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Cleveland takes up 'complete and green streets' legislation

The Hope Memorial Bridge crosses the Cuyahoga River from Ohio City into Downtown Cleveland,
Nick Castele
Ideastream Public Media
The Hope Memorial Bridge crosses the Cuyahoga River from Ohio City into Downtown Cleveland.

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb and city council are revamping a city policy aimed at making streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

Council’s transportation committee on Wednesday approved “complete and green streets” legislation that would task city officials with incorporating transit, walking, biking, trees and stormwater management in new road projects. The measure has not yet been voted on by the full council.

City staff pitched the proposal as a way to make neighborhoods healthier by helping residents move around the city more easily without a car.

“The more people are safe and comfortable doing that outside of a car, the healthier our communities are,” Calley Mersmann, Cleveland’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, told council members.

The city is taking this legislation up just weeks after drivers struck and killed a 5-year-old girl and 9-year-old boy in separate incidents. Council members have also raised complaints recently about speeding on city streets.

Cleveland’s wide main and residential streets make it easy for drivers to speed, Ward 17 Councilman Charles Slife said.

“We’ve got to break this mindset that the only appropriate way to move through Cleveland is at 5 to 10 miles per hour above the speed limit hitting zero traffic lights,” he said.

The legislation before council, which replaces an 11-year-old complete streets ordinance, doesn’t name specific road projects. But it requires the city to draw up a new complete streets policy to guide future street designs. Council amended the ordinance to emphasize traffic calming as one of the city’s priorities.

The measure also creates a 10-member advisory committee, appointed by the mayor and council, to help guide the city’s road planning. The committee would include representatives from transportation agencies, residents, a disability advocate and members of the Vision Zero traffic safety initiative.

The Bibb administration is also planning a summer pilot project to test out speed humps on some streets, according to James DeRose, the interim director of the mayor’s office of capital projects.

Nick Castele is a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media.