City Enables Bad Parenting

Dear Reader,
So many bad parents in Takoma Park! And despite serious misgivings, the council is aiding and abetting them!
Using the time they should have been teaching their children not to walk in the street, the neglectful parents of Sherman and Grant Avenues petitioned the council to install speed bumps.
The speed bumps, they say, are urgently needed to protect the kiddies from the other bad parents – the ones who race their cars up and down residential streets clogged with children, delivering their own offspring to school or soccer games.
As happens too often, citizen-driven issues before the city council become a matter of “if you don’t do what we ask OUR BABIES WILL DIE,” at which point all reason flees the building, and the council is left with no choice but to go along or face The Mommies’ Curse.

The city council scheduled hearings and discussions on these proposed speed bumps Sept. 20, even though after an hour they admitted that the outcome was preordained. Mayor Bruce Williams observed, “the council has never said ‘no’ to a speed bump.” That remark braked the discussion of alternative traffic calming methods and street slope incline to a screeching halt.
Councilmember Terry Seamens proposed, a touch sarcastically, that future speed-bump votes be put on a consent agenda (which automatically passes).
Approval came even though many councilmembers have misgivings about speed bumps – the wear and tear they inflict on cars, the danger they present to bicycles, scooters, and motorcycles, the higher fuel consumption and emission rates they cause. Councilmember Colleen Clay, for instance, said she is “really opposed to speed bumps.”
Clay prefers other traffic calming methods: chicanes (using curb “bump outs” and alternating parking patterns to create a serpentine traffic path), traffic circles, “flash lighting” intersections (traffic light cameras), and drastically reduced 15 MPH residential street speed limits.
Councilmember Reuben Snipper also advocated chicanes, suggesting that neighborhoods could informally set up their own by agreeing to an alternating parking pattern.
A big concern was the steep incline on Sherman Avenue where a hump would be installed. Public Works director Daryl Braithewaite informed the council that the incline is 18%. City guidelines say that speed humps should not be installed on steep inclines. Advocates of this particular hump waved aside these concerns, citing other humps that have been installed on inclines with no reported problems.
Councilmember Fred Schultz, who test-drove the location, however, objected that the street is “extraordinarily steep.” Not only did he worry that a driver could lose control in bad weather conditions, he said “I don’t see how a speed hump is going to solve any problems” at that location. He said there was “no way” to mount that incline at 50 to 60 MPH, as the petitioners claim happens.
Resident Erwin Mack, who served on a county commission dealing with speed humps and bumps, suggested the city install “speed lumps.” Speed lumps are speed humps with gaps allowing free passage of large emergency vehicles – which have a wider wheelbase than automobiles. The gaps also allow the unimpeded passage of bicycles and other two-wheeled vehicles.
But, the bottom line is, as Clay said of regular speed humps, “citizens like them” and as Mayor Williams admitted, “speed humps work the best.”
The first reading of the two speed hump ordinances was scheduled for the Sept. 26 city council meeting.
Empty Juggernaut
The empty juggernaut that is the Coming of Beer and Wine Off-Sales must be on that 18% incline – with no speed humps in sight. It continues to roll forward, despite a lack of strong citizen interest in the matter one way or the other.
The council, amenable to requests from a few constituents and some in the business community, obligingly set the thing in motion – a series of public hearings, staff research, drafting a set of options, and soon a resolution to ask the state for a change to the local liquor laws.
At the Sept. 20 meeting the council discussed what exactly to ask of the state. The five councilmembers in favor are leaning toward asking for Class B off-sale licenses* and probably Class D licenses,** too. They also want to ask for veto power in case the county grants licenses to a business the city doesn’t like. Councilmember Fred Schultz gave the veto request “a snowball’s chance in heck.”
Councilmember Terry Seamens said he was “absolutely against this.” He said it was “a direction we don’t need to go” that was of “no benefit to the city.”
Councilmember Snipper said he had “wrestled” with the issue, but in the end he saw “not much benefit” as well. So, he said he would oppose the request.
Your Gilbert, whose opposition to this is legendary, notes that none of the proponents have given an answer to the charge that the city will have no (monetary) benefit from beer and wine sales. liquor sales tax revenue will go to the county and state. The city will collect the same property taxes regardless of what business resides there.
The nearest answer we’ve heard is what Mayor Williams said after he expressed a few doubts. The fact that there were so few citizen supporters for either side made him wonder if the issue was worth pursuing. [We give the mayor credit for airing and considering second thoughts]
He decided to make the effort, however because it would expand “possibilities” for local businesses.

– Gilbert
*Beer & Light Wine, Class B, On-Sale, Hotels and Restaurants, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m., Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. for On Sale. Off-Sale, every day from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.
**Beer & Light Wine, Class D, On-Sale Generally,, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m., Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. for On-Sale. Off-sale, every day from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.


