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.”

10th anniversary of French American Business Alliance celebrates transatlantic collaboration

Monday, April 4 was officially declared the French American Business Alliance (FABA) day by Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory. And business leaders and citizens from across the region came together in downtown Cincinnati to observe the founding of the institution’s 10th year.

According to FABA, the Cincinnati region area boasts a strong partnership with France, and claims to have helped foster economic, cultural and financial relationships between the European country and the Queen City.

“European countries account for 20 percent of Ohio’s exports and France is among the four largest markets with $8 billion in Ohio exports going directly to France,” said Richard La Jeunesse, President, French American Business Alliance. “FABA is a vibrant, cultural alliance that has played an important role in bringing people of diverse backgrounds and cultures together, to develop business relationships that support Ohio’s exporting efforts.”

What started out as an effort among friends (founding president Gerard Laviec and current European American Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Anne Cappel, among others) to help young European immigrants find community in Cincinnati has grown to over 850 active members representing 115 corporations. Recently appointed French Ambassador, H.E. Fracois Delattre, made his first visit to Cincinnati for the FABA anniversary, and had much to say about the strong links between France and the “Paris of the Midwest.”

“Cincinnati is a vibrant city, which is moving forward with innovative new policies, including great new developments in their infrastructure,” noted Delattre. “These new measures make France proud to contribute to Cincinnati’s growth.”

FABA and the European American Chamber of Commerce are continually striving to help connect Cincinnatians together under the umbrella of strengthened business and professional relationships. The EACC offers networking events during the year for young professionals looking to begin and continue connections with other globally minded individuals. The next event is a happy hour on Thursday, April 14.

Photograph of Anne Cappel addressing FABA at the 10th Anniversary Gala. Picture provided by EACC for UrbanCincy.

Cincinnati Brain Drain: Neil Clingerman

For those of you who don’t already know, over the last 10 to 20 years a large part of one of Cincinnati’s most historic neighborhoods has been lost. Back when I was in college, around 2005 or so, block after block of old houses were destroyed around the University of Cincinnati in order to develop new housing for students and young professionals. One of the hardest hit areas was Corryville, where literally about every other morning I’d be woken up by the high pitched sounds of construction equipment tearing through layer after layer of solidly built brick.

At that point in time Cincinnati was at a low point: the riots were still fresh in everyone’s memory, crime was way up, many cool places had shutdown due to “slowed business” and anyone who was young was jaded about what Cincinnati had to offer to those of us not enamored of living the suburban lifestyle.

These demolitions are what made me the most bitter about the city. When I was a kid, I lived in Warren County, and visited both Dayton and Cincinnati with my parents. Dayton was never a draw for me – it kind of felt just like many other older towns I also visited, like Columbus, or Indianapolis.

Cincinnati was different. I loved the city; it felt like a visualization of how a “big city” was always presented as in popular media, with its many densely built brick townhouses and apartments, and it felt like the place I could go to escape the overly manicured, sterile and cold humdrum of suburbia.

When presented with an option of what university I wanted to go to, part of my decision was based upon living in Cincinnati because of its character and urbanity. These demolitions took away that character and replaced it with something I could find in the suburb I grew up in. As a result I wanted very badly to leave and I did in 2007 after graduating. I felt as though Cincinnati had no future as it was throwing away its best asset, its built environment.

In talking with people down in Cincinnati about the city, over and over again I got the same opinion; “This place sucks”, “Cincinnati is no fun”, “This place doesn’t have anything to offer me as a young person”. When I presented to people how beautiful the architecture was they’d respond with a shrug. One person I knew even proposed turning OTR into a giant parking lot.

All of this negativity made me feel like I was powerless to make a difference against the march of redevelopment that was being lead by developers like Uptown Properties to turn Corryville from a classy but somewhat run down urban neighborhood, into a suburban-like wasteland of student apartment complexes and the occasional “fast casual restaurant”.

