Getting around by bicycle
The environment for bicycling in the Cleveland area has improved a great deal in recent years, thanks to the construction of new bike paths, with more on the way. While the overall climate for pedal-powered transportation is still less than fully supportive, don't rule biking out! It is absolutely possible, and often convenient, to meet many of your daily needs by bicycle in Greater Cleveland.
There are many reasons to give it a try. Bicycling-as-transportation is cheap, improves your health and reveals the sights, sounds and faces of neighborhoods. Plus, youll never have to pay for parking.
For trips of a few miles or less, a bicycle trip can also be faster than waiting for the next bus or train, or even faster than driving yourself. On a bike, you're also "doing the right thing." You are not creating tailpipe fumes for others to breathe and you are making your community more livable, attractive and interesting. Most of all, practical urban bicycling can be fun, combining feelings of freedom and control with a sense of community connectedness that cannot be matched in a car.
Basic cycling needs
Just a few items are needed for successful urban bicycling. First, of course, youll want a sturdy bike. It doesn't have to be expensive or flashy. In fact, it's better if it's not since you don't want to have your wheels stolen because they're so valuable. Then buy a good lock and a helmet. A mirror is optional, but quite useful, so you might try experimenting with one. A bell or horn is recommended, but a willingness to speak up or shout when needed can do in a pinch. Reflective gear and lights are indispensible if you're going to be riding after dusk. A bag and/or rear rack is helpful for trips to the store, library, etc. If you're new to the area, a detailed street map is a good idea, too.
You should also note that some communities (like Lakewood and Shaker Heights) require cyclists to wear helmets when riding their bicycles. Required by law or not, wearing a helmet just makes good sense.
Theft prevention involves using good locking techniques (such as a chain or u-lock placed through both the wheels and the frame), and choosing visible lock-up locations. You should probably also take detachable items (like lights) with you.
Bicycles are ideal for those within-the-neighborhood trips: light shopping, going to the library, visiting friends and attending meetings. The City of Cleveland and its surrounding older suburbs are the best places for practical urban cycling. They have many low-traffic neighborhood streets which are parallel to the main roads and have a good mix of destinations (homes, offices, grocery stores and restaurants), so practical bicycling can be a convenient, positive experience.
Some of the better-known Cleveland neighborhoods that are truly bicycle friendly include Ohio City, Shaker Square, Tremont, Rockefeller Park/East Blvd., and to a lesser extent, Detroit-Shoreway and University Circle. Older suburbs that offer a bicycle-friendly experience include Cleveland Heights and Lakewood, as well as Shaker Heights, Brooklyn Center and Rocky River.
Newer suburbs often have subdivision-style streets (that is, lots of cul-de-sacs and few through-streets), so reaching destinations is a chore for all but the motoring public. These suburbs also have high-speed, high-traffic arterial streets that are distinctly bike-unfriendly, with destinations that are far apart. As a result, bicycling in a modern, suburban setting is often impractical and not very enjoyable.
Whether you live in a community that already is conducive to bicycling or not, there's always more that our local governments can do to improve conditions. Get involved in your community's plans to design streets that work not just for cars, but for bicycles and pedestrians, too. Help develop share-the-road programs, convenient and safe bicycle racks and dedicated bike lanes where needed.
You can get involved with the bicycle planning committee at the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA), the Greater Cleveland transportation planning organization. The members of the committee are promoting "Bicycle Friendly Communities", a program of the League of American Bicyclists to encourage and educate city officials about the things they can do to improve cycling conditions in their communities.
NOACA also produced five bicyle transportation maps for Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, and Medina Counties to make bicycling in the city easy and fun. The streets are categorized according to cyclist skill level, and the maps include riding and safety tips as well as Ohio law regarding bicycling. For information on obtaining the maps or call Sally Hanley at 216-241-2414, ext. 273 about these and
other bike activities.
