Discussion of dedicated Central Parkway bikeway held, no decisions made

CINCINNATI – No decision was made during a public hearing Monday about the future of possible dedicated bike lanes on Central Parkway that Mayor John Cranley put on hold last week.

“It would be nice if everyone could sit down and push feelings away and logically discuss this and come up with a compromise,” said Jerry Koch, owner of Keystone Printing, located off of the parkway.

Like many business owners, Koch is concerned that the bike plan created by the city’s prior council in March 2013 and approved for federal funding in November would limit parking on the busy thoroughfare and harm his business.

The plan, broken into two phases, calls for a five-mile stretch of dedicated, protected bicycle lanes that stretch from Northside to Over-the-Rhine. It would remove two lanes of car traffic, and restrict street parking during off-peak traffic hours in some parts during the week.

Bike path construction was slated to begin this spring.

"The mayor and several council members were contacted by businesses and commuters concerned about the project," said administration spokesperson Kevin Osborne last week. "They had some questions about it, and they asked the city manager and transportation director to hold off until they got some answers.”

Julie Klare with Hamilton Digital wanted specifically to address parking as well.

“Having customers is very important,” said Klare. “This is our livelihood. This is our job. This is where we built our business.”

The $500,000 grant awarded from Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana (OKI) Regional Council of Governments’ transportation alternatives program in November commits the city to a 20 percent local match ($125,000) in funding.

Based on community input, the Cincinnati Department of Transportation and Engineering (DOTE) developed a new street design for Central Parkway between Elm Street in Over-the-Rhine and Ludlow Avenue in Clifton already.

Crews won't widen the street but instead will re-stripe it to include a bikeway. The bikeway will connect to the existing bike lanes on Ludlow Avenue, and to a new shared-use path for pedestrians and bicyclists on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

The new design is similar to a regular bike lane except bicycles and motor vehicle traffic are separated with a physical barrier (a series of plastic poles), instead of just a painted white stripe, according to the city's website.

Project leaders divided road work into two phases: the city’s Department of Transportation and Engineering is currently working on Phase 1, which stretches from Elm Street to Marshall Avenue.

“We were awarding the contract when the mayor paused the project,” said Michael Moore, director of Transportation and Engineering before Monday’s hearing. “We had done some parking studies at the time. We thought parking could be accommodated at the other side of the street. We are trying to balance all the interests. We try to balance all of those.”

Supporters of the bike path also appeared at Monday’s city hall meeting.

“It is an absolute necessity,” said Kathy Holwadel. “Bikes are a form a transportation, not a weekend hobby. Normal people are not going to ride bikes until they feel safe,  until you get segregated bike paths.”

And like Koch, she hoped some compromise could come out of the discussion residents and business owners were having.

“I think they are important concerns,” she said. “I don’t think this is an either-or.”

And that is what Cranley is hoping for as well with city council, Osborne said.

"We’re just trying to balance the interests of the business owners and the cycling community. We’d like to get a compromise that everyone can live with,” Osborne said. "The bike project is approved by council. The only way it won’t happen is if a majority of council decides to do something differently."

After Monday’s meeting, Vice-Mayor David Mann said council would take up the issue within the next week or two. He added if council did not move forward with work soon, the city could lose its federal grant for the project.

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