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On Tuesday, July 4, local resident Isaac Powers was struck by a vehicle while biking near Ellis Park, just north of village limits. Powers, 15, was fatally injured in the collision. (Photo by Lauren "Chuck" Shows)

Village Council responds to recent bike fatality

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“Something has to be done and done immediately. This cannot happen again.”

So said Council member Carmen Brown at the Monday, July 17, Village Council meeting when the group once again turned its attention to traffic concerns in Yellow Springs — this time with added fervor and urgency stemming from a fatal incident that occurred earlier this month.

On Tuesday, July 4, local resident Isaac Powers was struck by a vehicle while biking near Ellis Park, just north of village limits. Powers, 15, was fatally injured in the collision. According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, a vehicle operated by Margie Baldwin, 91, was traveling at 44 miles per hour on Polecat Road when it struck Powers as he was crossing the road on the intersecting bike path.

In the weeks since Powers’ death and a subsequent candlelight vigil in his remembrance, conversations about local traffic safety have rekindled, and measures to prevent another tragedy have been set in motion. 

Most recently, Village public works crews have trimmed back some of the foliage in the right-of-way along the bike trail spur where the incident occurred — foliage that may have obstructed Powers’ view of oncoming traffic.

“While the crossing meets all the legal requirements, we’re continuing the conversation of finding ways to make it better,” Village Manager Josué Salmerón said at Monday’s meeting. “That includes making more long-term improvements, such as [eventually] putting markings and even rapid-flashing beacons.”

But Village-led efforts to improve that crossing can only go so far, Salmerón lamented.

Yellow Springs municipal limits end near the intersection of Northwood Drive and Polecat Road, about 0.2 miles south of where the Ellis Spur intersects with the road. The bike path itself is also a county matter, overseen and maintained by Greene County Parks and Trails.

In that area, the speed limit changes from 25 to 55 mph as one heads north beyond village limits. County authorities may request that the Ohio Department of Transportation approve a change to the speed limit — perhaps requesting a more incremental speed change — but only after conducting a speed zone study.

On Wednesday, July 19, Jon Dobney, director of Greene County Parks and Trails, the organization oversees the county’s 62 miles of bike paths, told the News that his organization has conducted a recent review of the place where the path intersects Polecat Road. The review concluded that the Ellis Spur is safe — that the stop sign on the path and the “stop ahead” markings were visible on the day of the incident. Dobney indicated that the county itself has no plans to install a flashing stop sign at the Ellis Spur.

At Monday’s meeting, Council President Brian Housh said the village may act independently of the county to improve the traffic safety of Polecat Road and other egresses from Yellow Springs. Housh emphasized the local authority of the Village’s Active Transportation Plan, a 61-page document compiled in 2019 with the help of community members, engineers, traffic consultants and local legislators.

Similar to the discussion at the Council meeting, the Active Transportation Plan came in response to continued calls for monitoring and enforcement measures to protect pedestrians from traffic. While it is not a legally binding document, the plan can be instructional in local planning, Housh reminded Council.

“The Active Transportation Plan has a concept for a protected bike lane to go out to Ellis Pond, and personally, I think we should elevate that,” Housh said. “There were a variety of things that led to the [July 4] incident, but we have in the past contemplated that that area requires more attention and safety. Now, I’d like to see that prioritized.”

Brown maintained the importance of urgency.

“We’re too late,” she said. “Rumble strips, better signage, citations. [Speeding drivers] need to be ticketed, and there need to be traffic calming measures. Not tomorrow. Today.”

Village Public Works Director Johnnie Burns acknowledged the need to tame traffic in and around Yellow Springs — even referencing how perilous working on village roads alongside incoming traffic can be — but expressed some reservations about installing certain traffic calming objects at the village entry points.

“With rumble strips, people start making noise complaints. You do speed bumps, then emergency vehicles have to slow down; they make snow plowing difficult. We’ve used sign after sign in the past,” Burns said. “These are driving habits that we have to try and cure … but I think we ought to try everything.”

Also recognizing the need for immediate action, and having previously said that it’s “unacceptable” to have dangerous streets in Yellow Springs, Council member Marianne MacQueen suggested an education campaign to help curtail erratic and irresponsible driving.

“There are a number of things that have to happen, and not just from government, but the community itself,” she said. “We have to have a safety program that’s not just for kids, but for the whole village. Our roads are the most dangerous thing in Yellow Springs. It’s not guns; it’s people driving.”

Salmerón noted that the Village could take a more punitive route to curbing speeding. He said that officers could begin issuing citations rather than warnings to those exceeding speed limits — a move that may eventually create a local reputation of cracking down on traffic violations.

Additional coverage of the Monday, July 17, Village Council meeting will appear in next week’s issue of the News. The next Council meeting will be Monday, Aug. 21.

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5 Responses to “Village Council responds to recent bike fatality”

  1. Greg Shrader says:

    My wife and I enjoy riding the bike trails around Yellow Springs on the trails. We always stop at the intersections. This also goes when we are driving. We slow down at bike crossings. Safety is a major concern and we need to be taught to respect safety habits. This also goes to pedestrians. Many times driving through the village we will come to an intersection and someone will walk right out in front of you without looking because they have the right away. For safety sake please look both ways before crossing a street. Our hearts go out to this young boys family.

  2. Walker says:

    We walk a rural route and there are folk who wear fluorescent vests dog walking. Sometimes the sun is so very bright and depending on which way a person is traveling, visibility can be quite poor on rural roadways. There are also bright neon safety vests for cyclists. Could the village consider providing vests or sashes to village cyclists via a fundraiser?

    I am very sad that this accident happened and wish there were more the everyone could do.

    Has the driver given an account of events and was she traveling alone?

  3. Tea says:

    It’s a ‘village’ that regularly hosts “crowds.” There will be problems involving traffic. However, the tragedy immediately experienced relates to the bike path and the loss of a child. There should be some focus on how to make the bike path safer especially for children. I would not recommend flashing beacons because they can promote seizures and disorientation. Safe biking reminders expressing love for villagers’ and visitors’ health and happiness seems more representative of Yellow Springs core philosophy.

    The village has experienced a terrible loss and it takes time to process. You will arrive at an appropriate response as some of the pain lessens.

  4. Tara Miller says:

    I don’t believe it’s up to the police, or signs, flashing signs, speed bumps or whatever else you can design — it comes down to each individual driver — and biker, walker, etc.– believing they can make a difference by paying attention, following posted speed limits, and having a modicum of respect for others. And I don’t see this happening on a large scale.

  5. Sincerely says:

    If I understand what happened in this fatality, Isaac did not stop. Perhaps this is a common occurrence on the bike path, but it isn’t protocol for safe biking. Sometimes people become distracted or caught up in the moment and better judgement of good rules escape us. We will probably never know why this happened. But, as a community, it would benefit safety if the need to follow guidelines for safe biking were somehow re-enforced with reminders that “Stop” and “Prepare to Stop” are more than suggestions. This is going to be with the community for a long time. Never forget. Do whatever it takes to promote safety.

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