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Emptier Roads = More Speeding by Columbus Drivers

Brent Warren Brent Warren Emptier Roads = More Speeding by Columbus DriversA map showing where speeding has increased this year compared to last. Source: Ohio State Center for Urban and Regional Analysis.
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A new data analysis from a group of Ohio State University researchers has confirmed a phenomenon that many of us have observed since the coronavirus pandemic began impacting daily life in Columbus – people are driving really fast on those newly-empty roads.

OSU’s Center for Urban and Regional Analysis (CURA) used data from the transportation data company INRIX to compare speeds on Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati roads this year to the year before.

The analysis, which looked at the time period of March 28 to April 19, found an increase in speeding in all three cities compared to the same time period last year, with Columbus seeing some of the largest increases.

On many of the road segments analyzed in Columbus, drivers this year were going ten or more miles per hour faster than they were last year. One section of I-71 even registered speeds over 30 miles per hour faster compared to last year.

Harvey Miller, Director of CURA, co-authored the analysis along with Jinhyung Lee, a doctoral student in geography at OSU, and Adam Porr, GIS Project Manager for CURA.

Miller explained that the data is taken from highways and major thoroughfares, not smaller residential streets, “but I would guess that there is speeding on those streets too.”

“I hope the city reconsiders creating open and slow streets during this pandemic,” he added. “As the weather gets warmer and people get antsy, there is going to be a lot of conflict.”

Advocacy group Transit Columbus has called on the city to implement new policies – or changes to the street network – to provide more space for cyclists and pedestrians at a time when many trails and parks are seeing increased use.

There were five pedestrian-vehicle deaths recorded in the Columbus area in the month of April – two along Harrisburg Pike, one on Agler Road, one on Sunbury Road, and one near the corner of North Fourth Street and Alden Avenue in the University District.

“I think we need to take measures to slow cars down everywhere, but especially where vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists may be present,” Miller added. “Mayor Ginther made a major step forward in January when he announced Columbus is becoming a Vision Zero city. We need to act decisively on this vision, and not just through greater enforcement: we should be thinking about fundamental design changes to our streets such as protected bicycle infrastructure, better sidewalks, and traffic calming.”

For more information on the OSU study, see cura.osu.edu.

The reference speed is the average speed on a road segment when there is no major traffic. Increases are shown in yellow, orange and red. Source: Ohio State Center for Urban and Regional Analysis.
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