Executive Director’s Letter
Cleveland looks different from a bike. The city seems grander, but also more intimate, when you are perched on a bicycle seat. Architecture stands out. So do parks and streetscapes and the vast water resource on our northern shore. But you also notice smaller things — design elements of old buildings, individual trees and people on foot. You can move slowly enough to see the many threads of our city and fast enough to see the fabric they create.
Of course, it’s not all beautiful. Vacant lots and houses, scary intersections, litter — these and other less appealing aspects of the city palpably strike the bike rider. Someone driving a car can more easily zip past them without paying much attention. However, for a city lover, even these negative aspects of urban life are issues to be worked on, problems to be solved. And that’s why bicyclists become some of the city’s most vocal advocates. Bike Cleveland has emerged as our community’s organizing voice for bicycling, and it has been instrumental in our progress.
Cycling is a great way to develop a new appreciation for the city. And our city has made notable strides recently in showing appreciation of cyclists. Bike commuting in Cleveland skyrocketed 280 percent between 2000 and 2010, the largest growth among American cities. The city of Cleveland responded by adopting “complete streets” legislation to ensure that future street improvements accommodate cyclists. And in 2014 alone, the city created 9.41 miles of new painted bike lanes, a 103 percent increase. Other important projects are under way, like the long-awaited Towpath Trail connection to downtown Cleveland and the Lake Link Trail to Wendy Park. Plans are being developed for more bike lanes, including long stretches that are protected from motor vehicle traffic. Among the most exciting proposals are calls for protected bike lanes along Lorain Avenue, for a “midway” along St. Clair Avenue where streetcar tracks once ran, and for including a bike sharing center in a possible multi-modal transit hub.
That is all great progress. Yet more needs to be done. Why? Because in some neighborhoods many residents don’t own cars. Not all of them ride bikes but some do, and they deserve to have safe transportation options. Creating bikeways is one of the most efficient and equitable transportation strategies.
That notion of choice among modes of transportation is a key reason for getting behind the cycling movement. It helps to make Cleveland and its region more attractive to the young talent that demands options, and we need that talent to stay and to move here so we can compete globally. In addition, more people riding bikes instead of driving cars will help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, a third of which currently come from transportation. And cycling is great exercise; encouraging it helps promote a healthier lifestyle.
The growth of city biking is the most evident change in recent years, but cycling for recreation has long been promoted by organizations like the Cleveland Metroparks. And a few visionaries are looking far beyond, to a trail network that ties together existing segments all the way from Cleveland to Pittsburgh and on to Washington, D.C.
Whether or not some of us ever get on a bike again, we all gain from the economic and social contributions that come with the growth of bicycling. This annual report celebrates Cleveland’s cycling community with a beautiful photographic portfolio by David Burnett. People commuting to work, those making a living by selling and servicing bikes, serious racers and recreational cyclists participating in mass rides for fun — they are all depicted. And they are all part of the expanding cycling scene. We hope that these photos inspire many others to join the movement.
This annual report is the Foundation’s first since 1990 that was created without the input of Mark Schwartz, our longtime designer and photography maven, who died suddenly in 2014. We, like many throughout the Cleveland arts community, miss him and his larger-than-life personality, fervently expressed insights and warm-hearted generosity. We dedicate this report to him.
David T. Abbott