Driver slams into new Midland Avenue planter |

Driver slams into new Midland Avenue planter

Post Independent/Kara K. PearsonGlenwood Springs firefighter Scott King walks past a vehicle that slammed into a planter on Midland Avenue Wednesday morning.

Midland Avenue’s planters have yet to be planted with plants, and already a motorist has planted the front end of her car into one of them.

On Wednesday morning, a young woman driving a Jeep Cherokee slammed into one of the concrete planters, which the city of Glenwood Springs placed in the median of Midland Avenue in an attempt to slow down vehicles.

The driver, whose name wasn’t available from Glenwood police Wednesday, was treated at the scene and released. Her airbag deployed during the accident, which did significant damage to the front end of her car.

Police Lt. Bill Kimminau said the woman apparently was driving about 25 to 30 mph on the road, which has a 25-mph speed limit, when the accident occurred. She reportedly reached down for something and the vehicle veered into the planter, he said.

“It was just one of those things, it sounded like,” Kimminau said.

Glenwood resident Steve Damm, who has been vocal in his opposition to the planters, thinks the accident only drives home his point that the planters are unsafe.

“They just need to take them out. They need to decide that it was a bad deal and cut their losses and go on,” Damm said.

Until Wednesday, Damm’s opposition to the planters “was just kind of a fun exercise to see if we can get somebody to change a silly decision,” he said. But with the accident, “it kind of got more serious.”

He thinks such accidents will become more frequent as winter weather arrives.

“I hope that they change their mind and take those barriers out before someone really does get hurt.”

City officials say the planters are safe as long as people drive the speed limit. They urge people to withhold judgment until plants are in the planters, making them more visible, and enough time has passed to see how motorists adjust to them.

“Then I’m open to anything after that,” said council member Larry Beckwith, who lives on Midland Avenue.

The idea for placing the planters originated with traffic consultant Dan Burden, who has held several public meetings in Glenwood Springs. A committee on traffic calming since has recommended that the city consider narrowing street lanes, installing median strips and bike lanes, and employing other measures such as planters to slow traffic speeds through town and improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.

“All indications were that if you put them in and do it right, it will slow down traffic,” Beckwith said of the planters.

Beckwith said he’s not saying that’s what he believes. But the planters were recommended by studies and consultants, and by Midland-area residents after about 45 of them met to seek ways to slow traffic on the road.

The idea also was approved by a new city committee set up to review traffic-calming proposals.

“This is what everybody wanted to do and I’ll go along with the majority and I’ll stick with it,” Beckwith said. “I’m behind it because I’m behind the effort to let Midland not become a thoroughfare. It does go through a residential neighborhood.”

Dr. Jeff Fegan sat on the original traffic-calming committee, now serves on the city’s Transportation Commission, and also lives on Midland Avenue. He said he’s excited about the traffic-calming ideas being considered. He supported the installation of the planters, after hearing Burden’s observation that speed humps, which the city also had considered for Midland, are annoying to drivers and “mean-spirited.”

But Fegan was surprised to hear someone already has run into one of the planters.

“That was quick,” he said.

“I think I’m still in favor of it but we’ll see. If there are several accidents there this year then we may need to rethink the idea.”

He said the planters are costing the city about $10,000.

Fegan said the idea of planters and other traffic-calming devices is to make roads appear less like race tracks that encourage speeding, and make them look a little more dangerous so people slow down.

“This is kind of our initial foray into that in Glenwood,” he said of the planters.

The city eventually hopes to do some traffic-calming work on the city’s main thoroughfare, Grand Avenue, which also is state Highway 82. Such projects would require state approval.

Fegan isn’t entirely happy with the job the city is doing with the planters. He said there were supposed to be 15 of them, placed in groups of three in five locations. But the city mistakenly ordered five fewer than what was intended, he said.

The planters have attached signs warning motorists to go around them. But Fegan thinks they’re too tall to be compatible with the low, colorful shrubs and flowers he envisioned being planted.

He thinks it would be better to place smaller signs well ahead of the planters, perhaps in conjunction with some small, round planters. These might better warn motorists of what lies ahead, and serve as a buffer that could keep vehicles from hitting the planters or at least slow them down enough to soften the impact.

Separating the signs from the planters apparently conflicts with municipal code, but that code could be changed, Fegan said.

“This is a work in progress,” he said of the planter experiment.

Glenwood Springs fire chief Mike Piper said it’s possible there will be some initial motorist confusion involving the planters. He said some motorists also are having trouble adjusting to the new roundabouts at the West Glenwood interchange of Interstate 70. People who aren’t paying attention or are going too fast can end up in accidents when driving in unfamiliar situations, he said.

He said he thinks the Midland planters are adequately marked, and like Fegan was surprised that someone already has run into one.

“If people do 25 (mph) I think they can negotiate that road quite easily,” he said.

The fire department is represented on the traffic-calming review committee. Piper said the planters still allow adequate road width for emergency vehicles to drive on Midland.

Piper said he would rather leave the decisions about the worth of things such as planters and speed humps to politicians. But he said he sat through some of Burden’s workshops. “There’s a lot of good ideas” that came out of them, he said.

From the fire department’s perspective, “speed doesn’t help us,” and leads to accidents, he said.

He added, “When new obstacles are placed for trying to slow speeds down, you’ve got to pay attention.”

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