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Cincinnati: Complete Streets, Road Diets, and Traffic Calming

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Amazing photographs with article link...

 

Completing the streets of Cincinnati

http://www.soapboxmedia.com/features/0714soapdishstreetsofcinci.aspx

 

Mention "Complete Streets" to the average citizen slurping on Graeter's in downtown's Fountain Square and you're likely to receive at best a glazed shrug. Throw out the topic to a gaggle of urbanistas and ersatz urban planners and you're likely to receive breathless praise and rhapsodic evocations of an equal access/multi-modal urban playland in the pulsating heart of downtown.  Coincidentally or not, as will be explained below, the very fact that the nonplussed ice cream eater is, in fact, eating ice cream on Fountain Square (as opposed to driving by in a car and pointing at the fountain on their way to the freeway and their suburban-based UDF), is a direct corollary to the Complete Streets mode of thinking.

 

But let me back up for a moment.

 

For the curious and/or uninitiated, the Complete Streets ethos, as it were, evokes the concept that the streets of our cities and towns are an important part of the livability of our communities. The goal is to open up the streets for everyone, whether young or old, motorist or bicyclist, brisk, arms-akimbo walker or rolling wheelchair user, dedicated bus rider, streetcar jumper or humble shopkeeper.

 

Unfortunately, however, many of our streets are designed for a single purpose, a dedicated throughway for the glorious and almighty automobile….and, more specifically, the wholesale evacuation of downtown in the most expeditious manner possible, quickly funneling you to your desired interstate of choice with nary a second to spare.

 

In order to provide a bit of balance to the auto-heavy equation, communities across the country have joined a burgeoning movement to "complete" the streets.  States, cities and towns are asking their planners and engineers to build road networks that are safer, more livable, and welcoming to everyone.  Twenty-two jurisdictions nationwide adopted policies in 2008, and 17 have done so in 2009. In total, there are 96 jurisdictions committed to Complete Streets. More locally, Lexington, Kentucky recently won accolades for its 2008 Streetscape Master Plan, which established guidelines and strategies for the transformation of downtown Lexington in a manner consistent with the Complete Streets ethos, including the conversion of almost all of the downtown streets from one way to two way traffic.  By instituting a complete streets policy, transportation planners and engineers seek to design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind - including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities, as well as the venerated horseless carriage. 

 

Compared to other cities, Cincinnati's downtown core has an admirable big city streetscape.  Downtown has pretty much the only straightforward urban grid that you will find in the region, consuming the boundaries of the basin with both a numerical street grid running from South to North, as well as the East to West streets that can be readily recalled with that handy dandy mnemonic device known as "Big Strong Men Will Very Rarely Eat Pork Chops," (i.e. Broadway, Sycamore, Main…etc.).  Moreover, Cincinnati's narrow streets, compressed dimensions, tall buildings and compact setbacks elicit comparisons to much larger and more renowned urban streetscapes.  In describing Cincinnati to outsiders, I have often likened the urban vibe in the core to that of a "big, little city" (or is it "little, big city"….?)  Regardless, the downtown grid has a suitably intimate vibe and compares favorably to the six to eight lane arterial wastelands and concrete canyons that can be found cleaving their way through the hearts of other neighboring cities such as Cleveland, Indianapolis and Detroit, not to mention some of our suburban neighbors (Beechmont or Colerain Avenues, anyone?). 

 

That said, however, Cincinnati would clearly benefit from a hearty injection of Complete Streets philosophy into its urban planning models.  To that end, the Mercantile Library, no doubt the oldest membership library West of the Alleghenies (circa 1835), recently hosted a productive presentation on Complete Streets featuring devotee and City Council fixture Roxanne Qualls, along with urban planner/architect Clete Benken, of the Kinzelman, Kline Gossman firm, which designed and labored over the award winning 2008 Lexington Plan.  Qualls kicked things off by noting, somewhat simplistically, but correctly, that "great streets equal great cities," and pointing to New York as a city which is continually reclaiming the streets to encourage walkability and multiple modes of transportation.  As Qualls effused, the city's streets can serve to showcase its local assets.  Unfortunately, however, the flipside is that they can also serve to obfuscate and discourage people from even caring about those assets. 

 

An apt anecdote can be found in the old complaints about the makeover of Fountain Square.  As noted in a prior Soapdish column, many of the crusty complaints about the $42 million Fountain Square makeover could readily be distilled down to "we used to be able to see the fountain while zooming by on 5th Street in our car at 35 mph….now we have to actually get out of our car, and we're not happy about it."  From a Complete Streets perspective, getting you out of your car and onto the Square fosters a community, an attachment to the great public spaces and their focal points, in this case, the fountain known as the "Genius of Water."  This in turn provides local businesses with customers to feed their hungry cash registers, and livens the streets with pedestrian traffic.   

