Friday, April 30, 1999

Area gets friendlier to cyclists

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Lane by lane and route by route, Greater Cincinnati is slowly becoming a more cycle-friendly community.

        The Little Miami Scenic Trail and paths in the Hamilton County Park District, including Sharon Woods and Miami Whitewater Forest, provide more than 100 miles of trails for recreational biking.

        And communities are increasingly recognizing the need for road designs that give people the option of leaving their car at home and riding their bike to work, school, soccer practice or errands.

Designated routes
Bike rack locations
        More than $1 million in improvements are planned this summer to make cycling easier and safer in Cincinnati, West Chester and Northern Kentucky.

        “It's good to see Cincinnati moving ahead on these things,” said cyclist Kevin Reynolds of Colerain Township who estimates he has pedaled 20,000 to 30,000 miles on Greater Cincinnati roads over the past 23 years.

        The investments will help Greater Cincinnati catch up to more cyclist- conscious areas such as Portland and San Diego, where streets are designed with bicycles in mind.

        But local cyclists say the region still has a long way to go to make the streets safer for the 500-plus people the U.S. Census bureau estimates pedal rather than drive to work.

        “Cincinnati is not all that bicycle friendly,” said Mount Auburn resident Chris Carmichael, 40, who doesn't own a car and gets around by bike. “We are 20 to 25 years behind in that situation.”

Improving Cincinnati
        In the city of Cincinnati, cyclists are about to be safer on city streets in several ways.

  Although people often use the terms bike path, bike lane and bike route interchangeably, they have specific meanings:
  • Bike path/bike trail: An off-road area for bicyclists or pedestrians.
  • Bike lane: A lane on a highway or other road that is striped specifically for cyclists.
  • Bike route: A designated bicycle area marked by signs along a road or highway, but a separate lane is not provided.
        The city will spend $800,000 by September to put up more bicycle route signs, replace street storm-water grates with bike-friendly grates, restripe streets with bicycle lanes and wide curb lanes and put up more bicycle racks and lockers. The federal government is paying 80 percent of the tab.

        Jim Coppock, a Cincinnati engineer working on the city's Bicycle Enhancement Project, said it will do four things:

        • Place bicycle route signs along about 71/2 miles of roads near the University of Cincinnati. Signs will also point cyclists and motorists to destinations including UC, Xavier University and downtown.

        The route starts in Northside at the Hamilton Avenue, Ludlow Viaduct and Spring Grove Avenue intersection. It continues east on Ludlow, following Jefferson Avenue, Nixon Street, Eden Avenue, University Avenue and Lincoln Avenue. It meets an existing bike route at Victory Parkway and Lincoln Avenue.

  A map complete with Greater Cincinnati bike routes, numbers for bicycle resources and safety tips is available.
  The “Cincinnati Bike Route Guide” includes a map of the region that shows everything from the best ways to get over the Ohio River to “hills that you will remember at the end of your ride.” It has phone numbers for bicycle clubs, advocacy groups and planning organizations.
  The free guide is available from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments. E-mail or phone (513) 621-6300, fax (513) 621-6325, write OKI at 801-B W. Eighth St., Cincinnati 45203.

        • Replace 1,400 storm water inlet grates on 70 miles of streets around the city. Grates that run parallel to bicycle wheels will be replaced with grates that run diagonally so wheels don't get caught in them.

        • Restripe bicycle and wide curb lanes on Victory Parkway between Gilbert and Lexington avenues; Martin Luther King Drive between Victory Parkway and Reading Road; Winchell Street between Ezzard Charles Drive and Bank Street; Bank Street from Winchell Avenue to Linn Street and Este Avenue between Kings Run and Seymour Avenue.

        Resurfaced pavement will smooth the way and hide old lane markings. “Share the Road” signs will go up along wide curb lane segments where there aren't any markings or signs designating the bikeway.

        • Add 66 bike racks and some lockers around the city. There are 130 racks now. Most of the new racks — which can hold two bicycles — will go on sidewalks. Public schools, parking garages, parks, recreation facilities and city health clinics will get bigger racks. The lockers will have bars that let cyclists secure both wheels and the frame. A box, which requires cyclists' own locks, will be there to store helmets and other items.

        Placing signs along city bicycle routes showing a bicycle and urging drivers to “Share the Road” should increase awareness among drivers, cyclists say.

        “Anything that is going to make people more aware of cyclists on the road is good for the area,” said Mr. Carmichael, vice president of the Cincinnati Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee (Bike/PAC).

Outside Cincinnati
        Changes are happening outside of Cincinnati's city limits, too.

        West Chester plans to spend more than $400,000 this summer to widen Cox Road to make room for a 6-foot bike lane in each direction between Barret Road to the old Voice of America land near Tylersville Road.

        “What we're lacking is the infrastructure to get from your house to the paths or to do the little errands,” said Graham Mitchell, 47, of West Chester. He is part of Pathways, a West Chester group promoting paths for walking, jogging and biking.

        The Cox Road bike lane is a start, allowing people to take a bike to go to the public library or grocery store, said Judi Carter, West Chester's planning and zoning director.

        Construction, being paid for by federal money, is set to begin in mid-May, and it's scheduled to be done in mid-July.

        And in Florence, work continues on a Houston Road bike lane.

        When work is being done on state roads now, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet does not just think about vehicle traffic.

        “If the area is an approved bikeway, we take into account adding a bike lane,” said George Hoffman of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

        Compared to five or 10 years ago, a number of Greater Cincinnati communities today are more conscious of including cyclists, joggers and walkers when roadways are being repaired or designed.

        But there's still a long way to go.

        “Whenever we are working on roads, we need to think about bikes and pedestrians,” said Ann Gordon, a planner with the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments. “If it becomes a normal part of business, it will work.”        

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