Mayor Cranley looks to clarify stance on Central Parkway bikeway project

CINCINNATI - Mayor John Cranley cites concerned business people and commuters as the reason he put a temporary hold on a longstanding roadway project designed to make the city's urban roadways more bike-friendly.

On Wednesday, the mayor's office clarified reports on why he has directed the city administration not to award a contract for the Central Parkway bikeway project.

Administration spokesperson Kevin Osborne said Cranley is just making a "request" to hold off on signing the contract after several parties voiced concerns over the project and sought additional information.

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

Osborne did not give specific examples of complaints, concerns or those who were voicing them.

On Nov. 12, 2013, Cincinnati City Council authorized the city manager to accept a $500,000 grant from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana (OKI) Regional Council of Governments’ transportation alternatives program. The city had applied for the grant the previous March.

The grant requires 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.

Crews won't widen the street but instead re-stripe it to include a bikeway. This 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 a "protected bike lane (or cycle track)," which is similar to a regular bike lane except that bicycles and motor vehicle traffic are separated with a physical barrier (such as a series of plastic poles), instead of just a painted white stripe, according to the city's website.

The new street design will include some peak-hour parking restrictions.

Project leaders divided road work into two phases: DOTE is currently working on Phase 1, which stretches from Elm Street to Marshall Avenue.

As the project moves along, DOTE is coordinating with community councils with the intentions of beginning construction in spring 2014.

Queen City Bike, a non-profit organization that promotes bicycling as a safe and healthy means of transportation and recreation in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, issued a statement Thursday saying it supports the project as-is.

"A protected bike lane will improve and serve the communities it connects with safe and comfortable bicycle routes, a calmer and less dangerous roadway, improve local business, and relieve parking and traffic downtown," according to Nern Ostendorf, the organization's executive director.

"It has been designed to minimally impact traffic flow, to retain a majority of on street parking, and to open up the street as a bikeway for users of all ages and abilities."

However, reports came Monday that Cranley decided to put a temporary halt on the progress.

The news sent ripples through City Council and elicited responses from several councilmembers including Yvette Simpson and Chris Seelbach who took to social media to voice their disapproval.

Even though Cranley has put a freeze on it for now, he can't put a complete stop to the project, according to Osborne.

Osborne told WCPO that "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."

Six members of the previous council that unanimously approved the bikeway effort are on the current council. 

However, the Cranley administration is open to a "compromise" if possible.

"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.

City Council’s neighborhoods committee meets at 2 p.m. Monday. Several bikeway supporters including Queen City Bike plan to attend to voice their support for the project.

"We are taking our role as the public voice of Cincinnati's bicycling interests in this process very earnestly and we are doing everything we can to ensure that this very widely supported community project will be carried out as planned," according to Ostendorf. 

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