(Plain Press, January 2010, Chuck Hoven) A Sunday, December 6th rally at Lincoln Park in the Tremont neighborhood, calling for a bicycle and pedestrian pathway along the proposed Inner Belt Bridge, drew about eighty cyclists, walkers and even a few babies in strollers. Those gathered at the event wrote letters to the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) urging the addition of a safe protected pedestrian and bicycle path on the new Inner Belt Bridge.
Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich made an appearance at the rally, lending his support to the cause with a letter of support addressed to Governor Ted Strickland.
Kevin Cronin, President of ClevelandBikes, urged supporters to attend a Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) meeting on December 11th to urge area transportation planners to support the bike and pedestrian path on the proposed bridge. Jim Sheehan of Ohio City Bicycle Co-op described each of the two routes from Tremont to downtown Cleveland recommended by the Ohio Department of Transportation. Participants in the rally split into two groups – one taking the shorter route to downtown via the Abbey Bridge and the Lorain Carnegie Bridge, and the other taking a longer and more difficult route via the flats. Organizers hoped to point out the lack of safety and the additional traveling distance involved in following the ODOT recommended routes to downtown as opposed to the proposed Inner Belt route.
Rally organizers passed out information provided by the Green City Blue Lake Institute outlining reasons that Northeast Ohioans should be able to walk and bike on the Inner Belt Bridge. The literature noted that 25% of Cleveland households did not own a car. The Green City Blue Lake document notes figures for households without a car were even higher in neighborhoods on either side of the Inner Belt with 30% of Tremont households not owning a car, 65% of Central neighborhood households without a car and 42% of downtown households without a car.
The Green City Blue Lake position paper stated the advantages of walking and biking in saving in transportation costs for household budgets, reducing the impact on climate change and improved health and fitness. The paper cites a study by the Rails to Trails Conservancy, which notes the fuel savings, greenhouse gas reductions, and health care savings would amount to more than the proposed cost of building the extra transportation infrastructure for the pedestrian/bicycle path.
On December 11th, the group delivered letters of support to the NOACA meeting and reportedly found members of the NOACA Board receptive to their cause.
In a letter posted on the Green City Blue Lake website www.gcbl.org, Kevin Kronin reports on the conditions experienced by rally members following the ODOT preferred routes to downtown. Kronin states, “They road their bikes through glass, in potholes, sharing streets with buses and cars, even though they were too narrow to do so safely, and alongside speeding traffic, separated by only three inches of fading paint. They walked in streets without sidewalks or street lights, or along dark, dangerous roads.”
Kronin goes on to say “Northeast Ohio residents want and deserve what communities across the country enjoy – the opportunity to bike and walk in a safe, secure area along an interstate highway, offering a direct, efficient and beautiful way to travel to their chosen destination. “
In a December 18th posting to the Green City Blue Lake Website, David Beach, the organization’s director, reports that the Sustainable 2019 Transportation Action Group voted to support bike and pedestrian access on the new Inner Belt Bridge. Beach urged supporters of bike and pedestrian access to the Inner Belt to attend a Cleveland City Planning Commission meeting on January 8th 2010 at 9 a.m. where a resolution in support of the idea will be introduced, or to attend a 10 a.m. NOACA meeting on the same day where he expects a similar resolution to be introduced.
On the Green City Blue Lake website Beach provides a list of upcoming meetings, a comprehensive history of the effort to provide pedestrian and bicycle access to the new Inner Belt Bridge, as well as a drawing of the proposed pathway provided by activists promoting the effort. To access this information go to www.gcbl.org/planning/innerbelt.