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City to Lower Speed Limits Downtown as Part of Vision Zero Effort

Brent Warren Brent Warren City to Lower Speed Limits Downtown as Part of Vision Zero EffortAn image included in the city's new Vision Zero Action Plan titled "Anatomy of a Dangerous Street."
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The City of Columbus has made its first commitments toward improving road safety since signing on to the Vision Zero initiative last year.

Headlining the list is a plan to impose a speed limit of 25 mph on all Downtown streets, but also included are commitments to improve 60 crosswalks throughout the city, make safety-related changes to 15 dangerous intersections, and to change the lane configuration of at least one road corridor by the end of 2022.

Changes are also planned for the city’s Roadway Design Manual, which means that new or reconstructed roads in the future would need to be designed to “provide protection to all users in the right of way,” including pedestrians and cyclists.

The commitments are outlined in a new document – called the Vision Zero Action Plan 1.0 – that was released yesterday by the city and its partners. A press conference announcing the release was held at the corner of Livingston Avenue and James Road, where Mayor Andrew Ginther, Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler, and Jennifer Gallagher, Director of the Columbus Department of Public Service, all spoke.

The location of the event and the inclusion of Mayor Kessler was designed to draw attention to the fact that many of the region’s most dangerous corridors span multiple jurisdictions.

Columbus and the City of Bexley plan to work together to implement changes “designed to slow traffic speed and support multi-modal travel along Livingston between Nelson and James roads,” according to a press release.

“Vision Zero is based on the fundamental principle that our transportation system can be made safer through data-driven approaches to engineering, education, evaluation and community engagement,” said Gallagher. “We have examined our transportation system holistically, and from the perspectives of all who use it — pedestrians, cyclists, motorists and transit users — to prioritize safety above all else.”

A graphic from the city’s Vision Zero Action Plan.

According to a timeline laid out in the new document, a consultant will be hired later this year to study Downtown traffic lights for retiming, and the new speed limits will be posted in the beginning of 2023.

Currently, there are 11 streets Downtown with speed limits over 25 mph (for at least a portion of their length): Broad Street, Third Street, Fourth Street, Spring Street, Long Street, Cleveland Avenue, Town Street, Rich Street, Main Street, Mound Street, and Grant Avenue.

Debbie Briner, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Public Service, said that while the initial focus is on Downtown, the intent in to “look at speed holistically throughout the city.”

Another graphic from the plan.

“Speed is recognized as a top contributor to fatal and serious injury crashes,” she added, explaining that the overall focus of the Vision Zero effort is on streets identified as part of a “High Injury Network” and on neighborhoods deemed “Communities of Interest” because of low income levels and other specific equity indicators.

The plan to reconfigure roadways will also prioritize those areas. The document calls for a series of temporary, speed-reducing infrastructure changes – similar to the pilot projects the city tried out in 2019 – with at least one corridor being selected for permanent changes. Those changes will be designed to “include more modes of transportation (e.g., adding protected lanes).”

Protected lanes, which offer a physical barrier that separates cyclists or other non-car users from vehicular traffic, have not historically been embraced in Columbus.

The city installed its first – and still only – significant protected bike lane on Summit Street in the University District over five years ago. An early plan to build protected lanes Downtown on Fourth and Third streets was dropped in favor of painted lanes.

For more information, see www.columbus.gov/VisionZero. A virtual public hearing on the Vision Zero Columbus Action Plan will be held on Thursday, March 4, at 5 p.m. The public hearing will be streamed live on CTV, on the city’s YouTube channel and on Facebook.

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