Before it somehow deteriorated into a round of profanity laced exchanges about presidential politics, my neighborhood’s e-mail list was host to a discussion about motor vehicles traveling at excessive speeds through residential areas. It began with a lament over a beloved cat that was killed by a speeding car and yielded suggestions for signage, police enforcement and traffic calming. Except the words “traffic calming” weren’t initially used. Instead, the words were “speed bumps.”
While traffic calming includes a vast array of tools that can be used to modify driver behavior, a lot of people are familiar only with speed bumps. And when speed bumps are mentioned, someone will immediately remind us that “the city is hostile and unresponsive to any suggestion of speed bumps,” to quote one of my neighbors, because they interfere with the travel of emergency vehicles.
How real is this concern? I attended a Federal Highway Administration workshop on designing for pedestrian safety this summer and the facilitator suggested local governments play the emergency vehicle egress card more often than they should. And again, if speed bumps truly are problematic, why not evaluate the suitability of other traffic calming techniques?
Just before the e-mail discussion derailed into the name-calling described above, several participants suggested looking to other communities for examples of how to address speeding and more than a few people recommended Atlanta neighborhoods as worthy of examination.
Pedestrians Educating Drivers on Safety, a group I joined during my second stint as an Atlantan, seems to have anticipated the question. On the front page of the group’s Web site is a document that promises to offer nine “effective strategies for putting the brakes on neighborhood speeders.” You can download a copy by clicking here.
What are the nine things neighbors can do?
1. Spread the word about the problem.
2. Use yard signs to remind drivers to slow down.
3. Set the pace by driving slowly through neighborhoods.
4. Buy inexpensive radar gun to document the problem.
5. Park more cars on the street to narrow the travel lane.
6. Ask for traffic calming projects.
7. Request radars signs.
8. Support speed cameras.
9. Reclaim the streets by walking and bicycling.
PEDS also created a public service announcement to drive home how much difference even 5 mph can make. You can watch it here.