 

Similarly, echoes of the Complete Streets theory can be found in the rationale behind removing some of the sporadic "Skywalks" around town.  While certain people enjoyed the protection from the elements offered by the Skywalks, the human habitrail tubes also served to siphon people and businesses away from the ground level, thereby diminishing the liveliness and urban feel of downtown sidewalks and replacing them with something of an elevated mall corridor.

 

Case in point--I work in a building several blocks from Fountain Square.  If I so desired, I could take the Skywalk through a series of uninspiring and often dimly lit corridors on my way to the Square.  In actuality, I can't imagine choosing to take the human habitrail route other than in sub-zero blizzard or deluge conditions.  There's simply something far more invigorating to be found in walking the relatively bustling streets of the city, an urban camaraderie that falls curiously flat within the interior corridors of the Skywalks.  Fortunately, Cincinnati recognized this as yet another one of those failed experiments from urban planners past, and dismantled several key links in the system, particularly those in and around Fountain Square.  In so doing, the human element which previously shuttled hither and yon on a second story bypass, is re-introduced to the great public space, in this case Fountain Square.   

 

Tune into next week's Soapdish for "concrete" examples as to how Complete Streets can make a difference in Cincinnati.

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Completing the streets of Cincinnati Part 2

http://www.soapboxmedia.com/features/0721soapdishcompletestreet.aspx

 

In last week’s edition, your trusty Soapdish reported back on the discussion at downtown’s Mercantile Library (no doubt the oldest membership library West of the Alleghenies (circa 1835)), which featured Complete Streets enthusiast and City Council fixture Roxanne Qualls, along with urban planner/architect Clete Benken, of the Kinzelman, Kline Gossman firm.

 

As noted on these very virtual pages last week, Cincinnati has been taking a few hesitant steps toward embracing certain aspects of the Complete Streets philosophy, recognizing  that our streets serve not only their vehicular masters, but also the pedestrian, bicyclist, scooter aficionado, unicyclist, unicorn rider and anyone else looking to partake in the exterior urban tapestry of our fair city. To this end, the City’s Department of Transportation & Engineering has been working for the past eight months to develop comprehensive Complete Street design guidelines.  The draft plan is expected to be completed this Fall, at which time they will launch a webpage where the public can go to view or download the draft guidelines, submit feedback online and provide additional commentary.

 

While admirable in the abstract, putting these theories to work can be problematic, and many have voiced concerns over certain Complete Streets tenets. Take, for example, the fundamental concept of reinstituting two way traffic on downtown streets.  Benken worked closely with Lexington in instituting their 2008 Master Plan, which converted all but one of the downtown streets back to two way, and is more than familiar with the road blocks which can be thrown up.  For example, many would argue that there is no way a narrow street such as downtown Cincinnati’s 4th Street could be converted to two way traffic replete with bike lanes.  Au contraire, cites the Complete Streets theorist, noting that, with careful planning and synergistic engineering, such a conversion can and has been done with a modicum of disruption, and even narrow spaces can integrate bikes, cars and pedestrians if done properly.

 

Moreover, there is no actual need for a beautiful and historic urban thoroughfare such as 4th to serve as the arterial gateway to northbound Interstate 75.  Interestingly enough, when Ft. Washington Way was constructed, an access ramp from 3rd to 75 North was constructed, ostensibly intended to serve as the feeder to the freeway and thereby alleviating the need to use 4th street as an urban evacuation route.  Unfortunately, however, that dusty ramp remains inexplicably closed, and even Qualls did not have a ready answer as to why.

 

Additionally, it’s not just downtown that could gain from such an approach. The sprawlburbs could also certainly benefit from the addition of amenities such as sidewalks and other exotic urban accoutrements (see, http://www.soapboxmedia.com/features/47soapdish.aspx). Qualls noted that converting McMillan and Taft back to two way traffic would be at the top of any Complete Streets agenda implemented in Cincinnati, observing that the conversion of those streets to one way literally “destroyed” Walnut Hills and the Peebles Corner neighborhood.  Piping in on that theme, Benken observed that the conversion of one way streets to two way, while complex, can work if coordinated with a variety of initiatives.  For example, trolleys and streetcars can encourage more people to walk and leave their cars outside of the downtown core, thereby freeing up space by alleviating the need to have cars parked on the streets at all hours of the day, as well as minimizing the need for the downtown streets to single-mindedly act as freeway funnels  In addition, it seems that the mammoth supply of parking spaces being generated by the Banks project, when provided with a streetcar to link up, would also assist in  alleviating the need to park cars on downtown streets. As Benken put it, planners need to put downtown on a “road diet,” eliminating the consumption of spaces used for parking and thereby freeing it up for a balanced diet of autos, floating bike lanes and pedestrian access.

