PHOTOS: Ohio’s First Protected Bike Lane Attracting New Riders to Central Parkway

As bicycling continues to grow in popularity in Cincinnati, the city has built out more and more bike infrastructure. These new accommodations, including the new protected bike lanes on Central Parkway, are making it safer for bicyclists and are attracting more riders.

The Central Parkway Cycle Track provides a new protected, on-street route for bike travel between downtown and neighborhoods to the north, including Northside, Camp Washington and Clifton.

City transportation planners say that there has been apprehension for many cyclists to ride in high volumes of speedy traffic. This is particularly true for Central Parkway, which officials say was often avoided by many due to the intimidating nature of the street’s design that favored fast-moving automobiles. Since the opening of the Central Parkway Cycle Track, however, city officials say that there has been a substantial increased in bike traffic there.

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Bike advocacy groups consider the project to be the first of its kind in Ohio. It stretches approximately about two miles from Elm Street at the edge of downtown to Marshall Avenue in Camp Washington.

The protected lanes differ from other bike lanes recently built in other locations around the city in that they are separated from moving traffic by a painted median several feet wide. To further delineate the two modes of traffic, the median also includes flexible plastic bollards spaced about 15 to 20 feet apart. This separation then pushes on-street parking out away from the curb.

At one point along the parkway, close to Ravine Street, the southbound lane leaves the street to run on a newly constructed path along the sidewalk for several hundred feet in order to allow 24-hour curbside parking. The off-street path is made of concrete dyed in a color intended to resemble brick.

During the heated debate over this design change, many expressed concern that construction of the new pavement could result in the loss of a large number of trees. Fortunately, due to careful planning and design coordination between city planners and representatives from Cincinnati Parks, who have oversight of the city’s landscaped parkways, they were able to preserve many of the trees in this area. According to city officials, only two trees in total were lost due to the lane.

Transportation officials are now working to link these protected bike lanes along Central Parkway with future bike routes along Martin Luther King Drive and on the reconstructed Western Hills Viaduct.

Furthermore, after work on the Interstate 75 reconstruction project near Hopple Street is complete, planners will consider the extension of the protected lanes north to Ludlow Avenue. But first, Mel McVay, senior planner at Cincinnati’s Department of Transportation & Engineering, told UrbanCincy that the first segment needs to be examined first, and additional community feedback will be necessary.

“We need to see how successful the first section is,” McVay explained. “It [the second phase] will depend on what the community wants.”

EDITORIAL NOTE: All 25 photos were taken by Eric Anspach for UrbanCincy in late September 2014.

  • Kendall Jolley

    Just as a geographical technicality, Central Parkway doesn’t ever enter Camp Washington. The Marshall terminus of the PBL is in Fairview (aka CUF).

    As for extending the bike lane itself, it sounds like this needing “to see how successful the first section is” is more code from the current administration for delaying projects they don’t like without ever saying they’re off the table. We know already that the bike lane is successful, which means this is more or less a pocket veto.

    • Neil Clingerman

      Cranley will just tell everyone to ride the sidewalk to the north, like he does all the time in spite of city code saying otherwise.

    • EDG

      I agree with you in theory but knowing how consistently City Engineering operates, the quote should be interpreted as wanting to make sure extending these to the north in the near future is more desirable than adding lanes elsewhere. I would rather see this turn down Central to the casino or into the CBD to the river than pushing it now into what’s a giant interchange construction zone.

    • Kendall Jolley

      Perhaps not Clifton save for a few hardy souls, but extending the pbl over the Ludlow overpass would serve Northside, Cumminsville and St. Bernard better and connect them to downtown in a safer route than the freight heavy Spring Grove route that’s currently best. I do agree that there needs to be an east/west path in either downtown or OTR (I’d suggest 12th St rather than Central Parkway due to the streetcar) and then to the river via Eggleston is a good plan. Getting to Main St from the bike path is a bit of a challenge right now.

    • I’m a bit partial to the idea of extending this protected bike lane south along Elm Street through the CBD and connecting it with the Ohio River Trail at Mehring Way.

      You can see how that concept would work here:

    • Kendall Jolley

      Elm Street would be good save only the stretch between 4th and 2nd, where there’s heavier auto traffic heading to the I-75 NB entrance accessed via 4th. You would certainly need to separate traffic signals at the 4th St intersection, I would think, and I imagine there would be plenty of grumbling from auto commuters for their precious lost seconds at that light, but it seems a very workable plan.

    • Sure…that area would need some special attention. There is the possibility that once the new BSB is constructed, and the Third Street ramp finally activated, that the Fourth Street ramp could go away, which would be great news for Fourth Street.

    • In all fairness to the current administration, this was essentially the approach laid out from the very beginning since the funds were not available for the entire stretch. The idea was to build this first segment, which is actually pretty big, and then see what happens and go from there.

      I suspect that once everyone sees that these protected bike lanes don’t wreak chaos on traffic or parking that even those originally opposed to it will calm down. Seeing is believing.

    • Derek Johnson

      Sorry to burst your bubble, but Central Parkway north of the Western Hills Viaduct is mostly in Camp Washington.

    • Kendall Jolley

      I have very few bubbles to burst, this is certainly not one of them and I was actually happy to figure out I was half wrong. So thank you for the correction, the West side of Central Parkway is in CW and the East side is in Fairview for that stretch.

    • I always love the neighborhood boundary debates in Cincinnati. We should host a town hall debate about the Uptown neighborhood boundaries. Bringing that up always stirs quite the heated debate.

  • Derek Bauman

    What exactly are the criteria for ‘success’? People are using it, there are no complaints about parking, and everyone seems to have caught on how to drive and park around it. What more do you want?

    • I guess since it’s a first of its kind in not only Cincinnati, but the entire state, some transportation officials will want to make sure they implemented it the best way possible. No harm in that.

  • EDG

    First time hearing that first protected lane in OH, that should be bigger news.

    • There are a couple others moving forward right now, but this is the first to be completed. I guess Cleveland will have the state’s second.

      For what it’s worth, Cincinnati was also the first place in the state to use green bike lane markings. Those can be found on Ludlow Avenue at the bottom of the hill near Cincinnati State as you approach Northside.

  • Let’s call that “newly constructed path” what it is: a ridiculous detour onto the sidewalk because someone with political clout didn’t want to lose their tax-subsidized parking.

    • Well we had to wait until early October, but we’ve finally got the winning entry for ‘Comment of the Year’. 🙂

  • David Thomas

    I was dissapointed when they finally finished paving Madison Road from Dana/Observatory to Ridge that they didn’t add an acutal bike like like Madison has through O’bryonville and Walnut Hills.

  • Hate to break it to you, but Akron has had a protected bike lane since at least this summer.

    • EDG


    • Kendall Jolley

      Not that it matters who’s first, but there’s no documentation of a protected bike lane at either AMATS or switching gears, both of which are really great about keeping up to date on Akron bike infrastructure projects. I’m curious what street this pbl is on.

    • Interesting. I had received word from some bike advocacy groups that were calling this Ohio’s first. I’d be happy to be wrong. Sometimes there is some confusion based on what different places consider protected bike lanes.