University Circle and the Heights should have stronger bike connections, plus preparing for an Arctic Vortex
Marc Lefkowitz | 01/10/14 @ 4:00pm
Here are some of the big sustainability stories in Northeast Ohio for the second week of January, 2014.
The Heights and University Circle have shared a common destiny since Case and Western Reserve merged and the hospitals anchored themselves to the east side. The Heights have long held the advantage of sharing a border. How interesting that a hill rising some 600 feet between them alters the way most people commute. But if the release of the final Circle-Heights Bike Plan this week shows us anything, its that the cities who can do something to introduce better options like biking and walking are willing to doing something about it.
The plan calls for establishing a bike network that would be marked out for the first time with paint on pavement. We stand by our critique of the plan, which hasn't changed much in final release. If the Circle-Heights Bike Plan hopes to achieve something significant—to forestall climate change which is now in the sights of progressive cities—incentives for biking must be stronger.
Is this plan bold enough to produce a palpable mode shift? We ask others to look at the plan with this lens and ask, will the majority of people who are interested but intimidated by bike riding in the road find a Sharrow stencil, a polite reminder to Share the Road, a strong enough incentive to try biking through areas of traffic like Euclid Avenue?
We feel the plan should set a higher bar. It should aim to attract significantly more riders by providing them bike lanes. Or, where that’s not possible, separated bike facilities (as the League of American Bicyclists recommended to Cleveland Heights at its recent Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community designation). The stretch where the bike lane disappears on Euclid Avenue (on campus and in front of UH), for example, is ripe for a separated cycle track. Or on Cedar Road. The Plan did explore a bike trail on Cedar Hill that both Cleveland and Cleveland Heights have committed to build. This is good news. But where the plan doesn’t go far enough is helping the cyclist coming up Cedar Hill find her way through the Cedar-Fairmount District and continue home east. Could the very wide treelawn areas of Cedar be converted one day to a protected bike lane? We don’t know how the plan feels about this idea because the bar was set low. Sharrows are too often the default when the decisions were hard.
It’s not too late to reopen the Circle-Heights Bike Plan—after all, it is aspirational at this point—and make it stronger. Again, we feel the metric should be, how many less experienced riders, how many moms with kids in tow, will now say, ‘a-ha’, I’m ready to give biking a try.
-Promising to boost University Circle’s appeal as a vibrant, connected place, a new Rapid Transit station at Mayfield Road in Little Italy kicked off construction this week. RTA will close its E. 120th Street Station when the station—wedged at the corner of where Mayfield dips below the rail bridges—is complete in 18-24 months. We see this as a hopeful sign—that transit will be an attractive option for west siders commuting to University Circle. Or for those who want to live in University Circle without a car. Plans call for a building that mixes residential and retail over the surface parking lots next to this station. What could be better incentive than not having to pay $10 to park at Uptown than a $5 train pass? The concept of transit-oriented development can now move onto firmer ground. We think the proposed development of apartments on Mayfield Road at E. 117th should support the new infusion of transit—the best way would be to scratch the parking garage from their plans.
-Mobile apps have come to dominate every aspect of life, and city planning is no exception. Pretty soon, even remote corners of the world like Cleveland will be shaped by the coming wave of mobile apps designed to inform community decisions or just make it easier to park in a crowded city. A Wednesday, January 15 public meeting will discuss the impact of Streetline's Parker smartphone app on the streets of Downtown Cleveland. Already in place in other cities, the app sends real-time information to a smart phone about available parking spots. Word of Parker coming to Cleveland has sparked concerns among pedestrians and cyclists worried that distracted drivers will increase accidents. Come share your thoughts. Also, a mobile app that lets ordinary folks walking around their town act like urban planners is in development. Austin’s Jennifer Lowry is pitching Key to the Street, a mobile app where pictures of streets and places deemed dangerous, can be sketched up with solutions on a smart phone and then shared with professional planners. The crowdsourced city idea could be a reality if Lowry gets enough interest on her Kickstarter campaign.
The bike community came out in a show support for improving Cleveland’s bike network at last night’s public meeting for a road resurfacing project on Denison Avenue. Brooklyn Centre resident, Laura McShane, reported on Facebook that “efforts by Bike Cleveland, Clevelanders for Transportation Equity, (Cleveland Bike Planner) Marty Cader, Brian Kazy, Janet Garcia and so many who continue to apply pressure on City of Cleveland for better use of public dollars - Denison Capital Project will include bike lanes, will include NO parking, and less traffic, in general.” Denison will be a nice east-west link in the city’s bike network. It also links up to Fulton Road, which has a short stretch of bike lanes and W. 65th Street, a key north-south connector that was under consideration for bike lanes. Next up, Puritas Avenue’s resurfacing public meeting on January 14 where bike lanes will be considered.
What happens when climate science meets politics? Michael E. Mann is no stranger to strong cross-checking by climate deniers who have questioned the meteorologist and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change lead author’s conclusion that our burning of fossil fuels is spiking the earth’s surface temperatures (in a line graph that resembles a hockey stick). He’ll delve into the political battles that are raging around his book, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, with a presentation on Wednesday, January 15 at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Free with museum admission.
Cleveland.com called it the ‘carpocalypse’. The Asian carp are so dreaded an invasive species —like Wal-Mart for fish—that reports of their long, slow swim upstream to the Great Lakes have scientists worried (a close cousin was spotted as far north as the Sandusky River). The Army Corps. of Engineers was tasked with stopping the carp from entering the lakes. Their solutions range from more studies to actually doing something like separating the Mississippi River from the Great Lakes basins. The threat of the carp taking over and decimating the ecosystem (and destroying a $1 billion tourism industry) has gotten so serious that the EPA told the Corps. that the only option in their estimation is full separation. The Editors of the PD agree. Problem is the price tag: $8 billion. If you’re interested in this issue, The Army Corps. will present its plan on Thursday, January 16 at the downtown Cleveland library.
This week was an eye opener for thousands of residents of Northeast Ohio who lost power and water during the deep freeze. A 6 am power outage in -16 F or almost running out of water were reminders of just how fragile the threads that hold our lives together can be. This week, Avon woke up to a dire warning from their water department. Residents of this exurb (which is a place that is too far from a city to be considered a suburb), were warned to cease using ALL water. Immediately. The water intake valves in Lake Erie freezing up were blamed for the sudden outage (as an aside, Avon opted out of the Cleveland Water system). On Cleveland’s east side, a short power outage on the coldest day of the year led to much hand-wringing. To those on the front lines of the Arctic Vortex who had the resource to think about how to avoid the fragility of losing power, thoughts of passive homes, solar-thermal, solar-generators are very nice but what might be more realistic climate change resiliency strategy is get your home as insulated from air leakage as possible. That’s the best bang for your buck. A wood burning stove might be a nice to have, but an air-tight home is a better overall investment.