Wednesday, July 16, 1997
Man cajoles city
to stop car crashes

The Cincinnati Enquirer


That - plus a traffic light, some extra stop signs or a set of speed bumps - will put Kevin Hines at ease.

For five years he's lived in dread on the border of Oakley and Hyde Park. He's seen road rudeness combine with speeding cars to turn the intersection outside his front porch into a demolition derby.

"This is where the little boy landed after the car hit him," Kevin says, stooping to run his hands over the blades of grass at the corner of his front yard. He points across the square of lawn. "His bike - with the front tire rim badly bent - ended up over here." We're just back from lunch, burgers at the Establishment down the road. The midday meal was another "Lunch with Cliff" wherein I treat and people tell me what's on their mind.

Accidents prey on Kevin's mind. He's not weirdly fascinated by them as the characters in the movie Crash were. But the thin man with the eyes that dart nervously as cars whiz by his house is a bit obsessed with the ever-present danger of another wreck.

Still, I admire his persistence. Calling the city and trying to make the corner safer, he's living up to what his parents taught him: "If something's not right, speak out."

Since May, there have been four accidents in front of Kevin Hines' small, ground-floor apartment where Woodland and Shaw run into Wasson Road. That's enough to cause Cincinnati's Traffic Engineering department to investigate the intersection. Stop signs are a possibility at Woodland and Wasson.

Kevin would even settle for speed bumps like the ones keeping nearby Edwards Road from becoming a racetrack.

"The way people race down Wasson without any courtesy for their fellow man," he says, "I'm afraid somebody's going to get killed out here."

Kevin's next-door neighbor, Mary Stanley, agrees. The retired woman is afraid to walk on the sidewalk or even sit on her front porch. "Lord have mercy," she says, "we're all just sitting ducks here.

"Since you just never know when one of those cars is going to hit, I sleep with one eye open and one eye closed."

Kevin takes these accidents hard. He hears them first, from inside his apartment where he works as a free-lance desktop publisher. Then he rushes outside to help.

"You hear the metal twisting. Glass hits the ground. During the last accident - June 23 - three cars were hit and a bumper was ripped off. That sounded like an explosion."

At the scene of the crash, he goes from car to car and asks two questions: Are you OK?

Do you want to use the phone?

Most people are OK in these accidents. And, almost everyone wants to use the phone.

After escorting them into his tidy, photo-lined living room, Kevin goes back outside to help.

Hubcaps and bumpers and windshields must be moved. There's always the odd license plate to retrieve. He leans it against a nearby telephone pole.

"They always come back to the scene of the accident and somebody picks it up."

He never saves a trace of these wrecks. "I don't," he says emphatically, "want to make a shrine to the accidents that happen along here. "I'm not trying to be a neighborhood watchdog," he adds. His concern over these accidents is just his idea of being neighborly. He's the kind of guy who takes in people's mail when they're on vacation. He knows his neighbors by their first names. He can point out houses on the tree-lined street of big old frames and low brick bungalows and say, "this is where Mary, Eric, Liz, Lisa, Hanna, Matthew and Peter live."

He's worried that one of these friends could be in the next accident. Or, even worse, part of his family.

His sister lives in the apartment above him. His nieces and nephews, the kids whose photos line his living room, often come to visit. So do his parents.

Seeing them get hit is his worst nightmare.

So he frets, calls the city and listens for screeching tires.

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Available to speak to groups. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax at 768-8340.