Transportation – Transforming Cuyahoga County into a Multi-Modal Destination for all Ages and Abilities
The Greenprint’s Bike and Pedestrian Crashes layer helps identify hazardous areas worth upgrading to safer configurations. The Bike Facilities layers display the various types of existing and planned trail and bikeway facilities. The Regional Bike Network displays the NOACA’s bike network and the Cuyahoga Greenways depicts facilities from the 2020 Greenways Plan. ODOT provides State and U.S. Bike Route designations. The location of Transit routes, stops and stations are key for planning an integrated system so that walking, biking and other micromobility options (scooters, e-bikes, one-wheels, electric long boards, etc.) can fill in the first and last mile gaps to transit stops and stations. The Roadways layers of the Greenprint display the current roadway network which simply defines both opportunities and limitations for transportation options as well as for land restoration and enhancement. A metric for characterizing a roadway relative to a cyclist’s experience is called Level of Traffic Stress (LTS). Functional Class displays a roadway’s eligibility for federal funding.
The Cuyahoga County Climate Change Action Plan (CCCCAP) published in 2019 indicated that transportation-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions had increased 4% between 2010 and 2017 with the chief source from private automobiles. (p. 7 of the CCCCAP). A recent update (2020 data) indicates an overall decrease in GHG emissions, due in part to a drop of nearly 2.5 billion vehicle miles traveled, likely associated with the shift to remote work driven in part by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Off-road trails and dedicated bike lanes all help meet the need for transportation alternatives and are becoming more desired and expected by residents. There are numerous documented benefits of designing multi-functional streets, even beyond transportation, to meet the needs of all users. County Planning’s Complete Streets Toolkit describes and demonstrates concepts for redesigning and re-imagining roadways to encourage active forms of transportation such as walking and cycling.
In 2014 County Planning sponsored a NOACA Transportation for Livable Communities (TLCI) funded study, called the Eastside Greenway, seeking to connect the east side of Cleveland with 20 east suburban communities through a unified trail network. The enthusiasm generated following the completion of that study led to a second study to complete the planning process for the remainder of the county. This second study, called the Cuyahoga Greenways Plan, was funded by a NOACA TLCI grant and sponsored by County Planning, the Cleveland Metroparks, and NOACA. Released in 2020, the Cuyahoga Greenways Plan identifies a comprehensive county-wide network of off-road trails and street bicycle lanes as a transportation alternative to cars. Throughout the process of the Cuyahoga Greenways Plan study, County Planning convened leaders from key local organizations involved with trails and bicycle facilities, and formed the Cuyahoga Greenway Partners. This collaborative partnership of agencies and non-profits worked together with the Greenways Plan design team to locate and advocate for particular trail development and grouped the development of those trails by regional impact. The Cuyahoga Greenways Partners continue to advocate and assist project development efforts toward completion of the Greenways Plan network.
Level of Traffic Stress (LTS) is a metric on a scale of 1-5 (1 = low stress, 5 = high stress) which a cyclist may experience riding on a given roadway. The Greenprint uses NOACA’s ratings and map which is based on roadway width, posted speed limit, traffic level, presence, or absence of bike facilities. The ultimate goal is to have a bicycle network which is comfortable for all ages and abilities. This would be LTS levels of 3 or lower.
With the growing pedestrian, bicycle and micromobility modes, safety is more important than ever. In 2021, ODOT launched a Statewide Bike and Pedestrian Plan published as the Walk.Bike.Ohio initiative with safety, equity, livability and network connectivity among the various goals. Pedestrian and Bicycle Crash data is important for identifying high hazard areas and intersections and helps planners and engineers focus their efforts to improve design at these locations. There are several initiatives with some component of bicycle and/or pedestrian safety and these are beginning to converge. ODOT’s Safe Routes to School program targets K-12 youth for safe walking or biking to school. Complete and Green Streets is a design approach to make streets workable for all citizens, not just drivers, and more supportive of natural function, especially stormwater. Vision Zero is a strategy, started in Sweden and spreading rapidly across the globe, to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all.
Importance and Value
- Available evidence in medical and public health journals indicate that active lifestyles can improve physical health. Access to safe pedestrian and bicycle facilities could increase the probability that people will utilize them for exercise.
