CLEVELAND — From speed tables and additional striping to raised crosswalks and speed feedback displays, the City of Cleveland has rolled out a series of pilot programs aimed at clamping down on speeding and reckless driving on neighborhood streets.
In addition to unveiling the first ’speed table’ on Thursday on the east side, Cleveland officials have also installed speed feedback display signs at 10 locations across the city, including the heavily-traveled Spring Road in the Old Brooklyn neighborhood. Although simple in premise, the feedback displays alert drivers when they are exceeding the speed limit by flashing ‘SLOW DOWN’ in red text.
Joining Broadview Road to the west and the Jennings Freeway (SR-176) to the east, Spring Road is a major artery for Cleveland’s largest neighborhood, typically hosting more than 20,000 vehicles in any given week, according to city records. This summer, the driving surface on Spring Road was completely repaved. Since the project was completed, there has been an unintended consequence: speeding has increased, neighbors and City Council member Rebecca Maurer (Ward 12) said.
“This is an issue all over the ward, but here we have a newly repaved road right next to an elementary school,” Maurer said. “You better believe if you live on this road, people are speeding here going 35 and 45 miles-per-hour on a 25-mile-per-hour road. It’s so unsafe for our kids. We need to make sure that we take every measure possible to protect the folks that live work and play on this street.”
Earlier this month, the city completed a one-week traffic study on Spring Road, which documented the speeds of more than 26,000 vehicles. The average speed across all the vehicles included in the study was 30-miles-per-hour. However, nearly one in five drivers was traveling in excess of 35 miles-per-hour, city data showed.
Speeding, reckless driving and traffic fatalities all experience substantial increases in Cleveland and across the country since the pandemic began.
In 2020, despite stay-at-home orders being in effect during the early days of the pandemic, there were 74 traffic fatalities in Cleveland. In 2021, there were 73 deaths on Cleveland roads, according to city data.
In 2019, by comparison, there were 54 fatalities.
“I think it’s some kind of innate mental thing — that just the fear that [transferred] over to driving. It seems like everybody is driving faster, which is part of the problem,” said Dennis Garrity, a longtime resident of Old Brooklyn. “There’s no reason to go that fast. I’ve seen plenty of people going 50-miles-per-hour — plenty of them, even on my street.”
Maurer, who hosted a well-attended community meeting on Thursday about speeding on Spring Road, said city traffic engineers are considering myriad options for corralling speeding drivers.
The speed feedback displays are just one of the options being considered. Currently, the city has 10 of the devices but is expecting another 18 more to arrive in the coming months.
“What we’re working on is this idea of traffic calming. What that means is every tool in the toolbox so that people are behaving better on our streets,” Maurer said. “We have this problem all over the city right now, especially after COVID hit. People have just been driving more recklessly than they have before.”
Ultimately, the goal of the traffic calming is to significantly reduce the number of traffic deaths and serious injuries by examining different options that could be used to slow people down. One of the options not being considered are automated red light and speed cameras, which were outlawed in Cleveland by way of a charter amendment roughly a decade ago.
Several children in Cleveland have been killed in traffic accidents already this year.
“I dread the day that on City Council I have sit in the living room with somebody that has had an awful, tragic loss in their family because of traffic,” Maurer said. “It will almost inevitably happen. I want to make sure that when that day comes, I will have known that I did everything in my power to prevent it.”
The feedback display will remain on Spring Road for another three weeks.