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Plans for new bike infrastructure on Lorain Avenue is the latest push for east/west connectivity

Posted at 6:00 AM, May 24, 2021

CLEVELAND — The City of Cleveland is releasing a few designs Monday for public feedback regarding its Lorain Avenue Rehabilitation and Bicycle Facilities project. You can view the designs here, once the link goes live.

This is a summary of Cleveland's options for Lorain Avenue.

Any upgrade is a welcome one for Annie Pease, who lives just a block away from Lorain and often walks and rides her bicycle along it.

“It can be uncomfortable because of how quickly and how close the sidewalk is to moving traffic,” said Pease.

Pease says she rides on Lorain when she has to but she prefers to use other streets where traffic doesn't move as fast.

She hopes the new design plans for Lorain Avenue will change that. There are a few designs, ranging from a two-way cycle track attached to the sidewalk, protected from traffic to smaller bike infrastructure upgrades.

Pease says she’s comfortable riding with traffic in most cases but generally not on Lorain Ave.

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Advocates say a cycle track on at least some of Lorain Avenue is their top choice.

“I often choose a different route, because riding on Lorain, the cars are moving faster, it’s stressful,” said Pease.

Cleveland Director of City Planning Freddy Collier says this project is part of the evidence that Cleveland is becoming a modern city.

A scooter waits for a rider along Lorain Avenue. Right now, there are no lanes for cyclists or scooters on much of Lorain near Ohio City.

“[Plans for Lorain Avenue] really start to rethink the street in a way that honors pedestrianism, honors vehicles, honors bicycles, and really starts to create that 21st Century, multi-modal environment,” said Collier.

The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) tells News 5 it’s already dedicated a few million dollars to the project, and Ohio City Incorporated Executive Director Tom McNair says about $10 million has already been secured for plans that include a cycle-track along much of Lorain Ave.

About $10 million has been secured for this project so far. These are the city's estimates for what the options would cost.

Cleveland Traffic Commissioner Rob Mavec says a cycle track is the goal but gets built will depend on the resources available.

“The funding may fall short at this point so that’s why we’re trying to present different options that may accomplish that separate bike facility maybe in a different manner, but still a separated bike facility,” said Mavec.

McNair says some cars can go as fast as 45-50 mph on Lorain.

“As we look at what's happening in Ohio City today, I think the cycle track is actually more important now than it was when it was first envisioned,” said McNair.

That’s because the Red Line Greenway just opened, the Whiskey Island Connector and Wendy Park Bridge are due to open this summer, and Franklin Boulevard is due for its own rehabilitation project as early as next summer.

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The multi-use trail option would put pedestrians and cyclists on the same surface, similar to trails in the Cleveland Metroparks.

New development projects along Lorain have already broken ground anticipating a community that will be much better connected with bike infrastructure in the near future.

This is a unique moment for projects like these because the City of Cleveland is getting more than $500 million in federal COVID relief funds and the Biden Administration’s enthusiasm around infrastructure spending could make funding available for projects like these. Cycling advocates tell News 5 they’d like to see cycle track plans on Lorain Avenue and Superior Avenue linked together so they can attempt to get large amounts of grant money for both projects.

Bike advocates worry that bike lanes without any protection would still be intimidating to use because cars travel so quickly along Lorain Ave.

“This is almost a once in a generation opportunity with the types of funding streams that are in front of us right now,” said McNair.

The hope is that those investments pay off, even if it’s $10 or $20 at a time, by making it easier for residents like Annie to get around their community,.

“Certainly, the more walkable the neighborhood becomes, the more bike-able it becomes, the better and better the neighborhood will be,” said Pease.

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