Red bikes

Red bikes line Clifton Avenue.

Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, I always found that the city focused significant attention, planning and funding toward cultivating a more bike-friendly city. Bike lanes are visible around many of the cities’ busiest streets, and The Ohio State University campus is very bike-friendly and full of student bicycle commuters.

Many drivers in bike-friendly cities like Columbus are fed up about having to share the road too much, arguing that there are too many bike safety regulations in place. In Cincinnati, this is certainly not the case.

In Cincinnati, cyclists are frustrated about the unsafe environment for cyclists within the city. Bike lanes are almost non-existent, and accidents involving vehicles and bicycles are far from uncommon. For a city with a well-established and centrally-located urban population, the lack of accommodations for cyclists and their safety is disappointing. One cyclist claimed that construction and utility companies like Duke Energy have dumped gravel over some of the few bike lanes. Another cyclist claimed that a bike lane on Victory Parkway — one of the few in the city — stops at a dead end and does not contain arrows to indicate bike lanes.

Currently, Cincinnati displays a plethora of information about biking trails in the city. There are many planned bike trail projects.

Dr. Eleanor Glass, a professor of family and community medicine at UC’s College of Medicine, is an avid cyclist who dubs herself “doc on a bike.” She said the absence of bike lanes make Cincinnati an unsafe city for cyclists.

“Bike safety is important not just for the individual cyclist, but for the entire city,” Glass said. “Safe cycling is important not just for the individual cyclist, but for the entire city. Safe cycling means less congested roadways, less accidents, less air pollution and better physical health for many.”

In Cincinnati, many cyclists complain about the lack of city assistance to make communities safer. Steve Magas, a Cincinnati-based attorney known as “Ohio’s bike lawyer,” has protected cyclists and their families in cases ranging from traffic tickets to multimillion dollar settlements for death or serious injury.

“My main job is protecting the rights of those who ride,” Magas said. “I do this by aggressively working for my clients who are injured or the families of those killed.”

An avid cyclist for many decades, Magas made a name him himself as Ohio’s bike lawyer after years as a trial attorney.

“I was an avid rider, but not a racer,” Magas said. “I rode with the Cincinnati Cycle Club and led some rides. I helped the club out with a weird little legal problem and then got a few calls on ‘bike’ cases.”

After researching and expanding his legal knowledge, Magas began writing about it.

“[I started] writing about BikeLaw for a variety of small publications — mostly Club newsletters,” he said. “That got picked up by a statewide monthly called Bike Ohio, which morphed into a multi-state publication called BikeMidwest.”

Although he says Cincinnati has made progress to improve bike friendliness as a city, the urban biking infrastructure still needs help.

“Cincinnati also has a very active cycling crowd, and we’re seeing more and more commuters, but [it] needs some help at the City level,” Magas said. “The Mayor is active, and supports cycling … [but] he’d rather the cyclists take up residence in parks and ride around in circles, I think.”

If cities like Cincinnati dedicated more time and funding to supporting cyclists, we could see a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from vehicle use. An increased in cyclists is simply better for a city. It invites people into the urban core of the city; into our parks and through our main city landmarks. It decreases vehicle traffic issues and creates less demand for public parking garages.

An increased number of cyclists also means increased rates of exercise among citizens. Choosing to bike instead of drive means more physical activity over time. As heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death across America, an increase in biking could do much to curb this issue.

When cities like Cincinnati invest in their bicycle infrastructure and safety, health, culture, economy and public safety benefits are bound to follow.

“Cities like getting those Bike Friendly awards,” Magas said. “Young, hip workers who may think about moving here find a vibrant bicycle culture and attractive — I think Cincinnati is on the upswing, as a city and as a cycling participant … though not a cycling ‘mecca’ by any stretch.”