Excited responses to calming proposals


March 05, 2002|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WHAT A contentious bunch of readers you are: Traffic calming is even more controversial than teen drivers and gas-guzzling, climate-changing sport utility vehicles!

Since last week's column was written about speeding in the Montgomery Meadows neighborhood and its strategy to slow drivers, the neighborhood's homeowners association publicized proposed traffic calming efforts and sought residents' comments. Although the response generally was positive, several residents expressed concern or suggested alternatives such as speed bumps to the proposed traffic chokers and mini-roundabouts.

One response - sent anonymously - was typical of the negative comments. "I think the wind blows excessively hard in this neighborhood. Can I build a mountain to block it? Sometimes it rains hard in this area. Can I install a sky dome? While I am not opposed to people driving at the posted speed limit or to the enforcement of these speeds ... these traffic-calming devices are ugly, diminish property values and create additional traffic hazards. There is no proof that they reduce accidents. I am sure a study can be constructed to show that they actually contribute to traffic accidents, interfere with snow removal and cause many other problems."

But studies show that traffic-calming measures work. George Abdow, representing the Gray Rock Farm neighborhood in Ellicott City, describes the traffic calming installed in his neighborhood as a "success story" and applauds the efforts of Howard County Public Works Traffic Engineer Bill Malone, who helped make it happen.

Abdow notes that before-and-after traffic studies in two locations along Gray Rock Drive indicate the success of the traffic-calming measures. "The results are unequivocal; traffic speeds are down significantly, and particularly remarkable are the decreases in the number of vehicles exceeding 35 mph," he says.

Abdow says that data from the studies show that at one location on Gray Rock Drive, south of Blue River Court, speeds decreased by between 6.8 mph and 7.8 mph to about 26 mph. In addition, the volume decreased as well - from 2,554 vehicles daily, of which almost 900 exceeded the posted 25-mph speed limit by at least 10 mph, to 2,104 vehicles, with just 31 going 35 mph or faster. "Once again, I am emphatic when I say this is an unequivocal success," he says.

The benefits go beyond reduced speeds and volume, Abdow says. "Although anecdotal, residents have noticed decreased speeds and noise as they walk, bike and jog along sidewalks and residential streets," he says. "Although we will never be able to statistically conclude that we have avoided a calculable number of injuries or fatalities, common sense leads me to conclude that our residents and particularly my children now live in a safer neighborhood."

However, he notes that traffic calming is a contentious issue. "There will always be those who are unwilling to be inconvenienced by slowing down for the sake of community safety," he says.

While Abdow acknowledges that everyone is entitled to use his neighborhood's streets to get to Frederick Road or Columbia Road or to travel to the adjacent Columbia community of Dorsey's Search, he is adamant that "the residents of Gray Rock Farm are also entitled to quiet enjoyment of our neighborhood and the basic right to have safe streets where adults can walk along sidewalks or jog on neighborhood roads and where children can cross those streets without fear that speeding vehicles traveling the most expeditious routes will put an abrupt end to their lives."

The last word on the subject for now comes from Jim Johnson of Ellicott City, who hates those speed bumps and calls for increased police monitoring. "I have found speed bumps to be a miserable answer to the problem. I have read that traffic-calming bumps are not legal in Baltimore County due to concern about damage to emergency vehicles. The bumps can certainly slow the response of emergency vehicles to 911 calls. In my view, the correct answer is speed monitoring and ticket writing by the police. Over the years, I believe this has worked well to generate additional county income and slow some drivers. It shouldn't be too hard for a police officer to generate enough income writing speeding tickets to pay his/her salary, benefits and the patrol car expenses," he says.

Amen to avoiding those annoying speed bumps, but the county only has so many police resources. I'd rather see those resources devoted to preventing violent crime. Perhaps some speed cameras might do the trick instead.

What's your driving dilemma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at elison @us.net. Technophobes can mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 5570 Sterrett Place, Suite 300, Columbia 21044, or send them via fax, 410-715-2816.

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