Biking and walking agenda
The best solution to transportation problems is to reduce the need for transportation in the first place. You do this by designing neighborhoods where people live close to jobs, shopping, and other daily destinations — neighborhoods that are designed with streets and public spaces that encourage walking, biking, and transit use.
We believe that once the number of people biking crosses a threshold, a magic number to be determined, biking has the ability to alter the shape of a city. Cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam where almost half of its people are riding bikes on a daily basis, and Portland, Oregon where 6% of all trips are made on a bike prove that cycling makes for more comfortable, safe and attractive cities for everyone. Imagine how much more attractive Cleveland and its suburbs will be when we start designing streets that are safe for biking and walking.
Here are a few areas as bike advocates that we can focus on:
Complete and Green Streets
Cleveland should have wind in its sails from 2011 Complete and Green Streets legislation and a 2008 makeover of Euclid Avenue with Bus-Rapid Transit (BRT), bike lanes, and new pedestrian features. The Euclid Corridor is a case study on inclusive design. A focus on all forms of transportation is credited with infusing vitality and an estimated $5.8 billion in economic development.
But, for all of the 'national model' talk, the city and the region still lack a plan to scale up complete and green streets. Between 2008 and 2012, Cleveland rested on its laurels from Euclid. The city did some new bike planning, but it fell off the League of American Bicyclists' Top 50 Biking Cities list in 2012 in part because other cities matched their vision as bike friendly places with many miles of bike lanes.
Why are bikes and walking a good option? Most of the trips we make in a car are 2 miles or less. Think about that. If we need to pick up a half-gallon of milk, does it make sense to burn the same amount of gas to get it? Perhaps if our cities designate some space for protected bike lanes we would be more likely to give biking a try.
A coalition of citizens and non-profit groups worked with Cleveland through its Office of Sustainability and city council to adopt Complete Streets legislation. It's a model that can be replicated in the suburbs. We can also encourage our elected leaders who serve at NOACA, AMATS and other regional transportation agencies to require—not simply encourage—projects to meet its complete streets policy. These agencies have small grants like Transportation for Livable Communities (TLCI) that focus on better bike and pedestrian options. We can learn from Central Ohio, whose regional transportation agency, MORPC, has complete streets legislation and is starting to implement projects around the Columbus area.
Our communities have an opportunity to create more livable streets by partnering with the Northeast Ohio Sewer District, and its $42 million green infrastructure program. The city of Cleveland is working with the Sewer District on its first complete and green street project on Fleet Avenue in Slavic Village with bioswales and bike lanes and reusing vacant land to create a 'stormwater park.' Suburbs could also learn from Chagrin Falls and Cleveland Heights which have funding from Safe Routes to School to work on conditions for cyclists and pedestrians.
Figuring out how to streamline the process for complete and green streets so that they are integrated into design and funding may be the most cost effective path for a large-scale transformation in Northeast Ohio to safe, livable streets.
Read more and get involved at the GCBL Complete and Green Streets project page.
Great opportunity for growth
Biking in Northeast Ohio increased by 270% from 2000-2010. Bike counts in 2012 show the numbers are rising in inner-ring suburbs of Cleveland Heights and Lakewood, and in certain Cleveland neighborhoods like Tremont, Ohio City and Detroit-Shoreway. The city is starting to respond—with committments for 2.5 miles of bike lanes in 2013 on Detroit Avenue and Edgehill Road connecting the Heights to University Circle. Still, Cleveland could set a more ambitious goal for miles of bike lanes per year. Look at Detroit, which set a goal of 50 miles of bike lanes in 2014, despite going into bankruptcy.
Shaker Heights' New Urbanist retrofit of the ugly, mostly vacant shopping district and dangerous intersection at Warrensville, Van Aken and Chagrin Boulevard is an inspiring local example of a suburb responding to market demand for walkable, vibrant city streets.
How many more corridors like it do cities in Northeast Ohio have that would be ideal for bikes, pedestrians, transit and cars to share? NOACA's update of its regional bike plan looks at what influences higher volumes of bicyclists and pedestrians. Also, a regional sustainability iniative, VibranNEO, is focusing on how to strengthen existing communities and includes recommendations for transit, biking and walkability.
Cleveland 2010 Active Transportation Plan
Cleveland’s 2010 Active Transportation Plan is aiming to build a 180-mile bike network, including 30 miles of off-road paths and seven miles of bike lanes. In 2012, the city had four miles of bike lanes, the longest of which is the 3.5 mile bike lane on Euclid Avenue.
The biggest chunk of the Cleveland bikeway is a proposed 99 miles of on-road bike lanes, bike routes and Sharrows (these are pavement stencils that help motorists and cyclists respect each other's lane positioning, especially where lanes are too narrow to share safely).
The centerpiece of the plan is the completion of the Towpath Trail extension into downtown Cleveland and a 29-mile City Loop trail which will put an off-road path or bike route within a 10-minute bike ride of 62,000 households and 125,000 employees.
In 2010, Cleveland passed a law requiring all developments in the city to install at least one bike parking spot (and associated bike racks) for every 20 car spots. Approximately 12 bicycles can park in one car parking space.
Cleveland's ordinance does comes with some incentives for developers, such as reducing the number of required on-street parking spaces. While it came with a two-year grace period, the ordinance is intended to encourage use of bicycles for transportation in Cleveland by providing convenient and safe locations to park them.
Bike advocacy in Cleveland
In 2012, Bike Cleveland formed as the region's bike advocacy group. It's mission is to "build livable communities by promoting all forms of cycling and advocating for the rights and equality of the cycling community."
In its first year, the group helped usher in new laws that protect cyclists. As they define their work plan, they've established goals for the region, which include:
- A 3% mode shift to biking by 2019, the concluding year of Cleveland's big sustainability initiative.
- By 2013, Cleveland will be a League of American Bicyclists certified Bicycle Friendly Community at the Bronze level. (Cleveland and Cleveland Heights both earned Bronze designations in 2013)
Renewed interest in cycling and a rising chorus of people who want to ride from home to their favorite destinations has led to a number of new trail building projects. One of the more exciting trails is the Lake Erie-to-Shaker Lakes Trail. In 2012, the city completed construction of a paved trail next to the road that links up the Harrison-Dillard Bikeway—a 3-mile trail that runs from the shores of Lake Erie through Rockefeller Park along MLK Drive—to Shaker Lakes and other points south and east. It goes a long way to better connecting parts of Shaker Heights with University Circle.
The trail weaves together a number of planning initiatives, starting with the elimination of the ‘suicide’ traffic circle at E. 105th Street and MLK. Plans call for creating a four-way intersection behind the Natural History Museum that should improve the ability of cyclists, pedestrians and cars to safely share the road. University Circle, Inc. is also planning improvements to the Harrison-Dillard Bikeway on the other side of MLK (behind the art museum) and new transit waiting environments.
BikeCleveland is joining with Lakewood citizens in petitioning the city of Lakewood, asking them to paint in bike lanes on Madison Avenue during its upcoming road resurfacing. The city as part of its Bike Master Plan is calling for sharrows on Madison. The groups are advocating for bike lanes because they will attract more riders and provide a practical means for transportation in to the future.
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