For more than three decades, Cincinnati officials have let the city’s formal bike plan sit on a shelf while the city, its transportation needs and residents have changed around it. That attitude of benign neglect is about to change.
This spring, the city’s Transportation and Engineering Department will present a new comprehensive Master Bike Plan to Cincinnati City Council.
The plan is being finalized now, and includes months of work and public input. It’s the signature piece in a recent effort to make Cincinnati more bike-friendly. City Council approved funding for the $150,000 plan after local bike enthusiasts began asking for more attention.
“This has really been driven by hearing the desires of the cycling community,” says city senior engineer Jim Coppock, a member of the Bike Plan Advisory Team. He also happens to be a cyclist who commutes to his downtown office every chance he gets.
Although some are skeptical that the plan will be implemented anytime soon, there’s reason to be hopeful. While many city programs recently have faced budget cuts or elimination, funding for the bike plan remained intact last year.
“We put in a request for funds to City Council even when other programs were being cut.
Council supported it and kept it in the budget,” Coppock adds.
The plan was crafted with the help of Boston-based Toole Design Group, which specializes in transportation planning and has done similar work for Baltimore, Fairfax County, Va., and Maryland.
Cincinnati’s far-reaching plan aims to double the number of people cycling for transportation in the next five years.
Other goals include:
• Reducing the annual bicycle/motor vehicles crashes by 50 percent in five years
• Completing a citywide Trails Master Plan within three years.
• Including bicycle accommodations in at least 50 percent of repaving projects and 50 percent of street rehabilitation/reconstruction projects beginning in 2011
• Developing and growing a bicycle skills and safety education program that, within 10 years, reaches 75 percent of public and private elementary school students
• Applying for and receiving bronze status as a League of American Bicyclists “Bicycle Friendly Community” by 2015 In order to meet the goals, there’s plenty of work ahead. It will take a major effort to make the city more accommodating to cyclists, including educating drivers and cyclists on correct rules of the road (and enforcing those rules), adding or widening bike lanes to city streets, planning new routes and increasing signage.
As expected, the plan has enthusiastic support from the city’s cycling community, which has been highly involved in the months-long planning process. Organizations like the Cincinnati Cycle Club, Queen City Bike, MoBo Bicycle Cooperative, Bike Newport and others are among its proponents.
“I think it’s going to be a really practical and pragmatic plan,” says Katie Vogel, a member of the bicycle pedestrian advisory committee and a member of MoBo’s executive board. “It’s really focused on how the city works and its terrain.”
Vogel, a UC urban planning graduate student, says having a community that’s easy to navigate by bike is crucial to developing a modern, attractive urban transportation system.
“If we don’t provide options and alternatives then we can’t expect people to get out of their cars to walk, or bike, or get on bus or train,” she adds.
Vogel was one of hundreds of people who — in some fashion — contributed to the bike plan. There was a public meeting/ open house in Northside last October, two neighborhood working bike rides last fall and a stakeholders workshop in February that focused on public involvement in implementing the plan.
Additionally, more than 600 people completed an online survey assessing the city’s current bike program (most respondents graded it in the C to F range), including how safe cyclists feel, the level of mutual respect between motorists and cyclists and the completeness of the bicycle network.
The complete survey can be found on the comprehensive Bike Transportation Program web site here.
The Master Bike Plan will be presented to the public in late April or early May.
“It’s a really exciting opportunity to bring together a diverse group of people who live in Cincinnati,” Vogel says.