Fast forward a few years later. I’ve traveled to almost all of the great cities in the US, and now live in one of them; Chicago. While Chicago is great, I kept wanting to find a neighborhood that was like a restored Over-the-Rhine or Corryville. While there are places that come close, nothing really has the classic grandeur of those neighborhoods in Cincinnati. Traveling to the East Coast was a different story. I was met with large areas in famous cities like Boston and New York City that felt like larger and more lively versions of what I left behind in southwest Ohio.

Recently I decided use to Google StreetView to see how many US cities actually had the kind of built form and character Cincinnati had. Upon doing this, I found a lot more “Indianapolises” than “Cincinnatis”. I came to the conclusion that almost all the other cities that had Cincinnati’s level of urban character were nationally known places; Savannah, Charleston, New Orleans, Boston, San Francisco, and parts of Brooklyn.

I found out that Cincinnati was in the same league as major tourist destinations that drew tourists and residents alike to them for their beautiful old buildings. The question I began to ask was, why is Cincinnati not part of the party? Why is Cincinnati not thought of in the national consciousness at least at the level of Savannah as a place to go to be immersed in an old beautiful urban environment?

I felt that the answer was that Cincinnatians don’t care enough about their amazing assets to really use then to their full potential, and that the nonchalant way that Corryville was being demolished block by block was a symptom of one of the city’s biggest ills.

More recently, I’ve noticed an increased awareness and interest in Cincinnati’s history. With this increased awareness I took a few tours of OTR when I was in town, and realized just how important Cincinnati was in its heyday. This renewed interest in Cincinnati’s history, combined with a growing preservationist movement, made me passionate to work towards righting the wrongs that were committed against my old neighborhood in Cincinnati – Corryville.

It is up to city council, the city manager, and the mayor to fix the regulations currently in place that allow our historic buildings to be torn down at such an alarming rate. Ensuring that these wrongs that are being committed against the urban assets that could make Cincinnati a nationally known city, be stopped dead in their tracks.

If you show your support towards preservation and against demolitions, Cincinnati would be in a far better position to sell itself as one of the most beautiful places in the Midwest. If developers like Uptown Properties continue to get their way, Cincinnati will be a fading memory, a once grand proud city, dying away, slowly being turned into a wasteland of failed projects and failed dreams- a place that is no longer unique or culturally significant on a national scale.

Last weekend, I was talking with friends about how our generation handles civic duty. In this discussion, I brought up the activism I’ve been working on for preservation in Cincinnati. A waitress in her 20s or early 30s, paused and asked me to provide more detail. She then told me that she used to live in Cincinnati and was shocked anyone down there actually believed in how amazing the city’s built environment was and how it could be used to the city’s advantage.

She had felt that the attitude in Cincinnati was one of destroying it all, and was afraid that rumors she had heard of Over-the-Rhine being completely demolished would come true. She finally felt that if the city and its citizens actually cared about what made Cincinnati great, then maybe people like me and her wouldn’t be chased away from it. It was an interesting random encounter I had up in Chicago that made an excellent point. Cincinnati is losing population, enough people don’t like living there that they want to leave. The question that should be asked instead is what can Cincinnati do to make itself draw people again? The answer lies in part in preservation of its best asset: its historic architecture.

Here I am in Chicago. I could very easily not care about Cincinnati anymore as I don’t live there. Yet, Cincinnati is so unique as a city that it should do everything in its power to preserve that uniqueness. This uniqueness makes it not only an issue of local significance but of national significance too, as neglect of its high quality old buildings will cause this country to lose one of its greatest treasures.

The city council meeting earlier this week was exactly about this kind of issue. It’s about preserving the beauty of Cincinnati so that everyone in this country can enjoy it and consider living in it, and so that people who live in and around Cincinnati can be proud of it’s grand old buildings like the ones slated for demolition in Corryville as a hallmark feature of their great city.

Neil Clingerman is a 27-year-old IT professional working in the Financial Industry who lives in Chicago, but never fully took his heart away from Cincinnati. He was born and raised in southwest Ohio, and moved to Chicago after graduating from college in 2007 at the University of Cincinnati with a BBA in Information Systems. He describes himself as someone who is passionate about many different subjects including history, cities, politics and culture.