 

While, as noted above, Cincinnati has not taken a full-fledged cannonball plunge into the Complete Streets kool-aid, there are inklings here and there edging towards tossing off the yoke of auto-dominance.  Take for example the 2 wheel parking projects, as well as the recently announced Sharrows Pilot Project, launched in May of this year.  The Sharrows Project seeks to explore the opportunities of shared lane pavement markings for bikes and autos.  http://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/sharrows/  The intent of the Sharrows Pilot Project is not a bike lane per se, but at least a recognition that bikes and cars can in fact share the roadways without t-boning a passing cyclist with your car door or passing too close to the rider.  At this point, the modest proposal (there are three initial test locales: Clifton Ave (McMillan St to Ludlow Ave), Ludlow Ave (Bowdle Place to Clifton Hills) and Madison Rd (Beechcrest Lane to Torrence Parkway)).  Hopefully, this is just a beginning, lest the sharrows in Cincinnati go the way of such past projects as the Victory Parkway bike-lane to nowhere and the like.

 

While admittedly modest, the Sharrows Pilot Project is heartening in that Cincinnati, as a city, is beginning to think about urban planning in a manner in which automobiles don’t dictate the activities that people enjoy and how people lead their lives.  Let me be clear, however - I’m not espousing the end of the auto, not by any stretch of the imagination.  What I do have a problem with, however, is how the auto dominates the urban landscape.  The idea that I can bike and scooter to work, in a city which encourages biking and scootering to work, is certainly a step in the right direction, and a boon for any city seeking to position itself as a progressive and up and coming live/work urban destination.  Now let’s try and convert 4th to two way traffic, open up the dormant 3rd street access ramp to I-75 North and see what kind of excitement happens on 4th Street (as  a “pilot project,” bien sur).

 

In her opening remarks, Qualls quoted the esteemed urban writer, activist and titular urbanista godhead Jane Jacobs, who wrote, in her 1961 masterpiece The Death and Life of Great American Cities, that the "erosion of cities by automobiles entails so familiar a series of events that they hardly need describing. The erosion proceeds as a kind of nibbling."  Complete Streets is not intended to eradicate the automobile, but rather to take a bite back at the endless nibbling which erodes our urban cores.  Cincinnati would be well served to continue biting back, and the design plan being introduced this Fall is an admirable beginning.  Trust me, it’s the right thing to do, just ask Portland, Austin, New York, Chicago, Seattle, Boulder, Charlotte et al. Really folks, lessening our dependence and devotion to the automobile is not the worst thing that could happen in this environment.

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Qualls motion asks for Complete Streets strategy

http://www.building-cincinnati.com/2009/08/qualls-motion-asks-for-complete-streets.html

 

Cincinnati City councilmember Roxanne Qualls has introduced a motion calling for the City's streets policy to be inclusive of all forms of transportation, which she says will make streets safer and more accommodating and will lead to economic development.

 

Known as Complete Streets, the policies provide the framework for user-friendly streets, promoting transportation solutions that better integrate land use and transportation investments – thereby leading to better placemaking.

 

Fifty-four government entities across the country, including the City of Columbus, have implemented Complete Streets legislation or policies, Qualls says. Council passed a resolution supporting the federal Complete Streets Act of 2009 in April.

 

"Streets are the public living room of a community," she said in a statement accompanying the motion. "If designed for people and community, they create the public spaces that create neighborhood identity and character and support economic activity and social interaction."

 

The City's Department of Transportation and Engineering is currently preparing a city-wide streets policy, using funds allocated in the 2009-2010 biennial budget for the Neighborhood Transportation Strategies and Innovative Transportation Strategies projects.

 

Qualls wants the new streets policy be integrated into the Copmprehensive Plan, Bicycle Plan, and Form-Based Codes initiatives, all currently under development.

 

In the motion, Qualls suggests the following guiding principles for the development of a new streets policy:

  • "All users" includes pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transportation passengers of all ages and abilities, in addition to trucks, buses, and automobiles
  • The safety, convenience and comfort of motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, transit riders and members of the community will be accommodated and balanced when planning and designing streets, except where the use of modes of transportation are prohibited by law or deemed unsafe or impractical
  • All types of transportation and development projects will be considered through all phases of the project, including design, planning, maintenance and operations for the entire right-of-way
  • Transportation improvements will include facilities and amenities recognized as contributing to Complete Streets, including street and sidewalk lighting, pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements, access improvements (such as ADA compliance), public transit accommodations, street trees and landscaping, drainage and green infrastructure, and street amenities
  • That Complete Streets be achieved through single projects, or incrementally over time through normal maintenance and replacement
  • All sources of transportation funding should be drawn upon to implement Complete Streets, in order to leverage existing transportation dollars, minimize the cost of new facilities, and reduce the need for retrofits

 

According to Qualls, modern street design has emphasized moving cars through neighborhoods, instead of treating neighborhoods as destinations.

