Cleveland Heights leads in complete and green streets

In May the National Complete Streets Coalition chose Cleveland Heights’ Complete and Green Streets policy as the best of 66 complete streets policies adopted in the United States in 2018. The policy is the result of three years of work by the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC), a panel of residents who work closely with Planning Director Richard Wong and CH City Council Member Mary Dunbar.

TAC members made sure the goal of passing a complete streets policy was included in Cleveland Heights’ master plan, adopted March 20, 2017. CH City Council approved the policy on May 16, 2018.

“Complete streets” means re-thinking street design, which for most of the 20th century was oriented toward cars. Since 2004, the National Complete Streets Coalition has promoted a vision that emphasizes the needs of pedestrians, especially the elderly and disabled, cyclists, and riders of public transit. As of 2018, 1,477 communities—cities, counties and regions—had formally committed to this concept.

Cleveland Heights’ policy charges the departments of Planning and Public Works with prioritizing the safety and comfort of the streets’ most vulnerable users, while at the same time considering the needs of motorists, delivery and service personnel, and emergency responders. Examples of enhanced safety include reducing the width and number of lanes in order to slow traffic, creating buffered bike lanes, shortening and increasing the visibility of crosswalks, and making sure curb cuts comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The “green” part of the policy refers primarily to minimizing rainwater run-off from paved surfaces directly into storm sewers. Measures include eliminating excess pavement and installing retention basins, which filter the water and allow it gradually to be absorbed into the ground.

The policy applies to both public and private streets and parking lots. The city will revamp business districts, roadways and dangerous intersections in coordination with other infrastructure projects, such as sewer and road improvements.

Wong cited several recent and ongoing projects that incorporate complete streets principles, including the redesign of the intersection of Edgehill and Overlook roads, the addition of a buffer strip to the North Park Boulevard bike lane, and the ultimate installation of 900 ADA-compliant curb cuts throughout the city.

Also consistent with the policy are improvements funded by Safe Routes to School, an Ohio Department of Transportation program, which funds both infrastructure enhancements and educational activities.

Accountability is integral to the policy, which requires the Planning Department to report annually in writing to the TAC, the Citizens Advisory Committee (which oversees Community Development Block Grants), and the general public. The report must include quantitative information in 16 areas, for example: miles of bike lanes added, net number of trees added, and numbers of car accidents, including those involving pedestrians and cyclists. The report must be posted online and made available in hard copy at city hall and libraries. Wong hopes to begin by issuing two reports in December, for 2018 and 2019.

While city staff are making complete and green streets considerations a prominent part of their planning process, Wong encourages residents to look for new design possibilities as well. “If there is an intersection or other place that you feel is unsafe, let us know,” he said.

The TAC comprises eight Cleveland Heights residents appointed by city council for a two-year term. Current co-chairs are Sam Bell, Gayle Lewin and Charlie Mosbrook. The committee will be seeking new members to serve starting Jan. 1. The application form is available on the city’s website. “One of our major objectives,” said Mosbrook, “is to gain diversity.”

Deborah Van Kleef

Deborah Van Kleef is a writer, a musician and a longtime Cleveland Heights resident.

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Volume 12, Issue 7, Posted 11:59 AM, 06.27.2019