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Speed limit study could lead to citywide slowdown

Sunday, April 19, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Speed limits in two residential areas have been reduced from 30 mph to 25 mph in accordance with a study to determine if reducing speeds in neighborhoods is effective.

The study, which began in November 2008, might lead to a city ordinance allowing other neighborhoods to request that their speed limits be reduced.

Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe brought up the issue of speeding in residential areas to the City Council last year because of several complaints made by residents in her ward.

Hoppe said that instead of dealing with individual complaints, the city could implement a program that would comprehensively address the issue.

“I think it takes a lot of time to follow up on each individual request,” Hoppe said, adding that a citywide program might be a better approach to a problem that continually resurfaces.

Hoppe said the council was skeptical about installing signs throughout the city because it was unsure of the effectiveness of a reduced speed limit, and it decided that letting neighborhoods apply to have their speed limits reduced would be the best approach. “Maybe there are some neighborhoods where speed isn’t a concern or they like the 30 mph speed limit,” Hoppe said.

The council decided that instead of implementing a citywide application program right away, it would first try a speed limit experiment to see whether lowering speed limits in residential areas would be effective.

The council approved the speed limit pilot in August and agreed to pay MU researchers $10,000 to conduct the study. The budget allowed two neighborhoods to participate in the study: Shepard Boulevard and Rothwell Heights.

MU researcher Carlos Sun began by measuring drivers’ speeds when the speed limit was 30 mph. After the initial measurements were taken, 14 new signs were installed in the neighborhoods reflecting a speed of 25 mph.

Six new signs were installed in Shepard Boulevard — three of them near the entrances to the neighborhood and three where the 20 mph school zone ends, said Scott Bitterman, supervising engineer of the city’s traffic division. Eight new signs were installed in Rothwell Heights. "Basically, what we were trying to do was install them where you leave main roads and enter neighborhoods," he said.

A second measurement was then taken to determine whether the new signs alone made a difference in drivers’ speeds, but the results of this measurement cannot be released until the study is finished.

The PedNet Coalition, Columbia’s pedestrian and bicycle nonprofit, is beginning the third leg of the project: informing residents of the benefits of the speed limit pilot program and educating them about the dangers of speeding.

Ian Thomas, executive director of the coalition, said that educational outreach is a vital part of the pilot program. “A lot of people don’t pay a lot of attention when they’re driving, so they’re likely to just drive the same whether there’s a 30 mph sign or a 25 mph sign,” Thomas said. But if there is some discussion or explanation about it in the right kind of setting, he said, it is more likely that the information will stimulate a change in behavior.

Part of the coalition’s educational campaign includes providing residents with British research data that shows pedestrian fatality rates for different driving speeds. The research shows that if a car hits a pedestrian going 40 mph, the collision is fatal 85 percent of the time, but if a car hits the pedestrian going 20 mph, the collision is fatal only 15 percent of the time, according to Thomas.

Thomas said that if the pilot program is successful, the hope is that the city will enact a permanent program that will include all neighborhoods. The proposed program would allow any neighborhood or homeowner association to apply for a 20 or 25 mph speed limit. A voting majority would be required to install the new signs.

If the study results show that people have reduced their speeds after the educational campaign, “I think that should be enough evidence that the City Council will go ahead and pass the new ordinance so that any neighborhood can become a reduced-speed neighborhood,” Thomas said.

After the educational campaign is completed, Sun will take a third measurement to see if the combination of the reduced speed limit signs and educational outreach caused a further improvement of speeds.

Sun said in an e-mail that he will release a final report of the study to the council in May or June.


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Comments

Ray Shapiro April 19, 2009 | 12:46 a.m.

("Speed limit study could lead to citywide Slowdown...

The PedNet Coalition, Columbia’s pedestrian and bicycle nonprofit, is beginning the third leg of the project: informing residents of the benefits of the speed limit pilot program and educating them about the dangers of speeding.

British research data that shows pedestrian fatality rates for different driving speeds. The research shows that if a car hits a pedestrian going 40 mph, the collision is fatal 85 percent of the time, but if a car hits the pedestrian going 20 mph, the collision is fatal only 15 percent of the time, according to Thomas.")
So, like the mayor's son-in-law, Ian Thomas, wants to manipulate the city into 20mph street limits to make the streets safer for his bicycling father-in-law?

How many Columbia neighborhood residents have ever been hit by a car doing 30mph, thus far?
Why are we looking at a study from England with 40mph stats?
How many Columbia neighborhood children have been runned down at that speed?
(We all ready have appropriate speed reductions around schools.)
If there's a real problem on your street, install some speed bumps or "children at play" signs.
Hoppe and the mayor and his son-in-law are WRONG on this one.
Just another expensive venture.

(Report Comment)
Greg Baka April 19, 2009 | 9:20 a.m.

I was a member of the transportation committee for Columbia's Visioning Project. The desire for lower speed limits in residential neighborhoods was one of our goals.

