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Cleveland’s Superior Midway bike project saved after backlash

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Posted at 5:47 PM, Feb 22, 2023

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Following backlash from the biking community, a proposal to stop cities from creating their own bike lines was removed from the Ohio budget.

It's been a bumpy ride, but smoother roads are ahead for the Superior Avenue Midway bike project in Cleveland.

Ohio had been considering taking away local cities' control in building bike lanes, but News 5 sat down with state Rep. Tom Patton (R-Strongsville) to get the exclusive on why he was rescinding his proposal.

Cleveland is trying to become a more environmentally friendly city.

"Our mission is really about creating a region that's sustainable, connected, healthy and vibrant by promoting bicycling and advocating for safe and equitable transportation for all," said Bike Cleveland executive director Jacob VanSickle.

For years, VanSickle has been working on The Midway – Cleveland’s Protected Bikeway Network. This multi-million dollar project has been in the works for more than a decade and would provide 2.4 miles of protected bike lanes along Superior Avenue between E. 55th Street and Public Square.

But a state budget amendment would scrap the whole project, raising worries on home rule.

"Our concern with this legislation is first and foremost about ensuring that there isn't regulation imposed on jurisdictions at the state level," Grace Gallucci, executive director of Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) told News 5.

Gallucci has been speaking out against an amendment that would limit local government's ability to design bike lanes and would prevent the construction of a bike lane in the middle of a street or highway in a city with 300,000 or more people.

"This is purely targeted at the Midway project," VanSickle added.

Patton argued that firefighters and Downtown businesses have been left out of the conversation.

A major stakeholder, the commercial freight haulers, have to make deliveries to a lot of those Downtown businesses in the middle lane, he added.

"I had gotten some concerns from... some of the businesses in the area that hadn't been made aware of it, but specifically first responders, the fire department," the representative told News 5.

Safety is especially important with the advancement of elevated lanes that trucks would need to drive over, he said.

"You and I — our cars could probably take a U-turn more easily than a fire truck," he said.

But Patton said his perspective changed when Gallucci started to testify.

"We are still at the early stages of design and so there's still a lot of opportunity to ensure that the project meets the needs of the residents of the bicyclists, the community, the businesses and the first responders that would be in that corridor," the advocate said.

The lawmaker heard her — and decided to reconsider his bike lane provision.

"I'll just quietly pull it out," Patton told News 5. "Like anything, it created a dialogue. That's sometimes the reason you put amendments in — is to get people to sit down at the table and talk to the rest of the stakeholders."

Patton hinted that this was all his way of opening up lines of communication, noting that the individuals who raised concerns to him said the bike advocates weren't returning their calls.

"We really didn't think we were going to block the bicycle lane," he said. "But just as I hoped, and after doing this for 20-plus years... You've got people at the table now. We've gotten the assurances that we needed to get."

This is a win for Northeast Ohio and the rest of the state, Gallucci said. VanSickle added that their hope was always to have Patton walk the amendment back.

"We look forward to working with the city and neighborhood residents on ensuring that those concerns are addressed," VanSickle said.

The Superior Midway will continue to move forward in the design phase.

Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.