Monday, November 30, 2015

OP-ED: Time to Revisit Speed Limits in Fort Thomas


By Scott Johnson
There has been a myopic vision of long-standing, (former) City officials, as well as a problem with the excessive turnover on Council, as it pertains to public pedestrian safety on our residential side streets. 

Having been a crusader on this subject 15 years ago after 10 year old Stevie Schroder was a victim of vehicular homicide by a careless motorist on Garrison, a cut through street, I spent countless hours over a year with Council and its Public Safety Committee just trying to get simple speed limit and Children at Play signs on West Southgate, a cut through street which had no signs. Our premise was that the public awareness campaign of adequate signage, along with stepped up side street Police patrols, would improve the situation, although it would not eliminate the risk altogether.

Unlike the current Stealthstat, (monitor strapped to phone pole) study on Trinity, we did have something like 10% of traffic, over 100 cars, driving over the posted limit of  25, some up to 35 - 40 mph!  Also frustrating at the time, the then Police Administration informed us that because of reasonable doubt issues, they really had to allow 10mph over the limit, or 35 mph on a residential side street.  So we persuaded the City to drop the limit to 20 mph, hoping for a reality of keeping it under 30 mph.


Based on this experience, I can tell you that when the traffic engineer does his study on Trinity at some low-volume time of day, he will find no problem or safety risk according to textbook standards.  Despite this pending traffic engineer smack down, common sense observation during peak times will demand that residential side streets carry a 20 mph limit.  It's called applied risk management and simple regard for human life, especially that of children.

Mr. Bowman would not know about the educational year-long dialogue with then Councilman Jim Doepker's Public Safety Committee, (that the City had large pockets without signs) but Councilman Peterman and Mayor Haas were present.   Been there.  Done that. Disregard for public safety, particularly that of children, is a Fort Thomas fact of life.

As for former Mayor Brown's comment that pedestrian safety, particularly that of children, is not the City's "table", but purely a parent responsibility, this comment is symptomatic of how myopic, cold and irresponsible we have been on this issue.  Of course kids should not play in the street, but name me the parent that can or should hover over children 100% of the time, especially when playing in one our picturesque Fort Thomas neighbors?  Besides, should children be able to safely cross the street without a motorist, who has reduced their critical reaction time and visibility by driving too fast for the conditions, (i.e. "Children at Play") risk or take their life because they were behaving as a kid?  Are we really trying to defend vehicular homicide by putting public safety strictly onto parents, giving both motorists and the City a pass?

The solution is to post 20 mph on ALL residential side streets, along with Children at Play signs, while our having our Police engage in risk management by patrolling high child mortality risk side streets, instead of low risk roads like Memorial Pky and I-471.

Scott Johnson. Provided. 

18 comments:

  1. Crosswalks throughout town need to be better illuminated at night and during school hours. I like how Bellevue has the crosswalk sign in the middle of the crosswalk at busy times. I don't know how many times I've stopped for someone in the crosswalk only to have the person behind speed around in the other lane on North or South Fort Thomas.

    The former mayor's comment was really awful and insensitive. Of course parents should watch their kids, but not everyone has a larger front and backyard such as Ms. Brown and kids often play in cul-de-sacs. Even playing in their own front yards, I often see kids run out into the street after a ball. Reducing the speed limit to 20 shouldn't be that big of a deal for people who care about kids.

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    1. I agree. The city is poorly illuminated, particularly around the high school where cars are parked on both sides of the road blocking visibility to those on sidewalks. Regarding the speed issue, council needs to stop wasting our money on traffic studies just to address speed issues. Put the money towards switching out the posted speed signs to 20 mph. I am not sure why this is even an issue. I don't foresee residents showing up at council meetings complaining about reduced speed limits.

