Tuesday, August 15, 2000

Neighbors plead for city's help

        The signs are carefully stenciled on sheets of plywood propped against porch railings and wrought-iron fencing: “Save the Triangle.” In these yards, canopied by old trees and defined by cheery floral borders, the raw wood and the red and blue letters are jarring.

        However neatly executed, they are signs of distress.

        This is a neighborhood in Hyde Park. It is the Hyde Park of small, carefully tended flower beds, the tending done by the occupants of the blocky houses. Nice cars parked along the street, but not Jags and Mercedes. Vans, SUVs, Hondas.

Playing catch-up
               The parallel streets connecting Erie Avenue and Madison Road — Zumstein, Mooney, Burch and Stettinius avenues — have become shortcuts to Rookwood Pavilion and the new Rookwood Commons. Residents call the pie-shaped chunk the Triangle.

        “We've been working on this for at least two years,” says Shannon Brower, who lives on Zumstein. She says the city's speed wagon has clocked motorists going 65 in the 25 mph zone. “Twenty years ago, kids could play street hockey here. Now, you can barely walk across the street.”

        Like Mooney, Zumstein has speed humps now. It's not enough, Ms. Brower says. And the ghost of Christmas Future looms.

        All is not lost, Cincinnati Traffic Engineer Steve Bailey says. “We're trying to listen to residents.”

        I think he means it.

        Public meetings have been scheduled at 7 p.m. Aug. 28 and 29 at Withrow High School. “We can't go forward until we hear what people think.”

        Well, most people think there are too many cars on their street. Not just the people in the Triangle. All of us. Not counting our own personal 2.5 cars, of course. And commercial enterprises that do not impinge on our own living arrangements are progress. Right?

        But it appears that somewhere along the way, we are learning that a neighborhood once destroyed is hard to replace. Plans are on the books, for instance, to create a new neighborhood along the riverfront. The Banks is expected to cost about $248 million.

Calmer streets
               Cincinnati has answers for existing neighborhoods that are considerably cheaper — about $200,000 a year. It's called “street calming,” created in 1995 to offer traffic-management, such as humps, circles and several kinds of what are called diverters.

        “There are things you can do that make drivers feel like they should slow down. When they do that, then they have a decision to make. They can either slow down or go somewhere else,” Mr. Bailey says.

        Once a community asks for help, officials study street speeds and traffic counts. If a majority of residents agree, a plan — based on funding and a priority ranking — is put in motion.

        Lizzy Linke, 13, lives on Mooney Avenue. She walks home from school every day and probably will walk over to the shops. “I like Rookwood. But the cars go too fast. And there are too many of them.”

        Meetings will be held. Complaints will be aired. This takes time.

        Meanwhile, if you happen to be on your way to an emergency appointment with a silk blouse from Ann Taylor, calamata olives from the Wild Oat or Leap Frog from Zany Brainy, remember that a very nice little girl is trying to make her way home safely.

        E-mail Laura Pulfer at lpulfer@enquirer.com or call 768-8393.