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Something About Cleveland

By Joe Baur • Photos by Bob Perkoski

Downtown Cleveland Ohio, its surrounding neighborhoods, and sprawling suburbs closely resemble other similarly sized metros that were developed with automobiles in mind. Streets, even those cutting through the heart of downtown, are as much as six lanes wide with cars regularly traveling ten miles per hour over posted speed limits. Cyclists are often left to figure it out for themselves among the pothole-laden asphalt, often without a bike lane to offer even some notion of protection.

This may sound bleak, but it’s the reality for many individual cyclists in the Forest City. Speaking with advocates from non-profit Bike Cleveland to Joy Machines Bike Shop, you won’t find many fans of the city’s pace in accepting the cycling boom happening across the country. Jacob VanSickle, Executive Director of Bike Cleveland, points to Detroit MI, Memphis TN and Indianapolis IN as forward-thinking cities when it comes to increasing cycling infrastructure.

“Other cities are implementing these things faster,” says VanSickle while discussing the pent up frustration among Cleveland’s cycling community. “It needs to be made a priority.”

Guerrilla Stripers

The frustration became painfully public for city officials when a group of five “guerrilla stripers” took it upon themselves to create a bike lane along a highly trafficked thoroughfare for cyclists in the near west side. Last fall the city secured funding for a 1.7-mile bike lane along Detroit Avenue that took a year longer than promised to become a reality. First the city blamed poor weather, then filming for the Captain America sequel.

While Detroit Ave went without a bike lane, the frustrated cyclists took action at 10 PM one late-August night using duct tape and chalk to create a makeshift lane that covered just about four blocks.

Speaking under the condition of anonymity, one of the stripers explains that nobody even attempted to stop them during the hour they spent creating the lane. “It was dark, but we had cones and people driving by, including a police officer who didn’t care,” the striper says. “The only people who said anything were people excited about what we’re doing, including people driving and on bikes.”