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Can Complete Streets like Euclid provide safety?

Marc Lefkowitz  |  08/07/12 @ 2:00pm  |  Posted in Biking, Transit

<br />Complete and Green Street<br />Fleet Avenue in Cleveland will be rebuilt with bike lanes and bioswales. A multi-modal corridor<br />Cyclist uses bike lane on Euclid Corridor, ClevelandLower Euclid Avenue and free RTA trolley<br />Bikes on bridges<br />A grassroots group started a community dialogue about bikes, pedestrians and transit in 2009 that led to a multi-use path on the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge.Bikes belong<br />Clevelanders test ride a bike lane at Pop up RockwellBike capital<br />Groningen is a city in The Netherlands where half of the people bike on a daily basis.

Bus-Rapid transit is a hybrid of train and bus that hopefully picks up the best of both (lower costs but a more elegant design like nicer stations. In Cleveland’s case, the dedicated transit lane also promises faster service). Next American City hails Cleveland and RTA’s HealthLine as “a world-class example of BRT in the U.S.” Annie Weinstock, U.S. Country Director for the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, notes Cleveland’s blend of needed infrastructure improvements on Euclid with a ‘train-like’ experience.

The $200 million BRT system has opened a path for hundreds of millions in new development. Three new and redeveloped buildings in Midtown’s Tech Park alone show that when a bus-rapid line and Complete Street makeover go in, it creates tremendous new value—on par with a train.

The national attention for the Euclid BRT is deserved. Cleveland’s system works because it's a full-on investment strategy with transit as the backbone. Smaller scale developers like Geis Cos. and Hemisphere are finding deals that pencil out; they're building and filling spaces that have been vacant for years— reclaiming a massive donut hole of vacancies in Cleveland’s east side/Midtown. The investment has anchors in the Cleveland Clinic, Case, CSU—even sleeping giants like Forest City are interested in downtown Cleveland development again (Crain’s reported that the company is looking at converting the former Halle department store in to residential).

* * * *

The death and maiming at the recent Clifton Arts Festival when a motorist ran down pedestrians in a blocked off street party led us to wonder if the whole tragic affair would have been avoided on a Clifton Avenue with a BRT makeover? A BRT “light” proposal for Clifton between Lakewood and Cleveland was scuttled last year when Lakewood chose not to invest in it. Cleveland’s portion of Clifton, from the Shoreway to W. 117th Street was where the fatal collision occurred.

Studies have shown that faster speeds lead to much higher rates of severe injuries and death of pedestrians. BRT done well creates a calmer, more controlled environment.

Did Cleveland’s experience with a Bus Rapid Transit line offer more than development, but also safety and security for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers of the street? We looked at the crash statistics for Euclid Avenue before and after the HealthLine went live in October, 2008.

From 2006 to October 2008, 404 accidents were reported for Euclid Avenue, from MLK Drive to E. 22nd Street. Ten were with pedestrians, and four involved bicyclists. From October 2008 to July 2011, six of the 411 reported collisions involved cyclists, eight involved pedestrians. So, what explains the slight uptick in collisions with bikes? Is it that hundreds of new cyclists have been using Euclid since the bike lanes were added?

As the number of people biking and walking increases, deaths and injuries should decline, the Complete Streets Coalition says. “This is known as the safety in number hypothesis: more people walking and biking reduce the risk per trip.”

As bikes and pedestrians continue to fill up space on Euclid— and as more drivers get used to sharing that space—Cleveland should see fewer overall crashes.

Design interventions are the only way to get real and lasting declines in cars hitting cars, pedestrians and bikes. A full suite of improvements – medians with refuges for pedestrians, more visible transit stops, trees, dedicated left turn lanes, countdown crossing timers, bike lanes, narrower intersections – are proven safety tactics.

Read more about how Complete Streets help reduce crashes

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