s what a city values)?

Done well, Complete Streets will attract more development, like the billions of dollars that the $300 million Euclid Avenue Complete Street makeover leveraged. They also serve a valuable “placemaking” function.

Soon, Cleveland will post a map and a menu of “Complete Street” designs for every street in the city.

“We have analyzed every roadway for width and land use, and we'll have a rough sketch of what complete and green streets means for every street in the city," said Cleveland’s Chief of Sustainability, Jenita McGowan.

"When finished, the typologies will be presented. You and your neighbors can zoom in and see what designs the city has vetted and which ones you can advocate for. There’s a little finesse to it.”

At first glance, the designs give the appearance of moving toward a calmer, safer and more civilized place.

For example, a treatment for a Large Commercial Street similar in width and land use to E. 9th St. downtown would be redesigned from seven lanes to four to make room for bike lanes. A Medium Neighborhood Connector like Pearl Road might go from four to three lanes with a "buffered" bike lane and on-street parking (this, ironically, was the treatment called for on Pearl a few years back, but not followed).

Big, transformative makeovers—like a pedestrian-only Public Square or a center-of-the-road “Capital Hill-style” bikeway—weren’t deemed a “type,” to the disappointment of a few in the room.

But the consulting firm, Alta Planning, did bring some best practices from cities such as Minneapolis where bike lanes are protected by barriers or fit side-by-side with a parked car lane.

Most just need a simple, inexpensive repositioning of paint.

Cleveland has a wealth of wide streets (like Detroit, St. Clair, E. 55th, etc.) that can be placed on a “road diet.” Cities in the lead of the Complete Streets movement have been doing “road diets,” or shuffling a foot from the parked car and travel lane in order to fit in a bike lane, for years. The Federal Highway Administration encourages it, because it delivers more value from the same pavement.

Another place to look is on-street parking. It makes sense in a dense commercial district. But should it be a given on the street where shops fall away? “Context”—or where the road is located—might say otherwise.

This is a very real question that has already vexed the intent of Cleveland’s CGS policy. Take W. 65th Street. A major line on the city’s bikeway plan nonetheless designed without asking if cars need as much (or any) on-street parking. As bike lanes jockey for position in the limited space available on the road, context influences much in the final design.

Some of Alta’s plans were marked as “under development” at City Hall last week. These include ideas like an ‘advisory’ bike lane which offer cyclists a lane during non-rush hour. The city said many of these ideas will be solidified in to practice with a design manual.

Street typologies are a mid-way inflection point for the city’s Office of Sustainability and its Complete and Green Streets Task Force. The Office and Task Force are moving toward a design manual that will outline how the city and ODOT will design streets that provide safe access for bikes, pedestrians, seniors, kids, transit users and the disabled. Among the fifty or so attendees was Mayor Jackson’s Chief of Staff, Ken Silliman, Director of Public Works, JoMarie Wasik, and Streets Commissioner, Rob Mavec.

Cleveland’s Complete Streets is also setting the stage for Cuyahoga County, which announced a kick off date of May 1 for its own Complete Streets community workshop, 4-6 p.m. at Levin College.

Many of the ideas seen last week are small but important steps. They’re a welcome signal for those biking or walking. They represent a “new” way of thinking, and so to effectively implement Complete Streets, the Mayor and his Chiefs at City Hall will need to embrace the vision and feel empowered that moving a few feet of lane width and paint is within their right. They’re doing it to advance transportation options for the tens of thousands of Cleveland residents who choose or don’t have a choice to ride the bus or who like to bike.

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5 years ago

The city has posted the presentation, with the 10 street types -- and is accepting comments -- here:


At least one person
5 years ago

An attendee who identified himself as Joe Milan, a GIS staffer for Cuyahoga County, repeatedly asked the city and Alta to think bigger. He called for a street typology that restricts cars completely.

5 years ago

"Big, transformative makeover "like a pedestrian-only Public Square or a center-of-the-road 'Capital Hill-style' bikeway" weren't deemed a "type"¯ to the disappointment of a few in the room."

Curious, were there people in attendance asking for these things?

5 years ago

To improve connectivity and pedestrian safety (especially for the elderly and disabled), has the Group Plan Commission or City of Cleveland traffic engineers considered placing pedestrian islands in the middle of many of the cross walks within or immediately outside of Public Square on super-wide Superior Avenue and in the crosswalk between the Arcade and the Eastman Reading Garden (i.e., on LandStudio's proposed "Red Carpet" crosswalk) also on super-wide Superior Avenue? It looks like pedestrian islands or refuges could be installed on many, if not all, of those cross walks without affecting existing motor vehicle traffic. Also, what pedestrian improvements does the Group Plan Commission have planned to help pedestrians cross St. Clair and Lakeside to move between Malls A, B, and C? It looks like the crosswalks that existed before construction started are disappearing.

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