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Cincinnati could adopt a 'complete streets' policy to prioritize people over cars in road design

Mark Jeffreys at podium
Becca Costello
Council Member Mark Jeffreys is sponsoring an ordinance to establish a Complete Streets policy in Cincinnati.

An ordinance aimed at designing safer streets will be up for a vote at Cincinnati Council next week. It would adopt a “Complete Streets” policy for the city. That means any time a street is built or re-paved, engineers will include things like speed bumps, bike lanes, or curb extensions, or explain why it’s not feasible.

“This won't change the design of our streets overnight, but it will start to bend the curve,” said the measure’s author, Councilmember Mark Jeffreys.

Not every roadway project would end up with Complete Streets elements. But Jeffreys says this would require the city to document why they couldn’t be included, which will help identify common barriers to safer design.

Jeffreys says having the policy in place will make Cincinnati more competitive for federal infrastructure grants.

Hundreds of cities, counties, and states have adopted a Complete Streets policy over the last couple decades; that includes all of Ohio’s neighboring states.

Cincinnati’s version has been in the works for about a year, although officials have used the framework more generally for much longer than that. The 2018 Green Cincinnati Plan established a goal of increasing the percentage of city streets meeting complete streets requirements by 1% a year (measuring by center-lane miles).

The Ohio Sierra Club’s Nathan Alley says it’s not just about pedestrian safety, it also makes a difference for environmental goals.

“This policy will incorporate an effort to make our streets better for stormwater runoff,” Alley said. “Stormwater is an intense problem that we face exacerbated by climate change in our region, which leads to things like overland flooding and basement backups, which also relate back to why this is an issue of environmental justice and equity.”

One example of a project following Complete Streets design is the forthcoming renovation of corridors in the West End, Queensgate and Lower Price Hill. The city has been awarded a $20 million federal grant for the project, adding another $6.25 million in local matching dollars. Designs call for reducing lanes for vehicle traffic, planting trees and adding bump-outs and protected bike lanes.

The ordinance establishes the framework for a Complete Streets policy and authorizes the City Manager to create formal, more detailed guidance.

Becca Costello grew up in Williamsburg and Batavia (in Clermont County) listening to WVXU. Before joining the WVXU newsroom, she worked in public radio & TV journalism in Bloomington, Indiana and Lincoln, Nebraska. Becca has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including from local chapters of the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists, and contributed to regional and national Murrow Award winners. Becca has a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Becca's dog Cincy (named for the city they once again call home) is even more anxious than she is.