City report recommends keeping Central Parkway bike lane, then quickly recalled

Staff: Report was issued 'prematurely'

CINCINNATI — The back-and-forth narrative surrounding Cincinnati's only protected bike lanes rolled on Thursday, after a report released that afternoon — recommending the bike lanes remain — was quickly recalled by city staff.

The initial report — obtained by WCPO early Thursday afternoon and available to view below — detailed crash data along a specific stretch of the protected bike lanes running up and down Central Parkway, connecting Downtown to Northside and Clifton.

But just a few hours after WCPO's initial coverage of the report, city staff removed it from the city's online document database, saying the report was released prematurely.

Compiled by the city’s Department of Transportation and Engineering, the report was the result of a motion, filed in February by City Councilman Christopher Smitherman, to remove the bike lanes, citing safety concerns — particularly regarding motorists colliding with other vehicles parked in the parking lanes, which sits adjacent to the bike lanes.

Before the bike lanes were installed, what are now parking lanes were the right-most travel lanes.

COLUMN: Controversy around protected bike lanes a good thing

The report in its initial form found that only 6 percent of the traffic crashes that occurred on the stretch in question — between Liberty and Ravine streets — involved cars parked in the parking lanes being struck from behind.

As a result, the report did not recommend removing the bike lanes from that stretch of Central Parkway, as Smitherman’s motion requested.

Here’s a breakdown of the crash data, as originally reported by the DOTE:

Crashes along stretch of Central ParkwayInfographic

In an email to WCPO late Thursday afternoon, spokesman for City Manager Harry Black, Rocky Merz, said:

"The report…was issued prematurely and has been recalled. Before being presented to the City Manager for review, the item was not fully vetted and has not undergone a complete administrative review. We are working swiftly to respond to the City Council motion and the report will be re-issued once all necessary review and consideration has occurred."

Smitherman’s concern arose from previous reports from community members and business owners in the area that, because drivers weren’t used to the new parking and lane configuration, more motorists found themselves involved in collisions with parked cars.

The confusion stemmed from the parking lane’s temporary status as a travel lane between the rush hours of 7 to 9 a.m. going southbound and 3 to 6 p.m. going northbound. Critics of the bike lane said this configuration confused motorists.

But after compiling the report, the report stated that DOTE staff did not find a disproportionate number of crashes along the stretch, and recommended that the bike lane stay:

“The number of crashes on Central Parkway is comparable to the number of crashes on similar streets… Given the reduced risk of injury to bicyclists [provided by the lanes], the Administration does not recommend removal of the bicycle lanes.”

The initial complaints about the bike lane and traffic confusion from community members eventually prompted the city last year to lay markings along the parking lane that read, “CAUTION PARKED CARS."

The now-recalled report also cited the American Journal of Public Health, which, the report stated, showed that streets with protected bike lanes saw 90 percent fewer cyclist injuries per mile than those without any sort of bicycling infrastructure in place.

Merz said the report will undergo further review and be re-released at an unspecified future time.

WCPO has reached out to Councilman Smitherman and is currently awaiting comment.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REPORT

Follow Pat LaFleur on Twitter (@pat_laFleur) for all things bicycling and living car-free in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

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