 

"Cincinnati's streets policy should work to preserve and enhance the unique compact, walkable competitive advantage of Cincinnati's neighborhoods by recognizing that city streets are more than corridors for traffic flow," she said. "Streets are valuable public spaces that must be designed and managed to allow access to pedestrian, bicycling, and public transportation users; support neighborhood business districted by reducing real – not posted – traffic speed and enhancing pedestrian access; and improve safety."

 

Qualls hopes to receive a report from City administration by November.

 

"Complete Streets policies can transform a corridor into a place that is memorable, compelling, and desirable to visit, and reposition the street as a vital neighborhood asset," Qualls said.

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Designing the way to a pedestrian success story

By Randy A. Simes, UrbanCincy | November 17, 2009

http://www.urbancincy.com/2009/11/designing-way-to-pedestrian-success.html

 

In a recent study conducted by Transportation for America, Cincinnati was ranked as the seventh safest city out of the nation’s 52 largest metropolitan areas. Cincinnati was the highest ranking Ohio city (Cleveland #10), and was the third highest ranking city in the Midwest behind Minneapolis (#1) and Pittsburgh (#4).

 

The study ranked cities based on a Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI) developed by Transportation for America. The PDI was formulated by dividing the average annual pedestrian fatality rate per 100,000 residents by the percentage of residents commuting to work on foot. The lower the PDI, the safer the city is for pedestrians.

 

The study showed a clear geographic divide between the safe and unsafe cities for pedestrians as the safest cities were located primarily in the northeast and Midwest, while the most dangerous cities were located in the southeast. Florida alone had the four most dangerous cities for pedestrians, with the rest of the top ten most dangerous cities all located in the south.

 

This divide seems to indicate something many of us probably already knew – the fact that new growth areas are less hospitable to pedestrians due to their large urban scales that seem to be out of touch with the human scale. Northern cities that were largely built in the 18th and 19th Centuries feature smaller block sizes, narrower streets, and more compact developed when compared with their southern counterparts.

 

These design differences create a built in advantage for northern cities as they are much more capable of satisfying pedestrian commuters. But while northern cities boast nominally better rates of those commuting by foot, the real difference is in safety. For example, the second most dangerous city, Tampa, FL, has 3.52 deaths per 100,000 residents on average each year, whereas Cincinnati has a rate of just 0.77.

 

But what does all of this mean for Cincinnati? For a metropolitan area of 2,133,678 people that means about 21 pedestrians die each year. This number seems low, but it could still be improved upon, but the real area for improvement is the total percentage of people commuting to work by foot.

 

According to U.S. Census data, only 2.3 percent of the Cincinnati-Middletown Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) commutes to work by foot. New York City and Boston scored highest in this regard with 6 and 4.6 percent of commuters there walking to work respectively. But even in a more similarly built and sized city as Cincinnati, Pittsburgh boasts the third highest rate overall with 3.6 percent of their commuters making the daily grind by foot.

 

So if safety isn’t the issue in Cincinnati, then what is it? The region as a whole does not boast very dense development patterns outside of Cincinnati city limits and a few other pockets like Hamilton, Middletown, northern Kentucky’s river cities, and Norwood. Furthermore, the areas that are appropriately designed lack any clear amenities for pedestrians like crosswalk counters, scramble crossings at high pedestrian volume intersections, or curb bump outs. Another major detractor is the lack of barriers between pedestrians and motorists like bollards, trees/landscaping, or on-street parking.

 

I would also contend that the physical condition of our pedestrian surfaces is also a major factor. Fully taking advantage of the Federal Government’s Safe Routes to School program is a critical piece of the puzzle, but so is the ongoing maintenance of our pedestrian surfaces. This may be tricky in the low-growth Midwest and northeast, but solutions like rubber sidewalks provide long-term maintenance savings in addition to the overall improvement in surface quality for pedestrians.

 

It seems like a reasonable goal for the Cincinnati-Middletown MSA to strive for a 1 to 1.5 percent increase in the number of individuals commuting to work by foot. Old growth cities have been blessed by their design so far to have a natural advantage over new growth southern cities, but much more could be done to improve the designs of our modern transportation networks and our communities to make things even better for people in the nation’s 7th safest city for pedestrians.

 

Pedestrian design success story photos can be seen here:

http://www.urbancincy.com/2009/11/designing-way-to-pedestrian-success.html

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Qualls to discuss conversion of prominent Uptown streets to two-way traffic

By Randy A. Simes, UrbanCincy | April 14, 2010

http://www.urbancincy.com/2010/04/qualls-to-discuss-conversion-of-prominent-uptown-streets-to-two-way-traffic/

 

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls will host a press conference today at 11am in Walnut Hills to discuss the conversion of McMillan Street and William Howard Taft Road from one-way to two-way streets.

 

Qualls reportedly will be joined by various Walnut Hills community leaders who have long supported the idea of converting the two heavily traveled east/west streets back to two-way traffic. Residents and business owners in the area feel that such a conversion will help to further revitalize their neighborhoods, and return vitality to the business district.

