Making the most of Cincinnati’s boulevards and parkways

City Parks points us to the efforts underway in New York City to make better use of the boulevards and parkways there. Cincinnati knows a thing or two about boulevards and parkways as it is cris-crossed with beautiful and relaxing drives through the city, but how wonderful are these boulevards and parkways for bicyclists and pedestrians?

In New York City, the transportation department there is working aggressively to add separated bike lanes along central medians. These dedicated lanes offer two separate lanes – one for each direction of bicycle traffic. At the same time public officials are looking to plant more trees and install additional benches and garden areas within those median spaces.

Locally a great example for this would be Central Parkway. Central Parkway is one of the beautiful routes through the city and is a delight to use as a motorist with the established trees, soft curves, and romantic lighting schemes. Many bicyclists see Central Parkway as a great route for bicyclists looking to avoid the hilly landscape between the Uptown neighborhoods and Downtown-area neighborhoods in the basin.

LEFT: Pike Street in NYC being equipped with bicycle lanes, plaza spaces, and has preserved its trees (Photo from StreetsBlog). RIGHT: Central Parkway in Cincinnati’s downtown was recently redone with new trees, wider medians, planters, new lighting, and plenty of grass to go around (Photo from Queen City Survey).

There is a problem though. City transportation officials have cited the parkway design standards that are in place as a hurdle towards incorporating dedicated bike lanes than are physically separated from vehicular traffic. The current standards along Central Parkway call for a double row of trees along the parkway to maintain that beautiful tree cover. These standards did not apply to the recent improvements made along Central Parkway through Downtown – a project that could have easily included these dedicated lanes in addition to the trees, lighting, and other landscaping that was incorporated there.

While avoiding getting into the dirty engineering requirements for roadway design, more needs to be done to work with bicyclists and pedestrians in creating more hospitable public thoroughfares for more than just automobiles. In this case the trees probably could be preserved while also creating physically separated bike lanes. In one of the most densely populated and space-cramped cities in the world, New York City is not only providing physically separated bike lanes for each direction of bike traffic, but they’re planting more trees, adding more benches and making better use of their space.

By Randy A. Simes

Randy is an award-winning urban planner who founded UrbanCincy in May 2007. He grew up on Cincinnati’s west side in Covedale, and graduated from the University of Cincinnati’s nationally acclaimed School of Planning in June 2009. In addition to maintaining ownership and serving as the managing editor for UrbanCincy, Randy has worked professionally as a planning consultant throughout the United States, Korea and the Middle East. After brief stints in Atlanta and Chicago, he currently lives in the Daechi neighborhood of Seoul’s Gangnam district.