Proposal targets speeding drivers
Residents could ask for speed humps
By Dan Klepal
George Effinger has seen people's driving habits along Cleveland Boulevard change a lot in the past year -- from too fast, to slower, back to fast.
The reason, he said, is speed humps.
The city installed speed humps in front of Effinger's home in the Clifton Heights neighborhood, and on two other blocks of Cleveland between Birchwood Avenue and Mount Holly Avenue, two years ago after residents complained about people zipping along far faster than the 25 mph limit.
Public works officials wanted to see how well the humps -- gradual rises in pavement, which flatten out and then decline -- slowed speeders.
The humps in front of Effinger's home were removed last summer during a repaving project.
They remain on two other stretches of the street.
"The humps had people slowing down like they should," Effinger said.
"They did a pretty good job. But as soon as they were gone, the cars started picking up speed. I'd like to have them back."
Public works officials are crafting a policy that will let residents request speed humps on any residential street. The policy will try to ensure that there is neighborhood support for the idea, and that the street is appropriate for the humps.
The policy, which is in draft form and may change before it takes effect in six weeks, was outlined to a Metro Council committee last week.
Here's how it would work:
A number of property owners will have to request the speed hump. It is unclear exactly how many it will take, but most likely 10 percent or 20 percent of the people living on the street.
The road can be no wider than two lanes, and it must run through a residential area of mostly single-family homes, with 500 to 3,000 cars traveling it per day. The speed limit can be no higher than 25 mph.
A traffic study will determine average speed, and whether the road is flat and straight enough to safely handle speed humps.
The local fire department and EMS will be asked to sign off on the humps.
County engineer Rick Storm said the speed humps on Cleveland Boulevard were modestly successful.
A study early last year found that the humps didn't affect people driving at just over the speed limit.
But they did slow people driving 10 mph or more over the speed limit. Cars traveling over 35 mph on one stretch of Cleveland dropped to 2 percent, from 16.5 percent, Storm said.
On another stretch of the road, the rate dropped to 4 percent, from 12 percent.
"Do humps slow the average speed of drivers down? Not that much," Storm said. "Do they slow the people that are way too fast? Yes."
Tina Ward-Pugh, D-9th District, has been pushing for a policy for years.
"From the time I joined the board in 1999 up until this very day, the most common concern, complaint and frustration I hear from my constituents has do to with speeding through residential areas," she said.
But Tom Owen, D-8th District, is a critic of speed humps who cautioned public works officials when their draft policy allowed for a request from a single resident to trigger a traffic study for speed humps.
"I'm afraid people will wear you out," Owen said.
He added that he finds speed humps "dangerous for drivers and victims on gurneys in ambulances, obstructions for other emergency vehicles, expensive to install and maintain, irritating to folks driving the speed limit, exclusivistic as in 'Stay out,' destructive of snow removal equipment and ineffective between humps -- people gun it in between them, screech to a slow up-and-over, and gun it again."
"But I never say never," Owen added.
The council won't actually vote on the policy.
Public works engineers presented the draft to committee members last week, took down their comment and will return in two weeks with revisions.
The policy will take effect 30 days after all the questions are settled.
The humps cost about $700 each to install, and one outstanding issue is where the money will come from -- either from money set aside in the next budget, or from each council member's portion of Neighborhood Development Funds.
The draft policy also calls for neighbors to raise private dollars to pay for half the cost. Ward-Pugh doesn't like that idea because some areas may have a hard time coming up with the cash.
Dolores Collins, president of the Clifton Heights Community Council, which lobbied for the speed humps on Cleveland Boulevard, said she isn't too concerned about those details.
"If this policy will help people get speed humps and control speeding," she said, "it's a good policy."
Reporter Dan Klepal can be reached at (502) 582-4475