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Cleveland parking makes bike lanes a near miss

Marc Lefkowitz  |  11/23/15 @ 9:00am  |  Posted in Biking

Cleveland landed in the national spotlight for its “backwards” bike lanes. When the city painted a striped buffer between the curb and bike lane on West 25th Street and on Lorain Avenue (instead of between the car and bike lanes), it started a brouhaha that is still resonating.

For instance, a Nov. 12 blog post from People for Bikes, which is a national non-profit providing technical support for cities implementing bike lanes, asked the opinion of nine traffic engineers—not one of whom could find a reason for following Cleveland Traffic Engineer, Andy Cross’ lead.

Oh so close<br />Cleveland could have bike lanes on both side of West Boulevard (as shown in our illustration using streetsmix.net) if it doesn't add a 9 foot on street parking lane. <br />The Medium Residential Street from Cleveland Streets Typology report is West Boulevard dimensions, and includes the 9 foot parking lane.<br />National experts agree that Cleveland has painted its buffered bike lane on Lorain Avenue backwards. Instead of adding more protection between the travel and bike lanes, the city traffic engineer decided to buffer the curb. Photo: Satinder Puri.

But, has Cleveland yielded to calls to update its bike design standards?

According to a source at the city, Cross is going his own way, again. This time, with the redesign of West Boulevard. A key north-south connector, West Boulevard is very wide—75 feet between property lines. Curb-to-curb, the road is a full 40 feet wide.

For two lanes of traffic, Cross agreed, it is too wide. A road diet was proposed, and it seemed like a no brainer to squeeze bike lanes in there, somewhere.

Not so fast. The city, instead of striping bike lanes on both sides of West Boulevard, wants to add on-street parking to one side. Compounding that decision, they want to make the parking lane the widest possible, at 9 feet. Remember that number; we’ll come back to its importance in a minute.

Even the conservative Ohio Department of Transportation sets its maximum parking lane at 8 ft. wide. Forget for the moment that West Boulevard is a residential street with some of the longest driveways in the city. The National Association of City Transportation Officials, which captures the best practices of traffic engineers and planners across the country, has concluded that 7 ft. could suffice for on-street parking in a residential zone. West Boulevard will have two, 11-foot travel lanes. So, the decision to make the parking lane 9 ft. wide leaves only enough room for one bike lane (legal bike lanes are a minimum of 5 ft. wide).

Cross’ decision will leave West Boulevard one foot shy of making bike lanes legal on both sides. It took a bit of doing, but he has managed to torpedo an easy win on West Boulevard.

For better or worse, Cross may be following the Street Typologies report that the city agreed to after passage of its 2011 Complete Streets policy. Prepared by Alta Planning for the city’s Public Works and its Streets Division where Cross serves, the typical cross section for a Medium Residential Street actually cites West Boulevard as the example. It shows, for all intents and purposes, Cross’ proposed design, which will use sharrows on one side and a bike lane on the other with the fat, 9 ft. parking lane. The report does leave an option to include bike lanes on both sides—if on-street parking is deemed unnecessary.

But, the fatal flaw of the Streets Typology report—which maybe was not caught at the time, but could be corrected—is the presence of the 9 foot parking lane, an anomaly without a reasonable defense.

For example, the 9 foot parking lane was also used by the City of Cleveland when it painted the bike lanes on Detroit Avenue two years ago. BikeCleveland’s Jacob Van Sickle comments that 9 foot parking lanes have really confused drivers who think it’s a travel lane—with the bike lane sandwiched between.

“The city should make the parking lanes smaller, 7 or 8 feet, and add ‘Ts’ or perpendicular lines to delineate the spots,” he said. “At minimum they should put giant ‘Ps’ in a circle to show it is parking (this exists on E. 71st Street in Cuyahoga Heights).”

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Nathanael Nerode
4 years ago

Someone needs to contact Cross's bosses -- presumably city council.

It now seems clear that he's deliberately executing sabotage efforts in his job. Specially going out of his way to avoid best practice not just once, but twice, and doing it "by stealth" in both cases rather than giving a justification for the huge parking lanes.

He needs to be fired for cause.

Denise Christescu
4 years ago

They have already done the south end of West Boulevard (from Lorain Avenue) with one bike lane heading south, sometimes a buffer adjacent to the curb and sometimes parking. Sometimes the southbound bike lane appears to disappear all together! The northbound lane seems barely wide enough for a car and requires drivers to share the lane with bicyclists. So far we have seen baby strollers in the southbound lane dedicated to bikes as well as joggers and two way bike traffic! We've seen bicyclists in groups southbound taking up the whole car lane. It's a mess. The worst part is that many motorists have no clue about the law/rules for sharing the road with bikes. Accident waiting to happen?

4 years ago

Seems like a no brainier to this engineer. Put in the bike lanes.

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