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Cincinnatians talk speeding, parking, and policing at pedestrian safety meeting

Cincinnati pedestrian safety meeting
Becca Costello
/
WVXU
Cincinnatians gathered in City Hall for a public meeting about pedestrian safety on June 8, 2022.

Cincinnatians are pushing for better pedestrian safety, but solutions may be harder to agree on. A public meeting at City Hall Wednesday night drew more than 50 people with safety concerns.

More than a hundred pedestrians have been hit by cars so far this year, according to city data published on Cincy Insights.

Interim Police Chief Teresa Theetge says CPD is trying to use data to improve enforcement.

“I will tell you at the onset of this discussion, the answer is not more police writing more tickets,” she says. “That's not going to give us a long term solution to pedestrian safety.”

A recent analysis of city data shows traffic enforcement has not reached pre-pandemic levels this year.

Not everyone wants more police enforcement, and Downtown resident Cam Hardy says any increase in policing needs to be equitable.

“You can't convince me that Black people are the only people speeding in the city,” Hardy says. “There should be an equitable amount of accountability across all of our neighborhoods.”

Black residents accounted for 65% of traffic stops over the last six months, but are only 41% of the population.

Some people say speeding isn’t the only concern.

“When I walk in my neighborhood — the northwest corner of Over-the-Rhine/West End/Fairview—there are cars parked on the sidewalk every day; there are cars blocking the crosswalks every day; there are cars parked in alleys every day,” says Christian Huelsman. “How are we going to make sure that our sidewalks, our crosswalks, and our alleys are for people and not a place to store cars?”

A few city officials asked to meet with Huelsman after the meeting to talk more about the problem.

Shawna Rodriguez tearfully spoke about her 15-year-old daughter Gabby who was killed in a hit-and-run collision on Harrison Ave. in 2018.

“I am still waiting for a crosswalk. I am still waiting for the lights to change,” Rodriguez says. “I'm grateful for this conversation, we need more conversations. You need to include the parents that have buried children.”

Officials say they’ll try to find solutions to the problems brought up at Wednesday’s meeting.

What’s being done now?

Cincinnati council is currently crafting the next city budget, which they’re expected to finalize by June 22.

The budget draft from Interim City Manager John Curp and Mayor Aftab Pureval includes $1.85 million for pedestrian safety improvements, an increase of about $600,000 compared to last year.

Separately, Pureval is proposing $4 million from this year's tranche of the American Rescue Plan to go toward pedestrian safety projects. That money would be spent over the next several years with most of it focused on safety around schools, including speed cushions, bump outs, and raised crosswalks.

Earlier this year council approved $1 million from ARPA left over from last year as a one-time investment in pedestrian safety. Most of that money is covering new speed cushions in several neighborhoods. Similar to the more typical speed humps, a speed cushion has cut outs that allow emergency vehicles to pass through without slowing down.

The Department of Transportation and Engineering piloted temporary speed cushions on Winneste Ave. in Winton Hills last year. They found the average speed dropped from 37 mph to 20 mph (the speed limit there is 25 mph); and the percent of vehicles speeding dropped from 95% to 11%.

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.