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  2. I completely agree. I was just thinking about this topic after having read the book "Walkable City" by Jeff Speck. Our town is a great walkable community, but there are things that we could still improve and reducing the speed limit on side streets is one of them. Ours is a small town and the speed limit has little impact on how long it takes to get from one place to another. In addition to reducing the speed limit on side streets, I think reducing the width and speed of Grand Avenue and Alexandria Pike should also be considered.

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  3. They should also consider reducing the speed limit during school hours through school zones.

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  4. I live on Highland Ave. I do see police running radar, but people still speed up and down and zoom past when I am on my balcony or looking out the window while on my computer. I am still wondering how the accident happened where a woman flipped her car over on Highland at the end of the bridge????? I see the police trying, but people still speed in the city.

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  5. I disagree with "patrolling low risk roads" like Memorial Pkwy and 4-71. That is where the drug users shoot up as they are driving, especially 4-71N. I am thankful for the police patrolling that area especially. I agree there needs to be a reduction in the speed limit or patrols during high traffic times near and around busier times. Also, the crossing guard at Memorial and N. Ft. Thomas Ave, needs to control the traffic at all times, not just when someone needs to use the crosswalk. It's much smoother when he works that intersection.

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  6. Cell phones and texting beat the speed limit by far, next time you cruise the blvd. check out the non-drivers on their phones.Outlaw the usage while driving in town and watch the speeds lower...who is more important the phone or the children?

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  7. I am reading some of these comments and I can't believe that there are people who want the police to baby sit their streets so their kids can play outside in the street safely for one. First of all the police are here to protect and serve, that is their job. They are busy patrolling all the streets including 471, Grand, Highland and all major roads as part of the job. 2nd. The speed limits on all the roads are just fine, it's the driver's who don't follow them. Why punish the law abiding citizens? And last to the idiot who thinks that George the moron crossing guard at Memorial and N. Ft. Thomas should be there all the time, the rest of North Ft. Thomas and anyone who drops their kid off at Highlands would like to hang you. We hate him and wish he would go away. He does more harm than good and things run better when he's NOT there. Try dropping your kid off at the high school at 8:45 coming from Johnson, your kid will be late for school every time. As for reducing the speed limit during school hours, if you did your research you would know that the do do that at every school except for the middle and high school and that they can not reduce the speed any further because it is a state highway and it is reduced as far as it can be at 25. Do yo u r research before commenting.

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  8. This is something that I also feel strongly about, and look forward to helping to change in the near future. We have been too quick to dismiss the issue. Common sense needs to come into play as well as traffic studies. I can't imagine residents not being in favor of speed reductions where children are at risk.

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  9. I look forward to bringing about change on this issue. We have been too quick to dismiss it when it has come up in the past. I can not imagine residents not wanting speed reductions and better signage where children are at risk. I'm happy to see this op ed and the comments that follow.

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  10. Oh geez. We've got one of these Speed Nazis on our street. I've actually been yelled at for going under the speed limit several times. Maybe we should just get rid of cars in Ft Thomas and everyone drive around in Golf Carts with big fluffy foam bumpers on them. Come on, have you ever driven 20 mph anywhere? Let me give you a clue Scott, no one will drive that slow. I pretty regularly drive down Covert Run on my way to The Party Source and the speed limit is 20 mph in the Bellevue section. Not sure why it's that slow, I've never see any kids. But anyway, try driving the speed limit through there, it's ridiculously, even painfully slow. If you want to campaign for something, how about a campaign telling parents to teach their kids that the streets of Ft Thomas aren't a playground, they're for vehicle traffic. Scott, there's a reason your campaign hasn't gotten any traction, it's a terrible idea. Find something else to worry about.

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  11. It all boils down to common sense. Yes, signage, and patrolling will help those speed limits already in place, but we also need to teach our children public street safety, and monitor our children regularly. No amount of legislation will ensure common sense! And hey, people, there's no need to get nasty when others offer their opinions!

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  12. Kids on West Southgate treat the street like a personal playground.

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    1. Agreed! I've stopped several times to tell the boys at the top of the street to watch before they run into the street between parked cars.

