Episode #60: 2015 in Review (Part 2)

Liberty StreetOn the 60th episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast, Travis, Randy, John, Jake Mecklenborg, and Jacob Fessler continue our discussion from our previous episode looking back at the 2015.

We start off with a discussion of the Liberty Street Road Diet, including whether bike lanes are needed on this type of street, and also discuss the future of the city’s master plan for bikes.

Finally, we discuss the role of industry along the Mill Creek valley and discuss whether Queensgate could have a future that incorporates other uses than industrial.

  • Mark Christol
  • Brian Boland

    Queensgate, what to do there? The near end to downtown could be retrofitted to create an urban neighborhood just west of downtown. To the far west side, actually Lower Price Hill, there should have been some effort to keep some of the old warehouses and convert them into housing. Lower price hill could be a very nice, small urban neighborhood some day.

    • Lower Price Hill is a gorgeous neighborhood that just needs some TLC. It’s a particularly fascinating place because it is a current crossroads between the city’s Apalachian and Latino populations.

    • matimal

      The “Latino” population in Lower Price Hill is quietly fading, or at least keeping a low profile. I think we can all guess why.

  • Jonathan Hay

    You guys put on a great podcasts. I’m generally impressed with your level of thought and knowledge. However, I think your a little too dismissive of the value of protective bike lanes through major corridors. There are many segments of the population (not represented on your panel) disproportionately elderly, very young, and female that increase their bike riding substantially when they feel safe and will never feel safe riding on major streets through the west side. Increasing the access for these people in particular and the public in general should not be underestimated.

    • I agree, and I think Jake touched on this a little bit when he was talking about the bike route crossing the Anderson Ferry that is “no big deal” for him (as an experienced rider) but would be too challenging for someone less experienced or differently abled.

      However, for most streets in the CBD and OTR, I think cars and bikes should be able to share the road and feel comfortable together. The comfort level will improve as we calm ultra-wide streets like Liberty, convert some of our urban one-way streets back to two-way, and as drivers get used to the concept of sharing the road.

      We should focus on adding cycle tracks to streets like Central Parkway, where more cyclists would otherwise feel uncomfortable, and places like Elm Street that could serve as a link between other major trails and cycle tracks.

      Personally, I would also love to see contra-flow bike lanes implemented on the one-way streets downtown. They are such a simple, inexpensive way to make biking more convenient and safer, and will have virtually no impact on speed or capacity for cars.

    • Thanks for the feedback. For what it’s worth, I am very pro-protected bike lanes. In fact, I would prefer that be the standard. My comments about downtown streets are basically what Travis said. In most cases the streets are narrow enough with slow enough traffic that they’re relatively comfortable places to ride. Of course, the one-way traffic on them does not help, which is something that could be addressed without needing to add protected facilities.

      But to you’re point, we should be providing all the safety and comfort necessary to make biking an actual option for all types of people. We do this for every other form of transport, so I don’t see why it should be different for bicycling.

  • Andrew Baker

    Just got back from a trip to Japan and got me thinking a lot about bikes. In japan bike traffic 95% of the time flows on the sidewalk with pedestrians. Like in the U.S. I believe riding on the sidewalk is illegal but absolutely never enforced like it is in NY. And a big part of why it isn’t has to do with the culture surrounding why we use bikes. As I’m sure what is similar to S. Korea and much of Asia, nearly every bike has a basket on the front and people generally use the bike for small shopping excursions and not for exercise, thus reducing the speed of travel and making it safer for bikes and pedestrians to co-exist. (though red-bike begins to change this in a way)

    If Liberty were in Japan, the road would likely be reduced to 4, maybe 5 lanes and the sidewalk would be widened to include bike and pedestrian traffic. Although this is, to me, the best solution for Liberty road itself, it presents the problem of bike riders assuming this as the norm for all throughout the city, which simply can’t happen because of how narrow the sidewalks are elsewhere.

    Until our culture changes to use bikes for daily errands, the protected bike lane (by parking) seems like the best solution. It keeps bikes on road level and has a minimal startup cost. Lanes like these in Manhattan, 1st and 2nd Ave. through East Village for example, have become biking highways throughout the city. And wherever your destination may be, you think of how the side streets connect to these bike lane highways. Liberty really should take on this roll as the East/West lateral bike highway in Cincinnati.

  • thebillshark

    Great episode! Here’s my thoughts regarding Liberty Street. First and foremost, I think a good amount of land needs to be returned for development on the south side of the street. The street will never feel whole again until there are buildings facing it on the south side. Secondly, through traffic must be reduced to one travel lane in each direction (a single turn lane in the middle to facilitate this is OK as well.) This will keep cars from traveling through at high speeds and prevent race-car like traffic weaving behavior. Then, if there is room left over to accommodate bike lanes or permanent parking lanes, that’s great. Here is my feedback to the city from the workshop they held at Woodward Theater: https://cincinnatiideas.wordpress.com/2015/12/16/liberty-street-conversion/

    • I would love to see Liberty Street turned into one lane in each direction with a center turn lane, but I don’t think we will ever see that happen, unfortunately. I also like the idea of having two lanes of on-street parking with one travel lane in each direction (no turn lane). During peak hour periods the on-street parking could be restricted.

      In either of these two cases, however, I think traffic would be calmed enough to allow for the safe movement of people on bicycles. It will also narrow the street to an extent that pedestrians could cross safely, without the need for building lots of midblock crossing amenities, while also freeing up land on the south side of the street for development.

    • thebillshark

      It seems to me the only obstacle is having the political will to do it…

      According the the NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials) Urban Street Design Guide manual, it should be fine capacity-wise (if I am reading and understanding everything correctly.) Is that manual not mainstream in the world of traffic engineers?

  • Interesting discussion. I think on Liberty St., it’s important to remember the hesitancy from City Hall to create “another Central Parkway.” Ie, protected bike lanes are unlikely, and narrowing to less than 4 lanes with at least one lane of parking is likely to create a delayed backlash the way Central Parkway did. I hope the political will exists for a true road diet, but we’ll have to see what happens if/when it were to hit Council.

    • Aaron Hamlin

      The Central Parkway design is problematic because the parking lane was not full time parking. Consequently, you now have folks that park inside the bike lane itself. That wouldn’t have happened had the parking been made full time. Otherwise, it creates too much ambiguity for drivers and the markings aren’t clear.

      As an aside, a recent report by the city—which it quickly withdrew—indicated that even with the poor design of the lane, it had no greater risk for accidents.

  • Aaron Hamlin

    I would have loved to have heard these talking points at the last meeting at the beginning of March!

    Here’s a design with the absurd amount of lanes that they want: http://streetmix.net/aaronfhamlin/3/liberty-street-with-bike-lanes-n-s-remix

    If you wanted, you could even go crazy with dedicated bus lanes (and absurd turning lane): http://streetmix.net/aaronfhamlin/4/liberty-street-with-dedicated-bus–bike-lanes-n

    Without turn lane and more permanent parking and separated bike lanes: http://streetmix.net/aaronfhamlin/5/liberty-street-with-separated-bike-lanes-n-s

    Also, all permanent parking additionally permits extended curbs to reduce exposure to pedestrians. Note that 9′ lanes naturally reduce the traffic speed.

    I can understand the point of a street not needing a bike lane if it’s a slow side street. But for a street like Liberty, it’s really essential to get folks besides healthy adults riding. A 20-30 something male is not your litmus test for a safe bike lane. The litmus test for a safe bike lane is a grandparent riding with their grandchild.

    I feel bad that I didn’t learn about this until more recently.