With dozens of restaurants, bars and an independent movie theater, the Cedar Lee District in Cleveland Heights is a natural community gathering place. But its layout hasn't always been the kindest to walkers and bikers. All that will change when the $3.9 million streetscape improvements begin later this year with a goal of improving pedestrian safety in the area. The city's planning director, Richard Wong, talks about the renovations, which are scheduled to be completed by 2016.
Q. What were some of the problem areas?
A. There are a number of places — like the movie theater, the library, New Heights Grill — where there are crosswalks but no traffic lights. Cars don't have a good indicator that they should stop, other than the law says you should stop. If you look at national averages, cars stop about 20 percent of the time when there's no traffic light. We really wanted to increase the degree of safety for pedestrians.
Q. What were the solutions you developed?
A. We're putting in rectangular rapid-flashing beacons. When the pedestrian hits the button, the beacon sends a visual cue to the driver to let them know there's something up at this crosswalk. It flashes in an amber color back and forth, as an emergency vehicle would, to get the driver's attention. We're also raising the middle lane, so it becomes an area of refuge. That way, if a pedestrian crosses one lane, they can stop in the middle. We believe we have the potential to increase safety by 50 percent.
Q. What are you doing for bicyclists?
A. Most current traffic lights use inductive-loop traffic detectors to tell the light that you're there. The trouble is, if you're on a bicycle you could be right on top of the loop and it still wouldn't detect your presence. [To help encourage biking,] we are putting in lights that use infrared systems. They detect bicycles the same way they do cars. Now, you won't have to wait for a car to come up to tell the light to change or get off your bike and pretend you've become a pedestrian and walk it across the street. We're also going to put in a bike repair stand, complete with tools and a pump.