City council looks to add more funds to pedestrian safety

CINCINNATI — The city of Cincinnati announced earlier this month the resumption of more than 200 pedestrian safety projects across the city.

Still, residents, and now city council, say they need to do more.


What You Need To Know

  • Motion would increase designated spending on pedestrian safety to $1.7 million next fiscal year
  • City planned to finish 209 pedestrian safety projects this year
  • Projects range from new signage to crosswalk painting to road reconfiguration
  • City budget should pass June 23

Authorities said at least three people, in two neighborhoods, were struck and seriously injured in recent weeks — a 9-year-old boy suffered critical injuries after being hit while crossing Montana Avenue in Westwood; a pregnant 20-year-old and her unborn child died at a local hospital after being hit on Reading Road in Mt. Auburn.

“Whenever I go into a neighborhood, one of the first things they mention to me is pedestrian safety,” said City Council Member Steve Goodin. “It’s not just downtown. This is an issue we need to address in all 52 (Cincinnati) neighborhoods.

“This is a life-or-death matter.”

During last week’s city council meeting, a Madisonville resident mentioned that he had seen an uptick in speeding in the area. He said he feared for the children who live there. 

He petitioned the city council for streetlights and speed bumps for Bramble Avenue.

As part of the ongoing budget process, the city of Cincinnati recommended $754,000 go to pedestrian safety initiatives for the next fiscal year. The administration earmarked another $400,000 for traffic calming projects.

Goodin said that’s “not enough.” He put forth a budget motion asking to add $500,000 to the figure, bumping the total funding for roadway safety to nearly $1.7 million.

His motion includes some traffic-calming plans at a handful of specific intersections: Warsaw Avenue near the Kroger grocery store; Rockdale Avenue at Rockdale Academy; the 2200 block of Harrison Avenue; Hamilton Avenue at Lingo Street and Virginia and Kirby avenues; and U.S. 50 at River Road. 

Traffic data and feedback from the community would determine any other uses of those funds.

“I want to use a heavier hand on the council side to make sure there’s a more clear, intentional use of these funds,” Goodin said. “We don’t need any more traffic studies. … We know where many of the trouble spots are; we can tell from talking to the residents. We are hearing the same locations over and over again.”

City council agreed in principle to increase this year’s pedestrian safety budget allocation. A formal decision is expected June 23 with the passage of the annual city budget.

The city is spending $1.75 million on these improvements this year through its Vision Zero initiative, which aims to reduce and eventually eliminate pedestrian fatalities due to traffic accidents.

However, only about $750,000 of that comes from city funding. The other $1 million is covered by a grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Goodin admitted that some of the issues are likely related to poor road design and a lack of driver awareness. But added congestion in Cincinnati’s neighborhood business districts may be a factor as well, he said.

He highlighted the business corridors in Northside and East Price Hill as two examples.

“This isn’t just an issue downtown. We are experiencing issues in our business districts across Cincinnati,” he said. “In most business districts the speed limit is 35 mph, but people routinely drive through at 45 and 50 because they don’t realize, or care, that these are communities. People live there, work there and play there and with people driving that fast, it’s a recipe for disaster.”

The city’s Department of Transportation and Engineering (DOTE) listed neighborhood business districts, or NBDs, as one of the primary target areas for pedestrian-safety enhancements.

Pete Metz, manager of transportation initiatives for the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, said the business districts are a key component of what makes Cincinnati’s neighborhoods unique. 

“People enjoy being able to go down the street to the store or to get dinner. “Whether it’s Hamilton Avenue, McMillan or Calhoun — or Montgomery Road in Pleasant Ridge, people want to be there,” he said. 

Metz believes changing consumer preferences are making neighborhood business districts more popular than ever.

“For 50 years, many of these business districts were places people would drive through while going somewhere else. That’s changed. People aren’t just driving through our business districts; they’re walking or biking to them,” he said.

Other focus areas for DOTE include school zones, areas around recreation centers and known high-crash corridors, which the city determines based on traffic data.

Of the 209 projects planned for this fiscal year, 42 were finished last fall, according to a statement from DOTE. One of those projects includes the city’s first raised crosswalk on Fairfax Avenue by Evanston Academy. 

Another raised sidewalk is currently being constructed along Main Street in Over-the-Rhine, an area that motorists often cut through to get to Liberty Street, according to Goodin.

The remaining 167 projects will be finished this year, DOTE said.

Other projects DOTE says that are currently underway include the installation of rapid-flashing beacons — also called pedestrian-triggered flashing lights — in Oakley and Paddock Hills and light path systems in Clifton and East Price Hill.

Light path systems illuminate crosswalks when activated by a pedestrian. The goal is to help bring additional awareness to drivers.

Enhancing driver awareness is the primary goal of most of the city’s pedestrian-safety initiatives. 

The goal is to “draw driver attention to crosswalks and areas with reduced speeds,” according to DOTE.  

Projects are broken into 20 different types and they can vary greatly in terms of scale and print point. Smaller upgrades include things, like repainted crosswalks, improved signage and curb extensions at intersections.

DOTE’s director John S. Brazina said in a release that the improvements underway are based on input from residents and business owners.

You can view the full list of projects planned and underway, including the locations, at the following link: https://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/visionzero/

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