 

Converting one-way streets into two-way streets has become an increasingly popular urban design tool over recent years by cities looking to slow down traffic, increase access and thus improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists. Qualls has been a leading advocate for the implementation of a ‘Complete Streets’ policy that would also embody many of these things by ensuring that all modes of transportation are accounted for in the design of streets and the public right-of-way.

 

The press conference will be held at Kurelis Interiors on E. McMillan Street (map) in Walnut Hills at 11am. Also on hand will be Greg Loomis from Campus Management and Jeff Raser who is part of the Walnut Hills Working Group and has been lending professional assistance in the development of form-based codes around Cincinnati.

 

UPDATE: Following the press conference Qualls’ office released a motion that is co-sponsored by Jeff Berding, Chris Bortz, Laure Quinlivan and Cecil Thomas. The motion calls for city administration to develop an implementation plan for the two-way conversion of McMillan Street and William Howard Taft Road east of I-71 before City Council takes its summer recess. The motion also calls for city administration to deliver a report on the feasibility of converting McMillan and Taft west of I-71 to Clifton Avenue by September 2010.

 

Another critical part of the motion calls for the incorporation of several traffic calming measures that will make the streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders. Those improvements could potentially include landscaped medians, crosswalks, dedicated bicycle lanes, improved on-street parking design, wider sidewalks, bus pullouts, reduced traffic speeds and even the incorporation of roundabouts.

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Is this "implementation plan" the actual plan for how they're expecting to do this, i.e. lane configurations, widths, parking, etc.?  So far I haven't heard anything other than they want to convert McMillan and Taft to two-way, but with no explanation as to what sort of configuration they want to use.  I ask because the current one-way situation is actually fantastic for cycling, and being rather narrow streets, if they don't change them right, it would actually make the situation worse. 

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It's a good idea to start just east of I-71.  There's no way they can convert McMillan and Taft to two-way west of 71 before the entire interchange is re-worked and/or the mythical MLK interchange is built.  Those streets are overworked from 7-9 am and 3-6 pm, respectively, as is.  The Kroger/uptown commons project and a re-worked Vine St. intersection should probably also come first...

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I ask because the current one-way situation is actually fantastic for cycling, and being rather narrow streets, if they don't change them right, it would actually make the situation worse.

 

I agree with you.  I think Calhoun and McMillan (west of I-71) are fine with the exception of speeding motorists.  I believe that given the building stock along those roadways, that some traffic calming techniques like curb bump-outs and additional street trees could do the trick.  Also reducing the posted speed limit from 35mph to 25mph would be preferable for both pedestrians and cyclists.

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I think I was in agreement when the two-way conversion proposal was announced, but after looking over the traffic counts and just general congestion (both are on my biking routes), I'm not for sure that the two-way conversion is really needed. I think, for instance, that if they eliminated one side of parking along Calhoun/Taft and McMillian and converted it into a bike lane, that it would go a long way into addressing some long-standing cycling issues in Uptown. I don't generally use bike lanes (for various reasons), but I know many who just simply won't bike on the road (as they should) without one, especially since it is so damn close to campus.

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Apparently, Hyde Parkers are not digging their complete streets. Do you think this is symptomatic of the lack of an awareness campaign, or because of a cultural trait?

 

Hyde Park residents outraged by road changes

 

While the city considers re-striping Observatory Avenue, residents expressed their anger about changes which have already been made to Erie Avenue.

 

During a recent Hyde Park Neighborhood Council meeting, both residents and council expressed their opposition to the reduction of lanes along Erie Avenue, as well as the addition of a center turn-only lane and a bicycle lane.

 

Read More

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I'm curious what sort of striping they plan to do on Observatory (the article isn't entirely clear) since it's a much narrower road than Erie.  People may be all up in arms about it, but there's really nothing wrong with the new lane configuration.  What IS bad is how it transitions to the old configuration at Hyde Park Square, and how the turns to Madison are misaligned.  If they'd just fix those thing then there really wouldn't be any problem. 

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Apparently, Hyde Parkers are not digging their complete streets. Do you think this is symptomatic of the lack of an awareness campaign, or because of a cultural trait?

 

It's knee jerk reactions to change.  they'll get used to it and love it in the long run. 

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Wealthy and traditionally powerful communities like HP that answer to a larger city government are often indignant and can quickly move with a lot of neighborhood solidarity on an issue.

 

A nice way of saying they're know-it-alls and are used to getting what they want.

 

That doesn't let the city off the hook for bad communication though. You should have neighborhood buy-in.

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It's a good idea to start just east of I-71. There's no way they can convert McMillan and Taft to two-way west of 71 before the entire interchange is re-worked and/or the mythical MLK interchange is built. Those streets are overworked from 7-9 am and 3-6 pm, respectively, as is. The Kroger/uptown commons project and a re-worked Vine St. intersection should probably also come first...

