“People want amenities,” said Cuyahoga County Planning Director, Glenn Coyne, speaking to attendees of the 2018 Trails and Greenways Conference. “A coffee shop. A trail. Something other than ‘oh my god, we’re declining.’”
Northeast Ohio has an opportunity to do something it has yet to attempt: Take a major road in the suburbs and make it more appealing, safer and friendly to all modes of transportation.
At a public meeting in Cleveland Heights, one of four suburban communities that Route 322 or Mayfield Road bisects, planners with the firms Nelson/Nygard and MKSK presented ideas such as dedicated bus lanes, protected bike lanes or multi-use paths. They cautioned not to read too much into these interventions—a warning that Cleveland Heights is all too familiar with. When it resurfaced Mayfield Road in 2016, Cleveland Heights hired a traffic consultant who proposed a plan to make cycling and walking an appealing option for this uninspired four- sometimes-six-lane road. Their bid was rejected by the Ohio Department of Transportation, an agency that is often behind-the-times with its rulings. ODOT said the road would fail because it slowed down traffic.
This time around, Cleveland Heights, South Euclid, Lyndhurst, and Mayfield Heights are stalwart. Traffic may be a reality on Mayfield Road, but, with driveable shopping in decline and people avoiding Mayfield, they want to know, what are the alternatives?
Clevelanders are ever advised to take the advice of Daniel Burnham, designer of the city’s Mall and Public Hall, who said to ‘make no small plans.’ What if a little traffic wasn’t the worst idea for local merchants? What if, instead of gridlock, a design that invited nearby residents to leave their cars at home changed the way the community viewed Mayfield Road from a simple (autos only) to a more complex idea?
“We might add seconds or minutes to a trip in a car,” a consultant with the firm MKSK said, "but we might get big gains in livability, like being able to walk to a shop or go for a bike ride."
To whit: an RTA bus (the #9 route) could pick up someone living at an apartment in University Circle and deliver them about 45 minutes later to their job at Cleveland Clinic’s Hillcrest Hospital 13.5 miles away. That trip time would take an estimated 20 minutes by car. Doing a “road diet”—where a lane for cars is repurposed for a bus-only lane—would reduce the bus trip time by 10 to 15 minutes but increase the car trip time to 28 minutes. A road diet would have the added benefit of reducing car crashes and injuries, which are high on Mayfield.
Mayfield Road is a hostile place to try to bike, even for the most experienced cyclist. There’s plenty of room to add a bike lane today without changing anything other than where to paint the lines. In the process of adding a bike lane—preferably one with bollards separating it from car traffic—the wide lanes that make Mayfield comfortable for motoring at or above the posted 35 mph speed limit (with the occasional 25 mph zone showing up around commercial districts) would be put on a diet. Taking a foot or two from each car lane for a bike lane is a proven way to find a balance between local foot and bike traffic and the motorist just passing through.
Public comments on the Mayfield Road Multimodal Transportation Plan can be submitted through http://www.noaca.org/MayfieldCorridor until the end of August.