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When the Rubber Hits the Road
Will the Short North's new bicycle bollards
really help bikers?

by Jennifer Hambrick
February 2008

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© PHOTO/ Laura Clarke

Are the 41 new bicycle bollards being installed around the Short North and funded by several Short North civic organizations really filling a need for the cycling community, or are they a pork barrel project that misses the point?

Six of the bollards – galvanized posts specially designed for bicycle parking – have already been installed at the City parking lot at 709 N. High St., a dozen have been installed where some side streets intersect with High Street, four will be placed at Italian Village Park and the remainder will be installed in Goodale Park.

More than $11,000 in grants from Short North civic organizations and committees, including the Short North Foundation, the Short North Special Improvement District and the Italian Village Society, has been given to fund the design, production and installation of the bollards.

But is it worth it? How much of a problem has bicycle parking in the Short North been, and how much incentive will the installation of the new bollards provide to get people to bike, instead of drive, though the Short North?

Ben Weiner, who commutes to work by bicycle through the Short North, says the absence of facilities designed specifically for bicycle parking along the High St. corridor has created problems for cyclists and pedestrians.

“Bicycle parking’s usually difficult because there’s no designated place, and even though there are usually plenty of objects to chain your bike to, a lot of times you feel that’s in the way, or you’re worried that if you locked your bike to a sign it’s not secure. It could be more likely that your bike could be vandalized,” Weiner said. “And because there’s no designated parking place, bikers perceive that it’s not that convenient and it doesn’t encourage people to bike to the Short North.”

Since the bollards installed along the High St. corridor are on side streets near their intersections with High St., and not directly on High St., Gazette Pedal Pusher columnist Greg Knepp says they will keep parked bicycles out of the way of pedestrian traffic.

Sabrina Bobrow, a commuter biker and chair of the Bicycle Bollards for Goodale Park Committee, says cyclists have for years been forced to lock their bikes to park benches and trees in Goodale Park, and that the installation of bicycle bollards in the park will give cyclists a safe place to leave their bikes without damaging the park’s trees.

“On High St. it’s more of a benefit to pedestrians,” Knepp said. “In Goodale Park, it’s more of a benefit to bicyclists so they can have someplace to put their bikes.”

But are the bollards, especially those along the High St. corridor, actually what bikers want? Mike Pham, who commutes by bicycle to work at the North Market, says bicycle parking off High St. doesn’t meet cyclists’ first priority for parking: convenience.

“You’d probably want to park on High St. rather than turning down an alley somewhere just because it’s that much closer (to where you’re going). Whatever is there and whatever is convenient is what people are going to use,” Pham said.

Zach Henkel, host of WCRS’ local cycling program, Cranksters, is skeptical that the bollards will be convenient enough for bikers.

“Cyclists tend to want to lock their vehicle as close to within view to where they’ll be as possible, so if they happen to put one of these bollards right next to the gazebo (in Goodale Park) and the cyclist will be at the gazebo, then they might use it, but they’re not going to lock up their bike at one end of the park and go all the way across the park to the gazebo,” Henkel said.

Nor does Henkel think the presence of bollards in the Short North will encourage more people to bike in the area.

“If you want more people riding bikes in the Short North, you need to keep the rent down,” Henkel said. “Biking is really a form of transportation for people with not much money. That’s why I got into it, that’s why most of my friends are in it.”

Reda Ashour agrees that the lack of bicycle parking facilities isn’t what keeps people from pedaling through the Short North. Ashour, a volunteer for the non-profit bicycle advocacy organization Third Hand Bicycle Co-op, says she tries to avoid the Short North’s heavy car traffic on her bicycle commutes between Clintonville and Downtown.

“The problem in the Short North is certainly not the bike parking. The problem is the car congestion and parking,” Ashour said. “Drivers are constantly turning in and out of parking lots and trying to get to their bars or restaurants with no other goal than to get where they’re going. People are completely blind to the fact that there are cyclists riding down High St. through the Short North.”

Weiner disagrees.

“Biking through the Short North (is) a very attractive thing about the Short North. Not only is it visually interesting, but the motorists are looking out for bicyclists and are very aware. It’s pleasurable and easy and safe to bike to as a destination for bicyclists.”

When Ashour does have to spend time in the Short North, she looks for the most convenient place to park her bike.

“I’ve always locked it as close (to where I’m going) as I can,” Ashour said. Putting (the bicycle bollards) on side streets is another example of how consideration is never given to bikers. Car parking is available right in front of restaurants. Why can’t bicycle parking be available there too?”

The 41 bicycle bollards that are in the process of being installed around the Short North may be just the tip of the iceberg. If the bollards in Goodale Park are well used this spring and summer, when cycling is heaviest, Bobrow says more may be installed around the park. Cyclists get to decide whether or not the additional bike parking the bollards offer was worth the expense.

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