Cincinnati’s Department of Transportation and Engineering (DOTE) is indefinitely postponing a Riverside Drive bike lane project due to concerns over construction on I-471 diverting traffic to Riverside Drive. The delay could range from a year to two years.
[UPDATE: City Council on March 28 put its support behind constructing the bike lane despite DOTE's recommendation. Click here for more or scroll to the bottom of this page.]
The idea for Riverside Drive bike lane project arose in summer 2011, after the city developed the “Bicycle Transportation Plan.” Proponents say installing bike lanes on Riverside Drive is needed to make the street a safer commuting route for East End residents.
Currently, the road is a busy commuter thoroughfare to downtown, but problems with speeding and poor infrastructure pose safety risks to bikers. The project, which would remove one driving lane from Riverside, would’ve converted the road into a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood road. Some, including DOTE, are concerned the project would severely clog the road if constructed at the same time as the I-471 project.
According to construction plans, I-471 would remain open during the work. Columbia Parkway, which also runs from the East End to downtown, is touted as a more viable alternative for commuters.
Project supporters, including the East End Area Council, say the decision to halt its progress means the city is reneging on promises laid out in the Bicycle Transportation Plan.
“We are dismayed that the city of Cincinnati administration considers the convenience of the eastern suburban commuters who all speed through our neighborhood above the safety of the people who live and work in the East End,” reads an email from the council to City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr.
Queen City Bike has also expressed concern over any delay, adding it would require another analysis, “effectively wasting the work done and taxpayers’ money spent so far.”
City Council will hold a meeting to discuss DOTE’s decision at 2 p.m.
March 28. Queen City Bike has encouraged bike advocates to attend the session to show support for moving the project forward.
UPDATE MARCH 29: Bike advocates that have been holding their breath in hopes of seeing the Riverside Drive bike project come to fruition can exhale again, thanks to another change in the status of the project. The issue still hasn't been resolved, but on Wednesday supporters of the Riverside Drive bike lane project crossed a major barricade when a City Council meeting ended with every member present in agreement that the project should move forward without delay.
The only council member who didn't cast a positive vote was Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who was out of town and unable to attend the meeting. The meeting garnered significant community support, including East End residents, business owners and Queen City Bike representatives.
Last week, the city's Department of Transportation and Engineering (DOTE) announced that the project would be postponed for a year to two years in hopes of preventing traffic overflow on Riverside during the impending construction project scheduled for I-471.
City Council's overwhelming support to ignore DOTE's recommendations means the project could move forward as scheduled.
Ostendorf, who is an avid cyclist, describes the commute on Riverside heading downtown during rush hour as "really intense."
"There are a lot of really large trucks on that road, which is why cyclists are so wary of riding on there. Nobody's looking for a little cyclist on the side of the road," she says.
The bike lane project would presumably create a significant buffer between the bike lane and the road, protecting cyclists from large trucks and speeding drivers. Cyclists say Columbia Parkway, which also runs from the East End downtown, is a far more viable alternative for commuters inconvenienced by I-471 construction. Speed limits on Columbia Parkway are higher than on Riverside Drive, and the infrastructure is markedly unfriendly for bikers, while Riverside Drive holds far more potential.