Editor’s note: this is the fifth piece in a series of stories looking at the use of, and need for a master planning document in Fairview Park.
By Nicole Hennessy
For a variety of reasons, including cost and priority, not everything in a master plan gets accomplished. But, as a city, when it comes to implementing goals, service and development Director James M. Kennedy said Fairview Park’s track record is “better than most.”
Mentioned in the city’s 1999 master plan, a designated bike route connecting main roads and public schools has long since been abandoned.
“Several West Shore communities have recognized the value of the bicycle as both a recreational activity and an alternative mode of transportation. These communities include Rocky River, Bay Village, North Olmsted and Westlake,” the plan stated.
“Unfortunately, outside of the Metroparks, Fairview Park does not provide such designations for bicycle travel.”
Kennedy, referencing impending record-breaking gas prices, remembered the fuel prices of the 1970s and the national outrage that ensued, as well as the increase in carpooling and the use of public or alternative forms of transportation.
“None of that has taken place this time,” he said.
He’s not sure what that reflects in terms of our society, explaining all his kids drive large vehicles, but he never hears them talk about gas prices. In fact, he never hears anyone talk about them, except for newscasters and politicians. And, during high traffic times, he says he notices few people at the bus stops scattered up and down Lorain Road.
“Fuel prices are continuing to rise and that’s unfortunate,” Kennedy said. “There are a lot of dire predictions about fuel costs getting up to six bucks by summertime. I don’t think that’s unrealistic.”
In Northeast Ohio, where the cost of living is relatively lower than that of many other areas throughout the country, Kennedy said we’re fortunate. But, as he pointed out, he doesn’t see gas prices affecting the way people drive.
Looking elsewhere, in places like Lakewood, where bike culture seems to be a quickly growing trend, the city recently approved a 36-page master plan pertaining specifically to biking. Included are references to increased signage and bike racks, as well as safety requirements.
A Lakewood resident and mechanic at Fairview Cycle, Tom Fetcenko notices riders passing the shop. This increases during summer months, but, then again, this winter seems missing.
“We’re seeing growing numbers of people who are commuting to work,” he said. He’s one of them.
Sometimes Fetcenko rides from his home in Lakewood to Lorain. There are bike lanes in Lorain and Avon Lake, he explained, but when you get into Bay Village there are none, and when you get into Rocky River, there are none.
Addressing the idea of a continuous bike path, the master plan states that the proposed bike route could be linked to surrounding communities’ paths, and to encourage the patronization of local businesses, bike racks could be installed in selected commercial areas.
“When (bike routes) come and go, it’s really crappy for the rider,” he said. “But when you can have one nice continuous lane that hooks up with other cities’ bike lanes, it’s awesome.”
In addition, Fetcenko pointed out Fairview’s proximity to the Metroparks, suggesting the integration of city paths to a park entrance.
While the plan says Fairview’s street pattern is conducive to bicycle travel and that it would be “a fairly simple and inexpensive task to establish a bike route throughout the City,” unfortunately, despite needs that persist, the finances of most cities are tighter than ever. While it may not be as high a priority as that of economic development, a bike path “may very well be something that we need to consider this time around,” Kennedy said.
“It would have to be carefully looked at,” he continued. “Lorain Road is a state route.” That means involving the Ohio Department of Transportation. Also, some safety issues would have to be taken into account.
Most importantly, there has to be a need and a demand for it.
Of local enthusiasts who bike as a matter of lifestyle, Kennedy asked, “Does such a group exist?”
Fetcenko believes it does, but, as it is now, he said, Fairview and North Olmsted residents are hesitant to ride down Lorain Road.
Regarding Lakewood’s success as a bike-centric community, he points to two factors: The type of person attracted to living in Lakewood may be more inclined toward alternative transportation; and more importantly, the city’s promotion of cycling encourages non-bikers to consider it.
By now, “it’s almost second nature,” he said. “Lotta people that ride.”