CINCINNATI — Some neighborhood councils are hunting their own grants to buy protection for pedestrians the City of Cincinnati cannot afford.
It is not a freeway, but living along Hamilton Avenue in College Hill cost Brooke Cook so many pets and so much property that her family ordered cement poured in their yard to widen their driveway to give guests safer parking than what is reserved on the street.
"We've had a dog killed," Cook said. "We've had three cars totaled. It's apparently been a problem long before I lived here. People drive on this street like it's a highway basically."
Less than two weeks prior, James Towns died riding his bicycle on Northbend Road. The driver who hit him left without calling for help, according to Cincinnati Police. The case is still unsolved.
"[City crews] had put a speed sign here at one time," neighbor Charles Reynolds said. "People would see it and they would slow down, but then they took it down and people went right back to drag stripping."
The College Hill Community Council (CHCC) wants to do more than the City of Cincinnati's budget allows.
"It's about safety," CHCC board member Julie Brown said.
In 2018, the city budgeted $405,900 for safety improvements, according to city records. One year later, City Council appropriated $500,000 for pedestrian safety. The current budget is $750,000, but the cost of materials is rising too.
Council member and Vice Mayor-elect Jan-Michelle Lemon Kearney said city engineers regularly apply for outside grants to supplement their regular budget.
"They're not just looking to the city for funding," she said. "They do look at outside sources. The fact that our community councils are getting creative and doing that as well: we all have to work together. I mean, pedestrian safety is a huge issue."
In the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood, volunteers for their community council found grants to help buy pedestrian flags for people crossing several intersections along Montgomery and Ridge Roads.
The Northside Community council planted yard sign reminders while their grant writers aim for bigger buys.
"We have some really committed residents in College Hill and when given the chance we can make a big impact with small changes," Brown said.
While still counting on police for traffic enforcement and hoping for more city investments, CHCC volunteers plan to go after money on their own too. Their first target is a grant from Keep Cincinnati Beautiful.
"It's a matching grant," Brown said. "So, we're going to be doing some fundraisers to raise the funds."
It is the kind of effort both Cook and Towns' grieving girlfriend supports.
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