Traffic calming enrages some

The proposed sidewalk would be on the right-hand side of the street in this photo. Photo by Lyle Kendrick.

BY LYLE KENDRICK

A planned sidewalk would unnecessarily tear down trees, said some Erskine Street residents.

The city also planned the sidewalk without adequately informing them, they said.

Takoma Park is planning to build about 200 feet of sidewalk on the south side of Erskine Street next fiscal year to help make the area safer for pedestrians.

Erskine Street looking east. Proposed sidewalk would be built on the south (right-hand) side only.

Erskine Street looking east. Proposed sidewalk would be built on the south (right-hand) side only.

Many residents don’t find it necessary and the construction would destroy some of the area’s natural features, said Douglas Kirkpatrick, who has lived on Erskine Street for about 25 years.

“Some of these are old growth trees,” he said.

Mixed reviews

Resident Curt Seiss, speaking at the July 15 city council hearing, said the sidewalk has mixed reviews among neighbors and he wants the city to spare the trees they proposed to cut down.

Seiss said there is five feet of space between the road and the trees the city proposed to cut down for the sidewalk during a city council meeting Monday.

But the trees in that zone are city-owned and the city arborist said some of them are unhealthy and have growth issues, said Daryl Braithwaite, director of public works.

The proposed Erskine Street sidewalk would be constructed on the right hand side of the street. Photo by Lyle Kendrick

The proposed Erskine Street sidewalk would be constructed on the right hand side of the street. Photo by Lyle Kendrick

She said the department would follow city requirements for replacing the trees they take down.

Necessary?

In addition to the trees, residents question the sidewalk’s necessity.

Kirkpatrick said only three or four people pass by an hour during peak traffic., which is not enough to warrant a sidewalk

He also said the proposed sidewalk would end abruptly and put people in the street.

The area gets plenty of pedestrian traffic and the only areas that would be impacted are in the public right-of-way zone, said Fred Schultz, Ward 6 councilmember.

The proposed sidewalk would be on the right-hand side of the street in this photo. Photo by Lyle Kendrick.

The proposed sidewalk would be on the right-hand side of the street in this photo. Photo by Lyle Kendrick.

“These sidewalks are not being built on any property that’s private,” he said.

The land beyond the curb of the street curves upward and does not allow anyone to walk on it, Schultz said during the city council meeting Monday.

Last vote

The city council passed the first of two votes authorizing installation of traffic calming on Erskine Street, which will include the sidewalk, Monday. The second and final vote is set for July 22.

During the spring, the city gave out notifications to residents about meetings regarding traffic calming, but did not mention sidewalks in the title, Kirkpatrick said.

Seiss, who moved in about 18 months ago, told the council he did not know that the sidewalk would be a part of the traffic calming discussion when he received the notification.

Kirkpatrick said traffic calming is not a hot button issue and the meetings were not widely attended.

But at least 15 people attended the initial meeting about the traffic calming and the sidewalk, Schultz said.

Calming included sidewalk

RK&K, an engineering firm, presented three different traffic calming options at that meeting.

Each included a sidewalk on Erskine Street, Schultz said.

Course of proposed sidewalk on Erskine Street.

Course of proposed sidewalk on Erskine Street.

During the second meeting, everybody present agreed to the sidewalk and asked to move it to the city council.

“I was simply doing what the residents in the area had asked me to do,” Schultz said.

He said the sidewalk was first proposed to the community more than a year and a half ago but the city council asked the department of public works to delay construction to give the community a chance to look at traffic calming options.

Enough delays?

Neighbors petitioned for a traffic calming review, which caused the city to delay putting in the sidewalk, Braithwaite said.

The city continued to build sidewalks in other areas of Ward 6 last year but did not build on Erskine Street.

Kirkpatrick said during Monday’s city council meeting, city decided to go forward without enabling the residents of Erskine Street a proper vote.

Seiss told the council he wants a vote because his neighbors have mixed feelings towards the proposed sidewalk.

“All the community meetings that have been necessary have been held,” Schultz said.

