Clintonville seeks slower pace on High Street
Commission also wants 25-mph limit on North Broadway
Friday, February 26, 2010 5:33 AM
By Mark Ferenchik
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
A push to reduce the speed limit on N. High Street and North Broadway through Clintonville could turn into an effort to make the entire neighborhood a 25-mph zone.
The Clintonville Area Commission says it will likely first ask the city to reduce the speed limit from 35 mph to 25 mph on High Street between Arcadia Avenue and the Worthington line, and on North Broadway between Rt. 315 and I-71, said Michael Folmar, a member of the Clintonville Area Commission.
“What we hear from residents in the neighborhood is High Street is still not pedestrian friendly,” said Mike McLaughlin, a commission member.
Reducing the speed limit on High Street is a good start, say members, who may bring it up at next Thursday’s commission meeting.
“I’d like to see 25 miles an hour in all of Clintonville,” said Folmar, a co-chairman of a committee that will study speed limits.
But it’s unlikely that city officials would approve a neighborhood-wide speed limit. They never have, said Rick Tilton, assistant public service director.
“The city studies one street at a time,” Tilton said. “It’s not a case of one size fits all.”
And the Ohio Department of Transportation must approve any speed limit change.
I’m sympathetic with the goal for lower traffic speeds. It’s good for safety, reduces noise, increases the visibility of businesses, and has very little impact on the through traffic capacity of the roadway. However, I’m extremely doubtful that arbitrarily lowering the speed limit will be very effective.
The general traffic engineering consensus is that many (if not most) drivers travel at a speed that feels safe for conditions, not at what the sign tells them to do. So posting new speed limit signs doesn’t necessarily lower speeds, at least not uniformly. This lack of uniformity is actually detrimental to safety if it means some drivers obey the new speed limit while others continue going fast.
The problem is not that the speed limit on High Street in Clintonville is too high. The problem (if it’s actually a problem) is that the road and surrounding land uses cause drivers to perceive it as a higher speed environment and they act accordingly. Let’s compare some images.
Do you see the differences in numbers of travel lanes, building set-backs, on-street parking, roadside objects, and streetscape details? These things affect speeds. Incidentally, the last picture in the Short North is actually a 30 MPH zone. Can you honestly tell me that North Clintonville should be 25 MPH while the Short North is 30 MPH? To quote Peter Griffin, “C’mon.”
In summary, I don’t think speed limit signs will do the trick. What is needed are ways to change drivers’ perceptions so that they feel like 25 or 30 MPH is the correct speed with or without signs. This is obviously harder to do than posting some signs, but it’s the only way to really make it effective. Possible options include landscaped medians, wider sidewalks, decorative sidewalks, streetscape elements (e.g. benches), new traffic signals (if warranted), fewer overhead wires and signs, fancy bus stops/stations, more crosswalks, more trees, infill development, and taller buildings.
My suggested first step though would be to collect speed data at multiple locations. In the event the bulk of drivers (85% or more) are already going 25 MPH, or even 30 MPH, the speed limit could and should be lowered to match that speed. They may find that the speed varies from segment to segment. In that case, the speed limit on certain segments could be lowered, while others remain 35 MPH. After that, start building pedestrian amenities and changing zoning to make the street look more urban. Then your speeds will drop.