Elm Street Cycle Track Would Provide Critical Link for Region’s Bike Infrastructure

The city will start construction on physically separated bike lanes along Central Parkway, from Downtown to Clifton, this coming spring. Following a community engagement process, a final design was selected in recent weeks, and the large addition to Cincinnati’s bike network is expected to make a significant impact.

Not only will it be one of the most impressive bike facilities installed in the region to-date, but it will also link neighborhoods together that have large percentages of bicyclists. Furthermore, it will link other bike facilities with one another, and come close to linking even more.

Some of the existing facilities include numerous bike lanes and the Mill Creek Greenway, but the Central Parkway bike lanes will come about 12 blocks shy of connecting with the Ohio River Trail, which then links to the Little Miami Scenic Trail.

A two-way cycle track should be built in order to connect the new Central Parkway bike lanes with the Ohio River Trail and beyond.

Elm Street Cycle Track

There are two streets that connect from Central Parkway to the Ohio River Trail along Mehring Way without interruption: Main Street and Elm Street. Both of the streets have one-way traffic heading northbound, but Main Street is considerably more congested with cars and buses heading to Government Square.

Elm Street, however, has some of the least congestion of any north/south street in the Central Business District and could easily connect the Central Parkway cycle track with the Ohio River Trail. A reorganization of the street would need to occur however.

Presently Elm Street, from Central Parkway to Mehring Way, lacks consistency in its design with on-street parking located haphazardly along both sides of the street. A reconfiguration of the street could consolidate all on-street parking to the east side of the street, thus eliminating only a nominal number of on-street parking spaces, and maintain 2 to 3 moving traffic lanes (the parking lane could be restricted during rush hours to allow for a third travel lane).

The Elm Street cycle track, meanwhile, would be located along the west side of the street and be buffered from moving traffic by a row of bollards. Such a redesign of Elm Street would be a bit of a road diet, but one that seems reasonable for this stretch of overbuilt roadway.

Planners with the City’s Department of Transportation & Engineering (DOTE) said that the idea of an Elm Street cycle track had not come up before, and has not been presented to any formal committees or community councils to-date. Such coordination, they say, would need to take place prior to the idea moving forward.

With future phases of The Banks and the yet-to-be-named residential tower on Fourth Street set to begin construction soon, there seems to be an opportunity to rebuild this roadway along with those projects. This would help offset some of the costs and make for a more seamless transition.

Projects like this are low-hanging fruit for the new mayor and council, should they wish to pursue investments that improve the city’s bike infrastructure. They should work with the bike community and come up with a strategy that provides a clear path forward to make this happen.

An Elm Street cycle track like this would provide a critical link in the region’s bike network, make the street safer, more accommodating to more users and more attractive to those who currently find themselves along the now bleak and desolate stretch of roadway. Let’s get to work.

  • Noibn48

    May be easier, less costly to continue the lanes along Central Parkway where they can hook up with the two way Eggleston and then to the parks, The Banks, Riverside Drive, etc. .

  • margyartgrrl

    It would be terrific to have a conversation about how to reconfigure OTR and CBD streets to make the area more friendly for people who ride bikes. For example – the one way streets (and streets that shift from one-way in one direction to one way in another) are a particular problem. So are the numerous no-turn-on-red signs (which don’t even seem to make sense for drivers in most cases). Meanwhile, this Elm Street idea is definitely worthy of consideration!

    • Agreed. Part of the reason I wanted to share this idea was to get people thinking differently about how we use our streets. There are many possibilities and opportunities throughout the entire city.

    • Eric Douglas

      13th was just converted to two-way, but who knows when Walnut and Main will revert back to two-way as they’ve been treated the same way since the 80’s- extensions of downtown commuter streets despite the fact that through OTR they are no longer major commuter routes. Central Parkway is the biggest underutilized asset downtown and OTR share and it fits in better with biking improvements that have been made already to the north, but it’s been historically over engineered to the point of no longer even being a parkway. To have significant policy and infrastructure improvements for bikers takes a mayor that cares about it- Rahm in Chicago, Ballard in Indy- and we haven’t had our biking mayor yet.

    • Ashley Henderson

      This is really nice looking as well!

    • Ashley Henderson

      I totally agree! This would be GREAT! Also have you guys checked out the brewery districts proposal for Liberty street. It also looks GREAT! Let’s do it!!! Come on CC and Mayor Cranley! Separating the bike lane from cars is ideal since it seems like people dont know how to deal with cyclists. Oakley, where I live, is a perfect example. I love riding my bike but am terrified they are going to hit me. I have been ran off the road before and am NOT A FAN!

  • The only hiccup I could see is Elm seems to have more parking garages than most, plus the convention center. There would be cars crossing the bike lane on almost every block. Maybe if the bike lane ran up the east side of Elm it would be safer.

    • I don’t think the convention center element will be much of an issue, nor will the garages. Sure, there will be some curb cuts, but that’s inevitable. You would have similar issues putting it on the east side of the street. The reason I chose the west side is because it appeared to have fewer conflicts. At the end of the day the City’s DOTE will have to look at it in detail and come up with a more precise design than my mock-up. 🙂

  • Mark Christol

    I’m reminded of the scene from the 1931 movie, Frankenstein, where the doctor pleads with his mad accomplice, “Oh, come away Fritz. Leave it alone, just leave it alone.”

  • I hope someone takes this idea, or another similar one (I like the Central Parkway to Eggleston suggestion) to the Downtown Council.

    • I have been informed that the city’s bicycle committee has added it to their list of projects to discuss in 2014. A lot of people have been very receptive of the idea…I think, as always, that it will come down to funding. Perhaps OKI can get involved.

  • matimal

    How will cranely work to undermine this?