Akron takes another step to make city more bicycle friendly

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AKRON, Ohio - The city of Akron already has about 20 miles of bicycle lanes with more already under construction, but they are not all connected.

"We do have some bike lanes, but the mayor likes to call them bike lanes to nowhere. So you might have a bike lane for a certain stretch, but then it doesn't connect to anything," said Ellen Lander, press secretary for Mayor Dan Horrigan.

With the help of a $127,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation that could change in a big way, making the city far more bicycle friendly.

The money will help pay for a study during which Akron residents will have an opportunity to say where they would like new bike lanes and trails and paths to connect.

"It could be the business district in your neighborhood, it could be Kenmore Boulevard, connecting Kenmore Boulevard, to connecting it to the high schools, you know, kids can use it to get to school, connecting it to the towpath," Lander said.

The city will use the consulting firm Copenhagenize Design Co. to help create the plan.

Richard Sparhawk, who owns the Akron Bike Shop on Market Street, helped create bike paths in Oxford and believes having an intelligent, safe network of bike lanes and paths can be a plus for the city.

"It gave people of Oxford, who live close to the city, a place to recreate and it drew people from Cincinnati to Columbus to come in visit the park," Sparhawk said.

But bike lanes are frequently at street level and along curbs, where cyclists have to compete with traffic.

Jesse Williamson has been cycling around Akron for 40 years and he said getting around city traffic is not easy.

"It's rough. You have got to be a defensive rider now. You have got to watch everything, and then you have got to watch the pot holes and the glass everywhere, man. You get a lot of flats," Williamson said.

But Akron's newest bike lanes already separate cyclists from traffic, placing the lanes along with sidewalks, higher than street level.

Lander said studies have shown that people are more likely to use the paths when they feel safer. The study to determine where the bike lanes will be and what they will connect is expected to take about a year to complete.

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