Hit the Brakes
Pick your poison, Burque: Speed humps? Chokers? Barricades?
By Carolyn Carlson
Charlene Baldwin says the speed humps in her neighborhood could have caused her a major medical problem in the fall.
“I was having a heart attack, and the paramedics tried and tried to put an IV in, but they could not because of the humps," says the 70-year-old Four Hills resident and retired nurse. “It should not have happened, but all is well that ends well.”
She says paramedics were able to get the IV in once they were on the freeway, but it could have been a life-or-death situation. At that time, there were 14 speed humps between her house and the main road out of Four Hills.
After the incident, Baldwin says she went door to door to talk with her neighbors about her problem. Some residents loved the raised road humps. Others hated them, and they took their concerns to City Hall.
In October 2010, the City Council voted to remove some of the humps from Four Hills after an onslaught of complaints from residents.
“There are still those drivers who like to go a little fast," but the compromise is working pretty well, Baldwin says. Flashing signs were also installed to remind drivers to hit the brakes.
Those measures seem pretty tame compared with the roadblocks in another part of the city.
Nancy Bearce lives in La Mesa neighborhood in the International District. She is also president of La Mesa Community Improvement Association. In the late 1990s, La Mesa, Trumbull and surrounding neighborhoods worked with the Albuquerque Police Department and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Weed and Seed crime prevention initiative to get a grant to install gates and barricades. The extreme roadblocks were designed to cut down on crime and dangerous driving in the neighborhoods.
“They are not pretty, not charming, but they are effective at helping bring our crime rate down and slowing drivers down,” Bearce says. Her neighborhood is bordered by four major arteries: Lomas and Central, and Louisiana and Wyoming. She says those big roadways draw cut-through traffic to her neighborhood. The roadblocks do not present a problem for residents and emergency vehicle drivers, she adds.
“They are not pretty, not charming, but they are effective at helping bring our crime rate down and slowing drivers down.”
Nancy Bearce, president of La Mesa Community Improvement Association, on the barricades installed in her neighborhood
“We all know where the gates and barricades are," Bearce says. "Speeders or criminals coming in to do their crimes may not, and that causes them frustration."
In January 2010, the City Council passed a resolution to form a study group charged with taking a look at neighborhood traffic management policies. They met eight times to review existing neighborhood traffic measures.
Members were also tasked with evaluating how the devices impact emergency response vehicles and routes. They were told to reach out to city residents to gather concerns, so four meetings were held in each of the city’s quadrants. The pros and cons of speed humps were popular topics.
Dozens of ways to decelerate lead-foots were looked at by the study, which was released in early January. Some of the measures were passive, including increased signage, rumble strips and high-visibility road striping. A number of field trips were taken by the study group to different neighborhoods. Fire trucks and other vehicles were put through their paces to see how they could handle them.
• Speed Humps were found to be very effective at slowing traffic but not in all locations. On roads where the speed limit was below 30, vehicles actually sped up to get over them. Emergency vehicles such as ambulances or fire trucks are generally hindered by humps. The committee found that most emergency vehicles are delayed by an average of 4 seconds per hump. These delays, according to the report, have the potential to increase damage during a number of medical emergencies, including stroke and drowning. The group recommended that humps not be used on primary emergency response routes.
• Chicanes or chokers are curb extensions that alternate from one side of the street to the other, creating a pinch point. Some of the chicanes along 12th Street were evaluated. The study group found there were no negative elements with the chokers. Traffic relaxed, and no issues arose with emergency vehicles.
• S-curves along Sixth Street were installed by the city to check drivers passing in and out of Downtown. The group found them to be ineffective. The painted lane lines, which catch a driver's eyes first, tend to fade quickly. The group said the addition of some vertical signs may be a good idea.
• Radar boards flash at speeders. The group observed traffic near boards placed along Indian School. Some drivers would initially slow down, while others ignored them entirely. Committee members wondered how long it would take before the majority of drivers started to ignore the signs knowing there was no ticket coming.
• Traffic circles in three areas of the city were put to the test by running fire trucks through them. The small versions of roundabouts at Lester and Northeastern as well as Columbia and Santa Clara were used for the experiment. The group found that drivers are often confused by the circles, with some stopping as if it were a four-way stop. One recommendation was to make the circles bigger, so fire trucks and other larger vehicles can make it around with hitting the curbs or rails.
• Gates are the best option to control speeders completely, according to the study. Unlike barricades, which are semi-permanent, gates can be unlocked and opened. The Fire Department has keys. The observers studied gates at Trumbull and Pennsylvania, and there were no negative emergency vehicle issues with gates, as primary routes would go around them.
• Barricades differ from gates, as barricades can’t be unlocked. Several were installed along Española SE to help police control traffic flow and eliminate shortcuts. The study group found that while effective, the barricades were controversial in the neighborhood because they interfere with homeowner access.
A process that allows residents to apply for traffic-calming measures in their neighborhoods was also established as a result of the study. Have your street evaluated by calling Traffic Engineering at 857-8680.
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