Report: Central Parkway Crashes in Line with Other Streets Without Bike Lanes

Finding are similar to those released and then pulled by the city in March

There's been a lot of controversy around the Central Parkway Bikeway, with some in the city, including City Council members, asking whether it has caused more accidents along the busy street. But a study undertaken by the city and re-released yesterday seems to show that's not the case.

A report by the city of Cincinnati Department of Transportation and Engineering released yesterday by the office of City Manager Harry Black shows that the stretch of Central Parkway with the controversial bike lane has no more accidents than comparable roads without the lanes.

Critics, including Councilman Christopher Smitherman, say that the lanes cause confusion because they require drivers to park in the right lane of the street instead of on the curb, where the bike lane now runs. Smitherman introduced a motion in February asking that the lanes be removed.

In 2015, according to Wednesday's report, Central Parkway between Liberty and Linn streets had 62 total car accidents, including seven involving parked cars.

In that same time frame, Glenway Avenue from Rapid Run Road to Gilsey Avenue, a similar stretch, had 91 accidents, including 13 parked car accidents. Another similar stretch of road, Hamilton Avenue from Spring Grove Avenue to Bruce Avenue, had 51 wrecks including seven with parked cars.

"The number of crashes on Central Parkway is comparable to the number of crashes on similar streets," the report concludes. "Research published in the American Journal of Public Health showed that streets with protected bicycle lanes saw 90 percent fewer cyclist injuries per mile than those with no bicycle infrastructure."

The report also breaks down the crashes on Central Parkway by cause, as shown below.

The report is similar to one released and then rescinded by the city in March. Among the differences: The earlier report explicitly recommended that the lanes be retained. That language does not appear in the recently released study.

“Given the reduced risk of injury to bicyclists, the administration does not recommend removal of the bike lanes,” the March memo from City Manager Black reads. “However, DOTE will continue to monitor conditions, and improvements may be made in the future as best practices evolve.”

The new report says that the Cincinnati Police Department's Traffic Unit "did feel that the area is more congested and confusing," but also that CPD feels that should lessen over time as motorists and cyclists become accustomed to the new lane arrangement. "Both Police and DOTE both believe that as drivers, cyclists and pedestrians become more familiar with the area and with the rules for the bike lane operations, there should be fewer conflicts," the new report notes.

There are measures that the city can take to reduce the confusion around the lane, the report says, including additional signs and better traffic striping. Those measures would cost about $30,000, money DOTE says it has available. By contrast, removing the lanes from the stretch between Liberty and Ravine streets as requested by Smitherman would cost the city $234,000. Removing the entire lane from Marshall Avenue to Elm Street, meanwhile, would cost $587,000, according to the report.

The Central Parkway Bikeway was completed in 2014 after multiple bouts of political wrangling. The protected bike lane uses plastic partitions to separate cyclists from drivers along the four-lane stretch of the Central Parkway running from Clifton, through the West End and University Heights and into Over-the-Rhine and downtown. The lane was initially proposed in a bike plan Cincinnati City Council passed in 2010, and Council in 2013 voted unanimously to build it using $500,000 in mostly federal money. 

While some neighboring business owners and the Fraternal Order of Police, whose headquarters are on the bike lane's path, have complained about accidents and parking woes since the lane has been introduced, nearby community councils have rallied around the lane. Clifton Town Meeting and the Over-the-Rhine Community Council have both passed motions this year supporting the lanes and asking for their expansion, citing the increase in economic activity and cyclist safety that studies suggest come with bike lanes in urban neighborhoods.

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