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As enforcement declines, speeding still Cincinnati pedestrians' top safety concern

City launched survey probing walkers' worries
Posted: 5:08 PM, Mar 27, 2018
Updated: 2018-03-28 14:28:37Z
Speeding top threat to pedestrians' feeling safe

CINCINNATI -- Two months into an online survey gauging the need for pedestrian-safety improvements, one concern stood out among the rest: speeding.

In a presentation before council's Education, Innovation and Growth Committee, representatives from the Department of Transportation and Engineering updated council members on the progress made since council approved $500,000 toward pedestrian safety improvements for this fiscal year.

Speeding was the most frequently reported concern, submitted to the online survey 675 times. The next highest was vehicles not yielding at crosswalks -- reported 305 times.

As WCPO has extensively reported, speed enforcement has declined in recent years. Cincinnati police traffic enforcement data shows roughly a 60-percent drop in traffic enforcement stops over the last five years:

 

As for speeding citations specifically, the data show nearly a 35-percent decline between 2015-2017.

 

IN DEPTH: Has drop in traffic enforcement made Cincinnati streets more dangerous?

WCPO dug into the locations where these speeding tickets are generally issued, and of the 2,600 speeding citations issued in 2017, officers issued roughly half of them on interstate expressways.

Many of the rest, WCPO found, were clumped mostly in East Side neighborhoods, with some glaring gaps along some of Cincinnati's busiest streets, like Hamilton and Glenway avenues.

Here is a map locating all speeding citations issued on Cincinnati's non-interstate expressways. To zoom, use the +/- buttons in the bottom left corner.

Particularly notable: Data show Cincinnati officers did not issue a single speeding citation along Hamilton Avenue as it runs through Northside's business district last year. Residents and leaders alike have long identified that stretch as one of the city's hottest spots for speeding cars.

"Over the years, I believe that traffic along Hamilton Avenue has gotten much faster, and people know they can get away with it," James Heller-Jackson told WCPO for its original report on traffic enforcement trends

"They know they won't get stopped. They know they can run a red light," he said.

Councilman David Mann has brought pedestrian-safety issues before council multiple times in the last few years. During Tuesday's meeting, Mann pointed to a possible need for more speed enforcement, citing WCPO's reporting.

"We ask the police department to come to this committee and explain where we are on traffic enforcement and ask why it's declined and how we restore it," he said during Tuesday's committee meeting.

In an email Tuesday afternoon, CPD spokesman Lt. Steve Saunders said, "If Mr. Mann raised this issue in Council, I am sure we will revisit this in the Law and Public Safety Committee meeting in the near future, and we will provide a response at that time."

The next Law and Public Safety Committee meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 16. The regularly-scheduled meeting for April 2 was listed as canceled on City Council's calendar. Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman chairs that committee, and also has raised concern over pedestrian safety in some West Side neighborhoods in the past .

One of those areas was Warsaw Avenue in East Price Hill, where a motorist Tuesday pled guilty to aggravated vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of a crash after she struck beloved Elder High School teacher Mark Klusman on Dec. 9, 2017 . Klusman died less than two weeks later from his injuries.

Police said the driver, 23-year-old Kayla Wilson, was driving 50 miles per hour in a 35-mile-per-hour zone under the influence of marijuana. Wilson pled guilty to all counts.

There is some debate over the impact speed enforcement has on maintaining pedestrians' safety on the city's sidewalks and crosswalks.

"There are three legs of the stool of pedestrian safety," said committee chairman P.G. Sittenfeld. "One is engineering -- things like signs, things like how you build the street itself. One is education, making sure people are aware drivers and they are doing the things they should be doing.

"But another one is enforcement, right? ... And like Council member Mann said today that conversation is ripe to think about how enforcement is matching the need."

Tuesday's report also indicated that 30 of the city's 48 community councils have engaged the city with requests for street safety improvements, and the DOTE has implemented 30 projects in 16 neighborhoods. Those projects have included new crosswalks, flashing lights and paddle signage in some existing crosswalks.

DOTE Interim Director Don Gindling acknowledged what he called a "slow start" to implementing some of these projects. It's a reality that city planner Mel McVay attributed to the "time-consuming" nature of securing these requests. McVay oversees the city's Pedestrian Safety Program and Bicycle Transportation Plan.

"We can never spend the money on this stuff fast enough, it's so time-consuming," she told the committee. "The folks in the neighborhoods know best (what their priorities are)."

Nearly all of the program's $500,000 budget has been allocated for this fiscal year, McVay said, and DOTE will continue to work on installation throughout this summer.