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Northeast Ohio Best Trails and Greenways 2018

Marc Lefkowitz  |  05/30/18 @ 3:00pm  |  Posted in Connecting to nature, Transportation

This year's entries into Greater Cleveland's Trails and Greenways Conference are inspiring—in imagination, but also, in the highest category, for achieving much sought after equity and improved access to low cost and low carbon forms of active transportation. Full disclosure: I participated with a panel of local transportation experts in selecting the 2018 winners.

<br />Environmental Design Group bike share system is popular (seen here in use in downtown Akron).<br />Bike to Work Day 2018 in Cleveland <br />Students in Cleveland Heights-University Heights Schools learning to ride with the bike fleet.<br />Burning River Ramble <br />Black Girls Do Bike Akron Chapter<br />Jim Sheehan, director of Ohio City Bike Coop, leads Cleveland Municipal School 2nd graders in bike education skills course.<br />Morgana Run Trail and art plan<br />Rosewood Avenue pop up street closure in Lakewood.<br />Summit Lake (pop up) Nature Center<br />Open Streets Cleveland<br />Thorn Mountain Bike Club<br />Lake to Lakes Trail extension and trail head<br />Maple Highlands Trail<br />Fort Hill Steps<br />Headlands Nature Preserve Boardwalk<br />Lakefront West Multi-Use path<br />Detroit-Superior Bridge green lane<br />A Bridge That Bridges public art project<br />Lakefront multi-use path in Euclid

It was a pleasure to present the following awards in three categories, Programs, Pop Ups, and Projects.



Cycling as a platform for employee health went from blueprint to reality for Environmental Design Group (EDG), a local planning, civil engineering and design firm. Senior Project Engineer, Reneé Whittenberger, convinced executives they could walk (or ride) the talk on the environmental, health, and social benefits of transportation demand management. EDG launched its bike share system for employees at their downtown Akron office — they are popular for meetings or lunch dates. The initial cost of $1,500 covered two city cruiser bikes, baskets, EDG signs, lights, helmets and most importantly…coffee holders. The maintenance cost is around $150 - $200 a year, including a trip to the local bike shop for a tune-up.

It takes no small effort to motivate a car-dependent region to wheel in to work every May for National Bike Month, and that’s why Bike Cleveland is being recognized. Since 2012, the bike advocacy group has been encouraging riders to leave the car at home, and use the area’s growing network of trails and on-road bike infrastructure to commute to work via bicycle. There’s safety in numbers - riders organize meet ups, and BC brings them together at the downtown bike station for a celebration every year. The bike to work days continue every third Friday.

Safe Routes to School is a national program aimed at making it safe and fun to bike and walk to school. When Cleveland Heights won a SRTS grant for some of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights schools plus a private school, it acted on the bold idea of buying a bike fleet and trailer to shuttle between schools for bike rodeos and other trainings. Bike fleet manager, Julie Lustic developed a curriculum for fellow PE teachers in the school district to involve 2nd graders, some of whom have no biking experience. It’s a great home-grown project and definitely worthy of recognition.


Capitalizing on the renewed interest in river trail recreation in urban settings, the Burning River Ramble attracted 280 participants in its inaugural run that explores the new trails and green space along the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland’s (former) Industrial Flats. Entrepreneur Jim Ridge organized the event, which takes place on June 22 (the anniversary of the burning river) and has served as a nice reintroduction to the river, from the ecological restoration of the Scranton Peninsula to the Centennial Trail and Merwin’s Warf.

A group of ladies who enjoy bike riding and wanted to share their enthusiasm with others formed Black Girls Do Bike Akron, the newest of 80 chapters nationally. As they noted in their application, “By providing regular opportunities for ladies to ride, there is an increase of confidence with cycling, increase of ladies commuting to work, and increase of ladies accepting leadership roles in cycling.”


The Cleveland Safe Routes to School program partnered with the Ohio City Bike Co-op and Bike Cleveland to work on basic bike skills with second graders like balance, starting and stopping and safe riding. The fact that the program reached so many kids, and gained the participation of 12 separate PE instructors is a major win for bike education in Cleveland.

Pop Ups


Guiding the development of an old rail line into the Morgana Run Trail is a plan that fuses creative energy and reuse of older infrastructure for new, and increasingly, artful experience. Murals, the steel giant allium sculpture at the trailhead, a fence made from upcycled bike wheels, benches, lighting, green space, have grown out of a comprehensive art and trail plan.


When it comes to the spirit of a pop up — inspiration and gauging community reaction — Lakewood absolutely nailed the execution of its first large-scale public art installation: the pilot closure of Rosewood Avenue for a park expansion (Wagar). The street was designed and painted by local design firm, Studio Chartreuse. An Ice Cream Social was held to celebrate the completion of the mural in the neighborhood.

One of the more inspiring examples of a pop up in recent memory, the Summit Lake Pop Up Nature Center led by community members turned a neglected Park asset into to a temporary nature center. It provided a shot in the arm of Vitamin N(ature) with access to water a part of the story of reinvention adopted by the community. Best of all, the Summit Park District is now strongly considering a permanent presence in the neighborhood.


Inspired by the citywide closure of streets to cars in Bogota, Columbia that draws thousands of revelers each Sunday, Open Streets Cleveland temporarily repurposes streets as a free public space for people of all ages and abilities to bike, walk, skate, dance, play, and build community. After two years, the event has found its groove — as witnessed by 4,000 people who showed up to the May, 2018 kick off on Detroit Avenue on Cleveland’s Near West Side. Started as a pop up and evolving into a permanent fixture in Cleveland’s cultural firmament, the judges agree that Open Streets Cleveland deserves accolades like ‘transformative.’



The Thorn Mountain Bike Club deserves a hardy tip of the trail-building shovel for banding together to carve out and reshape 11.3 miles of single track mountain bike trail in Findley State Park.

The Lake-to-Lakes Trail extension completes a critical link between University Circle and the Eastside suburb commuter and recreational trail system and, separately provided a creative and functional trailhead meeting point at North Park Boulevard and Coventry Road.

The Maple Highlands Trail also provides a link in an important commuter and recreational trail system, in a rural setting, with unique cultural opportunities and design challenges for accommodating horse drawn buggies alongside bicycles.

The Fort Hill Steps in the Rocky River Reservation are a really impressive feat of ecologically sensitive engineering. The very popular step and landing system connect people with a historically significant site.


Fulfilling a long-sought after project, this boardwalk provides an ADA accessible, ecologically sensitive path to the beach at one of the region’s top natural tourist sites, and it brings Ohio's Buckeye Trail to its Great Lake.

Lakefront West Multi-Use path is a commuter and recreational trail with access to the Lake that serving several urban neighborhoods, including residents of public housing, and the latest piece in the puzzle of providing access to the lakefront for Cleveland residents.

A road diet that led to re purposing a lane on Cleveland’s iconic, steel-arch Veteran’s Memorial Bridge for a combination protected bike lane/green lane (on the western half of the bridge) is a significant move forward for improving conditions on a popular bike commuting route into downtown.


The addition of bike lanes on E. 22nd Street between Cleveland State and Tri-C Metro’s campuses was one of the more important bike infrastructure additions. This award also recognizes a Bridge That Bridges, a well-conceived public art project that involved dozens of community members and a highway bridge that links the two areas where past divisions are acknowledged and hope for the future is pictured.

Public access to the lakefront is sorely lacking in Northeast Ohio, and that’s why the under-construction Lakefront multi-use path in Euclid (near the old Euclid Beach Amusement park) is a stunning addition that will link a recent improvements like a fishing pier and parks. We expect this to eventually achieve regional significance.

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