Cleveland Heights wrote the best Complete Streets policy in the country in 2018.
During a National Complete Streets Coalition press conference this week, Cleveland Heights Planning Director Richard Wong said it “focuses on the most vulnerable and the least mobile” people in the city.
“Streets should be for everyone,” Wong, an avid bike commuter, said.
Elected officials do not always realize that their streets aren’t being designed for everyone, commented Fred Jones, a senior project manager with Michael Baker International and the Vice Mayor of Neptune Beach, FL, which was also recognized for its complete streets policy.
“The sentiment is that everything is good,” Jones said. “That this is good for business and safety was enough to get a conversation going and the balance of city council on board.”
Cleveland Heights plans to implement its complete streets law in visible projects like the buffered bike lane that it painted on North Park Boulevard.
“In some cases, it’s just paint, which we can easily afford,” Wong said about the road diet on North Park.
In Milwaukee, the third city recognized for its complete streets law, a coalition of public works, health and safety officials and the local bike group will staff a committee and advisory council that decides on how to build complete streets.
“It will help us all speak the same language and ensure that we don’t work in silos,” said James Hannig, Pedestrian & Bicycle Coordinator for the City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works. His department formed a multi-modal unit to respond to requests for complete streets in projects.
Wong said the city was already moving toward Complete Streets and used the bike and pedestrian improvement underway at the Edgehill and Overlook intersection as an example. An automatic pedestrian counter provided by NOACA counted nearly 250,000 people walking through this intersection, which is having excess pavement removed, and a bioswale, a stop sign and high visibility cross walks added. A Transportation for Livable Communities grant from NOACA paid for the study and the implementation.
Designers and engineers working with the city will now be required to draw up plans that balance car speed with the safety of cyclists, seniors and children walking, Wong said. A protected bike lane on Mayfield Road — an idea identified in the city’s 2018 Master Plan — would have a better chance of being considered now than when the city proposed a bike lane during Mayfield’s reconstruction a few years back and was told by the Ohio Department of Transportation that it wouldn’t fund the project if it reduced the “Level of Service” (that notion was since dispelled by a ruling from the Federal Highway Administration. An Obama era ruling from FHWA says that Level of Service is no longer a reason to not fund a project like a protected bike lane).
“We consider each project an opportunity for change,” Wong said.