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Traffic crashes renew concerns about Cincinnati's commitment to safer city streets

Resident: 'Lives worth more' than what we spend
Cars slowly go over a raised crosswalk Tuesday on Vine St. in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine neighborhood
Posted at 9:15 AM, Oct 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-13 14:14:42-04

CINCINNATI — Vehicles slowed to a virtual crawl Tuesday as they approached one of the raised crosswalks on Vine Street in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.

OTR resident Stasfia Burkhart maneuvered her wheelchair across the crosswalk to a widened sidewalk on the other side.

"It's better for me than it used to be," Burkhart said. "It's safer."

Stasfia Burkhart
Stasfia Burkhart

The wider sidewalks and crosswalks on Vine Street are part of the City of Cincinnati's Vision Zero plan, which has made more than 200 safety improvements to streets.

Vision Zero is an international effort with the goal of reducing traffic-related deaths and severe injuries to zero.

But Burkhart said even on Vine Street, where the benefit of Vision Zero's projects are evident, vehicles still go too fast and create dangerous conditions in areas without the raised crosswalks.

"For little kids and anybody in a wheelchair, it ain't safe for nobody to walk around," Burkhart said. "They need this everywhere."

Recent traffic crashes in other parts of the city have renewed concerns about dangerous streets that have failed to receive the attention given to Vine Street, which is close to downtown.

Derek Bauman
Derek Bauman

"I know there are limitations, but there's so much more that we can do," said Derek Bauman, a retired Mason police officer and founder of Vision Zero Cincinnati. "We've had just too many people hit."

Last week, a vehicle crashed into a home with two apartments in South Fairmount.

That hilly stretch of Harrison Avenue is close to a memorial for 15-year-old Gabby Rodriguez, who was killed there in 2018 while walking to Western Hills High School.

Photo of Gabby Rodriguez
Photo of Gabby Rodriguez

"The hard part is driving by (it) every day," said Gabby's mother, Shawna Rodriguez. "We need changes that they're not doing."

Road improvements on Harrison Avenue were discussed last week at a City Council committee meeting.

The City Department of Transportation and Engineering (DOTE) recommended the project, which includes more street lighting and signs, and new painted lanes.

Council hasn't voted on the project.

Rodriguez said it's been painful watching city leaders fail to do what she believes is needed to make Harrison Avenue less dangerous.

Shawna Rodriguez
Shawna Rodriguez

"I don't want my daughter's death to be in vain," Rodriguez said.

City Spokeswoman Kelly Carr said no official with the City Manager's Office or DOTE was available Tuesday to discuss Vision Zero projects and the execution of that plan.

City records show crashes have increased during the pandemic in many areas, including on Harrison Avenue.

Bauman said it's one of many areas that deserves a much higher priority from the Vision Zero program.

"It can't just be a slogan we hang on a wall," Bauman said. "Because, quite frankly, people's lives are worth more than what we're spending."

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