24 March 2018

Connecting The Lanes In Rubber City

One of my pet peeves about bike lanes is that, too often, they go to and from nowhere, or they begin or end without warning.  So they are essentially useless for urban cyclists who want to commute or do any sort of utility riding.  Bike lanes like those certainly won't make cycling a viable alternative to driving or even mass transportation, at least for most people.

Well, the folks at Copenhagenize design of Montreal (which actually has a coherent system of lanes) seem to understand.  Best of all, a city here in the good ol' U.S. of A. is hiring them to create a "cycling grid" that will allow cyclists to get to and from their homes, workplaces, schools and places where they shop and enjoy their recreations.

Granted, that city isn't as big as Montreal or Copenhagen--or my beloved Big Apple.  But I couldn't help but to feel good that the Copenhagenize consultants have been brought into the hometown of a favorite bike blogger of mine.

I am talking about Akron, Ohio, were resides one "Retrogrouch".  Mayor Dan Horrigan has announced that a $127,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will be used to hire the folks at Copenhagenize.  They have agreed to take on the task of connecting the city's existing 25 miles of bike paths and another 16 that are expected to go online soon. 

The biggest challenge, according to the consultants, will be to decide which of the Akron's streets should be conduits for cyclists traveling between the city's major bike trails.  The goal, according to the mayor, is not only tourism, recreation and exercise, but also to make viable routes for bicycle commuters.  

I haven't been to Akron.  But I can't help but to think Horrigan is looking to nearby Pittsburgh, which has made strides in recent years toward becoming a "bike-friendly" city.  Like many other cities, Pittsburgh simply can't build more streets and would be hard-pressed to construct more highways.  And it can hardly fit more vehicular traffic into its streets than it already has.   People in the mayor's office seem to have noticed as much, and how the erstwhile Steel City is becoming a center for higher education, medicine, high technology and other industries that employ educated professionals--in short, a smaller inland version of Boston.  And, also in short, a city full of people who see the practical as well as the psychological and physical benefits of cycling to work or school, or for fun.

Perhaps Mayor Horrigan is thinking about how Akron might transition from being the Rubber City to something else altogether.  Whatever it becomes, it should be welcoming and accomodating to cyclists, according to Horrigan.  "To truly become a bike-friendly city, Akron needs a core network of connected bike lanes that will link our neighborhoods to key destinations and business districts across the city," he said in a press release.  Those lanes need to be "safe and welcoming for all users, and designed with input from the residents and stakeholders they serve," he added.


  1. This comes as welcome news. I live about five miles west of the Ohio and Erie Canal towpath. I often ride the towpath through nearby Barberton and into downtown Akron.

  2. I wonder if the grant money is all it costs that make the change. Or is that just part of the cost. If the cost is that low, then surely more cities, big cities can afford to redo their streets. Although even with the money available, there is so much anger from the public who don't want to give up their car lanes.

  3. My city is making a feeble attempt to designate bike routes. Of course they consist of nothing more than painted sharrows. I would be grateful for even that except that they seem to have picked some of the busiest and narrowest streets in town. Most cyclists myself included simply ignore them and find a safer street a block or two away. I think the city might be trying to kill us off.

  4. Louis--I am glad you might be a beneficiary of good bike planning, which is all too rare in this ocuntry.

    Anon--As I understand it, the money is just for consultants' costs. I don't know what it will cost for construction or anything else related to the project.

    Phillip--"Painted sharrows." Ha! That makes for good bike infrastructure the way crossed fingers is a birth control method. (That's an old Catholic school joke.)