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New proposal aimed to make streets safer goes before Cleveland City Council

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Posted at 12:13 PM, May 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-18 12:14:15-04

CLEVELAND — A new ordinance is going before a Cleveland City Council committee that would change how the city plans its streetscape.

The legislation, introduced by Ward 3 councilman Kerry McCormack as the Complete and Green Ordinance, would focus on complete streets during the design and planning process.

A complete street is a transportation policy and design approach that requires streets to be planned, designed, operated and maintained to enable safe, convenient and comfortable travel for all users.

“What we're looking to do is rework the ways our city designs roads to ensure whether you're pushing a baby stroller or you're in a wheelchair, a senior citizen or you're on your way to school, that our roads are designed in a way that makes sure that you are safe,” McCormack said.

The new legislation would replace an earlier Complete and Green Streets Ordinance approved by council in 2011. McCormack introduced an updated version in 2020, but it never got traction.

“Unfortunately, the previous administration did not do a lot to follow the ordinance, which is a big part of the reason why we have to update it and make it stronger so that regardless of who the city council is or who the mayor is, we're following these key principles that our community cares about,” the councilman said.

The ordinance calls for more streets with safety features like dedicated bike lanes, sidewalk bump-outs at corners and raised crosswalks or speed tables that would naturally slow traffic. It also includes measures to limit storm runoff by adding landscaping and green space.

“The ordinance that we're writing Today Creates a lot more accountability for the city,” McCormack said. “It creates an Independent Advisory Group, and it reworks the way the city government designs our roads.

As part of a national trend, cities are rethinking how they approach their streets and giving pedestrians, cyclists and public transit riders an equal share with automobiles when it comes to designing streets.

Since 2017, there have been 13,637 pedestrian-related crashes in the state of Ohio. Bicyclists have been involved in 6,323 crashes.

“I can't go to a single block club or a single community meeting without hearing from residents that are frustrated about out-of-control drivers, about traffic and about safety on our roadways,” McCormack said. “In my ward alone, I had a 5-year-old girl tragically killed by a speeding driver."

Harvey Miller is a professor of geography at Ohio State University and the director for the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis. Miller said for decades, cities have been designed to move traffic as quickly and efficiently as possible, but it comes with a risk. He analyzed roads around Columbus and four serious car crashes happen most often on streets that resemble highways.

“It's not surprising that we have so much mayhem on our streets right now because they're really designed for speed and not safety,” Miller said. “It's more inclusive to more users and therefore it raises the quality of life, which is a big issue, especially in a place like Cleveland, which is becoming an older city.”

Miller said investing in public transit doesn’t have to cost a fortune and the benefits can far outweigh the drawbacks for drivers, specifically for bicyclists.

“Studies have shown that the main reason people won’t bicycle is because they don't feel safe on the streets,” Miller said. “And the one thing that can make people, you know, encourage people to bicycle are protected bike infrastructure.”

Mayor Justin Bibb has expressed his support for the policy, and it fits into the city’s Vision Zero Task Force, which takes aim at reducing the number of traffic deaths in the city of Cleveland to zero.

The updated Complete and Green Ordinance takes its first step by going before a committee on Wednesday.

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