Mayor discusses $1.9M Bike Share project while council plays hooky at special meetings

Old-school transportation with 21st century twist

CINCINNATI -- As the fate of the proposed compromise for the Central Parkway bike project remains in limbo, Mayor John Cranley offered a $1.9 million Bike Share project Friday to "put Cincinnati on the map."

“No matter what happens to the Central Parkway bike pathway, we are going to have a very bike-friendly city, “ Cranley said after Wednesday's City Council meeting.

The Central Parkway bike project, approved unanimously in November by council, was halted Monday by Cranley after concerns were raised by Tim Haines, owner of Relocation Strategies, on the potential loss of parking for his business.

Vice Mayor David Mann proposed a compromise which included construction to widen the sidewalks on Central Parkway by 120 feet to appease the cycling and business community alike.

The proposal would preserve 23 parking spots and tear down 15 trees at a cost of $110,000. Supporters of the project voiced their acceptance, just to ensure the project goes through.

The controversy ruffled feathers in Wednesday's meeting, as council members expressed they had "more questions than answers."

Two special sessions were then scheduled for council members to decide on a compromise. Five council members appeared at City Hall Thursday, and four council members were present Friday. Neither day resulted in a decision. 

Cranley apologized for "wasting the public's time" Friday and expressed his frustration with the absence of various members. Another special session is scheduled for Monday -- two days before the May 1 deadline.

If council members skip the session again, the existing contract will be signed without compromise and the project will go forward as originally planned. The project cannot be killed unless there is a majority vote by council to do so.

Cincinnati Director of Transportation and Engineering Michael Moore said he believes he can pull unspent funds from various accounts to come up with the $110,000 necessary to implement the compromise, without a council vote. Whether this can be done or not is under scrutiny.

But the silver lining for the biking community is the $1.9 million Bike Share project

The program will allow people to rent bicycles and return them to stations operated by the Cincy Bike Share. It's estimated there will be 300 bicycles available at 35 stations between Downtown and Uptown.

The 24-hour stations will accept credit card payments for the rental of a bike. B-Cycle  will manage the bikes.

While creating the preliminary documents in September 2012, ALTA Planning and Design created a five-year estimate of the cost of Cincy Bike Share. Five-year funding will cost about $3,015,000, or $17,000 per station.

Cincinnati won't be the first metropolitan city in Ohio to implement a bike share program. The first one in the buckeye state, CoGo Bike Share , began last summer in Columbus.

 

City capital will kick-start Bike Share with $1.1 million in funding and about $200,000 going to trail development along Wasson Way, the Oasis Corridor, Mill Creek’s redevelopment and the Ohio River Trail West.

During Friday's press conference, Cranley said money has been saved over the years for projects like this. Private funds are being matched to the city's contribution.

"There's a $2.2 million capital need to get Bike Share started," Cranley said. "We're providing 50 percent of those dollars. The business community is not only putting in dollar-for-dollar but they're also committing to raise the operating expenses needed."

The public-private partnership will create "great cinergy" between Downtown and Uptown, Cranley said. The Haile Foundation, UC Health and Procter & Gamble are some of the business supporters. Cincy Bike Share is working exclusively with Green Umbrella to raise additional funds.

Abandoned and rarely used railways stand in the way of some project plans. The abandoned Oasis railway is already owned by the city and can quickly be dealt with. The railway along Wasson Way is another story.

Cranley announced Friday that he has offered Norfolk-Southern Railway $2.2M to buy out the existing railway.

"It's clear they're going to counter our offer," Cranley said, noting that the city owns a Norfolk-Southern railway in Chattanooga. He expects to hear a response from the company by summer.

While the future of the Bike Share project looks bright, cyclists may wait up to 10 years before all trails are completed throughout the city. Cranley said that at least two of the trails will be completed within five years.

Cyclists seem thrilled that Cincinnati will join the national rankings of eco-conscious cities, like Denver and Boston, that provide sufficient transportation alternatives. It's the silver lining to the gloomy issues surrounding the city's bike project.

Bike Share's Director Jason Barron described the project as "old school transportation with a 21st century twist." He anticipates an August start date to the project.

"It's going to help us become one of the country's best bicycling cities," said supporter Frank Jenson of Queen City

Bike.

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