Having a city-wide target of 25mph UNLESS OTHERWISE POSTED is a good idea. It makes the residential streets safer for everyone. Larger streets should be posted at higher speeds.

And if there are neighborhoods where all the residents really want cars driving faster in front of their homes, then they can request that their street be sped up.

***PS. What Ray above does not realize is just how difficult it is for a neighborhood to "install some speed bumps or Children At Play signs". First a few families have to become organizors (which is a rare skill), then they have to gather enough support to show the city officials, then they have to apply and wait for and beg and remind the proper city officials to take action. Then they have to wait for it to work it's way up the street depaqrtment's priority list. By the time it finally happens the kids you were trying to protect may just be driving themselves :-( From what I heard it took the Alexander Street families 3 years to finally get two speed bumps and a couple of signs...

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr April 19, 2009 | 9:54 a.m.

Greg Baka ya there are more important things for our City Government to work on like Bike Trails and Parks.

PPPPPffffffttttttttttttttzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking April 19, 2009 | 9:56 a.m.

Greg:

It wasn't quite three years, but it was a good 2 1/2.

It is eye opening now that I'm spending a lot of time over on Sanford, how fast people drive on that street compared to Alexander. The neighbors don't seem that worried about it however, at least the ones I've talked to.

The place is shaping up, BTW. Off grid electricity and water, and I'll plant about half of it with annuals this year, as well as fruit and nut trees, asparagus, and grapevines (most already in).

Mark F.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro April 19, 2009 | 10:49 a.m.

Greg: Thanks for sharing the desire for posting lower speed limits in residential neighborhoods as one of CVP's goals.
Personally, I don't think the current speed limits are that bad. I do think that there are some motorists who think they must always be traveling at that limit. Some may even take chances by exceeding it. While a 25 speed limit is just a tad slower, it's really the mindset of those who are "lead-footing it" through residential areas and not the posted limits that are the real problem. (Most drivers will slow down in active residential neighborhoods, regardless of speed "limit" signs.)
Also. if the police are too understaffed to enforce our 30mph limits, most of these "speeders" will continue with their driving habits, even with 25mph signs.
(Being safe and "feeling safe" are just perceptions anyway.)
Perhaps Ms. Hoppe should be working on making it a tad easier to get those speed bumps and "children at play" signs. The speed bump can do wonders to slow people down and "children-at-play" signs are non-evasive reminders. In fact, when we were painting all those bicycle logo tattoos throughout our streets, we could have painted some "Watch out for Children" sharrows on some of those neighborhood streets you guys are so concerned about.
I would compromise with you and suggest a city-wide 27.5mph speed limit, but that would just be as expensive to implement as your plan. And us drivers would just tack on an additional 5 miles per hour to that and we'd all just be driving around at a smiggin over 30 anyway. Just like many of us are doing now.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr April 19, 2009 | 1:54 p.m.

>>> In fact, when we were painting all those bicycle logo tattoos throughout our streets, we could have painted some "Watch out for Children" sharrows on some of those neighborhood streets you guys are so concerned about. <<<

Now you know the city could not think of child safety on neighborhood streets when they have to take care of their meager handful of PedNutz first.

(Report Comment)
Michael Scott April 20, 2009 | 8:16 a.m.

Another example in a long stretch of city screw-ups. What a complete waste of money. Also, why is PedNet sticking their moronic head in this issue anyways. Are they in charge of traffic flow now? Seems like a motor vehicle group should be involved with motor vehicle issues and PedNet should stick to the MKT trail and holding signs at Broadway/Providence.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking April 20, 2009 | 8:55 a.m.

Peaceworks is the group that holds the signs at Broadway and Providence. PedNet is not a political organization.

Neighborhood streets have not been painted with sharrows, as the amount of traffic on them is too small to warrant it. Child safety is better dealt with through education (Stay out of street, dammit!!) and traffic calming. Child safety is not a significant PedNet issue.

DK

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand April 21, 2009 | 7:21 a.m.

Reducing speed limits is a waste of time and money if the cops aren't going to enforce them.

(Report Comment)
Charles Creswell April 28, 2009 | 10:54 p.m.

Lowering speedlimits in Columbia, will surely help me out. See I am going to buy a Kurrent electric vehicle that does 35 mph and gets 40 miles to the charge. So this means, if streets were reduced to 35 mph verses 40 mph, well I could access them. Now as it stands, I can only access 35 mph streets or less. That is for my protection as well as slowing you people down from getting to work. I am going to live downtown Columbia and can access roads safely, stick to laws and will be fine. But the President wants us to use alternative sources of energy and quit the CO2 emissions petroleum vehicles. Eventually you all will have to switch to hybrids or electric. It is our future as Americans. I bet in 3 years time, all new cars will be hybrids or small engine cars that get 60 mpg..

(Report Comment)

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