CINCINNATI — Dusk had already fallen and street lamps were lit in Hyde Park Square when Stephen Frank and his daughter, Emily, were given a walk signal and stepped into the crosswalk at Edwards Road and Erie Avenue.
That’s when a Metro bus traveling southbound on Edwards made a left turn onto Erie, striking both Stephen and Emily. Stephen, 73, died as a result of the crash.
The Jan. 27 crash was by no means a typical traffic incident, but it was one of 140 pedestrian-involved incidents so far this year, along with a bicyclist being struck and killed in Anderson Township not long after, that prompted Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld to file a motion requesting the city identify its most dangerous crossings and intersections for pedestrians and cyclists.
“For me, the city needs to be sure to make sure we’re being proactive in ensuring pedestrian safety,” Sittenfeld told WCPO shortly after filing the motion in February. “Our city is designed to be pedestrian-friendly. I think the big issue is making sure we’re integrating how both pedestrians and automobile traffic work together.”
While lawmakers await that report, WCPO obtained traffic crash records for the last two years and found that, since 2014, there have been 768 traffic incidents involving at least one pedestrian.
There was only minor variation between 2014 and 2015 when it comes to the totals, and so far this year, the city is trending downward year-to-date, despite the region as a whole seeing an increase in pedestrian fatalities.
The data showed that less than half of those 768 — 318 — actually occurred at or near an intersection. Five of those crashes resulted in a death.
It’s reasonable to expect that more pedestrian-involved incidents would occur away from intersections because of the safety features they provide.
“If most pedestrians are crossing at intersections, but there are still more mid-block crashes, that suggests the City’s intersection improvements are providing a safer crossing environment at intersections,” Department of Transportation and Engineering Director Michael Moore told WCPO.
Moore said the city uses several tools at intersections to increase pedestrian safety, which he called “critically important.” Lighting, crosswalks, new count-down pedestrian signals, curb bump outs and mid-intersection islands are all tools the city has implemented to shorten crossing distances and increase safety, Moore said.
WCPO’s analysis also found that there was no one intersection within city limits that had a statistically significant frequency of pedestrian-involved crashes — no one intersection had more than five incidents since 2014, and no one had a higher fatality rate than the others.
But WCPO did identify nine hot spots — that is, an intersection or short stretch of road — where such incidents did seem to cluster:
1) Glenway Avenue in West Price Hill business district
The intersection of Glenway and Beech avenues saw three crashes, while Glenway between Sunset and Silker and where it intersects Western Hills Avenue also saw a concentration of pedestrian-involved crashes, adding five more to this area’s total.
2) Gilbert Avenue in Walnut Hills
Two Walnut Hills intersections made the top nine: Gilbert at E. McMillan Street and Gilbert at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, both multi-lane, heavily driven crosstown connectors. There were six incidents here.
3) Harrison and McHenry avenues in Westwood
Traffic data showed five incidents at this busy intersection.
4) Clifton Avenue adjacent to UC
Clifton Avenue between Calhoun Street and MLK — the corridor running along the western edge of University of Cincinnati’s campus — saw five incidents since 2014.
5) Colerain Avenue at West North Bend Road in Mt. Airy
This intersection saw four incidents since 2014.
6) Warsaw Avenue in East Price Hill
Warsaw Avenue between Purcell and McPherson avenues saw four incidents, including one fatality.
7) Fifth and Sycamore streets Downtown
This busy intersection in the heart of the city’s Central Business District saw three incidents since 2014, including one incident in which the driver involved provided false information.
8) Reading Road in Walnut Hills
The short stretch of Reading Road between Kinsey Avenue and E. McMillan Street saw three crashes, including one hit-and-skip.
9) Montana Avenue at Harrison Avenue in Westwood
This West Side neighborhood center saw three incidents since 2014. In addition to the crosswalks and signals, the Westwood Coalition has mentioned plans to install curb bumpouts at the intersection, an increasingly common traffic-calming tool.
To zoom, use the +/- button in the bottom left corner of the map. Click or tap on an icon to read more about each hot spot.
What's Causing These Crashes?
With even just a cursory look at this list, it’s easy to see that these are high volume traffic areas, for both vehicles and pedestrians, in densely populated neighborhoods. This alone can become a recipe for traffic incidents.
But digging into the crash reports revealed a few interesting trends in the circumstances surrounding each of the incidents, particularly regarding cause. For instance, of the 54 incidents that occurred at these nine locations, nearly 40 percent were ruled the driver’s fault. Nearly 30 percent involved a pedestrian crossing on a walk signal with the driver making a turn, not seeing them in the crosswalk.
Nine percent of the time, the pedestrian was at fault, the data show.
“Our most recent analysis showed that many pedestrian-involved crashes took place at intersections where a pedestrian was…doing everything right,” Moore said. “This suggests distracted driving is a huge issue, and enforcement and education are the best tools to combat.”
Moore said his department is still working on the report council requested, which will also suggest further ways to continue increasing intersection safety, and anticipates it will be ready next month.
Follow Pat LaFleur on Twitter (@pat_laFleur) for all things living car-free in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.