Lowering speed limits was a bad decision

Ordinance No. 160-2022, introduced by Cleveland Heights Mayor Seren, was passed by CH City Council on Nov. 21. It lowers the speed limit from 35 mph to 25 mph on parts of five city streets, affecting portions of Euclid Heights Boulevard, Lee Road, Noble Road, and North and South Taylor roads.

These streets have had 35 mph speed limits for many decades. The new ordinance cites no history of incidents, nor does it cite proof of design problems.

It simply adopts the “ideal, principles, and concepts” of a utopian program developed in Sweden in the 1990s called “Vision Zero.” That program has as its goal “zero traffic deaths and serious injuries.”

Slowing traffic is Mayor Seren’s chosen way to achieve that goal.

Speed limits are set by state law. They depend upon the design of streets and the relationship of some streets to others. Certain streets are listed as “through highways,” with 35 mph speed limits. By local ordinance, a municipality may select and designate any street as no longer being a “through highway.”

Once an ordinance defines a street as a “non-through street,” the speed limit on it becomes 25 mph. Council made such a speed limit change by redefining five streets. It may have acted legally, but it acted unwisely.

These five streets are, have been, and always will be true “through highways.” They were designed to handle higher volumes of traffic than other streets. They were designed to take a traffic burden off other streets. Thanks to the new law, these five streets will no longer move traffic through the city as efficiently.

It will take longer now to get to shops, banks, restaurants, parks, libraries, churches, and schools. Safety problems will increase as slower traffic on these five streets encourages drivers to seek faster shortcuts on side streets. The quality of life in Cleveland Heights will change for the worse.

If safety [were] a genuine concern, the mayor and council first could have commissioned a traffic engineering study. They chose not to do that. 

Instead, they blindly made safety decisions for ideological reasons. They ignored speed limits long accepted under state law as safe. They added inconvenience to daily living. They did not protect public safety; by creating an added incentive for some to drive faster on side streets, they actually have endangered it.

Alan Rapoport

Alan Rapoport, a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights, served on CH City Council (1980–87) and as council president/mayor (1982–87).

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Volume 16, Issue 1, Posted 10:27 AM, 01.02.2023