Cincinnati’s Efforts to Improve Urban Bicycle Culture Paying Huge Dividends

Cincinnati’s aggressive efforts to bolster bicycle infrastructure appear to be paying dividends. In a report released by The Atlantic Cities, it was discovered that Cincinnati has experienced a 200 percent increase in those commuting by bicycle over the past decade.

The study found that many cities across the United States, particularly those in the Northeast and Midwest, experienced rapid increases in the number of bicycle commuters.

Commuter bicycle growth from 2000 to 2009 – Source: The Atlantic Cities.

While Cincinnati saw one of the fastest growth rates in the entire nation, it also now boasts the fifth highest overall percentage of bicycle commuters in the Midwest. Only Columbus, St. Louis, Chicago and Minneapolis have a higher percentage of bicycle commuters than Cincinnati.

That news was further punctuated Cincinnati’s “Honorable Mention” at the 2011 Bicycle Friendly Community awards held in Washington D.C. At the awards, only 22 cities were recognized nationwide.

“Bicycling is a critical component of vibrant urban areas,” explained Michael Moore, Director, Department of Transportation & Engineering (DOTE). “Bicycle Friendly Communities provide more transportation choices for citizens, are more physically active, environmentally sustainable, and enjoy increased property values, business growth, and increased tourism.”

Temporary on-street bicycle parking for the MidPoint Music Festival – Source: Queen City Bike.

City leaders believe the wave of good news comes as a result of significant policy decisions made over the past several years that have included new on-street bicycle parking; passage of comprehensive bicycle safety legislation, legislation requiring bicycle parking in all new parking garages, and a comprehensive bike plan; the launch of a Bicycle Friendly Destinations program; the construction of a new Bike & Mobility Center at the Smale Riverfront Park; and the completion of new bike lanes, sharrows, and bike trails throughout the city.

Recent decisions to install temporary on-street bicycle parking for the MidPoint Music Festival seem to further emphasize the city’s prioritization of the two-wheeled mode of transportation.

In total Cincinnati city officials plan to have 340 miles of bike lanes and paths in place by 2025. Currently the city has only 20 miles of bike lanes and paths in place, with five of those miles being installed over the past year. Future plans call for completing the remaining segments of the Ohio River Trail and adding additional miles of sharrows, dedicated bike lanes and paths.

For comparison, an infusion of money similar to that of the Brent Spence Bridge project ($2-3 billion) would enable the construction of roughly 20,000 miles of dedicated bike lanes, and pay for their maintenance.

2011 MidPoint Music Festival Arrives

The 10th annual MidPoint Music Festival kicks off today in downtown Cincinnati posting arguably the most ambitious yet refined line-up since it started. Over the course of time MidPoint has changed dramatically. In its humble beginnings, when founder Bill Donabedian got the music started, MPMF was focused on unsigned bands and had more of a conference format. Back then, even the most ardent music fan could be intimidated by the line-up of unknown acts from all over the country. As Mr. Donabedian has turned his focus to commitments with 3CDC, Cincinnati’s CityBeatand more specifically Dan McCabe, the direction of the festival, and the MPMF brand itself, have gone through changes.

The 2011 version of MPMF features 180 bands (down from 220 the last few years) with a laser like focus on bringing quality acts in instead of going for quantity. With national and international acts including Cut Copy, Okkervil River, The Dodos, and even acclaimed soul artist Booker T, MPMF is no longer just about musicians that are unsigned and unknown.

Additionally, the MidPoint brand has been used to promote the indie concert series on Fountain Square the last two summers bringing in both national & established local acts each and every Friday night from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Add in the fact that there was even a MidPoint stage at the Western & Southern Tennis Masters Series , it is clear that the brand has been utilized to capture nearly all things indie rock featured in Cincinnati.

Brand awareness and changes to the format itself have meant more ticket sales for the festival the last few years, with box office receipts up 27% from 2008-2010. It has also been reported this week that sales of the 3-day wristbands are up 75% from last year. It is not too late to pick one up still, but today is the last day and the only place they are available is on the the MidPoint Midway.

One of the most impactful changes for 2011’s MPMF is the renewed focus on historic Over-the-Rhine. During the last few years, MPMF reached as far south as Newport using the region’s premeire mid-sized concert venue, the Southgate House, as a destination. This year, MPMF has included the new performance areas at the School of Creative and Performing Arts located on Central Parkway for some of its larger acts, replacing Southgate.

Additionally, past venues have included performance spaces on 5th and 6th street, including Fountain Square, but this year the furthest south the festival will be is 8th Street with both Arnold’s and The Blue Wisp. Overall, including the venues along Central Parkway, 13 of the 17 venues will be in Over-the-Rhine. In having such a condensed space, MPMF will not feature modes of transportation like it has the last few years, but as we have already reported here at UrbanCincy, it will feature amenities made for bicyclists throughout the weekend.

While OTR has always been a major piece of MPMF, the addition of the MidPoint Midway this year on 12th Street is a new idea MPMF has incorporated OTR in a brand new way. The Midway will feature the closure of 12th Street between Vine and Walnut to include food vendors including Tom + Chee and Vinnie’s Gourmet Pretzels performance spaces via Artworks Box Truck Carnival, and a music stage. This incorporation of a public space in the neighborhood really speaks to the partnership between MidPoint and Over the Rhine.

