According to executives at Consider Biking, the 20 miles of dedicated streetside bicycle lanes and 65 miles of off-street trails in Columbus are a good start, but other cities are investing at a greater rate, said Jeff Stephens, executive director.
“Indianapolis is investing $10 million this coming year. They put in 50 miles of on-road bike lanes last year. We know good things have come in, but 20 miles of dedicated bike lanes is far below the national average,” he said.
Bryan Saums, Consider Biking’s program manager, said Wisconsin generates more than $1 billion annually from bicycle-related tourism.
“We ought to do the same or better,” he said. “There (is access to) 300 miles of paved, interconnected bike trails.”
Saums refers to the Ohio to Erie Trail, a system of greenway paths along former railroad and canal corridors stretching from Cincinnati to Cleveland that is being completed this year. By the end of 2012, the trail will be connected to the Olentangy River Trail and continue to Cleveland.
Chris Haydocy of Haydocy Automotive in Columbus sees a huge opportunity for the west side.
Currently, the advice to riders is to take a bus through the west side, rather than brave busy streets to hook up with the Olentangy trail. But trail planners are negotiating rights of way to extend the trail along the Camp Chase Rail Line.
Haydocy and others are pushing for the city to develop 47 acres of unused park land across the rail line and near the new Hollywood Casino into a bike hub, with restrooms and cafe and park-and-ride center to entice thousands of bikers to stop in.
“If that happens,” Haydocy said, “it will bring about real positive change for the west side in terms of (bikers’) access to a greenways trail. We would have a walkable, bikeable trail to downtown that connects the west side to the rest of the city.
“Study after study talks about how a greenways trail has an impact on the residents,” he said.
Haydocy thinks extending the trail and building a bike hub would improve the health of the neighborhood. He points to a study done in the Cincinnati suburb of Loveland that showed an increase of up to 9 percent in the values of houses along a newly constructed greenway trail.
“Suddenly, that makes a compelling argument for people in Columbus to consider living in, say, Westgate or Georgian Heights to be along this trail,” Haydocy said.