Bike-friendly streets on your morning commute
Whether as regular commuters, or just occasional seekers of excitement and exercise, many people use bicycles to get downtown. None of the available routes are particularly beautiful or restful (at least as of this writing), but here are several possibilities for making your own two-wheeled trek to the city center.
Coming from the east: use Euclid Ave., Chester Ave., Wade Park to Payne Ave. or the Lakefront Bikeway (the bikeway shares a public road for a distance, but it's still a good route from the East Side to downtown).
From the west: try Lake Rd., Clifton Blvd., Franklin Blvd., or Detroit Ave.
From the south: Broadview, State, and Ridge roads all feed into Pearl Road, which eventually becomes West 25th Street as it approaches downtown. From West 25th, you can get on Scranton Rd., which will lead you into the Flats where you can cross the Cuyahoga River and ride into downtown.
If you're coming from the north: you'll probably want to use a canoe instead of a bike!
As you might imagine, these roads are busiest during rush hours and special events (particularly Indians and Browns games). If you can arrange your schedule to avoid peak times, your ride will be much improved. Even 15-30 minutes can make a big difference.
There are also several north-south bike-friendly streets away from the city center. On the West Side, look for West Boulevard and Wooster Road. On the East Side, try East Boulevard, Belvoir Boulevard or the Harrison Dillard bikeway along Martin Luther King Jr.
Plans are being made to extend the Lakefront Bikeway west of downtown and to extend the Ohio & Erie Canal Corridors Towpath Trail northward all the way to the lakefront. Bikeway (connecting in the Flats) from its current terminus at Harvard Road. When completed, these projects will vastly improve the everyday experience of cycling to downtown Cleveland.
For more information about the west extension of the Lakefront Bikeway, contact the Cleveland Planning Commission at 216-664-2210. For information on the planned Towpath Trail extension to the Lakefront Bikeway, contact the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission at 216-443-3700. If you live in or bike around the Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights or University Circle area, EcoCity Cleveland has created a Circle-Heights Bike map showing the best routes to ride in a beautifully rendered map.
Terrain and weather
Terrain for cyclists in Cuyahoga County is generally not a challenge. The land west of the Cuyahoga Riverand all lakefront routesare fairly flat. The eastern half of the county is, geologically speaking, the western edge of the Allegheny Plateau and has hills that range from mild to steep, though the hills are never longer than a few hundred yards. Just gear down and take your time.
As for the weather, OK let's face it, Cleveland weather can occasionally be daunting if you're on a bicycle. But those who say bicycling in Cleveland is only doable six months out of the year are exaggerating. (Madison, Wisconsin is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the U.S. and its weather makes ours look almost tropical!) Sure you've got to dress warmly during some months, and rain gear isn't a bad idea either. Bicycling can still be a practical, enjoyable choice for most of the year if you're well prepared.
Winds in Northeast Ohio can be strong, but only occasionally present a significant challenge to the practical bicyclist. The breeze is usually from the west, though warm spring days are often brought by strong winds from the south, while blustery north winds from over Lake Erie occasionally buffet downtown.
Snowfall has been erratic in recent years, ranging from as little as 31 inches in a season (1997-98) to 102 inches (1995-96). For those inclined to consider winter riding, we note that snow doesn't always accumulate (especially on the West Side, which gets less snow than on the East Side), and street cleaning on main surface streets is usually excellent. With appropriate clothing and common sense visibility precautions, year-round cycling is feasible.
Bicycles and public
If you ride RTA's Rapid, you can usually find a safe bicycle rack at or near your station. After many years of advocacy efforts on the part of EcoCity Cleveland and others, the Greater Cleveland RTA has agreed to allow bicycles on board the Rapid during off-peak hours (restricted hours are 6:30-8:30 am and 4-6 pm). In addition, our direct advocacy secured a committment from RTA to equip all of their buses with bike racks by Spring 2003. And the city of Cleveland has placed a request with NOACA, the regional transportation planning body, to purchase and install 500 bike racks throughout the city. The Kent State Campus Bus Service also welcomes bikes on their buses.
