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A bike-friendlier future? Brunswick leaders eye options, prefere

The Brunswick Sun: A bike-friendlier future? Brunswick leaders eye options, preferences

By Brian Lisik
January 21, 2010, 4:06PM

BRUNSWICK Bicycle enthusiasts in town may have a few more amenities available to them in the future. For the moment, however, the city is far from a bike rider’s paradise.

These were the latest findings of an ongoing, City-Council commissioned “Bicycle Master Plan” study by Stow-based traffic engineering firm TMS Engineers, Inc.

The firm presented the results Jan. 14 of the third phase of the study – identifying and evaluating concern areas and beginning to develop cost estimates.

“We used the Federal Highway Commission’s ‘bicycle compatibility index’ to establish the city’s ‘bicycle friendliness,’” TMS engineer Andrew Comer said, adding that the federal guidelines are merely a broad starting point for the discussion of creating bicycle lanes or roadside bike paths within the city. “The guidelines give areas an A-through-F grade and pertain to the average adult bicyclist and average roadway pavement condition. We felt we needed a starting point, but it won’t be our sole determining factor.”

The next step of the study will involve the creation of a bicycle master plan report, including a revised “purpose and need statement,” and recommended funding, timetable and delivery strategy,” Comer explained.

Roads flunk out

In the meantime, the study has found that the majority of the city’s roadways — in particular its major commercial corridors along Center and Pearl roads — get a failing grade.

“From a safety standpoint, things like heavy vehicles and intersections start to degrade things,” Comer said. “So even with a bike lane, Center and Pearl roads are probably not good candidates. With current conditions — no bike lanes — a bicyclist would not feel comfortable on the majority of roads (within the city).”

While Comer indicated that some “connector roads” such as Grafton, Hadcock, and Laurel did receive B and C grades, the majority of residents attending the meeting felt that repairing those roads in general was of a greater immediate concern than adding to their bicycle accessibility.

Off-road bike paths, however, might provide the most logical alternative, Comer said. A two-month survey of residents from both the city and the townships of Brunswick Hills and Hinckley found that the top two reasons local bikers bike are exercise and recreation. The bottom of the “why-do-you-bike?” list included environmental and financial reasons, shopping, and getting to school and work.

The lack of bike lanes and off-road paths, along with traffic conditions, were the top reasons given for not biking in town.
“When asked where (riders) would like to be able to bike to,” Comer said, “The schools, the city’s eight parks, and retail areas along Pearl and Center — particularly Town Center — came up most often.”

Though traversing through residential neighborhoods presents a challenge to an east-west corridor, TMS Engineers suggested a couple of north-south options for off-road facilities.

The first suggested corridor through the city would be along the Interstate 71 corridor, connected to the Cleveland Metroparks and adjacent communities. The second, more locally focused, option would be a route along Plum Creek, connected city parks and neighborhoods along with providing a north-south link to the commercial Center Road corridor.

First things first

Resident reaction to the latest TMS proposals was generally favorable, though most in attendance felt the suggestions might be a bit premature.

“If you bike in Brunswick, you know there is no such thing as making any of those roads a bike route,” said Brunswick Hills resident Georgia Killmer, who added that involvement by all three communities was vital for a bike plan’s success. “If we want to make this one of the better cities to live in overall, at least sweep the streets and fix the holes.”

Dorothy Straus, who attended the meeting with her husband — retired Medina County Park Commissioner Ken Straus — agreed with TMS’s off-road alternatives, but questioned why the commercial corridors were being considered at all.

“Since the survey said riders (want facilities) for recreational purposes,” she said.

Hadcock Road resident Mike Szoke said that while none of the options presented may see the light of day in his time, he felt such efforts were positive.

“You have to start somewhere and I feel this is a good starting point,” Szoke said. “They brought up a lot to think about and even if (bicyclists) follow the rules of the road, there are many drivers out there who still need to be educated — to realize we have as much right to be there as they do.”

City Engineer Ryan Cummins said the formation of the bicycle master plan is a necessary first step to someday making the city more bike friendly.

“As (road project) funding opportunities come up in the future, the city can use this plan to show that there is a desire for this from residents, and that we have looked into where it is feasible,” Cummins said. “It’s true that there is no pot of money for us to build everything we’ve shown. But now we can show that we’ve looked into it and realize we can’t just throw up three feet (of an addition to a roadway) and make a bike path.”