CH needs more pedestrian-friendly initiatives

As a father of two young children, I was excited to attend the Heights Halloween Festival on Oct. 21. The day before, event organizers advertised in an official e-mail newsletter that "a portion of Lee Road will be closed." Upon arriving, however, I was disappointed to find only a few hundred square feet of Meadowbrook Boulevard converted for pedestrian use. Lee Road remained open, leaving hundreds of kids and caretakers to jostle along sidewalks while cars zoomed by a few feet away. This is not only disappointing but also dangerous.

Cleveland Heights should prioritize the safety of its residents and visitors, particularly during community events like the Halloween festival and the recent Music Hop (which was plagued by similar safety concerns). If ever there was a time to experiment and try new things that benefit the community, this was it.

Event organizers could have rerouted traffic around the public parking lot at Meadowbrook and Silsby, creating a genuine pedestrian-friendly zone on Lee Road. This would have added less than 200 meters to the driver's route, a negligible cost to drivers compared to the massive benefit it would have brought to festivalgoers.  

Earlier this year, on two separate occasions, pedestrians were struck and killed on Lee Road, which makes the need for pedestrian safety even more urgent. In 2021, Cleveland Heights officially adopted Vision Zero, a global strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries. 

Cleveland Heights government has done the bare minimum to keep pedestrians and cyclists safe in one of its most iconic business districts. In recent years, it has increased visibility at several crosswalks, added yellow flex posts, and decreased the speed limit to 25 mph. Yet more is needed to keep people safe, with more durable design upgrades and consistent enforcement.  

At the Halloween festival, the sidewalk was so packed with kids in costumes that it was not easy to move around. However, the street was surprisingly empty, and cars were driving freely without interruption. Many parents were nervously keeping an eye on their kids, trying to prevent them from getting too close to the road. Rather than create an inviting atmosphere through placemaking best practices, Cleveland Heights decided to prioritize convenience for drivers over the safety and comfortability of the broader community. 

Beyond increased safety, pedestrian-friendly districts are beneficial to local businesses, too, and community events have the potential to be an economic boon to restaurants and small shops. Cleveland Heights should look to cities worldwide for inspiration and guidance in smart infrastructure investments. Many forward-thinking suburbs comparable to Cleveland Heights are designing pedestrian- and bike-friendly zones.

As a family that recently moved to Cleveland Heights, we were looking for a place where we could do most of our day-to-day activities without a car. We often walk to a nearby coffee shop and playground on the weekend. After the Halloween festival, I'm left wondering what benefit there is in being able to walk to the Cedar Lee District if we risk getting hit by a car crossing the crosswalk. 

Cleveland Heights needs to prioritize the safety of its residents and visitors. It cannot continue to claim to be a progressive, environmentally conscious, and welcoming city if it does not value transportation methods other than cars. Let's make Cleveland Heights a model for other cities in Northeast Ohio by prioritizing pedestrians and cyclists for safety and community well-being.

David Felson

David Felson is a resident of Cleveland Heights. He's usually biking or walking with his two kids.

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Volume 16, Issue 12, Posted 4:39 PM, 11.29.2023