First and most importantly: Safety.
Pedestrian fatalities in traffic accidents are rising nationwide. According to the Governors' Highway Safety Association, the number of pedestrian fatalities increased by 27% from 2007 to 2016, while all other traffic deaths decreased by 14%. Pedestrian deaths as a proportion of total traffic accident deaths increased from 11% in 2007 to 16% in 2016.
What can be done about this? Aside from slowing down and putting down our phones when we are driving, we can design our roadways to be safer for pedestrians, cyclists AND cars with safer intersections, pedestrian crossings, and dedicated spaces for cyclists. In pedestrian- and bike-intensive areas we can design roadways to SLOW DOWN traffic. A pedestrian is about 3.5 to 5.5 times more likely to be killed by a 40 m.p.h. car as compared with a 30 m.p.h. car.
What does this mean for Xenia? With a confluence of four bike paths, two state highways, and dense development, downtown Xenia is a pedestrian, bike and car-intensive area. Our existing infrastructure does not effectively balance the safety needs of these various modes of travel. Below are specific problem areas that existed prior to the Downtown Safety Project:
- West Main Street between Church St. and Dayton Ave.: Too many private driveways and an unsafe pedestrian/bike crossing at Creekside Trail. Classified by MVRPC as a repeated high-crash location and ranks #31 out of the 100 most crash-prone road segments in the Miami Valley.
- Traffic signals at West St./W. Main St. and King St./W. Main St. are too close to other signalized intersections.
- Automobile crashes at N. Detroit St./Church St. intersection due to ineffective design.
- Unsafe pedestrian crossing at the N. Detroit St./Market St. intersection with inadequate signal.
- Lack of dedicated bike facilities on Detroit St. between Church and 3rd Streets, the only segment of the 80-mile-long Little Miami Scenic Trail that lacks dedicated bike facilities.
- Unsafe pedestrian/bike crossing at the Home Ave./S. Detroit St. intersection, across from Xenia Station.
- Excessive roadway width throughout downtown lends to anti-pedestrian environment.
Second, Xenia citizens asked for it.
In 2013 the City finished a lengthy process of reaching out to the community and seeking input from citizens on how the City should grow, improve, and change. This process culminated in X-Plan, a set of priorities and plans for the City's future. One of these priorities was to create a vibrant, bustling downtown that is safer and more inviting for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists. Of specific interest to citizens in this process was the need to improve bike path connectivity to and through downtown. By making our downtown safer and more inviting for a diverse range of users, we create more opportunities for businesses to attract customers and thrive, and we create more reasons for people to live and visit downtown.