Cincinnati Ranks as Top Bike City

The 2016 biennial list from Bicycling.com shows Cincinnati ranked 36th out of 50 bike-friendly US cities. The ranking is determined by variables such as the number of bicycle facilities, bicycle-friendly businesses, bike-share programs, and the length and safety of infrastructure, amongst others. This year and since 2014, Cincinnati has seen a dramatic increase in bikeability, due to Red Bike and the Central Parkway bike lane, being hailed the 3rd fastest growing biking community in the US. Even with our successes, Cincinnati has fallen from last year’s rank of #35. So, why the fall from #35?

Bicycling.com claims the lack of progress on the City’s Bicycle Transportation Plan, adopted in 2010, coupled with the increasing urban population, with little access to bicycle infrastructure, for the decrease. This year, the first 4.1 miles of the potentially 7.6 mile Wasson Way was purchased just prior to the release of the biennial list. The first phase implementation of the trail, which is scheduled for next year could positively affect the city’s standings in future rankings. However; future on-street connections to the new trail would further boost the city’s access to bicycle infrastructure.

The Central Parkway Protected Bike Lane

This could mean that our rank will increase in coming years. With 100,000 people living within one mile of Wasson Way, the potential for new cyclists and trail-servicing businesses are high and will undoubtedly affect the bike friendliness of the city.

Plans are also underway to secure $21 million in funding to create 42 miles of bike paths, in order to connect Wasson Way, Oasis Trail, Mill Creek Greenway and the Ohio River Trail West. This project is known as Cincinnati Connects and if it passes, will further the city’s bikeability. Additionally, Cincy Red Bike has been an ongoing success; their annual installation of new stations, since its inception in 2014, has added to the momentum of Cincinnati’s bike friendliness.

Although change is afoot, Cincinnati still lacks the complete designation of being ‘bike friendly’ by its residents and outsiders, like those at the top of Bicycling.com’s list. When locals are asked about their view towards biking in Cincinnati, it’s still met by most with negativity: seen as an annoyance, while others are very concerned for their safety while cycling in the city. Cars still dominate the roadways, with some even parking in the bike lane along Central Parkway.

With the new year around the corner, Cincinnati appears to be on a continued path to being a top bike-friendly city however; the following issues are key: residents being made aware of the benefits and safety of cycling; continued implementation of the 2010 Bicycle Master Plan; and policy changes that mirror those cities at the top of the biennial list.

As Challenges Persist For Central Parkway Bike Lane, Cyclists Look to Organize

With National Bike Month coming to a close, the rhetoric surrounding the fate of the city’s lone protected bike lane continues. Following weeks of discussion and political wrangling, the city’s latest politicized transportation project will be studied again after two initial reports were found to be inconclusive by some leaders at City Hall.

The debate is, perhaps not coincidentally, taking place while the city’s bike community is becoming more active in terms of numbers of riders, group rides and political activism.

Last night at the Mercantile Library dozens crowded the venue to hear a panel discussion and engage in discussion about the current and future state of Cincinnati’s bike network. Organized by Queen City Bike and other area advocacy groups, the event served as an opportunity for people to constructively discuss the good and bad about the city’s bike infrastructure.

First adopted in June 2010, Cincinnati’s Bicycle Transportation Plan has served as the official document meant to guide policy decisions at City Hall. Since its adoption, however, the planning document has largely sat on the shelf, with targets for the development of bike lanes and other infrastructure falling behind schedule.

Mayor John Cranley’s administration has made it very clear that they are not interested in the development of on-street bike lanes, particularly those that are physically protected from automobile traffic. In lieu of pursuing those targets, the Cranley administration has instead focused on off-street bike trails; while also providing the critical upfront investment to launch Red Bike.

“Under our public-private relationships and support of council and a very vibrant cyclist community, in my opinion, we’re going to be the most bike-friendly city in America in four years,” Mayor Cranley told Aaron Renn in 2014. “We have three major bike trails that can be connected on abandoned train tracks into downtown; and, candidly, we intend to get all three of them build in the next four years. There’s just nothing like it in any city.”

