Cleveland has a plan to reclaim abandoned, paved-over streetcar lines as protected bike lanes in a proposal known as the “the Midway.” Bike advocates and city planners think this new network of protected lanes throughout the city could stretch out to the Cleveland Metroparks and the Emerald Necklace, making Cleveland one of the national leaders in non-car connections.
Over the course of two years, a group comprised of Bike Cleveland, St. Clair Superior Development Corporation and Bialosky + Partners Architect developed the concept for the Midway, according to The Plain Dealer.
Many city streets in Cleveland are wider than traffic demands because they used to accommodate streetcars. When streetcars were abandoned in favor of automobiles, the city determined the “cheapest and easiest solution was to pave over the lines and add more car lanes when streetcar lines were removed,” according to Bialosky + Partners Architects’ presentation for the Bike Cleveland design charette.
The Midway would take these streets, many of which are 72-feet wide, and create a new road layout comprised of a center 16-foot wide bike lane, protected by 8-foot wide planted boulevards from the 12-foot-wide vehicular lanes and 8-foot parking lanes on both sides of the road.
The planted buffer boulevards could be used to support the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District stormwater management efforts and could provide seating and shade for pedestrians and runners who would also have access to the center bike lanes.
The hope is the new bike lane system would put Cleveland at the forefront of the country when it comes to bike lanes while providing benefits for residents no matter what mode of transportation they choose.
Bike lanes benefit both cyclists and drivers because the networks of protected bike lanes make biking a safer alternative mode of transportation for more people, reducing the number of cars in the street system and road congestion in the process.
There are also economic benefits to protected bike lanes.
Protected bike lanes boost economic growth in four key ways, according to a report from PeopleForBikes and the Alliance for Biking & Walking:
- Fueling redevelopment to boost real estate value;
- Helping companies score talented workers;
- Making workers healthier and more productive;
- Increasing retail visibility and sales volume.
“As a planning agency, particularly one interested in insuring that all residents have transportation choices, I think it’s a great idea,” Grace Gallucci, head of the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, told the Plain Dealer.
The proposal also syncs with the city’s current commitment to build 70 miles of bike lanes, trails and dedicated bike markings by 2017.
The project will not come cheaply, though few large-scale transit investments do. The Midway project would run $1.2 million to $1.7 million per mile with planted boulevards, according to the Plain Dealer. But to put that in perspective light rail costs between $15 million and $100 million per mile.
Today the Midway is just a vision of possibilities, but the group will apply this fall for a $250,000 Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative grant from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) to develop a more concrete plan including routes. After community input and more planning processes the project would likely compete for a TIGER grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
“We would like to lead the country, not follow,” said Jacob VanSickle, Bike Cleveland executive director.