About the Author

Lyle Kendrick
Lyle Kendrick is a graduate student in journalism at the University of Maryland. He graduated from the University of North Carolina. He has worked for The Daily Tar Heel, an independent student newspaper, and the Cape Argus, a metro in Cape Town, South Africa. He loves movies, American history, national parks and the music of Paul Simon.

7 Comments on "Traffic calming enrages some"

  1. Jason Cheek | July 19, 2013 at 10:33 pm |

    I live on Erskine Street and I am disappointed in the manner in which this piece presents only one side of the issue. I have testified publicly before the City Council in favor of a sidewalk on Erskine, have posted on the neighborhood listserv, and even had comments entered into the public record on the issue. But the Voice didn’t seek to interview me–or any other neighborhood resident who supports a sidewalk–before publishing this article.

    Moreover, the Voice fails to quote or reference statistics from the RK&K engineering study completed earlier this year regarding the number of cars and pedestrians who traverse Erskine on a daily basis. Instead, the Voice quotes a resident who claims that only three or four people walk down Erskine per hour during peak periods. My own observations, as well as the previously-mentioned engineering study, paint a different picture. While I don’t have the study handy, I recall that, in terms of car traffic, Erskine ranks as one of the most-traveled city-owned streets. The study also found that a significant number of pedestrians walk in the street during many hours of the day. When combined with the significant number of pedestrians–which do include children–it’s a dangerous situation. Had the Voice consulted the RK&K study, it would have been able to more accurately describe the true nature of the situation.

    Also,, any claim that the public has not been properly informed about the proposed sidewalk is unfounded. As early as September 2011, Councilman Schultz indicated that sidewalks would be grouped in with any traffic calming discussion on Erskine.

    I hope that in the future, the Voice will live up to its name and be what it purports to be–the voice of all residents, not just certain factions. A good way to demonstrate its commitment to this principle may be to start by delivering the paper to neighborhoods (such as mine) that it writes about.

    • Bill Brown | July 20, 2013 at 8:35 am |

      Sorry you are disapointed with the article. The reporter was assigned, not to write the piece you would have preferred to read about the study and previous testimony, etc., but about issues raised at the most recent city council meeting vote. He had less than a week before the last and final vote next Monday.

      The article sources a number of view points, not just one. There is a counter-point given for every point made by the people opposing the sidewalk.

      The Voice no longer publishes a print edition. The only “home delivery” is via your computer or device. We’re saving money, trees and ink while continuing in a hard economy to bring you community news and information.

      Bill Brown, Managing Editor

      • Jason Cheek | July 20, 2013 at 1:25 pm |

        I appreciate your response, but I must take issue with a few points.

        I never asked or implied that the Voice should write an article that I would want to read; I merely pointed out several flaws in an article which inaccurately depicts the situation on Erskine. The article strongly implies that that the legislation in question is being rammed down the throats of the neighborhood’s residents. This is simply inaccurate. The City did what it needed to do by holding public forums and sending several mailings to residents about the proposed sidewalk. The eleventh hour vocalizations of some neighbors who failed or refused to participate in the well-publicized, multiple public forums and who had adequate notice of the proposal should not derail progress.

        I understand there were time constraints in writing this article. That just a part of journalism. But a quick consultation of the RK&K engineering study could have provided members of the public who may not be aware of the true nature of the situation with a more accurate portrait as to the volume of automobile and pedestrian traffic on Erskine. Instead, the article quotes a resident who claims to have observed only three to four pedestrians on Erskine during peak traffic hours. The same article mentions the RK&K engineering study, but fails to describe its findings. Indeed, it doesn’t appear to me that the study was obtained or consulted in the writing of this article. I’m confident that, had the author asked Councilman Schultz or Ms. Braithwaite for a copy of the study, it would have been provided. In the end, I stand by my original criticism that the article is unbalanced and I continue to find it troubling.

