Saturday Essay: Making it easier for Toledoans to get around

“You will do better in Toledo” is only half true until everyone can travel better in Toledo.

By Jordan Justice
Sat, 08 Aug 2020 04:00:00 GMT

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After participating in a public meeting about the future of Bancroft Street in 2016, I have worked to understand how people move across Toledo. Studying how people and transportation merge, it’s clear that Toledo can do better for all street users, especially pedestrians, wheelchair users, and cyclists.

Committed to raising my family in Toledo, I want safer and more inclusive transportation for my children and their peers. I implore that our transportation officials take action for a progressive transportation vision by updating speed limits in residential and entertainment areas, continuing to build the bike network, and making civic engagement more accessible.

Speeding is particularly fatal when pedestrians are struck, as they lack the protective structure drivers have. Our department of transportation uses the “engineering approach” to set speed limits, collecting speed data from a street and setting the speed limit at the 85th percentile of speeds recorded.

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Pedestrian-use does not appear to be a consideration. Starting with arterials that run through neighborhoods or between neighborhoods and retail spaces, we must implement a “safe system approach” of setting speed limits. This method considers the safety of all street users and sets an appropriate, typically lower, speed limit. Toledo has done this on Adams Street in UpTown, where the community rallied to lower the speed limit to 25 mph. Similar action is needed for our neighborhoods.

Beyond speed limits, we need better crosswalks and traffic calming infrastructure, like speed tables, chicanes, diverters, and road diets.

Safer streets are for the 14 percent of Toledo households with no vehicle. A better connected bike network means transportation equity. Bike-friendly cities have additional benefits, like lower health-care costs, a more disability-friendly landscape, and more money spent at local businesses.

A few years ago, Toledo City Council approved the city’s first bike plan. Though thoughtfully crafted, its completion is dependent on future road construction plans, which leads to present network-connectivity issues. In the meantime, we must build out a greenway network, using signage and paint on low-stress neighborhood streets. The officiation of such a network would help cyclists stay safe.

Finally, we need a user-friendly system of engagement that all Toledoans can use. Too often, citizens shy away from proposed projects when confronted with terms like “85th percentile speed” or “annual average daily traffic.” We need a city-sponsored website to explain and walk individuals through options for increasing traffic safety where they live. This level of engagement empowers Toledoans to create the safe spaces they desire and allows them to be proactive. When experts propose a road diet on Bancroft or widening of I-475, citizens then have the collective voice to say “we’re trying to get from here to there.”

Though these changes come with a cost, I believe they are the projects on which city leaders ought to spend our money. Ohio’s new gas tax expands funding opportunities, and there are grant programs available for bike-focused projects.

“You will do better in Toledo” is only half true until everyone can travel better in Toledo. As citizens, we must use our voices to demand this community investment. With our strong political will for this type of progress and new leadership in TARTA, I believe we have what it takes to get from here to there.

The writer lives in West Toledo.