Archive for Sunday, May 27, 2007

City may put brakes on traffic-calming devices

May 27, 2007


It may be a speed bump for speed bumps.

In the next 30 days, city commissioners should answer what seems like an age-old question about traffic-calming devices such as traffic circles, speed bumps and pedestrian islands: Yeah or nay?

"I still think they're the best solution to slow down traffic if you have the money to do it," David Woosley, the city's traffic engineer, said.

But that's a big "if" these days at City Hall. City commissioners at their meeting last week declined to place on a future to-do list five traffic-calming projects that had been recommended by the city's Traffic Safety Commission. Instead, the City Commission - which includes two new members following the April elections - delayed the decision for 30 days to give commissioners time to discuss the future use of the devices.

"I want to take the temperature on traffic calming," said new City Commissioner Mike Dever, who said he was leaning towards using traffic-calming money to repair sidewalks.

Fellow newcomer Rob Chestnut agreed that there needs to be a meeting of the minds on the subject, saying the city needed to have a "broader discussion" about when and where traffic calming devices would be installed.

If those two come to the conclusion that the devices are more than the city can afford, they won't have a hard time finding a third vote on the commission.

"I'm absolutely ready to take a break for a while," Commissioner Mike Amyx said.

Still needed

A slowdown on traffic-calming devices would be as pleasant as a Sunday drive for some. But there are others who think it would be a step backward for the community to abandon its traffic-calming strategies.

"Just because we don't have any money doesn't mean the need is not there," City Commissioner Boog Highberger said.

The city has 11 traffic-calming projects that have been approved by the previous City Commission but are on a waiting list because the city hasn't found funding for them. The waiting list has grown to about $800,000 worth of projects. Highberger said despite the tight budget, the commission ought to work on creating a four- or five-year plan to tackle the projects.

"We have a responsibility to keep our streets safe," Highberger said. "I think these are important projects."

Split neighborhoods

Highberger thinks the city also should keep accepting requests from neighborhoods that want traffic-calming devices installed to slow traffic.

Woosley said the number of neighborhoods requesting the devices continues to grow. Amy McCarragher, who lives along Trail Road, is seeking to have traffic-calming devices - perhaps speed bumps or something else - installed along the stretch of road from Lawrence Avenue to Kasold Drive.

She said the neighborhood has a large number of children who play in their driveways and ride bicycles. Combine that with a city study that shows the average speed through the area is 37 mph - or seven miles over the speed limit - and it creates a dangerous situation.

"Kids just don't think sometimes," McCarragher said. "Kids sometimes don't look when they cross the road."

McCarragher said the situation on the road is complicated by a lack of sidewalks and street lights.

Woosley said several other neighborhoods also have made recent requests. They include 27th Terrace between Louisiana and Missouri streets; Maine Street between Seventh and Ninth streets; and 18th Street between New Hampshire Street and Barker Avenue.

But the increasing number of requests isn't a sign that all neighborhoods are embracing the devices. Traffic Safety commissioners at their June 4 meeting will consider a request from resident Bruce Boyer to remove a stretch of Bobwhite Drive from the list of approved projects that are waiting to be funded by the city.

Boyer said he's seen enough of the traffic-calming devices around town to know that he doesn't need them in his neighborhood.

"I think, in general, they are a waste of taxpayer money," Boyer said. "There are a lot better ways to spend money."

City commissioners soon will be the judge of that.


Richard Heckler 10 years, 10 months ago

Raging bear send your ideas to the CC and the City Manager.

People not liking them is truly no reason to void them. Are they effective or not should be the question. None have ever been approved that did not meet KDOT/DOT guidelines. Requests of course came by way of property owners and/or city hall.

Why not send LPD motorcycle cops into neighborhoods to assist the four Traffic Safety vehicles that were funded through a grant...I believe. Implement a mandatory $50.00 Neighborhood Safety Fee per citation to help fund additional traffic violation/ speed patrols.

However spending that money for sidewalks is a more than acceptable idea. There is a woman who travels 13th street in a wheel chair because sidewalks are a bit difficult to navigate. I say repair those walks first.

Fatty_McButterpants 10 years, 10 months ago

Traffic-calming devices are a waste of my money.

Ragingbear 10 years, 10 months ago

If you want to slow traffic, install washboard cuts into the road. I used to live near an Interstate and they worked very effectively. What was even better was that you could install them on both sides of a 4 lane highway for a few hundred dollars.

thubbard76 10 years, 10 months ago


I agree. I live at 8th and Eldridge and commute to KC by way of 10 highway every day. At 5am I can get from my house to 10, just past Harper, in about 15 minutes and hitting all lights green. Any time between about 9am and 10pm (sometimes midnight) takes me about 30 minutes. My drive every day is at least one hour...30 minutes through Lawrence and 30 minutes to OP.

