Guest Post by Nick Workman
While a student at UC, I had the opportunity to intern with City of Lakewood, a suburb of Cleveland. As an intern, one of the projects I worked on along with other city officials was a bicycle master plan. What I learned during my time working on the plan exposed me to the both the opportunities and challenges and that local governments face when creating bicycle networks in Ohio.
Cycling is one of the “cleanest” forms of transportation out there. Research has also shown that, if by 2050, 14% of travel in cities around the world is done by cycling, it could cut carbon emissions by 11% (Schmitt). On the local level, Cincinnati could benefit from cycling as part of its efforts to reduce the effects of climate change.
Nationwide, one of the biggest health concerns is obesity. In Ohio, nearly a third of the population is considered obese, a figure that has risen from 11% in 1990 (The State of Obesity in Ohio). With regular diet and exercise (which includes cycling), obesity can be controlled and reduced. For example, in the Netherlands, where nearly 27% of trips are made by bike, the obesity rate is only 10% as of 2010 and is predicted to decrease to 8% by 2030 (O’Brien).
Bike sharing is an excellent way to make cycling more accessible and affordable to the general public. Rather than spending $200 to $500 on a bike, excluding maintenance and anti-theft equipment, people can rent a bike for a low price and use it while commuting, running errands, or just for recreational purposes. Cincy Red Bike allows people to rent a bike for up to 24 hours for $8 per day or $80 per year (which includes unlimited 60-minute rides). Students may also purchase a $30 per semester bike rental membership. With bike rental stations located throughout urban core neighborhoods of Cincinnati, bike sharing is a convenient and economical way for residents to ride bikes (Rates).
Cities should redesign local streets to include bike lanes and shared-use road markings. By revising its street design laws to require these types of accommodations for cyclists, cities can create an environment that is more conducive to cycling. Some cities, such as Cleveland, have adopted “complete streets” ordinances, which require that, in addition to traffic lanes for cars, streets also provide bike lanes and bus/streetcar lanes constructed using permeable materials to prevent stormwater runoff (Ott). Policymakers should also reform local development by requiring business to provide bicycle parking in areas for bike riding is popular.
Cyclists often find the traffic conditions in cities like Cincinnati to be discouraging for riding. As someone who rides on a street with bike lanes and sharrows, drivers have honked, shouted at, and passed by me at dangerously close proximity that I have been too scared to ride my bike. Cincinnati recently adopted a “safe-passing” law requiring drivers to provide at least three feet of space when passing cyclists (LaFleur). The city should educate drivers on this law by posting signs along busy roadways.
While Lakewood’s flat topography make it easy for cyclists to get around, Cincinnati is a very hilly city. For inexperienced cyclists, this can make cycling extremely difficult. One solution to this problem is placing bike racks on buses. This has been done in Cincinnati and allows cyclists to ride the buses throughout hilly areas.
Cincinnati has taken great steps over the few years to become more bike-friendly. It’s bike planning efforts have been recognized by the League of American Cyclists, which awarded it a Bronze Medal (Bicycle Friendly America – Cincinnati Profile). With a dense urban fabric comparable to that of Lakewood, Cincinnati should continue in its efforts to promote cycling by investing in bike infrastructure throughout its neighborhoods.