About the Author

Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.

2 Comments on "City Enables Bad Parenting"

  1. I just sent this to the council, mayor and city clerk.
    To all concerned:
    I strongly object to the installation of more speed humps in the city. By causing drivers to slow down and speed up again, they cause more pollution (through inefficient engine use) and more wear and tear on cars. I have not seen any studies that show they are truly efficacious in stopping people from being hit by cars. On the contrary, studies I have seen (performed in London and in Boulder, Colo.–reports attached), show that speed humps actually result in more deaths because they slow down emergency vehicles. Sometimes a couple of minutes is crucial when you’ve had a coronary.
    As for the assertion by the proponents (which I read in Gilbert’s column) that “other humps … have been installed on inclines with no reported problems,” that is untrue. I know of an incident a few years back where a school bus driver hit a child crossing Maple Ave. near Pbhiladelphia. It was a rainy day and the driver (through no fault of his own) bumped/hit the girl after slamming on the brakes, and AFTER he went over the speed hump that is marked like a crosswalk. The bus skidded. The kid was all right.
    That incline is not as steep as the one on Sherman.
    BTW, I have first-hand knowledge of the incident because (1) I spoke w/ the driver abt it, as he was my child’s bus driver; (2) I know and spoke w/ the family of the child who was hit, and (3) my own kid was on the bus that hit the other kid and had to sit in the bus for a good 45 minutes while the incident was being investigated. Traumatic all-around; it was just luck, and the driver’s reaction, that prevented anything worse from happening.
    Considering the current fiscal climate, I think it’s irresponsible to approve money for unnecessary, ineffective speed humps. The city needs to begin evaluating issues on the merits, assessing the documented costs and benefits of actions before they are taken.
    Steve Davies
    former co-chair, TFEA
    Friday » November 16 » 2007
    Report takes aim at smog-causing speed bumps
    CMHC calls for changes in street planning to create cleaner, safer neighbourhoods
    Kathryn Young
    CanWest News Service
    Monday, October 29, 2007
    Speed bumps — a Band-Aid solution for bad street planning — not only fuel drivers’ tempers and create noise pollution, they add greenhouse gases to the air we breathe, says a new federal housing agency report.
    When vehicles slow down to approach a speed bump, then speed up, then slow down for another one, they use more gasoline, emitting more carbon and other noxious gases than they would if travelling at a constant speed, said Fanis Grammenos, senior researcher for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.
    CMHC has released a report calling for a fused-grid street layout to avoid the problems in both the winding streets of typical suburbia and traditional grid patterns in city centres. And several Canadian cities are doing just that: Calgary, Regina, Fort McMurray, Alta., and Stratford, Ont. are encouraging new housing developments to include fused-grid streets.
    Traffic calming measures have been introduced in many Canadian cities to deal with problematic street patterns, particularly the grid system, but they also create other issues.
    Speed bumps, speed humps (which are wider bumps), raised intersections, traffic circles, stop signs and other traffic calming measures “increase automobile emissions and noise, reduce air quality and often lead to driver frustration,” the report said.
    As well, nearby pedestrians and cyclists breathe in more pollutants, especially when their breathing rate is elevated. Accelerating from zero to 40 kilometres per hour in four seconds uses 50 per cent more gasoline than in eight seconds, researcher Grammenos said.
    Because grid street patterns were introduced in city centres before cars were a major influence, those neighbourhoods are highly walkable, but they’re noisier, have higher accident rates and promote traffic gridlock, which also intensifies greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants.
    “These grid street patterns are the most land consuming and consequently the least environmentally sustainable,” the report said. Looping suburban streets are safer and quieter, but they discourage walking and cycling because it takes so long to get anywhere.
    The fused-grid street pattern combines the best of both worlds without the disadvantages. Major streets are in a grid pattern, but within each neighbourhood square, the streets are discontinuous — with many cul-de-sacs and T-intersections to reduce traffic and speed — but are connected with footpaths and parks to encourage pedestrians. Overall, there’s less road surface, which the experts say improves rainwater management and ensures quieter, safer neighbourhoods.
    “Learn to design for it,” said Grammenos. “Rather than a Band-Aid solution after the fact, do the right street pattern from the beginning where streets actually force drivers to slow down because there’s no straight-through avenue.”
    But how do we fix older neighbourhoods? “The problem is tough,” Grammenos said.
    Some grid neighbourhoods have tried to emulate the fused grid by installing planters or posts in intersections or the middle of a block to stop cars but let pedestrians and cyclists through. They work, but they divert traffic to other streets that then become noisy thoroughfares.
    © The Vancouver Sun 2007

  2. A year or two ago a neighbor suffered serious face lacerations when she encountered a speed bump on a slope (top of Westmoreland Ave.) and was knocked off her bicycle.
    – Gilbert

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