 

Well, one of the bigger issues with one-way pairs is that they dominate the whole circulation pattern of the neighborhood. There will be trade-offs, hopefully not zero-sum. But, one thing you do gain outright is route flexibility, not limited to the converted streets but to all turns and approaches hooking up to them.

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Wealthy and traditionally powerful communities like HP that answer to a larger city government are often indignant and can quickly move with a lot of neighborhood solidarity on an issue.

 

A nice way of saying they're know-it-alls and are used to getting what they want.

 

That doesn't let the city off the hook for bad communication though. You should have neighborhood buy-in.

 

I just hope their quick reaction does not doom the road diet/bike lanes. I don't hang out in Hyde Park a lot, but it seems to me like a community that would benefit from this. Too bad this was done in a way that makes them mad, cuz I think the community there is pretty progressive and would have been on board if they were engaged in a dialogue beforehand.

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A complete street doesn't need a bike lane if done properly; motorized traffic speeds are lowered closer to cycling speeds and if there's another lane it's perfect for motorists to pass. It's no wonder they're upset when businesses are going to lose parking for a gutter lane to keep cyclists out of traffic. Over here the same threat happened in a low-income neighborhood with a business district that is just starting to come back. I don't understand the insistence in painting these communities as backward and reactionary: I don't want bike lanes either when the existing lanes are fine for cyclist use.

 

You can see that Erie is just fine with a parking lane and two travel lanes in each direction. All that would be needed to enhance the street would be signage and sharrows in the right hand lanes for cyclists and add traffic signals if necessary for more safe pedestrian crossings.

 

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=Erie+Ave+Cincinnati&sll=34.051379,-118.476219&sspn=0.024819,0.075703&g=san+vicente+blvd+LA&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Erie+Ave,+Cincinnati,+Hamilton,+Ohio&ll=39.141112,-84.438171&spn=0.011483,0.037851&z=15&layer=c&cbll=39.139779,-84.444096&panoid=VFjm6Z8SY_h3kTh23JCEnQ&cbp=12,102.67,,0,-0.16

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Erie is a very lightly traveled street for its size, and really doesn't need two continuous through lanes.  The center left turn lane they added allows the remaining through lane to flow continuously and also gives pedestrians a place to pause while crossing.  The added width in the parking lane allows cyclists to ride there without being in the "door zone" of the parked cars, which was an issue with the old layout.  There are no striped bike lanes, nor should there be. 

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Some people won't ride on many streets without a bike lane. If it gets more people out biking, it's a good thing. Perhaps at some point bike lanes will not be so important, after biking is a bigger part of the culture. It's not that hard or expensive to repaint a street.

 

Separated paths are definitely nice, IMO. They make riding much safer, plus there is much less debris. Of course, they are not so cheap.

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I biked around Chicago for the latter part of a night yesterday, and some today, and I encountered everything from sharrows, bike lanes and separate bike paths. It's quite interesting to see how they all interacted, and how frequently they are used. Where bike lanes are not continuous on a street, becoming shared lanes at each intersection; where bike paths end into streets; where sharrows were used on busy streets. A lot of cyclists out, of all different shapes and sizes.

 

I'll probably do a blog post on this soon, but I think it is important that the city cater to all types of cyclists. Sure, me and jjakucyk may not use a bike lane (hell, the only bike lane I use in Cincinnati is the Erie Ave. climbing lane), but there are many more who won't bike on a road without one. There are a lot of interesting discussions behind it, and I think the city stands to benefit from a wide adoption of all types of cyclists.

 

BTW, I haven't been down Erie in a week in Hyde Park. I know that they hadn't applied the thermoplastic striping yet, and the paint was fading fast. When I was last there, it was four-lanes with a center turn lane, with the right lane being a really wide parking bay with room for a shared bike lane. Have they revised this with an actual striped lane?

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  "It's not that hard or expensive to repaint a street."

 

  If there was an emergency shoulder there already that can be painted for a bike lane, then no, that's not too bad. The emergency shoulder was underutilized space.

 

  If the street was already crowded, with or without parking lanes, then it can be extremely difficult to add bike lanes, because they will displace some other use.

 

  If the street has to be physically widened to add a bike lane, then it is very expensive.

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Erie is a very lightly traveled street for its size, and really doesn't need two continuous through lanes.  The center left turn lane they added allows the remaining through lane to flow continuously and also gives pedestrians a place to pause while crossing.  The added width in the parking lane allows cyclists to ride there without being in the "door zone" of the parked cars, which was an issue with the old layout.  There are no striped bike lanes, nor should there be. 

 

I don't see how that's an issue with the old layout: I'd control the right lane and motorists would just pass in the left lane safely. I do agree that it shouldn't be striped so that experienced cyclists like myself who know being in front of cars is the safest way to bike can control the lane, while those who want to ride alongside traffic can do so if they want. There should be no government-sponsored coercion of improper cycling practices.