If you haven’t picked up your tickets yet, the 3-day wristbands are available today only on 12th Street on the MidPoint Midway. There are also 1-day passes, and you are able to pay cover charges at individual establishments as well. Most venues are 21+, though there are a few including the SCPA and the stage on the Midway that are all ages, so make sure to double check if age is a concern. And while the weather looks dicey for the weekend, dodging raindrops is a MPMF tradition, so come out and enjoy live music in historic Over the Rhine all weekend long. Hope to see you in the neighborhood this weekend!

Bicyclists to get VIP treatment at tenth annual MidPoint Music Festival

Throughout the summer, tens of thousands of music fans gathered on Fountain Square for the MidPoint Indie Summer music series. The series was an opportunity for fans to get a free preview of some of the 186 bands that will perform over MidPoint Music Festival’s (MPMF) 18 venues in downtown Cincinnati and historic Over-the-Rhine (OTR).

For those music lovers and more, the three-day festival is now almost here with the first bands taking their respective stages at 7:30pm on Thursday, September 22.

Those looking to easily get around Cincinnati’s urban core during the festival will have a new amenity this year thanks to festival organizers and the City of Cincinnati who have partnered to convert six on-street automobile parking spaces into 72 on-street bicycle parking spaces.

These new temporary spaces will join the permanent on-street bicycle parking outside of Park+Vine on Main Street, and the dozens of permanent off-street bicycle racks found around MPMF venues. There will also be a number of new temporary off-street bicycle racks provided during the festival which is expected to draw more than 20,000 music fans.

“We want to encourage festival goers to try going carless this year,” said Michael Moore, director of Cincinnati’s Department of Transportation & Engineering (DOTE). “With all of the venues located in such a compact area in OTR and Downtown, this is a great opportunity to experience how easy it is to get around town on a bicycle.”

In addition to a robust new bicycle parking plan, MPMF has also added The Righteous Room and The Lackman as official after party locations. In the festival’s tenth year, it is also taking a more decidedly Over-the-Rhine focus with nearly 80 percent of the music venues now located within the historic neighborhood.

Organizers say that single tickets and three-day passes are still available, and can be purchased online or at the door for whichever performance you are interested.

OKI seeking public input on 2040 regional transportation plan

The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) has been working to adapt and produce a transportation plan that would affect the Cincinnati area for the next 30 years.

The regional council released a presentation in August outlining the goals and plans meant to address Greater Cincinnati’s current and projected transportation needs. Citing objectives like mobility, environment, economic vitality and efficiency, the presentation describes OKI’s projections for both population and job growth in the future, and hints at how the council plans to address the region’s transit needs.

According to OKI’s projections, the regional population is expected to grow from 1.9 million (in 2005) to nearly 2.4 million people in 2040. Every county is expected to grow in population and job creation. With these numbers in mind, the council has planned, or is carrying out, a total of 33 highway projects and six transit projects, which include bus purchases, park and ride facilities, transit centers and the Cincinnati Streetcar project.

According to OKI, transit currently accounts for approximately two percent of trips taken throughout the region. Whether lack of ridership is due to an inadequate and struggling system remains to be seen, but for whatever reason, OKI appears to be putting the majority of their focus for the future into highway maintenance and construction, with multi-modal transportation options as an afterthought.

While the August presentation only mentioned freight rail, Robyn Bancroft with OKI had this to say about the future of commuter rail in Cincinnati:

“The current plan includes rail transit (Eastern Corridor and Cincinnati Streetcar) and right-of-way preservation for regional rail transit corridors,” Bancroft stated. “How the public feels about these issues is important to us and we hope the meetings may provide some feedback. It is our goal to produce a multi-modal yet fiscally constrained plan, so we have some limitations.”

OKI leadership expressed concern, to UrbanCincy, about the potentially harmful effects of Issue 48 (the anti-rail amendment on the ballot this election) could have on future systems.

Brian Cunningham of OKI said, “[passage of Issue 48] will absolutely have an effect on the streetcar project, but it’s very possible that projects like the Eastern Corridor, Oasis Line, and securing future right-of-way for multi-city rail is also in jeopardy.”

Cunningham emphasized the importance of public input to help shape the future of the region’s transportation system. “If regional commuter rail is a priority for Cincinnatians, they need to let us know. We very much value community input, and every form of communication – whether at public meetings or through email and mail – helps us to understand where the priorities are for our constituents.”

If an effective, regional commuter rail and transit system is something you would like to see in Cincinnati by 2040, please speak up and let the OKI Regional Council of Governments know. There are three community open houses coming up – one of them is today, September 15, at the Crestview Hills City Building (map) from 4pm to 7pm. The other two meetings will take place September 27 at Xavier University’s Cintas Center (map), and September 28 at Butler County’s Government Services Building (map).

Today also marks the official kickoff of the No on Issue 48 Campaign. Cincinnatians for Progress is looking for volunteers to help get the word out about this damaging amendment to the City’s Charter. Sign up here.

Your voice makes a difference. Speak up for Cincinnati and let it be heard.

Moerlein Lager House takes shape at $120M Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park

The new 45-acre Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park is making tremendous progress just south of The Banks development along the Ohio River. Phase 1 of the $120 million project is now visually recognizable and the final pieces will soon come together in order to reach its projected completion date in spring 2012.

One of the most anticipated elements of phase one is the Moerlein Lager House. Once complete, the 15,000-square-foot establishment will become the region’s largest brew pub ahead of the Hofbrauhaus just across the river.

In this latest round of updates, Christian Moerlein owner Greg Hardman discusses the inspiration for the dramatic mural that will greet customers as they enter the Moerlein Lager House.

In addition to the Moerlein Lager House, phase one updates also include the Walnut Street Fountain & Stairs, Bike Mobility Center and Ohio River Trail.