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Promoting the bicycling lifestyle in The Buckeye State
Last week, during an extended bike ride, I made my way to the Bike & Hike Trail, part of the Metro Parks Serving Summit County. The northern stretch of this trail runs about 10 miles, from Boston Township (near the intersection of State Routes 8 and 303) up to Alexander Road, which marks the border between Sagamore Hills in Summit County, and Walton Hills in Cuyahoga County.
There has been about a 1-mile stretch in the middle of this trail where you must follow an on-road route. Traveling north, the trail dead-ends on Brandywine Rd; you make a left on Brandywine Road, go down a hill (which includes a bridge over Interstate 271), past Brandywine Falls and the Brandywine Inn, then back up a hill, before reconnecting to the trail on the left side of the road to continue north. This is not a problem for experienced cyclists, but it keeps many novice recreational riders from enjoying this whole section of trail.
Earlier this year, Metro Parks Serving Summit County announced that work would begin to fully connect the trail, bypassing the on-road route. This work is being done with the cooperation of the National Park Service, since some of the trail route falls within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Throughout most of this year, my view of the progress on this trail was while driving on I-271, seeing the evolution of the concrete supports for the new dedicated bridge span over I-271. During a bike ride I took through the area in early September, I saw a gravel path showing the eventual location of parts of the trail. During last week’s ride, I got to see, as well as ride on, almost all of the completed trail.
This photo shows where the norhtbound trail formerly ended at Brandywine Road, with the new asphalt trail continuing parallel on the west side of the road:
I proceeded north on the new trail, until just before the bridge. Here, you can see (partially obscured by the telephone pole) where the new trail bridge is being built:
I continued on Brandywine Road. After the I-271 bridge, I made a left toward the Brandywine Inn, where I could see where the new trail continued. Outside the frame of this photo (roughly facing west), Brandywine Falls is to the left, and the Brandywine Inn is to the right:
The new trail loops around behind the Brandywine Inn, through a wooded area, and up a not-so-gentle slope that some novice riders might still find a little challenging. After it levels out a little, the trail runs alongside Brandywine Road again. It goes over a few short wooden bridges. At the time of my visit, crews were working to complete the last of these bridges, which sits right at the end of the new trail, just before it re-joins the original trail:
Here’s the other end of that bridge, looking south from near the end of the original trail:
So, essentially all that remains is completing the bridge over I-271 to make the Bike & Hike Trail an even better resource for those cycling for both recreational purposes and for transportation through northern Summit County, Ohio.
Last Friday, May 20 was Bike To Work Day around the world. I happened to have the day off that day, so I decided to take a ride up to downtown Cleveland to check out the city’s official Bike To Work Day celebration.
I have ridden through and around the various roads and streets in the Cleveland area over the years, but I had never made the trip by bike from my home into the city. I did a quick check on Google Maps with Biking Directions the day before, and it did not seem nearly as long or as complicated as I expected.
I left home at 6:00am early in the morning. A thick fog covered the region, making visibility a little sketchy out on the roads, and requiring frequent wiping of my glasses, but otherwise, the weather was quite agreeable.
I stopped a few miles into the ride to meet a friend, and the two of us made our way into Cleveland from his house. Most of the route involved just following Miles Road west to Broadway Avenue, and then Broadway all the way into the city. I saw a few neighborhoods that I have never had the pleasure of visiting before, some of which were what some people might call a little “sketchy,” but at the 7:00-8:00am hour, they were nothing to worry about, even for a couple of middle-aged suburban white guys.
The fog burned off about halfway through the route, and the last few miles provided a new and spectacular view of the downtown Cleveland skyline. We arrived at the festivities, located near the Cleveland Bike Rack, the new bike commuter station, located just behind Quicken Loans Arena. The Bike Rack and event co-organizer ClevelandBikes had hoped to provided tours of the new facility, but the completion and opening were delayed. But, we were able to peek into the windows and see the rows of multi-level bike racks and rental lockers that will be available.
We enjoyed some coffee and snacks provided at the event, chatted with some other attendees, and checked out the other bikes. Then, we headed over to the Tremont neighborhood to get some breakfast at Grumpy’s Cafe. After enjoying some delicious pancakes, instead of re-tracing our original route back to downtown and home, we just dropped down to the end of W. 14th Street and hopped on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail through the Steelyard Commons shopping plaza. At the end of the plaza, we took the Jennings Road/Harvard Road connection to get back on the Towpath proper, until we jumped off the Towpath and onto Alexander Road, which led us back to our respective home neighborhoods.
The Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study (AMATS) agency is holding public meetings in order to receive feedback on the draft Summit/Portage County bike users map. The map can be accessed here.
Two meetings in two locations are scheduled:
April 13, 2011, 6:30pm
Highland Square Branch Library
807 W. Market St.
Akron, OH 44303
April 27, 2011, 5:30pm
Kent Free Library
312 W. Main St.
Kent, OH 44240
Founded less than a year ago, the Stark Cycling Center bicycle co-op, located in Massillon, is moving to a new, larger space. Read more details in this article from the Canton Repository. The Center can be reached at 330-689-6376 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two stories in this week’s news highlight the efforts of two Ohio communities to improve their bicycle-friendliness.
