Alarmed by a rise in pedestrian safety incidents and car crashes in their neighborhood, residents of Slavic Village recently painted 11 brightly-colored curb bump outs and eye-catching designs on their streets to slow down speeders.
The street painting intervention was prompted in part by three incidents where a speeding car crashed into a house at E. 65th and Sebert Ave. Fed up and eager for action, residents worked with the city in order to get permission to paint traffic calming designs on their streets in the hopes that it would help to create a safer environment for pedestrians.
Residents Joyce Cummings, 54, and Tiffany Andreoli, 37, led the effort. Cummings and Andreoli are part of a community stewards program run by Slavic Village Development (SVD) that is aimed at increasing resident engagement. On Monday, May 9th, about 25 neighbors, city leaders, and community advocates took to the streets with brooms, buckets of paint, and brushes.
Cummings, Andreoli and others launched the project to create better signage and markings to deter drivers from speeding and running stop signs. Curb bump outs can help slow traffic and create awareness of pedestrian crossings, they say. However, unlike permanent traffic calming measures, such as raised crosswalks or flashing signals, street paintings are easily attainable thanks to their low cost, and they can be modified, added, and removed as needed.
The pair said when a car crashed into the house for the third time, it was like the final straw. “We wanted a guard rail [at the corner], but our research revealed that a house in the city of Cleveland can’t receive that level of protection unless it has been hit six times,” Cummings said.
“Because of [the community stewards program], we got out of our houses, got each other’s phone numbers, and we’re talking,” said Andreoli. “The community becomes stronger when we know each other.”
Now, after nearly three years of organizing, the streets within the Warszawa Triangle near Fleet and East 65th Street are adorned with vibrant compositions that catch the eyes of drivers and pedestrians alike. In addition to helping make the area safer for pedestrians and cyclists by drawing attention to crosswalks and slowing traffic, the markings also beautify the area, bringing fresh paint, splash of color, and attractive designs to otherwise plain concrete.
The Warszawa Triangle, an active corridor for residents of Slavic Village, is flanked by businesses on both Fleet and Broadway Avenues and is home to individuals and families between East 65th and 71st Streets. The idea for installing traffic calming measures came from former city council member Anthony Brancatelli, who suggested they try to obtain funding and ask for the city’s buy-in. Not long after that meeting, Cummings and Andreoli went door-to-door to ask their neighbors for their support. They asked residents to monitor and document speeders, and invited them to join a committee in order to plan the project. Andreoli and Cummings also sent out mailers to community members.
The Warszawa Committee next held meetings to discuss evidence of speeding the neighbors collected, design options, and the overall project. It was important to the organizers that the process was citizen driven. Brancatelli connected the group with Calley Mersmann, the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, as well as Joe Linsky and Krystal Sierra of Slavic Village Development. The partnerships with Mersmann and SVD would ultimately prove pivotal.
“[Mersmann] sat in meeting after meeting with us, requested traffic counts for us, and walked the area with us to get a comprehensive understanding of the problem,” Andreoli said.
Added Cummings, “(The community) hasn’t really had this kind of relationship with the city before, until Mersmann came to meet with us and told us what the next steps were going to be. She really guided us throughout the project’s completion.”
Recently elected council member Rebecca Maurer also supported the project, and SVD applied for and now holds the permits. There were “virtually no impediments to getting the project advanced,” said Andreoli.
While the city was processing their plans and permits, the group also applied for and received funding from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) to buy paint and other supplies. SVD also helped pay for the costs of permitting. Among the supplies, tools and lumber purchased were wooden posts for the corner of E. 65th and Sebert, where the aforementioned house had been struck, in order to mitigate further damage.
The organizers used stencils and project supplies to create examples of their designs and display their mock-ups for community input at Andreoli’s business on Fleet Ave. Finally, the Warszawa Committee received approval to install the paintings, at which point they took to the streets ready to make their mark. Opting to paint on their rain-date, the group formed three teams all armed with traffic cones to block the lane, brooms to clean the street, and paint rollers. They each went to the predetermined sites to prep and lay the base coat. Once prepped, a crew of four arrived on a mobile unit to spray paint the designs using stencils they printed at Case Western’s Think[Box] for no cost.
Despite the paintings now being successfully installed throughout the Triangle, Cummings and Andreoli say their work’s not done yet. They’re hoping to expand the paintings to the retail districts in Slavic Village and are working on getting QR codes installed near the current paintings so passersby can learn more about it. The organizers are also keen to see the results of their actions post-installation once the city planning department finishes collecting data on traffic.
The organizers would like to expand the conversation about community-led traffic calming initiatives outside of their own neighborhood. Andreoli explained that the Warszawa Committee wants to share their experiences so that other groups can be empowered to do similar neighborhood projects. “While we can’t personally paint in other neighborhoods, our neighboring communities can access the same resources we did,” she said.
Check out The Land’s past coverage of street painting here: https://www.thelandcle.org/stories/grassroots-groups-are-painting-their-way-to-safer-streets-in-asiatown-and-slavic-village