Your involvement in Alt-Trans Cleveland can make a difference in gaining full public transit access for the bicycling public (see the membership page at the back of this book). Additionally, you can call George Dixon, RTA Board President, or Joseph Calabrese, RTA General Manager, at 216-566-5100 to voice your support for transit-bicycle integration in Greater Cleveland.
Intercity connections are a similar story. Both Greyhound and Amtrak will accept a boxed bicycle as one piece of checked luggage at no extra charge. And airlines will accept boxed bicycles for a fee (often $50 each way).
This is what your mom would say if she were a cyclist:
Wear a helmet. Ride safely and defensively. Buy a bell to warn pedestrians of your approach. Lock up your bike when you go into a building. Always use lights and reflective gear when it gets dark. Familiarize yourself with the rules of the road (including appropriate hand signals). And be aware of other practical precautions for urban bicycling. (Oh, and one more thing: contact the Ohio Department of Transportation or your local City Hall for more information on bicycle laws and courses on safe cycling.)
Remember that in the colder months, darkness arrives before 6 p.m. Use proper equipment for night time visibility; this is Ohio law, and also essential for your own safety. Ask at bicycle shops for information and advice on helmet fit, mirrors, lights, reflective gear, and all other aspects of cycling safety. With a little knowledge, practical urban cycling can always be a fun and safe experience.
Recreational bicycling options
If you're looking for exercise and fresh air, you should know that our region has an excellent network of recreational multi-use paths. Unfortunately, only the newly opened Cleveland Lakefront Bikeway is easily accessible from downtown and nearby neighborhoods. It stretches east from North Coast Harbor and East 9th Street in downtown Cleveland to Lake Shore Boulevard in Euclid.
Halfway between downtown Cleveland and Euclid is Gordon Park, and here the Lakefront Bikeway connects with the recently-opened Harrison Dillard Bikeway along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. This new link in the city's bikeway system connects the lakeshore route with the cultural attractions of University Circle.
A little farther out in Cuyahoga County, there are several good bikeway systems. The largest is that of the Cleveland Metroparks which has more than 100 bike-friendly miles of all-purpose trails in its "Emerald Necklace" of parks and reservations. Maps are available by calling the Metroparks at 216-351-6300.
On the east side of Cuyahoga County, look for friendly recreational cycling on North Park and South Park boulevards in Shaker Heights (where the city created a painted bike lane on a portion of the road), the Bedford-South Chagrin Parkway, Fairmount Boulevard east of I-271, and Chagrin River Road.
To the south, check out the excellent Towpath Trail of the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, the new Metroparks Canal Reservation, and the North Royalton-Brecksville Metroparks Parkway.
On the west side of the county, look for the Cleveland Metroparks' Big Creek Parkway and Valley Parkway.
The cities of Mentor in Lake County and Avon in Lorain County are developing bike route systems that will be quite comprehensive when completed. Some of the other county metroparks districts are also building bike routes aimed at the recreational cyclist. Contact the NOACA bicycle committee (see below) for more information on obtaining maps of bike routes, lanes, and paths in Cuyahoga, Lake, Geauga, Medina and Lorain Counties.
For the most part, all-purpose trails and bike paths are located away from commercial areas, so there is very little shopping or other services along the way. One exception is the Big Creek Parkway, which closely parallels the Pearl Road commercial district through Parma Heights and Middleburg Heights. Valley Parkway in the Rocky River Reservation is downhill from several shopping districts, including Kamm's Plaza/Lorain Road and downtown Berea. Otherwise, be sure to take along water, snacks and tube repair kits when you plan on taking a long ride.
No bicycle rental facilities with public transit access exist in Greater Cleveland yet to our knowledge. Alt-Trans Cleveland hopes that this problem can be remedied in the near future. Call your local bicycle shops for more information.
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