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.

  • Cate

    This is really cool. I hope we keep this momentum going, and can soon implement a bike rental program throughout the city, like they have in Denver. It is so easy to use, and it’s a fun way to explore your city.

  • Jon

    That’s great news. I’m currently a resident in Indy, but planning to relocate to Cincinnati in the near future. Indy has also made monumental strides in being bike-friendly with many miles of new bike lanes, and even a bike hub downtown where one can park a bike indoors, shower, and rent lockers.

    I haven’t seen as much transformation in downtown Cincinnati, but I’m glad to know it’s definitely moving in that direction.

    PS where can I find information on the proposed lanes they plan to install in the near future?

  • adam.

    Jon, a preliminary welcome to the Queen City!

    you probably want this…

    and then Maps ‘C’ and ‘D.2’ there at the bottom.

  • This summer I’ve seen more bikes than ever downtown/OTR, never mind the billions spent on BSB, a few dollars spent on anything besides roads is going to have a huge impact on the local economy and quality of life.

  • Jon

    Thanks for the link and the warm welcome, Adam.

    To all of you, I highly suggest you make a day/weekend trip to downtown Indy and see firsthand what lies ahead for you. It’s an amazing sight. We have the Cultural Trail on its final stages (it’s a multi-modal ped/bike bath that runs around and through downtown Indy), and cyclists seem to pour onto it, even parts that aren’t quite finished yet.

    Looking at the map, kinda sad to see nothing along 4th St (where the lady lives), but at least everything surrounding has them. Also great to see cycletracks and boulevards in the pipeline as well. Hopefully some of the sharrows will turn into bike lanes in the future as well.

    Overall, very great to hear! And if you make the short drive west, let me know!

  • chuck

    Let’s make sure we know our apples and oranges. Pitts and Cincy are Oranges – Indy and Columbus are apples. Oranges have old, narrow, hilly streets. Apples are flatter, sparser and newer. Lots easier to add the bike infrastructure in a nice flat, newly built city. And the riding is physically a lot easier.

    On the other hand – an old city like Cincy has a huge advantage in the urban residential neighborhoods clustered close around the commercial core. All we gotta do is repopulate.

  • Neil

    Agreed with Chuck. If Cincy can get over the challenges of hills and narrow roads (and narrowing overbuilt roads that were widened in the 1960s like Liberty in OTR) then it would be one of the better bike cities in the us. When I was at MPMF, getting from Covington to OTR is a breeze, and would be way easier with the right infrastructure.

    For one thing I think they need grooves like these on the hillside steps:

  • Jon


    You make a very valid point. Thanks for pointing that out!

  • Mel


    The City’s Department of Transportation is planning on including bicycle ramps in all future hillside step renovations. (For example, I believe the Reading Rd steps renovation is slated to break ground next year, and will include a ramp.)

  • J

    I live downtown and have tested the water by going “bicycle, bus, or walk” for the last two months. I’ve only driven my car twice since then. Tomorrow I will officially be car-free.

  • Great to hear about the bicycle ramps, Mel. With Cincinnati being so hilly, it has a real opportunity to pioneer bicycle infrastructure geared towards those slopes and further improving urban bike culture in the Queen City.

  • Brad

    That’s fantastic that there is apparent growth in bike commuting (I’m all for it). But let’s be real, the statistic is very misleading. Cincinnati went from 0.2% to 0.6% who commute. Not to mention, it is bad form to express change on a percent as a percent. It is really a 0.4 pt change.

  • Jake Mecklenborg

    I doubt that the bike lanes and racks are doing much to encourage biking. More likely, Cincinnati is just part of a nationwide trend that has seen an increased interest in biking, and because it was almost certainly lower than average in the past, it can as a percentage grow much faster than cities with more biking in the past.

    Also, there are two types of bike riders in this city: those who climb the hills and those who don’t.

  • never saw those “groove” things before. Still, it’s not that hard to hoist an unloaded bike over your shoulder. I guess it’s kinda like what JM is saying about different types of riders. (& I do a lot of walking on the hills nowadays 🙂 )

  • chuck

    I’ve used those ramps before, they’re great. Gosh I wonder where I was? Funny thing is there’s a similar thing in Burnet woods next to the planetarium center, but I think it’s actually supposed to be a kid’s slide or something, from WPA days.

    The big deal is making it usable for those who ride to a job where you can’t be all stinky and messy. Certainly it’s a trend, spurred by gas prices, but visual encouragements like lanes and racks are big helps.

  • adam.

    those ramps are everywhere in china, though the design is a little different. it is just a 1′ wide path that runs next to the stair. takes a little more space but you don’t have to frame out a lip in concrete or purchase a steel rail. but yes, they are a great help to the commuter.

  • Neil

    “never saw those “groove” things before. Still, it’s not that hard to hoist an unloaded bike over your shoulder. I guess it’s kinda like what JM is saying about different types of riders. (& I do a lot of walking on the hills nowadays )”

    There are some on CTA stations on the Chicago EL. Figured since they were on those, they could be on hillside steps on real hills 🙂

    Also, where are the reading road steps at? I’m looking at a steps guide and see several going to reading road.

  • Mel


    The steps connect Highland/Liberty Hill to Reading Road across the street from the Staples. Apparently there is a high frequency bus stop nearby on Reading.

  • paul

    Those steps between Reading and Highland have been closed for some time. By closed, I mean there are signs stating as much and the path is overgrown. Not sure why the stairway was closed (you can speculate, I’m sure), but I’d bet they’ll open up again with the casino.

  • paul

    Stairway grooves: I always thought those things were built for sliding suitcases and such down while you walk the stairs! I suppose they can be used for anything, though: Bikes, strollers, suitcases, skater kids, ..

  • “I suppose they can be used for anything”
    First thing that came to mind was hot wheels.

  • Aaron Watkins

    Just curious, where did you find the information regarding the reading/highland steps repair? I would be very interested in knowing of any other planned repairs.