Ragingbear 10 years, 10 months ago

You would not believe how many times I have submitted well written proposals to our city commissioners, only to be completely ignored. This includes the time where I requested time to present a plan of mine (would have taken 10 minutes with questions to present), was told that I would have it, and had it deleted at the last minute from the agenda.

hanni213 10 years, 10 months ago

Washboard cuts sound great. They work well at high speeds, but would they even be noticable at lower speeds?

nell 10 years, 10 months ago

I agree with commissioner Highberger that to accommodate current budget constraints a longer-term plan should be developed because of the value these projects represent in supporting neighborhood safety and quality of life. The budget crunch shouldn't be an excuse to erase worthy but not-always-popular projects from the slate.

I also can accept traffic planner Woolsey's statement that the devices are the best solution. I imagine it would probably be cheaper and as effective to plant more stop signs or rearrange existing patterns to interrupt long stretches of inner-neighborhood thoroughfare. That sounds like a real drag.

I have a question, too. Are rotaries such as the one on 19th & Barker being lumped in with 'traffic calming' devices? If so, I guess it's because 'traffic calming' doesn't necessarily mean 'traffic slowing.' I believe this one replaced a 4-way stop and my personal experience is that it has had the effect of keeping traffic moving even in rush-hours, without an expensive traffic light and little if any stop-go-idle time. What an elegant solution.

nell 10 years, 10 months ago

Raginbear, Merrill - good points. I hadn't refreshed the page before I posted.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 10 months ago

BTW the Traffic Safety Commission submitted the question to the CC as to whether or not traffic calming devices should continue to be approved due to the perceived backlog.

nut_case 10 years, 10 months ago

Maybe if we had a few nice major arteries where people could quickly and efficiently move through town, there wouldn't be a need for traffic calming on the residential through streets?!? Putting a band-aid on the result of poor planning and traffic flow does not fix the initial problem. The round-abouts are actually fairly nice to navigate when they are properly constructed for efficient use, but used as a roadblock to force traffic to slow for a 50 foot section of road before resuming normal speed is dangerous and wasteful.

Simply put, we need efficient and safe traffic flow, not 'calming' that is really a dangerous aggravation.

Ragingbear 10 years, 10 months ago

Washboard cuts work well at virtually all speeds due to their nature. Although the effect they have is more significant when going at higher speeds, they still work very well even at speeds as low as 20mph.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 10 years, 10 months ago

I have said for years now that these stupid faddish liberal notions are nothing but another political tool that are designed to aggrivate the political opposition. They are definately NOT a solution to anything but emptying the city coffers, and that fact seems to be the only thing causing this long-needed decision. Traffic circles"roundabouts" are dangerous, slow traffic movement and cause congestion, and are just another failed European notion. The first one I saw the genius pool at city hall construct was at the intersection of Legends Drive and Research Park Road. Research Park Road dead-ends one block past the roundabout!!!!!!! I think Woolsey ought to be one of the first to be fired in the city's cutbacks, the stain of his fingers is all over this agenda, and he needs to go the same direction as the recently dismissed city commissioners. Anyone who has tried to get around town at 5 p.m. ought to be enraged at the incredible lack of planning for traffic flow and the concention of "traffic calming devices" in this community.

coneflower 10 years, 10 months ago

I like roundabouts. They work. They are not as ugly or annoying as traffic lights or stop signs and they can't be ignored. They don't require 24/7 cop patrol to enforce.

Safety isn't that lucrative for anyone, so expect this to get the permanent axe from this commission, not just postponement.

coneflower 10 years, 10 months ago

frwent said "Anyone who has tried to get around town at 5 p.m. ought to be enraged at the incredible lack of planning for traffic flow and the concention of "traffic calming devices" in this community."

It is going to get a lot worse if a high traffic generator goes in at NW 6th/Wak and Bauer Farms goes in (a done deal) at the NE.

Kat Christian 10 years, 10 months ago

I'm all for speed bumps on both ends of my street. I live on a little tiny street that cuts through to a busy street on both ends and there are those fools who think they are saving time by racing through my little street not realizing there are children out playing and yes at times they go into the street to get a ball or ride a bike or just cross it to a friends house. So PLEASE folks drive very slow through these streets. Think about saving a life instead of saving time. Thanks

maxcrabb 10 years, 10 months ago

There's a huge misconception in this country that laws regarding driving are more like suggestions.

