23 March 2011

Accessibility by bike from the Miami Valley bikeways

At the dinner meeting of Dayton Bicycle Adventures, I asked several people if they planned on commuting to work by bicycle. —Now I didn't ask everyone there, just those few sitting near me.— Most replies were along the lines of "I don't have a way to freshen up after the ride." "The distance is too far." "The bikeways don't connect directly enough." "The streets from home (or to the workplace) are too busy."

The last two reasons are a heart breaker for me, since we often celebrate the 300 miles or more of bikeways in the Miami Valley. But the reasons reveal an essential truth.

How the Bikeway System Fails the Suburbs
Here is the Dayton-Xenia bikeway system plotted over a Google Earth map. The brighter green paths are the Great Miami River Trail (GMR) and the Little Miami River Trail (LMR). The pale green paths are the Creekside Trail that connects the GMR and the LMR trails and the Ohio to Erie Trail that connects toward Columbus and northeastern Ohio. The blue paths are various trails that are presently incomplete, with plans from the MVRBC and Metroparks to complete them.

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 With those incomplete trails, the Dayton area has these conditions.
  •  Much of Kettering, Oakwood, and Centerville are cut off from the bikeways. 
  • Northwest Dayton and Trotwood are effectively cut off from the fully-connected system, with the poor state of the bikeway adjacent to McGee Boulevard.
  • Englewood and Union are similarly cut off, with the lack of a connector from Englewood Reserve to, for example, Sinclair Park.
  • Huber Heights has access to the bikeway, but only at the extreme west edge of the city.
  • Fairborn is also cut off, due to the inability to develop the right-of-way through Riverside and the Dayton well fields that otherwise would connect to the Huffman Reserve and the Huffman Prairie bikeway.
  • Two of the four largest potential sources of enthusiastic, year-round bike commuters—Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and Wright State University—are poorly served by gaps in the bikeway system.
  • And finishing our clockwise survey, the Iron Horse Trail edges toward The Greene, then feints westerly before it disappears in the recreational facility around Delco Park. Thus Bellbrook, once the area renowned for superb cycling roads, is left isolated, even from the Little Miami Trail.
I'm one of the very lucky cyclists, for whom home is less than two miles of quiet residential streets from a bikeway (in my case either the Wolf Creek Trail or the Great Miami River Bikeway) and work is less than a mile from another point on the bikeway (in my case Research Park from the Iron Horse Trail).

But I too look forward to the day when all the trails are contiguous. Some day the system will look like this, with the violet paths connecting the green and blue bikeways that exist now.

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How the Bikeway System Fails the Commuter
or the Errand Runner 
I'm also lucky in how well my bike commute correlates to my auto commute. My 12.5-mile commute, which has 85% of it on the bikeway, is an ideal distance for combining transportation and exercise. With very little exertion, it is a commute of an hour and 10 minutes. With a training intent, it is a commute of 45 minutes. On the other hand, my most direct commute by auto is 9.5 miles and takes about 20 minutes. The same route by bicycle takes about 30 minutes at the highest intensity. (Though that timing is from my experience of more than 15 years ago, when I was much stronger—and less cowed by auto traffic.)

I know of only one cyclist who regularly commutes between Miamisburg and the Research Park area. I see him (Jeff) only during the "rush hours" of long Summer days, since his bike commute requires more than an hour door-to-door.*Corrections at the break.* I estimate that his auto commute is 15 miles, and that his bike commute is 20 miles. He follows the auto route in outline, going north to downtown Dayton, east, and then south to Research Park. But his bike route goes to the Dayton hub on the north side of downtown, while the auto route goes to the freeway junction at the south side of downtown. That lack of correlation would dissuade most cyclists from commuting. Other cyclists consider this 20-mile distance much too far for commuting, and I believe Jeff commutes by bike frequently only during the Summer.

The regional bikeways follow a modified hub-and-spokes design. The design has two hubs: Dayton and Xenia. Each of these hubs have five spokes. The Dayton hub spokes are...
  • GMR trail north to Taylorsville Reserve and on to Troy
  • Mad River and Creekside Trails to Beavercreek and Xenia
  • GMR trail south to Miamisburg and Franklin
  • Wolf Creek trail eventually to Trotwood and Verona
  • Stillwater River trail through DeWeese and Wegerzyn Parks to Sinclair Park and eventually to Englewood
The Xenia spokes are...
  • LMR trail north to Yellow Springs and Springfield
  • Ohio and Erie trail to Charleston and London
  • Ohio Mound trail to Jamestown and eventually to Washington Court House
  • LMR trail south to Waynesville and Loveland
  • Creekside and Mad River trails to Dayton
The hub-spokes system works well enough if you want to ride from the periphery to the center, or from the center to one of the spoke ends. But what if you want to bicycle for an errand to a neighboring town, for example from Miamisburg to Centerville, or from Vandalia to Englewood? Then you have to bike to the hub and out on an adjacent spoke.

I'll offer an idea in another post.

I met Jeff again on the bikeway just a few days after writing this post. He actually commutes year-round by bike, and he acquired a car for commuting only this year. He lives in Washington Township, and accesses the bikeway in Miamisburg close to Alex-Bell Road. His bike commute is exactly 20.0 miles.

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