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Access for All: Innerbelt bike and pedestrian access

In 2010, the Access for All campaign started a dialogue across the region about the practicality of cycling and walking safely on public rights of way.

Rethinking an urban highway<br />Access for All developed this concept for a multi-modal Cleveland Innerbelt Bridge. The image appeared in the local paper and made its way to the Governor's office and Washington. <br />Carless in Cleveland<br />With poverty reaching in to the 60% range in some neighborhoods, carless rates average 25% but go as high as 60% in ClevelandBike belong<br />A big group of cyclists rallied for access to all roadways in 2009 as part of the Cleveland Innerbelt Project. Image: GCBL.Access for All<br />Branding for Northeast Ohio's complete streets movementThe results<br />A pedestrian plaza at Ontario Street was part of the Innerbelt Bridge multi-modal agreement between ODOT and community. Images: GCBLThe high road<br />ODOT agreed to design the Lorain-Carnegie path with high quality elements such as cobble stone walks, historically appropriate barrier and pedestrian lamps.<br /><br />Gorgeous views<br />Towpath coming to town<br />A section of the Towpath Trail in the Flats (on Scranton Road Peninsula) under construction in summer 2013.Tremont bypass<br />Cyclists using the multi-purpose path on the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge have the option of following this path below the bridge on the west end, which leads to the Tremont neighborhood.Abbey improved<br />Bike lanes on Abbey Road between the W. 25th Rapid Station and Tremont were added as part of the Innerbelt Bridge multi-modal agreement.Calm Professor <br />Traffic on Professor Avenue, the main street in Tremont, has been calmed with these bio-cell bump outs.
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Background

Built in 1959, the I-90 bridge through downtown Cleveland carries more than 100,000 vehicles per day in each direction and is in a critical state of disrepair. Plans for the replacement of the bridge started in the late 1990s. From the start, members of the community have requested that ODOT provide bicycle and pedesestrian accommodation on the new bridge.

Project description

ODOT officials stated that they would study the bike/ped path, but there were issues that need to be resolved. "Not the least of which is how to get cyclists or pedestrians up to and down from the bridge level," said ODOT District 12 manager Craig Hebebrand.

Yet, examples of bike paths on highway bridges (separated by barriers or security fences) exist all over the country. Most recently, Charleston's signature Cooper River Bridge was built with a 12-foot wide bike/pedestrian path. Letters, testimony, and even a local bumper sticker campaign worked to add the bike/ped component into the bridge design, the South Carolina Department of Transportation touts it in its public relations. And Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley, Jr., lauded the bike path in his 2007 State of the City address, saying, "A wonderful surprise has been the way our community has taken to the bike and pedestrian lane on the new Cooper River Bridge."

The Innerbelt Bridge crossing is on the City of Cleveland Bikeway Master Plan and Federal policy suggests that ODOT must accommodate bike/ped travel if they're connecting two streets that are legal for cycling, unless the cost increase is greater than 20 percent of the total project.

The federal policy of accommodating new bike/ped amenities in new construction is often overlooked — unless a groundswell of public support drives the process.

Reasons for including a bike/pedestrian path on the Innerbelt Bridge

  • Situated in one of the poorest cities in the country, an Innerbelt Bridge Path can add a safer, more affordable transportation option for Clevelanders, and a tangible sign that the region and the state are truly committed to affordable transportation choices. Low income people are already risking their lives to walk the bridge now. Why dismiss their need in a project of this scope, cost and multi-generational importance?
  • Walking distances on the bridge are significantly shorter than alternative routes, so going by foot will become viable for daily commutes, trips to the ballpark, and even for lunchtime and post-game walks from downtown to Tremont’s many restaurants.
  • The Innerbelt Bridge Path provides an express connection to Jacobs Field and the central business district from the planned Towpath Trail extension, making it a seamless off-road solution for millions of trail visitors each year, as well as daily bicycle commuters from throughout central and southern Cuyahoga County.
  • The Bridge route is free of the steep grade changes and high-volume intersection crossings that make current alternatives such a deterrent to people who would otherwise consider walking and biking into downtown.
  • Our region can offer a quality of life amenity that promotes public health through increased physical activity, decreases household spending by making low-cost commuting more viable, and provides a major recreational and tourism benefit – showcasing views of the downtown skyline and Cuyahoga valley.
  • The Innerbelt Bridge Path is a low-cost, high-impact infrastructure upgrade that will help improve Cleveland’s air quality while reducing our country’s dependence on foreign oil.
  • Hundreds of thousands of people driving over the bridge daily will be educated about sharing the road with cyclists (bike education)

How we're involved

Members of the city’s Sustainable Cleveland 2019 Transportation group (STAT), including GreenCityBlueLake, worked with ODOT engineers (even taking them on a bike ride to survey) on the details of the Lorain-Carnegie project, including connections to Tremont and downtown.

The behind-the-scenes work by STAT with the city and ODOT was nothing short of extraordinary. By the end, the grassroots effort had grown, and earned the support of the Governor, Senator, Congressman and FHWA.

It coincided with a big bike summit and the formation of a new bike advocacy group, Bike Cleveland. The group, along with STAT, are still guiding the process to ensure that the details of the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge and connector paths in to downtown and Ohio City are designed and built by the city's engineers according to the specifications agreed to by ODOT.

Next steps and remaining issues

The eye opening idea to include a multi-use path on the Innerbelt Bridge ultimately led to a $6 million concession from ODOT — investing in bike lanes on Abbey Avenue and a multi-purpose path on the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge.

However, there are a number of final details and concerns on and around the bridge, including:

  • Striping the multi-purpose path on the bridge to designate space for pedestrians and bikes
  • Signs that indicate how pedestrians and bikes share the path
  • A bike area in the crosswalk at Eagle Avenue where the path crosses Ontario Avenue at Progressive Field
  • A protected bikeway in front of Progressive Field and The Q — "green lanes" painted in the very wide sidewalk area.

How you can help

  • Use it! Thousands of hours of advocacy, research and planning went into improving bike and pedestrian connections between Tremont, Ohio City and Downtown. Many of the improvements will be open by the end of 2012.
  • Get involved in other current transportation improvement projects like the West Shoreway and Complete/Green Streets.
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