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.

MOVE Coworking Aims to Offer Non-Traditional Workers Healthy, Active Workspace

Ryan Meo and Patrick Hitches will open a coworking space in the Brighton District of Cincinnati’s West End neighborhood later this month. The two are taking a different approach and hoping MOVE Coworking will fare better than its predecessors.

Hitches and Meo describe the concept as an “active collaborative environment” that mixes the traditional shared working space with a fitness training facility. It will be the first of its kind in the region and stands in contrast to the three shuttered coworking spaces – Cincy Coworks, Working Side by Side and The Offices – that came before it.

“We believe living an active, healthy lifestyle helps to spark innovation, creativity and productivity,” Hitches explained. “We know from experience that the integration of hard work and play creates an element of true productivity, creativity and innovation in whatever your work or business may be.”

The business partners say that they believe part of the problem with other coworking spaces is that they essentially recreate a quiet office environment that many independent workers are looking to escape – something new pay-per-minute cafes are also trying to combat. To that end, they say that MOVE Coworking will include communal tables, stand-up desks, hanging hammocks, lounge areas and eventually treadmill desks.

Meo and Hitches come from different non-traditional work backgrounds that they believe will contribute to the success of their new business venture. Hitches has worked as a fitness entrepreneur, splitting time between Washington D.C. and Cincinnati, and Meo has spent his professional career doing web development outsourcing. They also say that, in addition to their non-traditional work backgrounds, they were motivated to make this investment due to all of the positive changes taking place in the city.

“There’s no denying the momentum and excitement of the changing neighborhoods all across downtown Cincinnati,” Hitches said. “I look around at all the architecture that has for so long been underutilized and really can’t believe we’ve waited this long to utilize these unique buildings. To me this is a huge opportunity to snag up one of these spaces to create a vision while cultivating a community of people who are also passionate about the positive changes to the city.”

The two are particularly excited about the historic warehouse building they will be located in, and Hitches, who lives car-free, says that as an avid cyclist he is also thrilled about the new Central Parkway Cycle Track out front.

MOVE Coworking will take up 5,000 square feet of space in the basement of the historic Mohawk Building. In order to get the space into the proper condition and fully outfitted, they say that they have invested somewhere around $100,000.

Those looking to use the coworking space or fitness component will have several options. Hitches says that every coworking package will include a membership to the gym space, but that people can also purchase fitness memberships independent of the coworking space. He also says that a yoga space will be added later this fall, and be inclusive in specific membership packages, while also being sold separately for those who just wish to access the yoga studio.

It will cost $20 for drop-in use of the coworking space, or $199 per month for a three days per week package and $270 per month for full-time 24-hour access. As of now, rates start at $70 per month for those who just wish to get a fitness membership.

“Instinctively I always wanted a place where I could go part-time to do some focused online work outside the gym or coffee shops where I would set up my laptop,” Hitches told UrbanCincy. “I now have a place in D.C. where I can utilize space that allows me to have a network of people outside the fitness professionals who I’m around daily in the training studio.”

With that in mind, Hitches and Meo are now hoping they can attract local entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and young professionals that are in search of an alternative workspace, where they can also surround themselves with other health-minded individuals.

MOVE Coworking will start giving private tours to potential members this week, and will have an official launch party on Wednesday, August 20.

VIDEO: Are ‘Protected Intersections’ the Next Bicycle Infrastructure Innovation?

The City of Cincinnati and other area municipalities have been working to improve the region’s bicycle infrastructure in order to both make cycling more attractive and safer. Those improvements have included new bike lanes, sharrows, cycle tracks, trails and dedicated parking for bikes.

City officials say that protected bike lanes, like the cycle tracks to be installed along Central Parkway, offer the larger population an incentive to get out on their bicycles. Those officials point to results from public polling that show large percentages of people that would be open to riding bikes if they felt safer on the roads, and that protected bike lanes would do wonders to accomplishing that.

But Nick Falbo, an urban planner and designer at Alta Planning+Design, thinks protected bike lanes aren’t enough.

“Protected bike lanes lose their benefits when they reach intersections,” Falbo states in his six-minute-long video proposal. “The buffer falls away and you’re faced with an ambiguous collection of green paint, dashed lines and bicycle markings.”

In his submission to the George Mason University 2014 Cameron Rian Hays Outside the Box Competition, Falbo proposes what he calls the Protected Intersection – a design overhaul for intersections that he says will not only improve the value and safety of protected bike lanes, but also make the intersection more usable for all modes of traffic.

“It doesn’t matter how safe and protected your bike lane is, if intersections are risky, stressful experiences. We need to make intersections just as safe and secure as the lanes that lead into them. What the protected bike lane needs is a protected intersection.”

INFOGRAPHIC: The Abandonment of Cincinnati’s 1914 Subway and Rapid Transit Loop

Cincinnati’s abandoned rapid transit project is a subject of continual interest. Although many are familiar with the unused two-mile tunnel beneath Central Parkway, little remains of the ten miles of surface-running right-of-way built in the mid-1920s between Camp Washington and Norwood.

This graphic by Andy Woodruff, from the UW-Madison Department of Geography, illustrates which sections of the so-called Rapid Transit Loop were built, which parts were replaced by expressways, and which parts were planned but not funded and built.

Cincinnati Subway System

So why was the Rapid Transit Loop started but not completed?

The project had several forces working against it, especially wealthy Downtown landowners who stood to lose money and influence if the city’s most valuable property shifted from Fountain Square north to Central Parkway. The likelihood of that happening was heightened by the Rapid Transit Commission’s decision to forego construction of the Walnut Street Subway as part of the project’s first phase.