Cleveland Heights is working to obtain two grants to improve bicycle and public transportation access to neighboring University Heights and the rest of Cleveland. More details can be found in this article in the Sun Press.
The city of Riverside is working to complete a 3.6 mile section of bike trail through the city, completing connections to existing adjacent trails and communities. Funding is in place, but construction cannot begin until easements from several property owners are obtained, along with approval from the city council. A public input meeting is scheduled for February 7. Full details are in the Dayton Daily News.
The Akron Beacon-Journal reports that the Akron-based Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition is holding two public meetings on January 24, 2011 to solicit public feedback on proposed routes for the segment of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail between Zoarville and New Philadelphia. The first meeting is at 6:00pm in the pavilion at Tuscora Park, 161 Tuscora Ave, New Philadelphia. The second meeting is at 7:30pm in Memorial Hall, 410 N. Wooster Ave, Dover.
I attended my first-ever Critical Mass ride last night. I’ve always had mixed feelings about the Critical Mass concept. Like many cyclists who ride sometimes for recreation and sometimes for utility, I agree with the message behind the event, but question if this is the best way to deliver the message. But whatever my feelings, I figured that as one who promotes the bicycling lifestyle, I should check it out for myself. At the very least, I saw it as a good excuse for a few dozen (or a few hundred) people to get together in the city to have a good time, and nobody can argue against the idea that Cleveland can use more of that.
My girlfriend and I loaded our bikes on the car (yes, probably antithetical to the spirit of the event) and drove to the Tremont neighborhood, the eventual ending point of the ride. We made the 15-minute spin over to downtown and Public Square, just in time to say a few hellos and get started at 6:30pm sharp.
The Halloween Critical Mass ride in every city tends to bring out a large crowd, and Cleveland was no exception. The variety of costumes being sported was second only to the variety of bicycles. Some of my favorites were a woman dressed as Fay Wray, complete with a giant King Kong hairy hand wrapped around her body, a guy on a tallbike dressed as a masked wrestler, a Supergirl and a Wonder Woman, a stuffed dinosaur, and two guys as Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, who battled with their light sabres as we rolled through the streets.
Unlike the the Critical Mass rides in certain other cities, the Cleveland ride has a reputation for maintaining the peaceful nature of its demonstration. The police were present at various points throughout the route as we pedaled east along the Euclid Corridor through the Cleveland State University campus, back past Progressive Field and through Public Square again, through the Warehouse District, then over the Detroit Superior Bridge into Ohio City, then eventually to Tremont. It was not apparent whether the police were present specifically to monitor the event, or we just saw them as they were making their regular rounds around town. At a couple of intersections, they even helped direct traffic for us to help us to keep our whole group together.
We did get a fair number of honks in protest from the drivers that were being held up at intersections, but got just as many (if not more) honks of support from other drivers.
It was a fun and unique experience for my girlfriend; her most memorable comment was, “I was just called a freak for the first time in my life.” At the end of the ride, we enjoyed a pizza and a beer at Edison’s pub.
As I’ve reflected on the event afterwards, I still have my mixed feelings about it, but also have a little more respect for it as a valid form of peaceful protest. Among the diverse crowd, there were many who, like myself, were just there to have a good time. However, I became more aware that many of them live the bicycling lifestyle not because they feel it’s the best choice they have, but because it’s the only choice they have. I have a renewed appreciation for somebody who demonstrates to defend their lifestyle when the only choice they have is their lifestyle or no lifestyle.
There’s a saying that’s becoming more and more popular in all advocacy circles lately, “The world is run by those who show up.” Critical Mass is a reminder to the rest of the world that when necessary, we have a lot of people who are willing to show up.
See clevelandcriticalmass.com for the movement’s own words.
Cleveland, Ohio-based bicycle frame builder Dan Polito made a big spash after winning the Best of Show award at the 2009 North American Handmade Bicycle Show. A new builder appears to be dipping their toes into the frame-building business. Rust Best Welding Company posted pictures on their blog of a prototype bike polo frame called the Marco Polo. The group also builds custom furniture; see more info and photos at: http://rustbeltwelding.wordpress.com
According to a study conducted by the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA), bicycling in the city of Cleveland has increased by 50% since 2006 . You can read more details in this article on newsnet5.com.
I’ve been thinking for a while about riding to the Pennsylvania border and back, just for the sake of doing so. I’ve also got a loop route in mind to Newton Falls and back that I’ve been thinking about doing. I set out on my bike this morning later than I had planned, and so actually had a cue sheet for the Newton Falls loop in my pocket. A few miles out from home, though, and I got to thinking that since it was such a nice day, and I was feeling good, then what the heck–I’ll head for the border. Another incentive was that the ride to PA would be at least 50 miles of roads that I had never ridden before, whereas the Newton Falls loop would have had only about 20 new miles about of 70.