  2. James DiLuigi | July 20, 2013 at 8:19 am |

    As a resident of Hillwood Manor, I was fully informed of and have attended the neighborhood meetings regarding this subject. At the meetings, design options were discussed and the City was totally supportive of and incorporated the concerns raised by the neighbors living on Erskine. In addition, I have received and reviewed email notifications which clearly indicated the sidewalk construction. In addition there have been ample notices regarding the community meetings on this matter. Mr Schultz has provided exceptional service to our neighborhood in addressing this subject. Also, the sidewalk portion of the project was always envisioned. There was 100 percent agreement on the final design by citizens attending the meetings. I am grateful to Mr Schultz and City staff for their efforts and patience in addressing our community concerns. As for the criticisms, I have but one word – UNWARRANTED!

  3. Fred Schultz | July 20, 2013 at 9:14 am |

    Thanks for the article and the photos.. I’d like to emphasize some points important to the residents of Hillwood Manor. The two meetings held in May and June to discuss traffic calming were very well attended. Among those present there was total support for the plan. The traffic calming proposals presented for discussion included the previously approved sidewalk planned for Erskine Street.

    The traffic calming project was petitioned for by residents who obtained the required number of signatures. Every house was visited for this petition. As a result of the petition, the City Council held a public hearing in June 2012 and heard strong support for the traffic calming project and voted to authorize the engineering study.

    The Erskine Street sidewalk component was similarly discussed and approved by Hillwood Manor residents two years ago. It would have been installed in early 2012, but the City agreed to delay installation until traffic calming could be discussed so that both components could be built at the same time.

    Mr. Kirkpatrick’s property is on the other side of Erskine and will not be touched by the project. He is wrong about the volume of pedestrians walking in the street. I counted six in 30 minutes this week in the midst of an almost constant flow of two way traffic on a two lane street. It is an extremely dangerous situation. More pedestrians would walk on Erskine were it not so difficult. No “old growth trees” are going to be removed. Mr. Kirkpatrick expressed his opposition to sidewalks two years ago when the sidewalk discussions were held. The sidewalk plan is not news to him.

    The Seiss family moved into their house after the sidewalk planning was done, and did not know that a sidewalk was planned because the notices they received in the mail only mentioned traffic calming. This is unfortunate. The City’s DPW Director has meet twice with Curt and Danielle Seiss at their home, as have I, and the Director is working on ways to design the location of the sidewalk or the materials used, such as bricks, or raising the sidewalk bed or narrowing its wiidth so as to protect the existing trees.

    The solutions will protects optimize tree protection, provide critical safety to pedestrians and drivers, calm traffic and fulfill the wishes of the almost all the residents in the neighborhood. They’ve waited a long time for this.

    Fred Schultz, Councilmember, Ward 6

  4. Steve Davies | July 23, 2013 at 11:59 am |

    I have no problem with sidewalks, though many people seem to prefer the street. Moms with strollers, joggers, et al., stroll blithely along, often walking with the traffic, not against it, as is recommended.

    I also question use of the word “calming” to describe many of the measures implemented in the city: the traffic circles sprouting on various streets (Ritchie, for example); the “chicanes” or bumpouts, which are simply small patches of earth surrounded by concrete, creating more maintenance issues, and of course, the speed humps on nearly every street of the city. Ride-On buses and schoolbuses. not to mention fire trucks and ambulances, have to slow to a crawl to get over the humps, and the circles (including one on Elm) are in intersections that are too small to accommodate the turning radius required (if I have my geometry terminology right). Of course, the stopping and starting up again, accelerating and decelerating caused by the humps increases the pollution we all have to breathe. (It also slows down emergency vehicles enough to endanger lives, according to various studies that have been done.) Having lived for years in a house with a speed hump in front of it, I also can tell you that there is nothing “calming” about a truck going over a speed hump. The house shakes.

    Frankly, I’d rather see speed cameras on our residential streets, if we’re so worried about speeders. The reality is that when you’re standing next to the road, 25 mph looks really fast. But that, not 5 mph, is the speed limit.

  5. Most folks wouldn’t know an old growth tree if it fell on them. A “tall” tree isn’t necessarily an old growth tree.
    Most of the trees along the street are no older than the neighborhood and the houses here.
    I have a feeling that the folks complaining do not have children and drive their cars rather than walk or ride bikes into the neighborhood.

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