In the ‘70s, a TV commercial for a battery featured a celebrity spokesman (Robert Blake, I believe) who perched a 9-volt on his shoulder and growled, knock it off. I dare you. It seems like cities could take a page from the school of Blake. What do they have to lose.
For decades, cities have been divided—by highways and by loyalties. They had to mollify the wealthy suburbanite who looked at them as dangerous “inner cities.” Cities placated the corporate classes. They devoted much of their coffers to other’s needs—whether it was to widen streets for the luxury sedans to blow town in a hurry or to offer tax breaks on their buildings.
With a genuine interest in living in cities a part of the new urban epoch just starting, it should be a time for the city of Cleveland to leverage its position and reshape itself in the image of those who are living and working in inner cities. It’s time now.
Look at the multitude of humble, post-Rust Belt cities, from Nashville to Pittsburgh to Detroit reclaiming their assets for those who can most benefit from their improvement. From Akron to Columbus, they are reclaiming streets from auto dependents and shifting some of the pavement to a new, more productive and frankly more desirable (from a planetary and local climate) condition.
What am I driving at? Specifically, Cleveland has been presented with a wonderful, visionary project idea in the Midway. To its credit, the city has recognized it through granting its Planning Department the authority to study its feasibility.
The Midway has the power to re invent the idea of mobility for the masses and redraw the map on what is the most desirable place to be in Northeast Ohio. If Cleveland does in fact muster the resources, the millions it will take to build this deep green cycle track—it will not only “put in on the national map” as a progressive (desirable) place to live, it will infuse the lives of those struggling every day with Cleveland’s hard knocks past constantly hanging over it with a reason to stay and fight for it.
It’s just a beautiful bike lane, you might say. The protected bike lane in cities is a starting point to something much larger. It represents an investment in the green city on a blue lake that Cleveland aspires to be every year around September (this year, for the Year of Sustainable Transportation). And the Midway would be the granddaddy of all protected bike lanes. It would be the envy of all.
We have heard all along that Cleveland doesn’t pay attention to what other cities are doing. But, Cleveland can find plenty of reason to build the Midway—for its own and on its own turf.