- Alternative modes of transportation offer more options to improve connectivity to employment centers, transit, educational opportunities and open/recreational spaces.
- Streets which are transformed to meet even the most basic Complete Streets standards enhance mobility for less abled persons and those who prefer alternative modes of transportation.
- Utilizing lower cost transportation modes such as walking, biking, micromobility and public transit could be a cost-saving transportation alternative for residents.
- Alternative modes of transportation available through trail networks and protected bicycle lanes can help relieve traffic congestion, improve mobility for all residents, and potentially reduce road fatality rates.
- Reducing the number of trips taken by car will have a great effect on reducing air pollution and Greenhouse Gas emissions.
Recommendations for Communities and Landowners
- Refer to the Cuyahoga County Complete Streets Toolkit for ideas on roadways designed and operated to safely and comfortably accommodate multiple users of all ages and abilities.
- Review the Cuyahoga Greenways Plan for connections identified in your community. Begin public engagement so that citizens become familiar with and supportive of these local projects. Establish timeframes for initiating each identified project.
- Implement projects identified in the Greenways Plan.
- Contact the Cuyahoga Greenway Partners for assistance in promoting trail projects. They can serve as a sounding board for trail placement and funding opportunities. Members of the Cuyahoga Greenways Partners include representatives of NOACA, Cuyahoga County Public Works, Cleveland Metroparks, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, and other trail advocacy groups.
- The Cuyahoga Greenway Partners may be able to help leverage your funding through their organizations and will help facilitate those efforts.
- The Cuyahoga Greenway Partners will also incorporate any new projects that are not identified in the Cuyahoga Greenways Plan into that plan. Introduce off-road all-purpose trails for healthy recreation and alternative transportation as often as possible.
- Consider the opportunity to introduce bicycle access and off-road trails when repaving streets, rebuilding roadways, and undertaking major sewer, water and other utility or construction projects.
- Contact the Cuyahoga County Department of Public Works (CCDPW) to see if a planned bikeway project can be integrated into a roadway or bridge improvement project through an existing funding program.
- Support Active Transportation policy priorities, especially for bike lanes.
- Encourage developers to incorporate standard trail and bikeway facilities into their new developments and to participate in the design and construction of planned Cuyahoga Greenways facilities near these developments.
- Donate or purchase easements or rights-of-way when portions of private land could extend or connect trails.
Resources for More Information
- Bike Cleveland – Bike Cleveland (and its suburban chapters) is an advocacy organization which works daily to make Greater Cleveland a fun, safe place where people of all ages and abilities can ride their bikes.
- NOACA Biking & Walking Maps – Static maps of recommended routes by type and suitability.
- Canalway Partners – Works to enhance the northern end of the Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area.
- Cleveland Metroparks map – Interactive map of the countywide park system that includes trail routing capability.
- Cuyahoga County Complete Streets Toolkit – A toolkit that explains and illustrates the concepts of complete streets showing design options.
- NOACA Funding Resource Guide – This is a directory of funding sources for transportation and environmental programs.
- NOACA TLCI Grant Program – NOACA’s Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative (TLCI) provides assistance to communities and public agencies for integrated transportation and land use planning, and for projects that strengthen community livability.
- Partnership for Sustainable Communities – Five year report from this interagency partnership with federal agencies HUD, USDOT, and USEPA
- Cuyahoga County Department of Public Works – This Cuyahoga County department provides engineering support for county-owned road and bridge projects and has funding programs to assist communities in completing those projects. Recent funding has assisted in engineering costs for road projects that incorporate street bicycle lanes and off-road trails.
- NOACA’s Community Assistance Center – Offers a Street Supplies program of items that can be installed temporarily to gauge the interest and efficacy of a proposed street improvement
- Cuyahoga County Climate Change Action Plan – An effort to set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, implement and track actions to meet those targets, and adapt to the impacts of climate change across Cuyahoga County
- ODOT’s Statewide Bike and Pedestrian Plan published as Bike.Ohio
- ODOT’s Safe Routes to School program
- Vision Zero Network principles for eliminating fatalities and severe injuries
Top photo by Jason Cohn, courtesy of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy