By Peter H. Milliken
With spring here, bicyclists now have a color-coded road map to help them find the safest routes through Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
The recently published map was a joint effort of Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, which is the Mahoning Valley’s transportation planning agency, and the Out-Spokin’ Wheelmen bicycling club of Youngstown.
Some 1,500 copies of the map were printed at a cost of $2,000 for free distribution to park districts, bicycle shops and events and bicycle club members.
The map also is available on Eastgate’s website, www.eastgatecog.org, where it will be updated at least quarterly to reflect newly paved roads or changing road conditions, said Bethaney Krzys, a planner at Eastgate.
Her boss, John Getchey, Eastgate’s executive director, characterizes the Mahoning Valley as “very cycling friendly,” with the full range from flat to hilly terrain and plenty of parks and bicycle trails. “The traffic isn’t that heavy if you stay off some of the main roads,” he said.
“I think there’s something out there for everyone, and hopefully, this will show them how to get to where they want to go,” Krzys said of cyclists.
“We have beautiful scenery, so anywhere you go, really, from our lakes to our parks to our downtowns, it’s all great to see by bicycle,” she added.
Eastgate promotes bicycling as a fitness activity that reduces traffic congestion and gets people where they want and need to go without polluting the air, Krzys said.
“You can really see the landscape on a bike, whereas, in a car, you’re just whizzing by. ... With a bike, you can slow down and really enjoy where you’re going,” she added.
Incorporated into the two-county map is a color-coded bicycling map of Youngstown, which was issued two years ago by the bicycling club and the Center for Urban and Regional Studies at Youngstown State University.
To produce the two-county map, Eastgate supplied information concerning traffic volumes, crash statistics, pavement conditions, road congestion, speed limits and lane and shoulder widths.
Out-Spokin’ Wheelmen members made observations based on their cycling experiences on the local roads.
“The statistical data doesn’t tell you the whole story, and the cyclists have a much better feel for actual conditions on the road that the data might not represent,” Krzys said.
The color-coding system represents in green the roads designated as suitable for inexperienced cyclists. Orange denotes roads of intermediate difficulty, and red denotes roads suitable for advanced cyclists.
Coded in green are many miles of rural roads, including routes from the Canfield area to Lake Milton and Berlin Reservoir.
Bicycle trails or roads suited for beginners prevail along the scenic perimeters of Lake Milton, Meander Reservoir and Evans and Pine lakes.
A 24-mile perimeter ride around Mosquito Lake in Trumbull County, however, must be done primarily on intermediate-rated roads.
The map also shows asphalt-paved bicycle trails, including the Mahoning Valley portions of the Western Reserve Greenway from Western Reserve Road in Canfield to downtown Niles and from Champion Avenue East to Ashtabula.
Also shown are the Mahoning County portion of the Stavich Bicycle Trail, which follows the Mahoning River from Struthers to New Castle, and the East Golf and East Cohasset hike and bike trails in Mill Creek Park.
Cars and bicycles are supposed to share the road, and many drivers seem unaware of that, observed Rachel McCartney, Eastgate’s program manager for community planning. “Cyclists have every right to be on the road,” she said, adding that they must obey all traffic laws, just as motorists are required to do.
When the map is revised, Krzys said she hopes it will show areas of significant slope with arrows pointing uphill, landmarks, points of interest and areas of caution, such as difficult intersections and blind curves.
The Mahoning Valley map is similar to regional cycling maps that already have been prepared for the Akron, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Cincinnati areas.
The Akron-area map shows both Summit and Portage counties; and the Portage County section shows that county’s roads in the vicinity of Berlin Reservoir, which are rated intermediate to advanced.