Cleveland City Council introduces ordinance to improve street safety for vulnerable road users

A new ordinance introduced by Cleveland City Council could help make the streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians.


A new ordinance introduced by Cleveland City Council could help make the streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

The ordinance (676-2020), put forward by Ward 3 Councilman Kerry McCormack, aims to ensure that the city of Cleveland builds and designs roads that meet the needs of all roadway users. It specifically focuses on “vulnerable road users,” which include bicyclists, pedestrians, scooter riders, motorcyclists and those with mobility, vision and hearing challenges. These users suffer from a lack of external protections on the roads, such as protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety islands, according to the ordinance. 

“The desired outcome of the Complete and Green Streets Policy is to create an equitable, balanced and effective transportation system that prioritizes access and safety for the most vulnerable road users and areas that have seen historical underinvestment,” the ordinance states.  

If approved, the ordinance would require the city of Cleveland to implement and enforce guidelines that prioritize vulnerable road users in the designs of city projects. The city would assess criteria such as street design and width, connectivity, operating speed, hierarchy of streets and signage in an effort to make roads safer for vulnerable road users.

“The city shall consider innovative or non-traditional design options where accepted design standards allow flexibility,” according to the ordinance. “Design criteria shall be based on the thoughtful application of engineering, architectural and urban principles in addition to prescriptive guidelines.”

By incorporating elements such as sidewalks, crosswalks, bike facilities and public transportation amenities in initial designs, the city would avoid the complications and expenses of adding them later, according to the ordinance. Other benefits include decreasing demand on the roadways and working to eliminate serious crashes. 

“We have to do a whole lot better in designing our roads, so whether you’re a transit user, a pedestrian, whether you have a disability, whether you’re a cyclist, you have the opportunity to have a safe experience in the roads,” McCormack said.

In addition, the ordinance would establish a Transportation Infrastructure Advisory Committee. The committee, made up of 11 members, would “meet monthly to review and provide feedback on project scope and design for all transportation investments in the city of Cleveland and consider exemption requests,” according to the ordinance. 

It would also seek to integrate green infrastructure into the city of Cleveland’s transportation infrastructure to help reduce waste and manage stormwater runoff, according to the ordinance. 

The ordinance would repeal and replace Cleveland’s Complete and Green Streets Ordinance. Some say the current ordinance, which passed in 2011, allows for too many exceptions to be effective. 

“For us, the first issue was that it didn’t require any sort of oversight of implementation,” said Bike Cleveland Executive Director Jacob VanSickle. While the Complete and Green Streets Ordinance enables the director of capital projects to convene a task force to address road safety for vulnerable users, he said it does not require the task force to meet regularly. 

VanSickle said the current ordinance assured that streets on the city’s bike facility implementation plan were considered for a facility, such as a sharrow or a buffered bike lane. However, “any street that wasn’t on the city’s bike implementation plan basically got no complete treatment that would make the road safer for biking and walking,” he said. 

Roads such as Superior Avenue, East 55th Street and Woodland Avenue would be some of the ideal choices for improved conditions for vulnerable road users because they are generally low traffic and wide enough to accommodate these changes, VanSickle said. 

The legislation does allow for exemptions, stating that “the Director of Capital Projects shall provide notice of all exemption requests” to the TIAC and affected council members. Additionally, “the Mayor’s Office of Capital Projects must submit documentation to the TIAC indicating why the facility or project should be exempt” and “the documentation shall include how the project will accommodate roadway users who will be adversely impacted by the exemption request.”

Within 60 days, “the TIAC and city council member representing the project area will review the exemption request, provide comments, and the TIAC shall hold at least one public hearing to receive public input, which public hearing may be held as part of a regular monthly TIAC meeting. Notice of the public hearing shall be posted on the City Planning Commission’s website at least 14 days in advance and must include a summary of the exemption proposal.”

The city of Cleveland has added more bike lanes in recent years as part of its Bikeway Master Plan, which focuses on improving the city’s bike network. However, some believe the city has failed to implement bike-friendly measures in repaving projects on streets such as Pearl Road and St. Clair Avenue.

“Our hope is that the changes in the ordinance will create more oversight to give both the public and stakeholders input on roadway projects, to ensure they’re safe and help build a more livable, healthy community,” VanSickle said. 

McCormack said the ordinance will be referred to a committee and undergo administrative review. Although it still has a process ahead of it, he said the ordinance has been in the works for two years and has already been reviewed by several groups, including the mayor’s office, the Vision Zero task force and the regional transit authority. 

“It has been really reviewed thoroughly by not only the people in the city, but in different partner agencies as well,” McCormack said.

Paige Bennett is a journalist and recent Kent State University graduate. She previously served as general assignment editor for The Kent Stater and KentWired and managing editor for A Magazine. This article was produced through a reporting partnership with the Collaborative News Lab at Kent State University.

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