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Cleveland Heights Working to Make Lee Road Library Crosswalk, Others Safer

The city has started to make a handful of improvements and has more in the works.

The City of Cleveland Heights has begun implementing safety features to the crosswalk in front of the Lee Road Library.

Mayor Ed Kelley said city and library officials discussed the safety of that crosswalk a few months ago, but it became a priority after a 23-year-old woman was struck by a car there on the afternoon of Oct. 18. She suffered an ankle injury, said Police Chief Jeffrey Robertson.

The city hosted a meeting Oct. 29 to discuss how to prevent an accident like that in the future.

"I’m not going to sit around twiddling my thumbs while someone else gets hurt," Kelley said.

The city had installed the solar-powered signs in April 2011, hoping to increase safety there. They only flash when pedestrians push a button, unlike other crosswalks throughout the city. 

But Kelley said more needs to be done.

The city plans to reduce the speed limit from 30 mph to 25.

Before the incident, Richard Wong, planning and development director, said the city had installed signs that indicate a crosswalk is ahead and tell drivers to yield. After the incident, the city also replaced the cone-like crosswalk signs in the middle of the street.

"We’ve had those before, but the problem is a big truck comes by and knocks it down," Kelley said.

But there are other features the city wants to add to warn drivers people are crossing ahead.

Wong said they hope to install rectangular lights that are similar to strobe or emergency vehicle lights that catch the attention of drivers.

Wong said the company claims that the lights, if installed on both sides of the crosswalk, will have an 88 percent success rate — drivers stop. Apparently standard crosswalks now only have 18 percent success, according to the company.

Wong said the police department is investigating whether they can just purchase the lights separately from the sign and light combination. The combination would cost the city significantly more — $10,000 to $15,000 — to replace a relatively new crosswalk.

Another change is the paint on the ground itself.

"We're adding north/south paint lines within the existing east/west crosswalk," Wong said, explaining it looks like the crosswalk on the Beatles' "Abbey Road" cover. The difference is that there are both thin and thick paint lines, "more like a keyboard on a piano," to increase visibility.

Robertson said officers are also monitoring the area and citing people who don't yield to pedestrians.

Robertson said the woman driving was charged for not paying full attention to the road. Kelley said, though the woman was not using her cell phone in this case, texting and talking is a huge problem. The new features will help catch the attention of distracted drivers.

"As far as I know, this is the only (accident with a pedestrian) we've had, but in my point of view, one accident is too many," Kelley said.

He added that the city plans to study other crosswalks around the city and make them safer. For example, signs were added to the path across Fairmount Boulevard near Ruffing Montessori recently at the suggestion of Rick Hollis, resident and owner of Hollis Automotive, Kelley said.

"We've got to make sure the kids and the families are safe coming and going," he said.

Josie November 19, 2012 at 05:35 PM
I also have to say, coming from the other perspective, sometimes pedestrians will walk right out in front of vehicles without looking, thinking the crosswalk is some sort of force-field that will block the impact of a car. Also, the pedestrians that use the road instead of the perfectly good sidewalk, even in summer when the sidewalks are snow-free. I am not saying all drivers are saints, but I am just saying that pedestrians need to be mindful as well.
Donna November 20, 2012 at 01:52 PM
First, regarding Lee Rd. the flashers on the signs are ALWAYS on now. They used to be button operated, but now are always flashing. I live on Corydon and I was going to turn down Corydon from Lee and it was about 6:00pm and dark already. I was slowing down to turn, the yellow flashing sign is flashing, which is always on now, as from BEHIND the sign is a woman getting ready to step out. She was dressed all in dark colors, which I do also, and with the lights flashing and the sign and sidewalk behind her, I could barely see her, but did and let her go. I know I am vigilant about this crosswalk because I use it daily, yet the lighting situation, especially on the west side of the street, is backward. The flashing sign seems to be better placed in back of the sidewalk so the person crossing is in the glow of the flashing lights and not behind it. For when it is dark outside, you see the yellow lights flashing but not what's behind it it because there isn't even a street light to help illuminate the area. The street light is away from the corner. My husband and I crossed around 9:00 pm last week and no cars were coming from the south, but we carefully started our way because the other lane's cars were far enough away. There were two of us with one having a red coat on and such..anyway, long story short, the cars did not stop.. 5 cars went by while we stood in the middle of the street and crosswalk, lights flashing and all. Crazy! Thanks for listening. I'm frustrated.
Chris November 20, 2012 at 02:30 PM
When CH resurfaced Lee Rd. by Fairfax and the library they should have put some curve into the road and narrowed the lanes to slow the traffic. A laser-straight, extra-wide roadway encourages higher speeds. Cars coming north from Fairmount always seem (from a pedestrian point of view) to be going too fast, and I've seen plenty of cars accelerate heading south as they pass the gas station at Essex. Do we want Lee Rd. to be a throughway or a neighborhood street? Just changing the type of flashing lights seems unlikely to change motorist behavior. I agree that the entire crosswalk area needs to be better lit, and recognize that making significant changes to the roadway at this point is not in the budget, but we can do better. The Streetfilms website provides some videos that show how different approaches have worked in other cities. http://www.streetfilms.org/category/traffic-calming/
Garry Kanter November 20, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Chris, if you're not already involved, you may want to contact the city about the Cedar-Lee Streetscape project. They propose adding safety islands for pedestrians, among other improvements. Sounds like you may have some valuable contributions to make.
Glinda Smith November 20, 2012 at 08:58 PM
How about enforcing the law by having a police car parked nearby that goes after people who do not stop for pedestrians for a few weeks? A couple hundred tickets would help.

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