If people want less restriction on their driving, they need to be ready to sacrifice other things.

Take Germany and the autobahn. Germans can drive as fast as they want on this road, but, they pay through the nose just getting their license and paying insurance. (somewhere in the thousands, whereas here you can get a license for a couple hundred or less, same for insurance.)

What i'm saying is, you want more control over your town, you have to pay for it. Sure you pay taxes, but nowhere near what you need to pay to deem yourself the final word.

don't forget, this is a democracy. I hear alot of complaining, but i know only 15% of you vote.

coneflower 10 years, 10 months ago

sunshine_noise :

You just described exactly what some neighbors near 6th/Wak fear. Sorry it happened to your neighborhood. When my kids were small I had the same situation you describe and it was very restrictive for us.

average 10 years, 10 months ago

The islands suck. For one, they make it impossible for cyclists and motorists to share a road. Every block, the motorist has to deviate from the center of the road into the cyclist's path. Also, today, while driving the car down Louisiana by LHS, I found that the island forces you into the deep water at the side of the road. Without the island, people would drift in lane and avoid the deep water. Same is true of a object (fallen muffler, etc) in the road. No way to work around them with concrete impediments.

If you care about pedestrians, install lighted crossings. "It's the thought that counts" islands don't count. Treat drivers like adults who can make decisions.

coneflower 10 years, 10 months ago

average says...If you care about pedestrians, install lighted crossings. "It's the thought that counts" islands don't count. Treat drivers like adults who can make decisions.

Trouble is, drivers here are horrible, and on res streets with few cops they run lights/stop signs/crosswalks. Half the time they're on a cell phone too. Too many don't act like responsible adults, if that were not true we wouldn't need anything but speed limits.

compmd 10 years, 10 months ago

"are just another failed European notion"

I'm guessing frwent has never driven outside the US. Another failed European notion? What other relevant failed notions are there in the realm of transportation? I guess you must hate three point seat belts, airbags, fuel injected engines, anti-lock brakes, and engine management systems too. Roundabouts are not a failed European notion. It is we in the microcosm of Lawrence, Kansas, who have failed in our implementation of them. Can we ever succeed with their implementation? Probably not, seeing as how both the infrastructure and culture of this city are incompatible with them.

Alison Roberts 10 years, 10 months ago

Speed bumps do nothing but piss people off--to be honest. Its a waste of money. Why not put the money to better use by fixing the pothole problem a little more permanently. Lawrence has some of the worst streets I have ever driven on.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 10 years, 10 months ago

Compnd, I grew up in a military family that was stationed overseas several times and am a military veteran myself. Your assumptions are incorrect. Roundabouts, espically ones constructed at non-existing intersections or out in the middle of a cornfield are a stupid and ridiculous waste of money. Ones in town are also unnecessary, just another yuppie waste of money, a notion of some "traffic engineer expert". And we are all at fault for electing city officials who have a single agenda ("Beautiful Downtown Lawrence", "Stop 6WAK", "Stop the Trafficway". et, al) It is too bad that competant and knowledgable persons do not run for city office, and we get stuck with those who are foisted on us by the activists. My hope is that new commissioners Duver and Chestnut along with Commissioner Amyx (who seems to be coming around to his senses) will prevail and some common sense and accountability will be seen in city traffic issues.

dthroat 10 years, 10 months ago

I would like to comment on what nut_case said, that everyone seems to be ignoring. If the city were to have a few arterial streets that traffic could flow on it would help.

The problem has been that every street they designed for the that gets changed by stop signs and street lights. What happens in this town is the adjoining neighborhoods bit** and complain that they have to wait too long to get on them, so the city puts in the lovely 4 way stops signs (that most people cannot handle without major slowing of traffic) or the stop-and-idle traffic lights when there are no cars in the other direction.

The city needed to say NO to slowing arterial streets down. When that happens people try to find a way around them, and guess what, they drive through the neighborhoods that bit**ed in the first place. Then they want "traffic calming" devices installed to further slow traffic.

Everybody seems to want it both ways and it just doesn't work. (Mainly because the city caves in to the "squeeky wheels".

