Grassroots groups are painting their way to safer streets in Asiatown and Slavic Village

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Sometimes, all you need is paint (and maybe a little love, too) to create safer, more pedestrian-friendly streets. That’s one takeaway from two groups from Asiatown/Campus District and Slavic Village who presented before the Cleveland Planning Commission on Friday, Sept. 17. The groups sought approval to paint crosswalks and curb extensions on city streets to slow down traffic and make it easier to cross them.

The People’s Streets project in Asiatown/Campus District aims to paint decorative crosswalks and curb extensions along Payne Avenue at East 22nd, East 23rd, East 30th, East 32nd, East 37th, and East 39th Streets and the temporarily re-stripe the Payne Avenue bridge over I-90. The Warszawa Triangle Street Painting Project involves painting decorative crosswalks and curb extensions at eight locations throughout Slavic Village, East 67th and Siebert, East 69th and Siebert, and East 69th and Chambers.

Examples of street painting on Payne Avenue. Contributed rendering.

Examples of street painting on Payne Avenue. Contributed rendering.

Karis Tzeng of Midtown Cleveland told the commission that Payne Avenue, a commercial spine running through the heart of Asiatown, is too wide and doesn’t have enough crosswalks. “We often see families, especially with strollers, racing across the street at unmarked crossings,” she said. “There are also many elderly residents trying to cross the street.”

Tiffany Andreoli of Slavic Village said that some houses where she lives have been hit multiple times by distracted drivers, and bollards had to be installed on the treelawns to stop them. “Pretty much everywhere we go, people are talking about traffic and safety in the neighborhood,” she said. “It’s a huge concern.”

Rachel Oscar from Campus District said the project will remain up until Payne Avenue is slated for resurfacing in 2023 or 2024. “We want to create an enhanced experience that’s safe for all modes of transportation,” she said. “We can slow the traffic and improve safety for everyone. Payne can better link people and communities.”

Examples of street painting in Slavic Village. Contributed rendering.

Examples of street painting in Slavic Village. Contributed rendering.

This fall, The People’s Streets volunteers and artists will paint the crosswalks, install temporary curb extensions consisting of plastic bollards and paint, and add temporary ADA ramps, Oscar said. They’re planning on to do East 32nd Street first using a “learning lab” approach, then use their findings to complete the rest of the treatments in the spring.

The People’s Streets project is supported in part by the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA), which will supply materials including paint and ADA ramps from its street supplies program. Additionally, the group has been awarded a $25,000 grant from SPIN. In Slavic Village, the project will be coordinated by volunteers and a local artist and is set to kick off next month. The city’s Planning Department has also been instrumental in helping guide the project.

Planning Commission member Lillian Kuri challenged the city, specifically the division of construction and engineering, to embrace a shift in how they treat their roadways. “It’s super exciting but sad to me that this is not the norm,” she said. “You guys need to be a department of the city. This should happen everywhere. Where is engineering and construction today saying, ‘We’re part of this team?’ This is crazy. I’m actually shocked.”

This article has been updated to reflect the fact that the project is located in the Campus District as well as Asiatown, and that the city’s planning department has helped guide the effort. Learn more about the Cleveland Planning Commission here:

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Lee Chilcote is editor of The Land.

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