The YMCA of Greater Cleveland’s Clevelanders in Motion Health Equity Coalition has been playing a leadership role on behalf of a concept to “reclaim a portion of Cleveland’s overly-wide and under-utilized streets for use by pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders.” In fact, that’s the name of their Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The effort is being led by PRCHN partner and former NOCA member Barb Clint, a city planner by training who has been working in the nexus between public health and city planning for the past decade. Clint is currently Director of Community Health & Advocacy for the YMCA of Greater Cleveland. Through the grant, the concept to convert former street car rights of way—generally the center lanes of our widest city streets—and transform them into a center-lane, two-directional, landscape-buffered protected bikeway network is rapidly gaining momentum.
Referred to as the Midway Protected Bike Boulevard network, the project was officially adopted by the Board of Bike Cleveland in 2015. Together, the YMCA and Bike Cleveland helped the city secure a Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative (TLCI) planning grant for the Cleveland City Planning Commission from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA), using REACH dollars as the required local match. A highly experienced transportation design team consisting of Parsons-Brinkerhoff and Smith Group JJR were engaged by City Planning to conduct a year-long planning process that included several public meetings and a large-scale community survey component. The final results of this study are due to be posted on the City Planning Commission’s website soon.
Returning to her early capital improvement planning roots at City Planning, Barb is now chairing an ad-hoc Midway funding committee to move this transformative, population-level, active living intervention from concept to reality. Three proof-of-concept pilot segments (two downtown and one in the Central neighborhood) have been agreed to by the Midway Steering Committee and city officials. Funding for this short-term implementation is the first component for which funding is being pursued. The PRCHN is acting as the external evaluator of the YMCA’s REACH grant.
Clint was a REACH grantee in an earlier grant cycle (2007-2012) and a REACH sub-grant recipient in 2013. She noted the Centers for Disease Controls’ (CDC) growing emphasis on population-level, policy, systems and environmental interventions aimed at making the healthy choice the safe and convenient one. Clint is an avid cyclist and notes being “hard-pressed to define our current bike environment as safe or convenient even for someone who is fairly comfortable riding with traffic. Current conditions are certainly not inviting to inexperienced cyclists.”
“The Midway will be a truly transformational project for Cleveland neighborhoods and residents.,” she adds. “When built, there will be essentially a connected network of linear parks linking up neighborhoods with each other and key regional assets where folks can ride stress-free.”