Fred Whitehead Jr. 10 years, 10 months ago

Addendum to my previous. Commissioner Highberger seems to want to keep our streets safe by continuing these projects of obstructing traffic. I do not see his reasoning at all, but I do remember that this commissioner was the one who told us all that we need to walk more and drive less. I think this is a great idea, I want commissioner Highberger to come and assist me to carry 4 sheets of 4 X 8 foot plywood home from Home Depot to my residence. Then I need his assistance in carrying 6 sacks of groceries home from Target, Dillons, Aldi or Checkers. All are a few miles away. And he can come walk to work with me, about 4 miles. Frankly, I think Commissioner Highberger is a lot higher than his name.

rhd99 10 years, 10 months ago

I think it's time to recall Boog. No more roundabouts! Stop the wasteful spending.

rhd99 10 years, 10 months ago

By the way, traffic calming devices? They don't calm worth anything. They are instead a nuisance & definitely a safety hazzard for bus drivers & 911 crews (fire/ambulance/police). Is traffic safety really a number 1 priority of Highberger's? Given his response in this article along with the fact he refuses to listen to the voters, I seriously doubt it.

bearded_gnome 10 years, 10 months ago

WRONG^! just plain wrong!

dthroat and nutcase, for once I agree with nutcase...write that down! a lot of the problem is that the traffic constipating devices, stop signs, etc., are driving traffic off into the side streets. I live near the intersection of two such side streets, and at the other end of the block is a major street, well, for east lawrence major. if traffic constipation gets put into the major street I fully expect more traffic on the side streets! just makes sense if you squeeze the toothpaste tube in the middle, then the bottome bulges and the paste comes out the top.

I am not surprised people are driving so fast on trail for that reason.

I think it is time that instead of a squeaky wheel complaint driven system, that a complete system wide review needs to be done of what is there now, before ANYTHING gets added.

and, agree, fix sidewalks so people can leave the street while walking, and just fix the darned streets. one of the biggest complaints against the roundys and other constipators is that they have a lot of money spent on them that otherwise could go to streets and sidewalks!

agree, recall highberger! while mayor said: "its just a little pot" and he wasn't talking about potholes!

compmd 10 years, 10 months ago

"espically ones constructed at non-existing intersections or out in the middle of a cornfield are a stupid and ridiculous waste of money."

I'm pretty sure I said that it was our implementation that is the problem, and it sounds like you agree with that. They can be done right, and they do work in the right places. I think of parts of Massachusetts where there are huge rotaries that nobody has any problems with. Lawrence has failed in implementation because they are not appropriate solutions for this city.

Also, my earlier assumptions were incorrect, and I humbly stand corrected.

bearded_gnome 10 years, 10 months ago

"WRONG^!" above is supposed to point to the quote from pseudocommissioner high-burger.

hanni213 10 years, 10 months ago

I also like most of the roundabouts. Before the roundabout @19th & Barker rush hour traffic would back up as far as Haskell and even Harper. Now traffic keeps flowing smoothly. On the other hand the one way out on Clinton Pkwy makes no sense at all.

Seems like people either love or hate the roundabouts. Some people seem to be confused about how to use them...who has the right of way...whether to use turn signals.

In Europe roundabouts are everywhere and people know how to use them. The traffic in the circle has the right of way. You don't use your blinker when entering the circle, but you blink when you exit, so the entering traffic knows that you are turning and they can go ahead. That is how Europeans use it.

I have seen people here stop in the middle of the circle to let incoming traffic in, or hesitate or even stop before entering, even though there was lots of room between them and approaching traffic. This does nothing but cause traffic to back up. Maybe some thorough instructions for the public would make people more comfortable with these roundabouts.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 10 months ago

"these stupid faddish liberal notions"

Are KDOT/DOT liberal organizations ? BTW Neighborhood citizens,KU and City Hall set the Traffic Safety Commission. KDOT/DOT set the guidelines.

David Woosley is a frugal individual.

KsTwister 10 years, 10 months ago

I would love to see Lawrence's total bill (not including subsidies) for all these icons of safety(discounting the wrecks they cause with ice and snow). My brother says his grandkids started a new game in Lawrence----singing Ahhhhhh while driving across town. You may get through the roundabout but the cracks in the street will throw you in a ditch anyway.

George_Braziller 10 years, 10 months ago

Marion - 1. You don't live here and don't get a vote on the issue. 2. Use spell check. You just show what an idiot you are when you don't. 3. Put down the bottle.

Marion (Marion Lynn) says:

Washboards are not part of the "Smart (Read: "Dumb") Growth Agenda; washboards are not a new and oh!, So Green! idea.

Washboards also provide insufficent monument status for the arrogant PLC politicians who apporved them.



Richard Heckler 10 years, 10 months ago

FYI - The Traffic Safety Commission does not decide which traffic calming device will be designated. That is decided between KDOT/DOT guidelines,traffic safety engineer and the requesting parties so much discussion takes place which sometimes will take weeks.

frankwiles 10 years, 10 months ago

I like well built roundabouts such as the one at 19th and Barker. They allow traffic to flow easily ( once drivers get adjusted to them ) without having to use a 4-way stop. Which honestly most drivers navigate correctly about as often as they do roundabouts in my experience.