National studies have found that protected on-street bike lanes not only provide the greatest level of safety for both bicyclists and motorists, but also encourage a greater range of demographics to bike. According to the American Journal of Public Health, this is largely attributable to the fact that streets with protected bike lanes saw 90% fewer cyclist injuries per mile than those without.

When it opened in July 2014, the Central Parkway protected bike lane was the first of its kind in Ohio. Since then other cities around the state have developed their own protected bike lanes, but Cincinnati has gone back to discussing the merits of the project after a handful of motorists complained that it made the roadway more dangerous and confusing to navigate.

Those suggestions were refuted in a report issued earlier this month that found conflicts along the 2.2-mile stretch of Central Parkway with the protected bike lane are no different, or even safer, than on other comparable streets around the city; but that further experience and education is needed for motorists.

“The Cincinnati Police Department and DOTE both believe that as drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians become more familiar with the area and with the rules for the bike lane operations, there should be fewer conflicts,” the report concluded. “DOTE will continue to monitor conditions, and improvements may be made in the future as best practices evolve.”

Whether the future of Cincinnati’s bike infrastructure continues to focus on off-street bike trails, or shifts to a more balanced approach is yet to be seen. Queen City Bike is hoping last night’s event, and others to come in the future, will help grow the number of people advocating for a more robust bike network, but also refine the vision based around what it is the community wants to see pursued.

The Cranley administration has put forth a proposed budget that increases spending on bicycle infrastructure, but the overwhelming majority of that money has been tagged for off-street trails, not protected bike lanes or other sorts of infrastructure improvements.

City Council has until the end of June to review, make proposed changes and approve next year’s budget. This will give the growing bike advocacy community a strong opportunity to make their voices heard.

1940s Era OTR Auto Repair Shop Being Transformed Into Bar and Beer Garden

A former automotive repair shop called Queen City Radio is being re-purposed as a bar with a large outdoor beer garden in Over-the-Rhine.

Chris and Louisa Reckman, along with her brother, Gabriel Deutsch, recently bought the 7,665-square-foot property at 222 W. Twelfth Street due to its terrific location that is within close proximity to the Cincinnati Streetcar, Washington Park, Music Hall, and the Central Parkway protected bike lane.

First constructed in the 1940s as an auto repair shop that focused on car radio installation, the new owners say that they wanted to keep the historic name in order to create a warm new atmosphere for the community.

“We had the idea because every time we drove past it, we saw this ugly parking lot and we need more green space in Over the Rhine,” said Louisa.

To that end, Louisa says that QCR will be dog friendly in order to welcome the many dog owners in the neighborhood – including those visiting the dog park at Washington Park. Additionally, for the dog’s owners, there will be 14 beers on tap, including both local and national brews.

“We just want it to be easy-going – a place where anyone can come,” Louisa told UrbanCincy. “We just want it to be a place where everyone feels comfortable.”

Louisa and her brother have background in the restaurant and bar industry, while her husband works for Urban Expansion – a development organization that has helped renovate spaces that include establishments like Happy Belly and Goodfellas.

Local places like those, and others, are what they say motivated them to pursue such an endeavor.

“We love Neon’s and places like that, but there aren’t that many of them down here,” Louisa explained. “So we said, ‘let’s bring some more greenery…let’s beautify the place.’”

As of now, the team says that they are aiming for a July 4 opening.

Such timing would place them amongst the first of several other planned developments nearby, including an 88,000-square-foot office renovation, the new Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, and a new 20-room boutique hotel.

Cincinnati’s Growth in Bicycle Commuters Third Fastest in America

Newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the number of people commuting to work by bike continues to rise all across the United States. The League of American Bicyclists took an in-depth look at these numbers and found that Cincinnati is one of the fastest-growing bicycling cities in America.

According to the data produced by the American Community Survey, Cincinnati has the highest percentage of people commuting to work by bike of any city in Ohio.

This places the Queen City in 31st place for the largest percentage of bike commuters in America. Columbus and Cleveland come in at 36th and 40th, respectfully. Toledo, meanwhile, was the only other Ohio city to crack the top 70 and came in at 67th.

