City of Cincinnati to Implement Safety Improvements for Pedestrians

The City of Cincinnati will be working to improve its pedestrian crossings over the coming years in order to align with recently updated state and federal standards.

The Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) was updated in late 2009 and includes new best practices for pedestrian crosswalk designs.

The old standard accepted the typical parallel lines seen throughout most of the city today, but the new MUTCD calls for what traffic engineers call “continental” crosswalk markings, which feature two-foot-wide yellow or white stripes. The new MUTCD also calls for the implementation of countdown pedestrian signals where the pedestrian change interval is greater than seven seconds.

Traditional Intersection Design at Seventh & Walnut
The intersection of Seventh and Walnut Streets downtown represents both the old standard for crosswalk markings and signals. Photograph by Randy Simes for UrbanCincy.

According to Cincinnati’s Department of Transportation & Engineering (DOTE), continental crosswalk markings have not yet been phased in throughout the city, but that as intersections are improved the City is working to upgrade both the pedestrian signals and crosswalk.

“The parallel markings were, at one time, considered “the standard” for crosswalk markings,” Michael Moore, Director of Cincinnati’s DOTE, told UrbanCincy. “However, with the update of the MUTCD in late 2009, best practices established the continental makings as a preferred design.”

The new continental markings are seen as a safety improvement for both pedestrians and drivers as they make crosswalks more visible, thus reducing collisions between automobile drivers and pedestrians.

The new markings, however, do pose some installation and maintenance issues for local governments.

Continental Crossing at Smale Riverfront Park
The mid-block crossing, connecting Smale Riverfront Park with The Banks, on Mehring Way features a continental crossing design. Photograph by Randy Simes for UrbanCincy.

“We place most of our markings with thermoplastic because of its durability and reflectivity; however when wet, it can be slippery,” Moore explained. “And because the continental markings require more paint or thermoplastic, they cost more to install, and more to maintain since more of the stripe is in-line with the traffic flow.”

In order to help save taxpayer dollars, Moore says that the City studies where exactly to place the markings so that they avoid the most common path of wheel travel.

Crosswalk signals with countdown timers, meanwhile, have become more popular throughout the United States since cities like Washington D.C. began testing them years ago. Locally, both Covington, KY and Newport, KY have had these timers in use in their downtowns for years.

In addition to these new countdown timers at crosswalks, the time signals allow for pedestrians to cross the street may also soon be changing. Cincinnati officials say they will be adjusting pedestrian signals to accommodate the region’s aging population.

“Where the previous timing assumed pedestrians travel approximately 4 feet per second, the new manual reduces that to 3.5 feet per second,” noted Moore. “It doesn’t sound like a lot, think about the number of large intersections we have.”

There is no set timing on these upgrades, but Cincinnati officials say that more and more crossing signals will be changed out over the coming years, and that crosswalk markings will change as intersection upgrades are performed. Cincinnatians can already see the new continental markings in place a non-signalized, mid-block crossings.

  • Dan

    Now they just need to teach drivers what crosswalks are and how they work.

    • Yeah really, everyone seems to think the parallel lines are where they should stop for a red light forcing pedestrians to flood around and in between cars.

    • Andrew

      You don’t need to teach them, just ticket the hell out of them and they will learn for themselves

  • jasomm

    That 7th and Walnut picture also highlights something Cincinnati needs to improve… Traffic signal poles and mountings… I have not yet been to a city that has uglier structures than the ones Cincinnati use everywhere.

    • Those were installed as part of an early 1980’s infrastructure plan that also included lighting and pavement improvements around downtown. I don’t mind the traffic signal supports, they’re more visible to drivers.

    • I don’t think they’re that bad but really the problem was maintenance. The black paint should help hide the scuffs and rust spots in places that began to make them less attractive.

      Randy, right that they’re a distinguishing feature of our downtown and as long as they are maintained should be kept and even extended farther north. Once you get to like eighth or ninth street there are these ancient street lights with wires bracing them and white and black street signs. Continuity across all of downtown would be nice with the former type painted black.

    • I do agree that the way things are set up downtown it is a signage overload. I’ve even heard out-of-towners comment on this.

      With that said, it is a distinguishing feature of downtown Cincinnati as compared to most all other cities. Not sure if that’s worth keeping the messy urban design in place, but it’s something. Right?

  • Eh, simply meeting the MUTCD isn’t going to do a whole lot towards reducing pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and fatalities. How about a Pedestrian Plan with a target injury/fatality number. Why not strive for 0 like Chicago’s does?

    • You’re probably right that it won’t do a whole lot to reduce the fatality number, but I do suspect you’ll see gradual improvements in the injury number due to the higher visibility that these changes will give pedestrians.

  • Interesting, I just stumbled across some stats,

    Between 2000 and 2007, there were nearly 1,000 pedestrian deaths in Ohio, 38% of which were elderly or children; and between 2005-2010 there were more than 12,000 bike crashes with 94 fatalities.

  • Andrew

    The city needs to enact a policy that states that when pedestrians are crossing crosswalks all vehicals are required to stop every time. In Clifton they added two cross walks along Jefferson Ave, with medians in the middle for them to stand, but no one stops for them. It doesn’t make since.

    • Zachary Schunn

      I believe that’s been state law for years… pedestrians ALWAYS have the right of way, even if they’re crossing illegally. It’s that way for obvious safety reasons, but drivers in certain areas (Clifton especially) seem to think they can drive regardless of crosswalks, stop signs, red lights, etc.

  • Zachary Schunn

    Glad to hear they’re slowing down the crosswalk timing. 4 fps is faster than you’d think.