However, some of the "roundabout wannabes" in west lawrence neighborhoods don't even invoke the proper reaction from drivers. They seem to get more confused and behave as if there were trash in the middle of a normal road and do not drive around them in a anything resembling a circle. You can't put 5 concrete parking stops and flag in a circle, in the middle of an otherwise normal intersection, and get people to think "ah roundabout".

Now the "traffic calming" devices, such as those near Lawrence High School invoke a much different emotional response from me. Has anyone performed a small study here in town to see if they actually slow traffic sufficiently to warrant their cost? Can the LPD show that speeding tickets and accidents in the area has drastically reduced?

I only see the elderly and people driving very wide vehicles slowing down at all. Me? I make a point of speeding up through them in spite and to get through them quickly, otherwise I risk getting pissed off thinking about the wasted money that could be better spent elsewhere.

That being said, I truly believe all currently planned traffic calming device projects should be put on hold as we have MORE than enough of them already.

They're called pot holes. Maybe you have seen a few of them around town?

But seriously, if you want to calm traffic in Lawrence, I can suggest a better way. Immediately double the fine on all speeding violations over 5 MPH. Hell triple it. It costs almost nothing to implement and in fact MAKES the city money.

Dear City of Lawrence,

Please stop wasting MY tax money because my fellow neighbor is being an idiot and is actively violating the law. Please instead make them pay for their own actions.

Thank you.

George_Braziller 10 years, 10 months ago

I drive through that intersection every day and the flow is SOOOOOO much better than it was before. The only problem is that people don't realize that they still need to use their turn signals.

"Now the "traffic calming" devices, such as those near Lawrence High School invoke a much different emotional response from me. Has anyone performed a small study here in town to see if they actually slow traffic sufficiently to warrant their cost? Can the LPD show that speeding tickets and accidents in the area has drastically reduced?"

Just wait until you get older and it takes longer to get across the street. They were meant to be a safe spot for pedestrians crossing as well as a way to slow the traffic. They are both less expensive over the long term.

frankwiles (Anonymous) says:

I like well built roundabouts such as the one at 19th and Barker. They allow traffic to flow easily ( once drivers get adjusted to them ) without having to use a 4-way stop. Which honestly most drivers navigate correctly about as often as they do roundabouts in my experience.

nell 10 years, 10 months ago

I grew up in New England so am used to rotaries. Obviously the detractors are struggling with the learning curve. Two-lane rotaries shouldn't be planned for at least a year or two .

To return to the issue of traffic calming, are the complainants saying that there is no need to slow 37 mph traffic in neighborhoods? That speeding down residential streets to avoid traffic lights or stop signs does not affect neighborhood safety or residential atmoshphere? That kids should be kept strictly to their own yards? Will a child have to die - or survive maimed - before neighborhood residents are accorded at least as much respect as the drivers passing through? Let's see some alternative solutions to the problem rather than pompous blather about how we don't need no stinkin traffic calming devices.

Thanks for making a suggestion, Jackripper, though I'm not sure your idea is tenable.

Nick Yoho 10 years, 10 months ago

6th street actually is a hi-way.

As it says in the Kansas Drivers handbook,driving is a privilege,not a right.

I think many of you have forgotten this,or don't believe it,from you entitlement views.

bearded_gnome 10 years, 10 months ago

first it is very important to note that "Merrill" [above} is a member of the dreaded TSC, and has written on these very forums that "broken streets" serve a useful function as passive traffic calming devices!

Please stop wasting MY tax money because my fellow neighbor is being an idiot and is actively violating the law. Please instead make them pay for their own actions.

well said, take this as a second to this!

KsTwister 10 years, 10 months ago

"Obviously the detractors are struggling with the learning curve. " Roundabouts are nothing to maneuver through, but try driving a SUV while sitting in the center with one hand on the steering wheel and one foot to use on the gas and brake pedals then do a figure 8 backwards without hitting any pylons(clearance for the vehicle only). Courtesy rural mail carrier academy,I passed. It is not about not knowing how to drive through them, it is about the huge sums of money that was siphoned off of street projects that should have been done first.

rhd99 10 years, 10 months ago

This is your brain, this is Boog's brain after roundabouts, traffic CALMING devices & Islands. Any questions!

coneflower 10 years, 10 months ago

Marion: It takes 20 min from Wakarusa to Mass, no matter which route you take. 15 in the dead of night with no traffic. But I don't speed.

KsTwister 10 years, 10 months ago

LOL Because they probably will try. Wish you would have kept that a secret.

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