 

 

Some people won't ride on many streets without a bike lane. If it gets more people out biking, it's a good thing. Perhaps at some point bike lanes will not be so important, after biking is a bigger part of the culture. It's not that hard or expensive to repaint a street.

 

Separated paths are definitely nice, IMO. They make riding much safer, plus there is much less debris. Of course, they are not so cheap.

 

I'll probably do a blog post on this soon, but I think it is important that the city cater to all types of cyclists. Sure, me and jjakucyk may not use a bike lane (hell, the only bike lane I use in Cincinnati is the Erie Ave. climbing lane), but there are many more who won't bike on a road without one. There are a lot of interesting discussions behind it, and I think the city stands to benefit from a wide adoption of all types of cyclists.

 

This is a very disheartening attitude I see too often among "progressives" when it comes to cycling. Think about what you're saying: increasing the number of cyclists on our road, even when it includes sanctioning dangerous, improper cycling, takes precedence over the safety of cyclists' lives.

 

I agree that we should have a system that caters to both novices and experts, but some roads are really just for experts. We were novices too at one time. However, I wanted to bike as my primary form of urban transportation and I also wanted to do it in the safest manner possible, which I found is vehicular cycling. So I started out biking correctly on residential side streets (which if signed and marked would make great bike boulevards as is). Encouraging novices to use these streets and bike with experienced cyclists or take a traffic skills course will give them the know-how and confidence to ride properly in traffic on busier streets. If that's something they want to do, that is.

 

Riding on the far-right side of a lane runs counter to safe cycling practices, largely because you're reducing your visibility to motorists who you need to see you. We should cater to novices, but we should not sanction unsafe, improper cycling practices at the same time to make them feel safe on roads that they either are not ready for or don't care to learn how to ride on properly. Doing so is ethically reckless and has resulted in the unnecessary, mostly preventable deaths that have occurred in bike lanes all over the nation. Bike lanes are quantitatively inferior to VC in an urban setting: period. Any decent cycling infrastructure would emphasize proper cycling only and also avoid busier high-speed, two-lane roads, which is the one place where motorists are more likely to act dangerously while getting very impatient since there is no lane in the same direction for easy passing and it puts a cyclist of any skill level in a bad position.

 

So what if some people won't ride on roads without bike lanes present? If they don't want to ride, then they don't want to ride. Vehicular cyclists like myself ride in the city as is because we want to and we want to do so safely. Don't lull others into riding a bike for transportation under false pretenses which endanger their lives, which is unfortunately precisely what Complete Streets currently proposes. Why not encourage them to ride a scooter or buy a microcar where they'd be choosing an alternative to the typical space hogs that most Americans drive? There are alternatives to cars other than bikes and if some people are only going to drive those properly and not bikes properly, then where's the harm in that? Seeing a notable presence of those kind of motorized vehicles boost your city's progressive image just as much.[/i]

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Is the plan to eliminate parking on Erie!? Hyde Park already suffers from a lack of parking, and taking parking of Erie would only make this problem that much worse!

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No, there's still parking on both sides of Erie, but it sounds like they want to eliminate it on Observatory.  I wrote a letter to the head of the city transportation department over the weekend asking what exactly the plan is for Observatory (and supporting the changes that have already been made) but I haven't gotten a response yet.  Observatory is weird because it's a street that is wide enough for 2 lanes in each direction, and it kind of acts that way anyway since people don't usually park on it, but it's unclear since the lanes aren't always delineated. 

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I see this nearly every day. The road, going EB, has a Right Lane Ends signage, but the lane just merely continues as a parking bay although it isn't marked as such. People drive both the real and imaginary lane as if it is designed as such. People rarely park on it as-is. In my opinion, eliminate the parking bay going WB and stripe the road for two-lanes with a parking bay going EB.

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I always park on Observatory! My best friend's house is on Observatory and I almost always park on the street.  I don't see what's wrong with this street the way it is. If it's about biking, the road is never that busy, and I see cyclists there all the time.

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Observatory? What part? The portion between Madison/Dana and Linwood is always pretty congested, especially during rush hour where it is bumper to bumper. Because of this, the cars tend to "fan" out and create two additional lanes where there are really none (and none is marked). I bike and drive this portion a lot (a really easy way to get across town), and I very seldom see anyone park on the street.

 

IMO, why is the city pursuing center turn lanes on this, in order to calm traffic? I think that just leaving it at two lanes, with 2 bike lanes, and a parking bay, would be sufficient. Residents can still park on the street; there would be two 4 ft. bike lanes, and 2 10 ft. travel lanes.

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I'm thinking of Observatory closer to Delta.  The area where Observatory crosses Madison always seemed chaotic, and I still am not sure if it's one or two lanes.  I would agree that this stretch of Observatory needs to be reformed, but the part of it closer to Delta and Ault Park should be left alone, IMO.

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I'm sure whatever they plan to do is only for the stretch of the road west of Linwood, or more likely west of Edwards that was just repaved. 

