Speed humps put to use
A case of lead-footed high school drivers is providing a lesson about where speed humps have a place in Glenwood Springs.The car-jarring devices have their detractors, and have been rejected as a possible means for slowing traffic on Midland Avenue. But they are helping slow the lunchtime rush of school-age drivers in the residential neighborhood south of Glenwood Springs High School, and another one will be constructed there.”The real fear is that somebody is going to hit a kid,” said Polo Road resident Beth Kinne, who has collected signatures in support of placing another speed hump on that street.The plan caught the eye of City Council member Larry Beckwith, who lives on Midland Avenue. He criticized his fellow council members a year ago when a majority of them reversed council’s earlier decision to place speed humps on Midland, a residential road that also serves as an alternate route through town.That reversal came after traffic consultant Dan Burden told the city other tools such as bike lanes are better ways to slow down motorists. In addition, city officials heard concerns that placing speed humps on Midland might slow emergency response times on that road.Beckwith questions why the use of speed humps is acceptable in some areas, “but for some reason on Midland that’s a bad thing.”Larry Heinrichs, chairman of the city Transportation Commission, said speed humps are included as an option in the city’s traffic-calming policy. He said they aren’t good for bike traffic, and can be hard on equipment passing over them, but are appropriate in limited places.”The bottom line is speed bumps have a place, they just don’t have a place on Midland Avenue,” he said.City engineer Mike McDill isn’t a big fan of speed humps.”I think there are other things you can do that are safer for the motorists,” he said.He worries about someone not seeing a speed hump and losing control upon hitting one.”They can catch you by surprise pretty easily,” he said.That said, he’s more comfortable using one on residential side streets such as Polo Road than on city through routes such as Midland.”There’s way more things we can do on Midland before we would resort to that,” he said.The city placed several sets of planters in the center of Midland last fall to try to slow traffic. Two vehicles hit them within a few weeks after their installation, but motorists seem to have adjusted to them since and some city officials, Beckwith included, believe they have helped inhibit speeding.Beckwith said he thinks opposition to the Midland Avenue speed hump idea was partly a result of people confusing humps for bumps. Speed humps are lower than bumps and emergency vehicles still could go 30 or 35 mph over them.”It would just be uncomfortable,” he said.But McDill said that discomfort could be an issue for a patient on a backboard being driven to the hospital.Assistant city engineer King Lloyd said the speed humps now on the streets south of the high school are a result of a neighborhood meeting about five years ago about speeding students. The group also discussed and discarded another traffic-calming idea – narrowing the streets, something that can be done by means such as installing bike lanes or diagonal parking.”The response was overwhelming that the young drivers aren’t intimidated by anything, much less a narrow street,” Lloyd said.Residents said wide streets give drivers more room to swerve around kids who might chase a ball into the street, he said.Planters also were considered, but residents questioned who would take care of them.When Lloyd suggested speed humps, no one opposed the idea, he said.He said the only neighborhood complaint since they were installed has been from someone who wanted one moved to elsewhere in the neighborhood because it increased traffic noise when cars go over the humps and when they accelerate once past them.Park Drive has several humps, but Polo has only one, on its southern end. Residents there say students are taking the path of least resistance and hurrying down their street at lunch hour, endangering residents.”There’s a lot of little kids on that street, and there’s a day care on that street,” Kinne said.McDill said the city plans to put up a temporary speed hump on Polo at a point residents consider to be the best location for one. Depending on the outcome of that experiment, a permanent one will be installed there or elsewhere on the street after a planned reconstruction project on Polo is completed.High school principal Paul Freeman supports the idea.”I think anything that encourages slower driving in a residential area is to be welcomed,” he said.Freeman is from England, where he said students generally don’t drive until 18 and driver’s license testing is more stringent. He personally supports a higher legal driving age in Colorado, and also would love to see more students taking the bus to school, but can’t force them to do that.Short of that, school officials ask students to be considerate of their residential neighbors, he said.”We always address it with students, particularly at the point when we give them their parking permit,” he said. “In a school district that has lost students to driving accidents I don’t think we can ever overeducate students in their need to drive their cars safely.”Freeman said he is considering revoking parking rights for students who are ticketed for speeding while going to or from school.McDill said the new parking configuration for the high school, which is undergoing major reconstruction, will result in the parking lot exiting on 14th Street closer to Grand Avenue, which should encourage students to head straight to Grand rather than using residential side streets. Placing a speed hump on 14th just outside the parking lot exit in the opposite direction from Grand could help persuade drivers to go to Grand, he said.School officials also have heard concerns from 14th Street residents about the prospect of dealing with more student traffic. But Freeman said the issue comes down to how to impact the fewest number of residents possible.
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