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Clifton Avenue Protected Bike Lanes Improve Safety for All Roadway Users

Tuesday, September 14, 2021 by Wade Johnston

View this op-ed published in the Cincinnati Enquirer here.

At Tri-State Trails, we believe that expanding the transportation options for people in our region benefits everyone, not just the people who choose to use them. Nowhere is this more true than the Clifton Avenue two-way protected bike lane near the University of Cincinnati. City of Cincinnati officials have recommended removing the lane by November, which was installed in March as a pilot project, and installing a permanent lane at a future date once $3 million in funding is secured.

We agree with City officials that the pilot has been a success, especially recently with the return of University of Cincinnati students to campus. The average daily usage of the lane has doubled in the past few weeks, giving college students a safe alternative for getting around in a neighborhood where traffic and parking can be a challenge. Perhaps more importantly, the volume of motorists driving faster than 40 miles per hour on Clifton Avenue fell by 43% after the protected bike lane was installed.

This drop in speed along Clifton Avenue, where at least 22 pedestrians have been hit since 2011, makes the street safer for pedestrians and other motorists; indeed, a pedestrian struck by a car moving 40 miles per hour is roughly twice as likely to die as the same pedestrian struck by a car moving 30 miles per hour.

There are other benefits to the community from a protected bike lane. Many people want to ride their bikes more, especially as a way of getting around rather than just for recreation, but they are nervous about the prospect of riding on a busy street. A study by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities looked at protected bike lanes in five cities and found that:

  • Ridership increased from 21% to 171% within one year of building the protected bike lanes;
  • 10% of those riders shifted from other modes of transportation, while a quarter shifted from other bike routes;
  • More than a quarter of riders said they were riding more;
  • Self-reported comfort levels were higher than a striped bike lane; and
  • No collisions or near-collisions in more than 144 hours of video involving 12,900 cyclists.

The study also found strong support for the protected lanes, with 75% of residents saying they support building more protected bike lanes, and 91% saying they support separating bikes from cars.

University and neighborhood representatives have expressed concern about traffic congestion and safety around the protected bike lane. These issues are not an outcome created by the new protected bike lane—rather, a visit to nearly any street around campus during rush hour will reveal that congestion and speeding are a normal occurrence around the University. A permanent protected bike lane and other roadway enhancements on Clifton Avenue can help solve those issues by giving residents and visitors a comfortable car-free way to get around. They also boost health by promoting active transportation and reducing pollution. There’s even evidence that local businesses benefit from bike traffic as people on bikes are more likely to stop and visit merchants than people in cars.

The pilot period has uncovered ways we can improve the Clifton Avenue protected bike lane and make this thoroughfare safer for all roadway users. We encourage all interested parties to come together to detail what the obstacles are—from better securing the buffer curbs to enabling winter snow removal to accommodating construction projects on the UC campus. Once we’ve inventoried the obstacles, we can come up with ways to address them to ensure the bike lane works as intended for everyone. The most important lesson from this project is the vision of mobility it represents: one that prioritizes cyclists and pedestrians as much as it prizes cars, and in doing so makes Cincinnati a safer place for us all.

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