Those who owned property lining Central Parkway knew that construction of a tunnel under Mt. Adams, linking the Loop’s never-built eastern half, would likely cost less than construction of the Walnut Street Subway and cause the loop’s traffic to bypass the city’s established epicenter entirely.

The second interest acting to scuttle the subway project was the consortium of seven steam railroads that commenced construction of Cincinnati’s spectacular Union Terminal in 1929.

An ancillary feature of the Rapid Transit Loop was its intention to serve the area’s electric interurban railroads at a multi-track terminal centered beneath the intersection of Race Street and Central Parkway. The interurban terminal’s more convenient location promised to erode the redundant services of the steam railroads.

Editorial Note: In addition to focusing on UrbanCincy’s transportation coverage, Jake authored a book about Cincinnati’s infamously abandoned subway and rapid transit project. First published in 2010, Cincinnati’s Incomplete Subway: The Complete History is considered to be the most comprehensive analysis of the events leading up to and after one of the city’s most notorious missteps.

Cincinnati Seeking Feedback on Two Bike Infrastructure Projects

The City of Cincinnati is studying two new streets for potential bicycle enhancements, and officials with the Department of Transportation & Engineering (DOTE) are looking for the public’s feedback.

The first project is on Delta Avenue where they are considering adding a five-foot bike lane on both sides of the street, and the second is a larger project along Central Parkway that is considering adding either striped bike lanes or physically separated cycle tracks along a 2.2-mile stretch of the roadway.

Delta Avenue Bike Lanes
The Delta Avenue project will take place between Columbia Parkway and Erie Avenue, but will not impact Mt. Lookout Square. DOTE officials say that the schedule calls for repaving to begin in early 2014.

Right now planners and engineers are looking at two options for Delta Avenue. One option would maintain the existing roadway conditions that include two 10-foot travel lanes and two 18-foot travel/parking lanes.

Delta Avenue Proposed Section

The second option would modify this layout to include two 5-foot bike lanes, two 10-foot travel lanes, one 9-foot left turn lane, and two 8-foot parking lanes.

The proposed reconfiguration, DOTE officials say, would provide safety benefits for bicyclists, pedestrians and automobile drivers, and is similar to what was recently installed on Madison Road between Woodburn Avenue and O’Bryonville.

In addition to improving bicycle accessibility along Delta Avenue, the new bike lanes would connect into the recently installed bike lanes on Riverside Drive, which will be extended into the downtown area later this year.

“Delta Avenue is a primary cycling route from Riverside and downtown to the city’s eastern neighborhoods, and these plans will help to calm traffic and make the street safer for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists,” Queen City Bike president Frank Henson stated.

Those interested in sharing their feedback regarding the Delta Avenue project can do so by visiting the City of Cincinnati’s webpage for the project and answering a few brief questions.

Central Parkway Cycle Tracks
The larger Central Parkway project is planned to be built in two phases, with the first phase of work stretching from Elm Street in Over-the-Rhine to Marshall Avenue in Fairview.

Neighborhoods along the first phase of the project have already been approached about the project, and the City of Cincinnati received a $480,000 Transportation Alternative grant from the federal government, administered through the OKI Regional Council of Governments, in June 2013.

This portion of the work is being studied in three separate segments due to existing roadway configuration.

Dearborn Street Two-Way Cycle Track
City officials are looking into the possibility of installing a two-way cycle track along Central Parkway – similar to Chicago’s two-way cycle track on Dearborn Street. Image provided by Active Transportation Alliance.

The first segment is from Elm Street to Liberty Street, and due to the median that divides Central Parkway there, it is considered unfeasible to have a two-way cycle track. As a result, the DOTE is considering only two options – the existing road with no enhancements or one-way cycle tracks on both sides of the street.

The second segment being studied in phase one is from Liberty Street to Brighton Avenue, and is studying three options in addition to the existing conditions. The first would be a 14-foot, two-way cycle track on the west side of the street, the second would be 7-foot-wide one-way cycle tracks on both sides of the street, and the third would be 5-foot bike lanes on both side of the street.

The final segment within the first phase of the Central Parkway project is from Brighton Avenue to Marshall Avenue. Here, the same three options are being considered as for the second segment. The only difference being the two-way cycle track on the west side of the street would be 12 feet wide instead of 14 feet.

“Adding a cycle track to Central Parkway will create a safer, family-friendly space for people on bicycles and will exponentially increase the number of people using bicycles in this corridor,” explained Mel McVay, senior city planner with Cincinnati DOTE. “This project is a game changer for Cincinnati – it has the ability to completely change the way people feel about riding bicycles in our city.”

Those looking to share their thoughts on which design option would be best can do so by completing a very short survey on the Central Parkway project’s webpage.

The second phase of work along Central Parkway would then progress northward from Marshall Avenue to Ludlow Avenue, where the city’s first green bike lanes were installed in November 2012. The details have not yet been worked out for this phase of work, but will progress as soon as funds become available.

“Both of these projects would be extremely beneficial if completed,” noted Queen City Bike executive director Nern Ostendorf. “What bike lanes and especially cycle tracks do is they expand the accessibility of biking on city streets to more users who consider biking on roads without special bike facilities too dangerous, or at least too stressful.”

This story was originally published in the July 19, 2013 print edition of the Cincinnati Business Courier. UrbanCincy readers are able to take advantage of an exclusive digital membership and access all of the Business Courier‘s premium content by subscribing through UrbanCincy‘s discounted rate.