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  13. If I am reading the article correctly, the call is for 20 mph on residential side streets. Highland avenue is not a residential side street. In fact, any street with double yellow lines is not a residential side street. Those are called thoroughfares. Kids do not play on thoroughfares, such as Highland avenue. They play on side streets and cul-de-sacs. Remember, kick the can? Hide and go seek? Learning to ride a bike? Yes parents keep an eye on their children but there is more freedom on side streets and a belief that drivers are equally aware or should be aware that "children are at play". Hence, the signage. For those of us that live on those tiny, crowded streets excessive speed is a problem, whether its UPS, pizza delivery, or non-residents trying to find parking for a football game. The eye test should be enough to make a change to 20 mph. Even if it just slows a couple of drivers it will be worth it.

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  14. Thank you, Scott, for bringing this up. I agree that the speeding issue in Fort Thomas needs to be addressed - and SOON!

    Whenever I am driving in town, especially on Highland Ave; or either North or South Fort Thomas Aves, I am honked at, given the "special finger salute," for driving the posted speed limit. I've even had cars drive around me (illegally!) while stopped for children crossing!

    I agree that we SHOULD have police do more ticketing of people driving over the speed limit. It is unsafe, & destroys our peaceful neighborhood feeling. All these speeders need to get some time management skills, so they do not need to speed in the first place.
    SLOW DOWN

    Additionally, I'd love to see everyone put down their stupid phone. Handsfree, people! Do drive distracted; it isn't worth it.

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  15. The overwhelming support of the feedback here and on FACEBOOK clearly indicates that most people get it, but it's the selfish, myopic 10%...There's one in every crowd. It is not all one issue. Catching drunk / drugged drivers before they get to town on 471, Memorial, Grand, etc at night is a public service. Failing to patrol cut through streets like West Southfate, Tremont, Klainecrest, Summit, Hollywood, Pentlandite, etc is a sin of omission. Nobody is asking that you babysit their child. But as a town where kids drive the great schools, property values and where residents are generally better educated, we are asking you, the grown ups, to exercise judgment, to apply risk management for those random times when a kid might be a kid and have a momentary lapse. Is that too much to ask, or are you trotting out your complicity in sentencing the death penalty for being a kid? I agree that major routes are artificially low, not frequented by pedestrians and the artificially low limit and patrols are more of a nuisance than the solution there. The driver and pedestrian inattention part and the poor lighting in the high risk areas like INVERNESS, around Highlands, Highland Avenue, the Midway should also be target areas for illuminated crosswalks and generally better lighting. VBtw, my campaign did not fail. I lobbied an oblivious Mayor 15 years ago and eventually improved my street at the time, West Southgate, from which my kids fortunately survived. The bottom line is than on cut throughs 20 mph is reasonable. On arteries, 25 is ridiculous and 35-40 us more appropriate for conditions. Unfortunately, our oast has been a one size fits all approach of 25 mph, if there are signs at all. My final point is that proceeding with a little more caution when needed, taking a little care for a pedestrian life, is not too much to ask, especially from one who would apply a deeper caring and higher standard to a fetus than a pedestrian.

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  16. I remember when I first moved to Ft. Thomas and started meeting my neighbors. One of the first things mentioned was "have you been yelled at by..." for speeding. Sure enough, one night coming home from work there he was standing in his front yard yelling "slow down!"
    It wasn't Scott, this is the first I've heard of him, but it seems there are plenty like him around. I remember a couple of years ago that some neighbors banded together and got speed bumps installed on their street, and it ultimately affected property values. Where does it end? It seems like there are certain people that make the speed limit their calling. Is there really that much of a problem that we have to inconvenience everyone with a 20 mph speed limit? Seriously? Have there been any studies done? Statistics avialable? Are people getting hit by cars? Are children being maimed? Ultimately, is a number on a sign going to change anything? How much will it cost taxpayers to change that number throughout the city? Will people even honor it? I think there are more important things to be worried about..

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