The Plus looks at bike-friendly Cleveland and Northeast Ohio:
What do the following cities have in common? Boulder, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Madison, Cleveland… any guesses? Each of these cities was named by Bicycling magazine as one of the 50 friendliest biking cities in the country. Not bad company to be in, right?
While biking has long been a favorite pastime of many Northeast Ohioans, thanks in large part to the numerous scenic trails found throughout the region (there are more than 275 miles of biking trails in Northeast Ohio!), recent trends support the notion that biking is about more than healthy living. As high-tech entrepreneur, Mark Gorton, recently discussed at a City Club event, cities and communities that cater to cyclists and pedestrians tend to be more successful in luring and retaining the younger generation – a demographic deeply important to all of Northeast Ohio as they are known in some circles as the “knowledge economy.” What is more, bike-friendly cities and regions frequently have a reputation of being the most progressive and forward-thinking communities in the nation.
Gorton, who started Openplans, a New York-based nonprofit focused on promoting biking and walking in city centers, used New York City and Chicago as examples to illustrate his point. He suggests that urban centers that better connect areas of commerce tend to reap the benefits – namely, economic benefits. Luckily for Northeast Ohio, there has been a concerted effort over the last several years to do just that.
Leading the charge in Cuyahoga County is Bike Cleveland, a new nonprofit devoted to advocating for the bicycling community. Earlier this year the group hired Jacob VanSickle as its first full-time executive director – a position found in other major cities such as Chicago and Portland. Currently, a key focus of Bike Cleveland is the West Shoreway Project – an effort that seeks to “…transform a 2½-mile freeway-style road along Cleveland’s lakefront into a tree-lined lakefront boulevard. The project will replace the current concrete barrier with a landscaped median and will create connections between city neighborhoods and the lakefront for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.”
This project is one example of how the city is seeking to better connect its many assets and in turn spur development. Supporters of the project believe that it will help position Cleveland as a vibrant 21st Century city while revitalizing neighborhoods along the West Shoreway. Bike Cleveland is asking supporters to write to the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to ensure the project receives full funding and moves forward on schedule.
In addition to the West Shoreway Project, last summer Cleveland took a major step in solidifying its position as a bike-friendly locale with the advent of a new facility calledThe Bike Rack, which is supported by the Downtown Cleveland Alliance. Located in the North Gateway Parking Facility at East 4th and High streets, The Bike Rack is the region’s first “first full service bicycle parking and commuter center.” Offering 50 secure indoor bike parking spaces and 10 outdoor spaces, the facility is modeled after theMcDonald's Cycle Center in Chicago's Millennium Park.
Facilities like The Bike Rack will become increasingly important as more and more downtown workers take to cycling. In fact, as noted in this article from Fresh Water Cleveland, “.8 percent of Clevelanders now use a bicycle as their primary mode of transportation to work -- a figure well above the national average of .53 percent.”
As Cleveland and the surrounding area continue to develop a thriving biking community, so does Akron. This past March, the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study (AMATS) approved a plan covering Summit and Portage counties designed to promote commuter cycling. Their plan focuses on so-called “priority investment corridors,” which were “identified by their connections to such major attractions as job centers, community centers, schools and retail locations…” (Ohio.com).
In all, 63 roads were identified as “top-priority bicycle corridors.” Essentially, AMATS’ plan aims to make Akron and the surrounding communities more bike-friendly by developing bicycle lanes, wider shoulders and road sharing signs.
While local communities will decide what improvements are made, AMATS can help secure federal funding and urge communities to incorporate bicycle planning into future transportation projects.
As the bicycle movement gains momentum across the region, Youngstown is also taking steps to create a bike-friendly community. The Downtown Bike Rack Initiative, for example, spearheaded an effort to bring more bike racks to downtown Youngstown. Developed to encourage more people to bike instead of drive, the bike racks are also intended to show that Youngstown is a forward-thinking community.
To further illustrate this point, these specially-designed bike racks are not what one typically sees on most street corners. Crafted to look like simple, sleek, classical bicycles, Youngstown’s new racks were designed by three local artists - Charles Hughes, Tony Armeni and Daniel Horne. The black handlebars and wheels form a “YO,” which is often used as shorthand for the city’s name. Check out the image below to see the stylish bike racks for yourself.
As we can see, biking is more than a mere fad in Northeast Ohio. The initiatives mentioned above are indicators of how the region is working to build a thriving bicycling network, which represents more than an alternate mode of transportation. Cities and regions that embrace bicycling as part of their urban cores are viewed as innovative leaders, attracting the talent and ideas necessary to grow an economy. While there is still much work to be done, Northeast Ohio’s emphasis on better connectivity supports the argument that the region is looking ahead to its future. As Northeast Ohio competes with cities from across the nation for talent, jobs, businesses and more, we can point to the efforts currently underway, which continue to make us competitive in key areas.
So Northeast Ohio, strap on your helmets, pump up your tires and join the ride.
|7-9 September 2012|
Brussels Gay Sports will offer a weekend of fun and fairplay in the capital of Europe, with volleyball, swimming, badminton, and tennis, as well as fitness and hiking.
Learn more HERE.
|26-28 October 2012|
The success of the first edition of the QueergamesBern proved the need for an LGBT multisport event in Switzerland. This year will be even bigger, with badminton, bowling, running, walking, floorball.
Learn more HERE.
|17-20 January 2013|
Sin City Shootout
The 7th Sin City Shootout will feature softball, ice hockey, tennis, wrestling, basketball, dodgeball, bodybuilding and basketball.
Learn more HERE.
|13-16 June 2013|
IGLFA Euro Cup
After this year's edition in Budapest at the EuroGames, the IGLFA Euro Cup heads to Dublin for 2013, hosted by the Dublin Devils and the Dublin Phoenix Tigers.
Learn more HERE.