Cleveland, let's talk about bike lanes

Biking and walking to work and school is a continuously growing trend in the United States'a trend that is not lost on Lee's campus and in Cleveland.

Some students, like Senior Emily Geer, enjoy biking around campus and town to class and work, as they do not have access to a car. However, the absence of bike lanes has posed a problem for her and those like her.

'Bike lanes would be something that would really make the experience [of biking] better,' Geer said. 'Even on short rides to work or class, I have to make the decision to either dodge cars on the road, or dodge people on the sidewalks.'

In 2008, the Cleveland Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) drafted the Final Report Cleveland Area MPO Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.

According to the plan, its purpose is, 'to create a coordinated system of bicycle and pedestrian facilities that enhance and promote multi-modal travel within the Cleveland MPO area.'

Since this time, Planning Director Greg Thomas said the city has done more on the pedestrian facility side of the plan than on the bike side, which has been more concentrated to the extension of the Greenway.

'I would really like to see us have a more complete transportation package,' Thomas said. 'For one reason, it would serve a lot of need for people without access to cars ' [and] it would also facilitate that mode [of transportation] for people who want to use it.'

As a planner, Thomas said he has seen that there is a growing preference in specific demographic groups'particularly college students'for living places where they can bike and walk.

'It's good to be able to provide that for young professionals who are going to contribute a lot to our economy and benefit us all,' Thomas said. 'Lee University creates a fair density of population, so there is a high possibility of people walking and biking, but they need the facilities to do that.'

Assistant Professor of Biology John Hisey bikes as a practical means of commuting and is an experienced cyclist who has biked about 100,000 miles over 50 years in many regions of the United States and China.

In his perspective, Hisey said he does not believe that Cleveland's street design or traffic patterns are more or less conducive to bicycling on average as other places he has lived.

'Some cities have bike lanes, but if a ban on parking in them is not enforced, they become slow and dangerous to use,' Hisey said. 'Also, if they aren't regularly cleaned by street sweeping equipment, then pebbles, broken glass, or other obstructions knocked into them by motorized vehicles in adjacent lanes can accumulate and cause the cyclist flat tires or crashes.'

Hisey said bike paths that are separated from the street by curbs or other barriers could also be a hazard for cyclists.

'[They] do not allow cyclists to enter the street at will to flow with the traffic, and in some cases may require cyclists to stop at all cross streets, may be rougher than the city streets, have blind corners, be much narrower than the streets and thus offer less maneuvering room and be congested with pets, children and other slow-moving pedestrians,' Hisey said.

In regards to constructing bike lanes for Cleveland, Hisey suggests that they should be designed by the people who know them the best'the cyclists.

'They should be designed by experienced cyclists, not by city planners unfamiliar with the preferences of cyclists as seems to have been the case in some cities,' Hisey said. 'If separate lanes or sidewalks are not planned, streets should be kept safe for cyclists and pedestrians by having adequate width and shoulders.'

Junior Zachary Skinner has been biking for only two months, but said he had many problems when he would bike on the sidewalks around campus.

'While I love biking, it is a constant battle day in and day out not to hit anyone, or be hit myself,' Skinner said. 'Biking on the sidewalks is frustrating because people have headphones in and cannot hear me coming, they walk slow, or they simply block the whole path.'

Skinner said he instead chooses the efficiency of biking on the street as opposed to the congested sidewalk traffic, though he said it is also more dangerous.

'Since I live in Medlin, I have to cross a main street crosswalk everyday,' Skinner said. 'People at this crosswalk never wish to stop and have nearly hit me many times. However, the street that runs in front of [Sharp Davis Hall] is by far the most dangerous. People fly down this street and have no desire to stop for bikers or pedestrians.'

According to statistics provided by the Department of Safety and Homeland Security there were six total cyclists involved in traffic crashes in Bradley County in 2014. Of these numbers, five resulted in injury and one resulted in property damage only (PPO). There were no fatalities.

These numbers are about average for Bradley County since 2004, where the number of crashes has ranged from three in 2004 and 2005, to 11 in 2011.

Though Hisey said he is mostly comfortable cycling on most streets in Cleveland, he said some areas strike him as 'particularly dangerous.'

One of these areas is the section of 20th Street where the road narrows from four lanes to two just beyond the bypass, Hisey said.

'That section of 20th street has not been widened and still has narrow lanes and no shoulders or sidewalks,' Hisey said. 'Pedestrians and cyclists must use the edge of the road as there is no nearby alternative route.  I'm concerned that a pedestrian or cyclist will be injured or killed there.'

Daniel Brantley, a local Cleveland resident and creator of the 'Create Bike Lanes in Cleveland, Tennessee' petition, said that he bikes to work year round, but believes Cleveland needs a better infrastructure to make biking a safer mode of transportation.

'We say we want people healthy, but all we give them is the Greenway,' Brantley said. 'Don't get me wrong'the Greenway is great. But it's primarily used by people who want to exercise. Not by people going from A to B. People will be healthier if they can exercise on the way to work, to the store or to a friend's house across town. Bikes make this possible.'

According to the petition, which currently has 50 of the needed 250 signatures, it is asking the City of Cleveland, 'to make the area a safer place to ride bikes by implementing bicycle lanes on as many miles of Cleveland roads as possible.'

Brantley said that if bike lanes are created, there will also be a need for community education about biking.

'People think bikes are in the way'that the road belongs to cars,' Brantley said. 'Bikes actually have all the rights of a car.']

According to the Tennessee Department of Transportation, 'in Tennessee, a bicycle has the legal status of a vehicle.  This means that bicyclists have full rights and responsibilities on the roadway and are subject to the regulations governing the operation of a motor vehicle.'

Some of these regulations include riding on the side of the road with the flow of traffic and obeying all traffic signs and signals.

Currently, the MPO is developing the 2040 Transportation Long Range plan, which must be completed by May 2016.

'The plan will analyze our transportation facilities and needs and also look at cost and revenues projected over that time frame because the plan itself has to be cost constrained,' Thomas said.

Thomas said if any Lee students, staff or faculty members want to hold a meeting with him at Lee to discuss the issue of constructing bike lanes in Cleveland and contribute to the discussion about the Long Range plan, they can email him at


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