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Well, Observatory to Linwood, and Linwood to Mt. Lookout is part of a signed bike route, so the goal is to add a marked bike lane for that distance. It is long overdue, IMO.

 

As for the Dana/Madison/Observatory intersection, it is two-lanes but the intersection could stand to be improved. The Dana EB to Madison NB turn is only ONE lane instead of two, and that needs to be corrected since Dana during rush hour backs up past Interstate 71. And even during the evening, past rush hour, it can back up to Duck Creek. Since the Dana > Madison turn is all of one phase of that light, an extra turn lane is super easy to do.

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This isn't exactly complete streets, but it's in the same general category and this seems as good a place to talk about it as any.  These are some shots showing the rebuilding of Spring Grove Avenue between Winton and Mitchell.  First shows a fairly simple move where they removed the fully paved sidewalk between the buildings and the street.  This was a pretty dismal spot with all the old concrete.  This setup should eliminate pretty much all rain runoff from the sidewalk.

 

DSC_2439.jpg

 

Also, the city appears to have adopted this style of inlet for their drains.  This is more bike-friendly than the slanted grates they had previously. 

 

DSC_2440.jpg

 

The real meat of the road reconstruction here is the rain gardens between Clifton and Mitchell.  It's basically a landscaped ditch, with inlets to let the runoff from the street pass through the curb into the ditch (note that they're all still blocked off with plywood at the moment).  There doesn't appear to be any drain inside the ditch itself, so I presume that if they fill up, they will simply overflow back to the street, and the water will then go into the few normal drains left on the curb.  I think they went a little overboard on the size and number of these inlets, but we'll see how it works out.  There's also a narrow landscaped median along this stretch of road too.  The only thing that concerns me a little is that they did put sprinklers in all these beds.  It appears to be buried soaker hoses, but still.  I guess you can't really have plants that are both flood tolerant and drought tolerant at the same time. 

 

DSC_2443.jpg

 

DSC_2446.jpg

 

DSC_2448.jpg

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They have built a stretch of bike path from a little east of the Ludlow Viaduct to near Salway Park.  I suppose they're using that as a rationale for not doing anything with Spring Grove itself.  Frankly, I don't think Spring Grove needs any bike lanes or anything.  It's a big enough road with fairly light traffic, so there's more than enough room to just take a lane (or even ride in the parking lane, which is usually empty) and be done with it.  Some sharrow markings would probably be good.  I will say thought that this stretch between Winton and Mitchell is pretty tough, especially with the double-right at Winton, so hopefully when they finally repave it and paint new lines we'll see some improvements in that aspect of it. 

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If it's that wide and untraveled, they should have implemented a road diet.

 

Off topic: Is anyone doing anything with that factory building there, between Winton and Clifton?

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Well, since there's already a center turn lane for most of it, and street parking, how much of a diet can you really give it?  Just make the lanes all 18' wide?  Being a less heavily trafficked road, and being in an industrial area, my fear is that a striped bike lane would quickly become a collector for gravel and debris.  Good luck getting that cleaned out regularly. 

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That's why I said it should be separate from the road. I actually thought this was part of where they were building a network of paths in the valley. I thought they were going on SG by the cemetery down to the Mill Creek. Seemed like an opportunity to advance that. Maybe I don't have an accurate picture of what they are doing.

 

As for the diet...some of the parking could be removed. Why maintain something unnecessary? Then there are all the double turn lanes.

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I recently posted on the stretch between Winton & Clifton.

http://quimbob.blogspot.com/2010/05/more-bicycle-friendliness-other-day-i.html

Most of Spring Grove is nice & wide but it narrows through that stretch. When construction started I thought they were going to widen the road & narrow the sidewalk. It would have made a lot of sense. Instead they narrowed the sidewalk & left the roadway narrow. I assumed they were going to plant grass, I had not noticed what they had done on the next block north. Would that stretch get more & faster runoff due to the raised train track?

All those buildings between Winton & Clifton are in some kind of use. People frequently park their cars on the sidewalk. Their parking lot is around the corner on Clifton just past the bridge. I am assuming the weak minded motorists will continue to do so & leave big muddy ruts in the non paved area.

The proposed bike path will go between the buildings & Mill Creek. It will most assuredly not be kept clear during the winter.

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This was one of the suggestions from Russ Roach in his letter to the editor of the Enquirer:

http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20120525/EDIT/305250040/Tough-love-from-recent-visitor (if anyone has access to the archive, i'd love to look at this letter again)

 

 

also, Walnut Hills is going two-way:

http://www.urbancincy.com/2012/07/city-leaders-partner-with-walnut-hills-to-advance-two-way-street-conversions/

 

Can OTR be next?

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The Vine St. 2-way conversion happened pretty much right after the riot, either 2002 or 2003.  Prior to that as soon as you came down the hill you had to choose to head downtown either on Walnut or Race. 

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