“Cincinnati is leading the state in establishing bicycle commuting as a viable means of active transportation,” Frank Henson, President of Queen City Bike‘s Board of Trustees, told UrbanCincy. “We are coming to an understanding that bicycle commuting is safe, sustainable and a healthy choice for everyday transportation.”

What is perhaps more telling is that Cincinnati registered the third-fastest growth rate of bicycle commuters in American from 2000 to 2014.

During that four-year period, ACS data shows that Cincinnati saw a 350% increase in its percentage of bicycle commuters, trailing only Pittsburgh (361%) and Detroit (403%), and edging out Portland, OR (307%). Cleveland also clocked in amongst the top ten in this category with a 238% increase; while Columbus registered a 124% increase. For Cincinnati this builds on its impressive showing over the previous decade where it was a Midwest leader.

Industry experts note that a common thread between many of the communities registering the fastest growth rates is increased investment in bike lanes.

In fact, it was in June 2010 when Cincinnati adopted and began implementing its Bicycle Transportation Plan, which calls for 445 miles of on-street and off-street bike paths by 2025. While that plan mostly calls for non-protected bike lanes, best practices have quickly evolved and now protected bike lanes, like the one on Central Parkway, are widely considered the safest and most efficient alternative.

“Ironically, these days when drivers yell at me for riding in the street, they are just as likely to yell ‘Get in the bike lane!’ as ‘Get off the street!”, explained Margy Waller, who helps organize several group bike rides throughout the year. “To me this suggests that drivers understand the value of the bike lane for all street users. Unfortunately, the drivers don’t seem to realize that most streets don’t have a bike lane, but I bet they’d support more of them.”

While the growth in the number of people commuting by bike is impressive, it still accounts for less than 1% of all commute-related trips in Cincinnati. Implementation of the Bicycle Transportation Plan has been important in notching these improvements over the past four years, but that progress has been slow and inconsistent.

VIDEO: The Easy and Inexpensive Way For Cincinnati To Make Its Streets Safer

Anyone who rides a bicycle to work, either their own or on a Cincy Red Bike, knows all to well the commute mostly involves sharing the road with automobiles. With the current city administration focusing more on creating recreational trails for bicycle hobbyists, cyclists who bike as a form of transportation can only daydream about better on-street bicycle infrastructure.

That daydream could come closer to reality with the release of a new animation from planner and author Jeff Speck.

An accomplished author of books such as Walkable City and Suburban Nation, Speck describes four simple street reconfiguration options that would better accommodate all modes of transportation without adding to the roadway’s width. In order to accomplish that, the techniques include narrowing lanes, adding striped or buffered bike lanes.

Planners and engineers have found that such changes have a minimal impact on the flow of vehicular traffic, by adding only seconds onto commute times.

The street in the video is 38 to 40 feet in width, which is just about the average width of many streets throughout Cincinnati. In fact, UrbanCincy proposed a similar reconfiguration of Elm Street through the Central Business District in 2013. Such transformations have been noted to positively impact safety.

“Such a change on Prospect Park West in Brooklyn reduced speeding by 77% and reduced injury crashes by 63%, while having no impact on car volume or travel times,” Speck noted in the video.

When Randy Simes first wrote about the Elm Street reconfiguration, he explained that it would also serve as a critical connection point between the protected bike lane on Central Parkway and the Ohio River Trail. While Elm Street is a particularly obvious choice, other streets throughout the city could and should get some of the same treatment.

One another prominent example is Liberty Street, which Cincinnati’s Department of Transportation & Engineering has been looking at for years as a potential road diet candidate. Originally designed for much higher traffic volumes that were never realized, Liberty Street’s 70-foot width now functions more as a safety issue for people walking or biking, and as a barrier between the northern and southern portions of Over-the-Rhine.

Those plans for Liberty Street were originally envisioned by the Over-the-Rhine Brewery District, which then convinced City Hall to perform some planning work. At this time, however, the project does not appear to be moving forward.

Speck’s video makes it easy to see that for the cost of paint it would be relatively easy to install a more comprehensive bike network on streets throughout the city. Such changes would improve safety, increase the number of people riding bikes, which probably means more Red Bike usage, all while slowing down traffic just a tiny bit. Besides, even automobile drivers may appreciate not needing to directly interact with so many bicycles on the street.