The most direct route to the state line from where I live is east on State Route 82. I don’t usually think of that road as an ideal biking route, as it usually conjures up images of the strip mall towns of Macedonia, Brecksville, Strongsville, etc. But, when heading east, once you get outside of Aurora, Route 82 is relatively quiet and pleasant. The only real kicker is where the road crosses the Cuyahoga River just west of Hiram–there’s a long descent down into the river valley, followed by the long slog back up the other side.
At the main crossroads in Hiram, I stopped at the Hiram Cafe on the corner for a snack. I bought a candy bar and a bag of peanuts, which came to $1.78. I had a $1 and a $20 bill on me; the cashier offered to just take the $1 bill and pulled three quarters from their “Take a Penny – Leave a Penny” tray, but I said, “That’s okay,” and just took the change for my $20.
Here at this intersection in Hiram, Route 82 makes a right turn as it runs concurrent with Route 700 South, then bends back east through Garrettsville and beyond. I proceeded straight through Hiram instead, where the road becomes State Route 305, continuing my beeline for the border.
The route has a few more hills, until right about the time you cross from Portage County into Trumbull County, where it becomes pretty much dead flat. I went through several small towns that I had heard of, but never been to, like Nelson, Parkman, Champion, and Cortland, and a few that I had never heard of, like Bazetta, Fowler, and Hartford. The only real hill on this section was a not-too-steep quarter-mile climb about three miles before the state line.
I didn’t know what I’d find once I got to the border. It turned out to be as nondescript as a road map view of it would indicated. There’s a five-way intersection, with the main north-south road making the state border. On the Ohio side is a gas station with a convenience store and ice cream stand. On the Pennsylvania side is a bar called the 5 Points Tavern & Grille. I wanted a lunch more substantial than convenience-store snacks, so I opted for the 5 Points Tavern. Plus, I figured I pedaled all this way (not quite 54 miles) to get to Pennsylvania, so I may as well dine in Pennsylvania.
The tavern had the look of a rough biker bar; the kind of place where the jukebox goes silent and every head turns your way as you walk in the door. There weren’t any Harleys parked outside at this time, though, and they had a sign by the road promoting their new full-time cook and menu, so I figured they were trying to look welcoming and it was safe for me to go in.
The walls inside featured hand-printed signs highlighting the menu specials: chili dog, cheeseburger, tacos, but the one that caught my eye was the lasagna. The problem was, there wasn’t another soul in the place. I walked into the back room with the pool table, even tried to peek into the kitchen behind the bar to see if there were anyone whose attention I could get. I sat for about five minutes and was about ready to give up and leave when a woman finally appeared from out of the back. “Is the kitchen open?” I asked. “It is as of right now,” she replied. I ordered up the lasagna, plus a Yuengling draft to wash it down.
Another woman appeared while I was waiting for my lunch to arrive; she sat at the bar and continued drinking a can of beer that had been sitting there, so I figured she was a customer, but later she got up and started sweeping the floor and doing some other cleaning around the place, so she was an employee, too. They both recognized my bicycle helmet, and so asked me about where I had come from, and if I were doing some kind of cross-state tour. “No, just out for fun for the day,” I said. I asked the second woman, “What town am I in?” She said, “Well, that’s a good question. This is South Pymatuning Township, but the mailing address is Sharpsville. If you have a landline, you know, a regular phone line from the local phone company, it’s a Transfer exchange.” I thought “transfer exchange” was some kind of arcane phone system terminology, but didn’t bother trying to go into the details with her. I found out later that Transfer is the name of another nearby Pennsylvania town.
In the meantime, a third woman had appeared. I assumed she was the daughter of one of the other women; she looked to be about 17 years old, dressed in a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops. She sat and spun on the bar stools, twirling her hair in her fingers, or wandered around, dancing and swirling to the country music on the radio. I thought to myself, “OK, so if coming into this place didn’t get me beat up, staring at THAT will.”
The lasagna was as good and plentiful as I had hoped, and came with a salad. Some time later, I noticed all of the women, including the young girl, had lit up cigarettes. This struck me as odd at first, until I remembered that this is still allowed in Pennsylvania. It was at this time that I also decided that the young girl was probably older than I had originally thought, and was also an employee, probably killing time before the start of the busy shift later in the day.
As I finished up the lasagna, I turned down the first woman’s offer of another beer, but accepted her gracious offer to fill up my bottle with some ice water. They wished me luck and a safe trip as I headed out for the ride home.
I followed the same route back as I had come. I was due for more fluids as I got back to Hiram, but the Hiram Cafe was closed now. I went up and around the next corner, and fortunately, the Gionino’s Pizzeria had PowerAde in their drink cooler. I was right in the thick of rush hour as I made my way back through Aurora on Route 82, but it wasn’t any problem. I had almost 107 miles on my computer when I got home.
I’d recommend the Route 82/Route 305 route for anyone looking for an uncomplicated way to go east from the southeastern suburbs of Cleveland. It would be a good route for multi-day touring, with several camping options along the way, such as Nelson Ledges State Park, Mosquito Lake State Park, the Jellystone Resort outside of Aurora, and one or two other private campgrounds that I noticed along the way.