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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:
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.
The City did not undertake this project INSTEAD OF other street projects. In fact, the City has ACCELERATED its citywide street rehabilitation program in recent years, and the Downtown Safety Project did not significantly impact this program.
The Downtown Safety Project is primarily grant-funded. The City received $1.35 million federal/state grants, covering 92% of the project cost. The City agreed to contribute $124,720 as a one-time expenditure.
Compare this to the $6.8 million in City dollars that have been spent citywide on rehabilitation of 72 lane-miles of streets since 2011. Furthermore, in 2018 alone the City has committed $1.2 million to citywide street repairs during 2018. These numbers do not include federal/state grants that the City has received for street rehabilitation, which can often more than double the total amount spent on Xenia streets in a given year. Click here for more information about the City's annual street program.
The two-way protected bike lane on Detroit St. essentially acts like a bike path next to the road, similar to what exists at the intersections of N. Detroit St. with Weaver St. and Kinsey Rd. It is also similar to a crosswalk. With the exception of the intersection of Detroit/Main, cyclists should treat all crosswalks the same way that pedestrians do: Cross on the "walk" signal after looking both ways and ensuring that traffic is stopped. Vehicles at these locations should always take care to ensure there are no pedestrians or bikes in the crosswalk.
At the Detroit/Main intersection, there is actually a bike signal on the west leg of the intersection, where the protected bike path crosses Main St. This signal, which is actuated by bikes approaching the intersection or by pressing a button, tells cyclists when it is safe to cross. At the same time, when the bike signal is green, all Main St. traffic and all southbound right and northbound left turning Detroit Street traffic is given a red light. This is an added measure that prevents vehicles from entering the crosswalk when cyclists are crossing.
The new parking spaces on the southbound side of Detroit Street between Church St. and Third St. are indeed unique, because instead of being against a curb they are against a white stripe. There is a striped buffer between the parking spaces and the bike lane, which allows enough space for vehicle passengers to open their doors without hitting a cyclist in the bike lane. Passengers walk across the bike lane to reach the sidewalk.
The new spaces may look different, but they are actually the same size (7 ft. wide, 20 ft. long) as the old parking spaces that existed on Detroit St. prior to the Downtown Safety Project, and existing on-street parking spaces on Main St. In fact, on-street parking is safer now because the southbound travel lane is 1-2 feet wider than the old travel lanes. This gives drivers and passengers more room to open their doors and avoid oncoming traffic.
In an effort to balance all users of a limited amount of space, the City has designated the northbound curb lane (east side of Detroit St.) between 2nd St. and Market St. as both a parking and a travel lane. Parking is permitted in this lane at all hours except 4:00 to 6:00 PM, which are the peak travel hours. This is intended to leave both lanes open to traffic during times in which the largest amount of traffic is trying to get through downtown Xenia. Traffic studies prior to the project showed that northbound traffic during this time period would face significant delays with only one northbound through lane.
Before this project, there were two southbound through lanes on Detroit St. from Church St. to approximately Hill St. A traffic study completed prior to this project showed that, even at peak travel times, reducing the number of southbound through lanes to one would not cause noticeable traffic delays. This is likely due to two factors: (1) Much of the traffic headed from southbound Detroit St. to westbound Main St. turns west on W. Church St., avoiding the widest section of Detroit St. altogether, and (2) US-68 is only two to three lanes wide throughout the majority of its length in Xenia. Many motorists using the old extra southbound lane were using it as a right turn lane at intersections.
Removing one of the southbound through lanes allowed the City to (1) have sufficient space for the protected bike lane, (2) have sufficient space to keep most on-street parking, which is a priority for downtown businesses, and (3) reduce the width of moving traffic that pedestrians must cross.
It is important to point out that traffic passing through downtown Xenia is not the only user of the Detroit Street right of way. Ultimately, the right-of-way must also serve vehicles parking in downtown Xenia, cyclists visiting or traversing downtown via the Little Miami Scenic Trail, and pedestrians walking through downtown. This is a delicate balance that, before completion of this project, was tilted toward traffic passing through downtown.
The green-painted crosswalks are simply intended to notify drivers that these crosswalks are part of a bike path, and to direct cyclists where they should cross a street. The legal implication of a green-painted crosswalk is no different than that of a white-painted crosswalk.
No. These are designed as back-in angled parking spaces. Drivers pull ahead of the space and back in at an angle. To exit the parking space, drivers pull ahead into the travel lane. This is considered to be the safest and most efficient form of on-street parking because it does not require multi-step maneuvers (like parallel parking spaces) and it does not require drivers to back up into a travel lane without the ability to see oncoming traffic (like head-in angled parking). These spaces were added in order to take advantage of previously unused pavement space and to benefit downtown businesses, visitors and residents.
The City agreed to change the angle at which the southbound right turn lane on N. Detroit St. approaches Church St., because under the previous alignment, motorists were having difficulty seeing oncoming traffic from Church St. (or northbound Detroit St. traffic turning left), resulting in crashes. The new configuration makes this movement safer for motorists, although it does make it more difficult for large semi trucks to make the turn. West Church Street is not intended to be a truck route, so truckers have the alternative of using the Detroit/Main intersection, which provides much more space for turning movements. The City will continue to monitor the situation and install signage on N. Detroit St. if necessary.
A new median and crosswalk has been installed at the intersection of S. Detroit St. and Hill St., allowing users of the Prairie Grass Trail (Ohio-to-Erie Trail) to cross Detroit St. and proceed directly up the hill to Xenia Station. Additionally, an existing median has been expanded to enhance a crosswalk where the Creekside Trail crosses West Main Street.
At both of these locations, new signage and rapidly flashing yellow lights have been added. Pedestrians and cyclists can push a button to activate these lights to warn drivers that they are crossing the street. The purpose of the lights and signage is to get drivers' attention and warn them that pedestrians or cyclists are attempting to cross the street. Drivers are not required by law to stop for these lights, but they are required to yield to pedestrians that are in the crosswalk. So pedestrians/cyclists should look both ways even when they activate these signals, to ensure the roadway is clear or that traffic is stopped. Drivers should slow down when they see these lights flashing and look for pedestrians/cyclists, and then stop to allow any pedestrians/cyclists to cross.
The new crosswalk at the intersection of N. Detroit St. and Market St. is a little different. Here pedestrians can press a button that activates an overhead yellow light, followed by a red light. The yellow light is a warning, and the red light legally requires vehicles to stop, just like a traffic signal. Pedestrians can then cross the street. The red light will then automatically turn off, at which point drivers are once again permitted to drive through the intersection.