RALEIGH — Responding to complaints from residents, the city has begun cracking down on speeding in five residential neighborhoods in a test program that could be expanded to other parts of the city.
The goal is to reduce collisions involving vehicles, pedestrians and bike riders through tougher enforcement and other forms of persuasion. This week, workers planted olive-green signs with white block lettering that read “No Need To Speed” along targeted streets.
The first five streets are two-lane corridors through quiet, established neighborhoods lined with homes, parks, churches and sidewalks. They include portions of Quail Hollow Drive and Wide River Drive in North Raleigh; Oakwood Avenue just east of downtown, and Clark Avenue and Ridge Road on the west side of town.
All of the streets have pedestrian traffic. The Quail Hollow Drive section includes the entrance to one of the busiest recreation spots in the city, Eastgate Park.
Hugh Thompson has lived in the 4900 block of Quail Hollow for 45 years and thinks speeding in the neighborhood is a problem. But he doesn’t think signs along the sidewalks will persuade drivers whizzing through the neighborhood to slow down.
Thompson pointed to a yellow caution sign in front of his home that warns drivers to slow down to 25 mph as they approach the next intersection and nodded toward the school zone markings on the other sign of the street.
“If you drive the speed limit down there, you get cussed out,” he said.
Police will beef up their speed enforcement efforts on the targeted streets, but not initially. Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue said enhanced enforcement will come “in the later stages” of the two-month campaign by the department’s field operations officers or its traffic safety unit.
“We’re looking at our options,” Sughrue said.
But the real focus of the program is awareness and education. In addition to signs declaring there’s no need to speed, the city will offer fact sheets, posters and electronic signs tied to radar that show motorists how fast they are going. City officials also will launch radio ads and sponsor safety events in each of the five neighborhoods participating in the program.
“We are asking people to slow down,” said city spokeswoman Jayne Kirkpatrick. “That does not mean in every instance the police are going to write tickets to people going 5 miles per hour over the speed limit.”
The program’s theme is “The No Need To Speed: We Walk Here; We Work Here: We Bike Here, We Live Here.” It’s meant to instill a sense of community that trumps the “self-entitlement mentality” that grips some drivers while they are behind the wheel, according to an announcement about it this week.
Prompted by complaints
The program is the result of a directive from the City Council, following complaints from residents and data from the city’s transportation services division that supported those complaints, Kirkpatrick said.
Transportation services manager Mike Kennon said the posted speed limit on each of the streets is 25 mph, except where it’s 35 mph on Quail Hollow Drive. The city estimates that 31 to 40 percent of motorists on the streets drive between 10 and 13 mph over the speed limit, Kennon said.
“People run about 35 miles per hour to 38 miles per hour,” he said.
Kennon said his department evaluated the streets. Along with considering speeds, city transportation officials looked at other factors, such as the width of the roads and what types of activities occur in the neighborhoods and whether they include “pedestrian-generators” such as churches, parks and schools.
And, Kennon added, the streets that were chosen aren’t due for reconstruction work that would include steps to reduce speeding, such as speed bumps, rumble strips or sidewalk extensions near intersections with painted lines to calm traffic. So, city officials decided to be creative.
“We asked, ‘Is there something low-cost that may actually make a difference?’” Kennon said. “We decided to try this pilot program to make more people aware of the speed they’re going.”
Karen Rindge, who has lived on Clark Avenue for 10 years, learned about the anti-speeding program Wednesday when she saw workers planting signs along the sidewalks. Rindge said speeding is a big problem in the neighborhood and that she was “thrilled” to learn of the city’s effort.
“The overwhelming majority of people driving on our street are speeding, and significantly,” she said.
Rindge, executive director of a community organization, said the neighborhood has its share of pedestrians, dog walkers and parents walking their children to school. She said that a few years ago, she joined other residents and approached a city councilman and transportation official about the problem.
“They took it very seriously and looked at different options,” she said. “The easiest option was chevrons painted on the street. We got those last year.”
The anti-speeding campaign will continue through November. The city plans to measure its effectiveness with before and after surveys in each neighborhood as well as crash data and other measures.
“We are going to see if the pilot has had a positive effect,” Kirkpatrick said. “If it has, then we will present our findings to the City Council to see if they want to take it citywide.”