Lane Change? 

Parking and cyclist safety are sticking points for Cooper-Young bike plans.

Most Cooper-Young business owners can agree on at least one thing: Bike lanes would be a welcome addition to the neighborhood. But a dispute over the designs has put the brakes on the project.

The city's engineering department plans to add bike lanes to the Cooper-Young Historic District during the next re-paving of Cooper Street, which should happen by next spring. But neighborhood stakeholders must first reach a consensus on the design before the city can move forward.

There are currently two plans on the table. The leadership of the Cooper-Young Business Association (CYBA) is backing a design done by former city planner Ralph Smith, which calls for traditional bike lanes located alongside moving traffic from Central to Young. From Young to Walker, bikes would share the street with cars to prevent a loss of parking spots.

The other plan, developed by Revolutions Community Bicycle Shop, calls for "protected bike lanes," a newer design that places the bike lane in between parallel parked cars and the sidewalk. It also continues the bike lane past Young Avenue, which would result in the loss of four parking spaces in front of Wilson-Babb Upholstery on the western side of Cooper.

"The Cooper-Young Business Association [leadership] doesn't want the removal of those four parking spaces," said Anthony Siracusa of Revolutions. "But our proposal is based on best practices for bicycle and pedestrian safety."

Not only does CYBA leadership oppose the loss of on-street parking, they have concerns about the protected bike lanes.

"We feel that it's safer to do the biking with the traffic because if you have your car door open on the right-hand side, you are forcing the biker to go onto the sidewalk," said Dana Whitehead, CYBA president and the owner of Toad Hall Antiques. "With our plan, if a bike needed to move over, they could merge into the traffic lane instead."

However, the Revolutions plan includes a two-foot buffer between parked cars and the six-foot-wide bike lanes, which could prevent the need for bikes to move into the sidewalk. Protected bike lanes already have been installed in more bike-friendly cities such as New York City and Portland.

Although the CYBA leadership opposes the Revolutions plan, many of their members have taken the opposite stance.

Restaurateur Karen Carrier owns Do and the Beauty Shop, both located on Cooper Street near the area where the parking will be lost. But she said she doesn't mind losing those spots.

"There are only four parking spaces, and they're very dangerous. When you park there and open your door, with the way those cars fly down Cooper, you're in for a rude awakening," Carrier said.

Otherlands owner Karen Lebovitz favors the Revolutions plan, because it carries the bike traffic past Young Avenue, which will eventually connect to bike lanes on Southern Avenue. The city will install bike lanes on Southern in the next few weeks.

"We need to have continuity to connect business district to business district, park to park, and school to school," Lebovitz said. "Also having continuity will help motorists get more used to watching out for bikes and pedestrians."

Emily Bishop, president of the Cooper-Young Community Association, agrees: "I'd hate for us to install yesterday's technology if there's a newer, safer approach to bike lanes. Wouldn't you hate to see Cooper-Young put in traditional bike lanes and then have some suburb get it right with protected lanes later on?"


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