Reconfiguring, Calming, and Biking W. 14th Street

W 14th Street Restriping_webby Carissa Woytach

Tremont will continue in its efforts to become a more bicycle-friendly area with the addition of bike lanes on both sides of West 14th from the interstate 90 ramp to Clark Ave. Changes started in mid-October and will continue to take place during the work on the I-90 on-ramp, taking the road from four traffic lanes with street parking, to two traffic lanes with street parking and bike lanes in each direction.

The new favor on bike lanes will put West 14th on a diet, making it a “skinny” or “complete” street — which makes a roadway safely accessible to all forms of transportation, including motorist, transit, pedestrians and cyclists.

The addition of bike lanes in both directions will, according to Cory Riordan, director of Tremont West, make the area safely accessible to a wider range of visitors, with no major changes to existing infrastructure.

“West 14th has been a commuter cut-through route for a very long time — ever since the connection between [interstate] 71 and West 14th to the [interstate] 90 on-ramp,” Riordan said. “Now the 90 on-ramp, with the closing of that presented an opportunity to redo the street and when the on-ramp opens back up in 2016, to introduce the commuter who would want to use that as a cut through to a differently aligned [street] pattern.”

This process began for Tremont West in Feb. 2014, where the idea of bike lanes was first introduced. The new “skinny street” will reclaim West 14th for non-vehicular visitors, something that has been both economically and ecologically friendly when tested in other cities like Portland and San Francisco.

In a document published by the American Planning Association, “complete” streets promote the safety of all those who use them while creating economic growth in the area by providing business access to a wider array of consumers. It is shown to also create safer streets, a theory which has proven true in Portland.

In an analysis done by the Portland Bureau of Transportation, narrowing of roads via “road diets” or re-stripping caused motorists to reduce their speeds, leading to a 37 percent crash reduction over 20 years.

“The bike community was complaining because we were a posted Towpath Trail temporary route, [yet] the comfort level of riding a bike on a street that’s designed to maximum efficiency for somebody that is cutting through — meaning that a car could travel at 50 mph and feel comfortable with the size of the lane — [was] not conducive for inviting bikes onto the street, or for the residential portion, which the majority of West 14th is residential and religious institutions” Riordan said. “By slowing down traffic and adding bike lands and adding parking we’re creating an environment that is more conducive to pedestrians, bicycles, churchgoers and neighbors.”

With the slowing of traffic due to the restriping, neighbors at the October 2014 follow-up meeting mentioned that they were happy to have the added lanes, according to Riordan. One man said that he felt safer with slower traffic near his four children who were now less likely to be hit by a speeding car.

“Yeah, we still have cars traveling on [West 14th] but it puts a different focus on the street and what it’s designed to do,” he said. “It’s not just designed to move a car as fast as possible from point A to point B. It’s creates other experiences along that street and makes it safer for everyone, [whether] it’s residential or business.”

But while bike lanes separate cyclists from traffic and promote economic growth in the area, they are not without fault. There is a learning curve associated with the lanes that will have an immediate impact with driver-cyclist safety.

Henry Senyak, chairman for the Lincoln Heights block club, agrees with the addition of bike lanes to West 14th, but has found fault with some of their implications. Among those are the interactions with inexperienced or ignorant drivers who will either use the bike lane to their own advantage or inadvertently injure a cyclist when turning onto streets like Starkweather Ave. and Kenilworth Ave.

“[Drivers] are going to ignore the speed limit ant they’re going to ignore bike lanes and they’re going try to pass people going the speed limit or just be rude and I think it’s going to cause accidents,” Senyak said. “And on the other hand you see some bikers who are stupid enough to ignore the laws they should follow too and it’s a learning curve for [both groups.]”

“It’s only going to take one accident for people to start taking it seriously that you’re going to have to have police out there every day of the week for a couple months trying to enforce [the new traffic laws,]” Senyak continued.

While new signs are being put up to warn motorists of the merge off the highway — going from two lanes in each direction to one — motorists and bikers alike will still need to educate themselves on how to interact with one another.

Besides an increase in frustration for those who used to use West 14th as a quick cut through, the addition of bike lanes will also inadvertently reroute some traffic onto Scranton Road, according to Senyak, which has its own traffic problems.

With three schools on or near Scranton Road, including Scranton Elementary and Luis Munoz Marin School, an increase in traffic from the highway — including large trucks or semis which cannot stop quickly — creates a safety issue that the Lincoln Heights block club is looking into and is one of the concerns that will be discussed at their Nov. 9 meeting.

“If you get a truck even going 25 mph — [you] have all these school children walking back and forth into Tremont and up and down the Scranton Corridor and you’ve got trucks going 25, sometimes even 40 mph with heavy loads,” Senyak said.

For bike lanes on West 14th to be successful, neighbors, motorists and bicyclists must all be conscientious of one another, according to Senyak. Because streets are no longer cleaned by the city, residents must also think of what they are sweeping into the bike lanes — including leaves, salt in the winter and debris which can damage cyclists’ tires and cause potential accidents.

“I think residents need to be courteous to cyclists when they clean their sidewalk and blow leaves, they shouldn’t be blowing them into the street anymore,” Senyak said. “Because you’re going to get somebody hurt.”

“Bike lanes are the future for a city that wants to grow,” Senyak continued. “[I] think there needs to be input from the community and stakeholders along the route to see if it’s acceptable […] Just don’t put bike lanes to put in bike lanes.”

For more information on traffic interaction between cyclists and motorists, readers are encouraged to visit the Ohio Driver’s Education booklet or the ODOT website.

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