What's On: Areawide

CLEVELAND, Ohio — When Seattle in 2014 converted a painted bike lane to a protected bike lane, separating bike riders from traffic with a physical barrier, the city saw a nearly 300 percent increase in cyclists in a year.

About 51 percent of Americans in the country’s major urban areas are “interested but concerned” about biking, according to a 2016 study. These cyclists are curious about biking, but uncomfortable with riding alongside busy car traffic. Protected bike lanes increase their comfort level riding on city streets.

Protected bike lane networks are growing in cities like Austin, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, D.C., according to a report cited by the city of Seattle. They’re not much of a reality in Cleveland, but planners say it could be incorporated into the Cuyahoga Greenways plan, a Cuyahoga County Planning Commission initiative that would connect a network of bike paths, trail and lanes.

The protected bike lanes encourage more cautious bikers to hop on their bikes, say planning officials and biking advocates. They attract more people to city neighborhoods, without congesting city streets, according to the report. They bring more retail customers to shopping areas, who spend as much or more as people who come by car. To put it in perspective: Ten bikers can fit into one parking spot.

The number of cyclists riding on Cleveland roads is growing, city officials say. Between about 2010 and today, it’s grown about 50 percent.

Cleveland has at least two protected bike lanes that separate bikers from car traffic with a barrier. One, completed last year, separates cyclists from traffic on the Detroit-Superior Bridge. The other creates a barrier between cyclists on the Lakefront Bikeway, connecting W. 49th Street and Herman Avenue. More are in the works, city officials say. The Midway is a proposal that would eventually constitute a system of “bicycle highways” running down the center lanes of more than 50 miles of wide, underused streets that once carried streetcars.

The first leg, which would extend 2.5 miles along the middle of Superior Avenue from Public Square to East 55th Street, is set for construction in 2020, according to our report from 2017.

The proposed Lorain Avenue Cycle Track, which would run along the north side of the avenue between West 20th and West 45th Streets, and the south side from West 45th to West 65th, is planned for construction in 2022, according to our report from 2017.

Both projects have Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency money behind them.

“Those types of situations create a safer environment and it increases ridership. Part of our work moving ahead, particularly with respect to planning, is really to incorporate bicycle infrastructure as a standard,” Freddy L. Collier Jr., director of Cleveland’s City Planning Commission, said.

In some cases, adding protected bike lanes would require taking out a lane of traffic — but that’s doable here, because the county’s roads and bridges were built for a much larger population, bike advocates and city planners acknowledge. In 1950, Cleveland’s population peaked at around 900,000. Today it’s a little less than 400,000.

“We have almost zero traffic congestion on city streets. They’re doing this, they’re taking away lanes and putting in protected bike lanes in cities like Minneapolis and Chicago and New York and Portland where they have a lot more traffic,” said Jacob VanSickle, executive director of the advocacy group Bike Cleveland. “We just have to be creative and kind of rethink the way we’re utilizing our streets.”

The city of Cleveland said it’s becoming standard practice to fold bike-friendly measures into road projects. That could be painted bike signs on the roads, painted bike lanes or protected bike lanes, the city said. Though the city says protected bike lanes don’t work everywhere, when they do, the city says it tries to install them.

VanSickle said protected bike lanes still aren’t quite the norm here, or widely accepted.

“The proof on the ground is we have very few protected bike lanes…, so the political climate from what’s on the ground isn’t very accommodating as of yet,” VanSickle said.

He said other cities are doing more to build protected bike lanes and make their streets more bike friendly.

“I think if you compare Cleveland to some of the big cities like Minneapolis or Portland we lag far behind in terms of that protected network of bike lanes that really connect people from where they are to where they need to go,” he said. “We’re also behind some of our peer cities like Pittsburgh or Indianapolis where they have built out a series of protected bike lanes that are really connecting people.”

The story was updated to clarify that the Midway is a proposal that would eventually constitute a system of “bicycle highways” running down the center lanes of more than 50 miles of wide, underused streets that once carried streetcars.

Source : https://www.cleveland.com/metro/2019/04/protected-bike-lanes-popular-in-other-cities-could-increase-biking-in-cleveland-heres-why.html

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