Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Recent Incident Highlights Speeding Issue

by Robin Gee

Slow down!” is the message Mayor Eric Haas would like all who drive within the city of Fort Thomas to hear. While there are stop signs and speed limits, many people are still driving too fast in city neighborhoods, he said.

Two weeks ago, a car flipped over near the intersection of Holiday Lane and Garden Way, hitting parked cars and sending neighbors into a panic. The driver of the vehicle was okay, and it’s unclear what caused the incident and whether or not speed was involved.


Still, many children live in the area. It was just luck that none of them were hit, said resident Joe Bartoszek. In fact, the vehicle hit his wife’s van, and he said he shuddered to think what would have happened had she been loading their children into it at the time.

RELATED: Car Overturns on Holiday Lane in Fort Thomas

Bartoszek addressed city council at its August meeting to ask what could be done to slow people down at the intersection that sits at the bottom of a long hill.

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"I’ve seen a lot of kids run right across that intersection. I hear pizza delivery guys and others slamming on their breaks as they are just zipping right across there," he said. Due to smaller driveways, he explained, a lot of residents park on both sides of the street, and it would be hard to see a child chasing a ball, for example, until it was too late.

The process

He asked council if there was a process to have the speed in his Summit neighborhood reduced or to add a four-way stop at the corner.

City Administrator Ron Dill explained the process would start with a study by the city engineer of a particular street or section to determine the average speed of cars driven on that street. This would be compared with the Uniform Traffic Control Device Standards from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to determine the need for a stop sign.

Although other streets near the Summit neighborhood have been studied recently,  the engineer certainly could examine that corner, said Dill. The process takes 30 to 60 days.

Bartoszek said he knows in previous studies, the area did not meet the speeding threshold to warrant a stop sign. He asked, if a new study shows the same results, are there other things that could be done? He expressed concern that averages don’t tell the whole story.

"It’s not just the Summit neighborhood," said council member Ken Bowman. "There are several cul-de-sacs here where 25 miles per hour doesn’t really make sense."

He questioned whether the Public Safety Committee could take input from residents on this issue and explore alternatives.

Mayor Haas agreed with residents’ frustrations on this issue. “I used to live at the end of Holiday lane, so I know exactly what you’re talking about. I know how easy it is to fly down that hill,” he said.

Holiday Lane resident Joe Schwerling gave an historical perspective. A stop sign at that corner years ago was removed because people coming down during inclement weather had trouble stopping, and those going up the hill needed to gather momentum. He added that he would like to see a no thru traffic sign that was removed added back to the intersection to help cut down on extraneous traffic.

Just slow down!


Bartoszek said residents have been discussing the issue on social media and wondered if the city could take up a safe driving campaign. The council and police chief agreed that, while this issue is being examined, police patrols will be increased in the area.

"I’m also concerned that we don’t change laws that work for most people because only one or two individuals are abusing that law," said the mayor. "But, I think a part of what needs to happen is an awareness that people just need to slow down when driving through our city."

PHOTO: Joe Bartoszek addressing council. Haas, Melissa Kelly (city clerk), Bowman and Cameron. FTM file. 

4 comments:

  1. A stop sign definitely needs to be added to that intersection. I have seen one to many close calls there. As for inclement weather take a right on garden way and loop around. It may take you one extra minute but there are too many kids back in our neighborhood to NOT make their safety a priority. We are their voice.

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  2. One of the barriers to Council making common sense decisions on the safe interaction of pedestrians, particularly children, and motorists, is that the contracted traffic engineer applies professional standards which discourage the City from taking ANY action to improve public safety, by setting the bar unrealistically high for supposed justification.

    After the death of a 10 year old on a cut-through street near the Midway, (Garrison) in June of 2000, (where driver's disregard the safety of locals - mostly children) I spent a year making visits to Fort Thomas City Council and Council's Public Safety Committee begging for simple measures on our cut-through street, (West Southgate) like speed limit signs, (there were NONE) reducing the implied speed limit of 25 mph, since the City documented that something like 100 cars per day, (out of 700 total per day, on a street with 40 houses) were exceeding the speed limit at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour, and requested that "Children at Play" signs be added and that a public park at the corner of West Southgate and Memorial Parkway be conspicuously marked as a park, in recognition of the probable volume of children coming and going, (not unlike our schools).

    In the case of West Southgate, the City's contracted traffic engineer studied out street during the day, when there are few parked cars obstructing pedestrian and driver visibility, and when there is limited traffic flow. Instead, we begged the City to look at the peak windows of time when traffic was heavy, (such as the morning drop-off at Johnson Elementary and the broader, evening commute from approximately 5PM until approximately 8PM).

    As additional push-back, the Police Chief, (at the time) argued that because of reasonable doubt issues, speeders had to be given a grace violation allowance of at least 5 mph OVER the limit before a citation could reasonably issued. In addition, the Police Chief argued that most accidents are on the main roads, not the cut-through / residential streets, and that they were attributed primarily to driver inattention, rather than exceeding the speed limit. In our opinion, this assertion fails to recognize that the primary risk to pedestrians is on residential side streets, particularly cut-through streets, as evidenced by the death of the 10 year old in 2000.

    Council and Fort Thomas Police FINALLY agreed to help in mitigating the risk on West Southgate. A decade later, residents of West Southgate successfully lobbied Council over this same issue and the City added speed humps to the street.

    Subsequently, a motorist and his grandfather were killed at the intersection of West Southgate and Memorial Parkway. Because Memorial Parkway is designated as a state road, the response from the City / traffic engineer is that the park must still remain unmarked on the Memorial Parkway side, (even though the Middle and High Schools are marked for crosswalks and reduced speed).

    Although the City's contracted traffic engineer can readily note professional protocol for inadequate action or even complete indifference and inaction, Council needs to use common sense to employ the aggressive and practical application of risk management in order to save the lives of Fort Thomas children where they are most at risk: On our City's streets.

    The City needs to take a more active role in public awareness and police enforcement. While having Fort Thomas police chasing speeders on 471 does act in the interest of public safety, protecting the lives of Fort Thomas children while actually in the City of Fort Thomas would be the better use of City resources for the purposes of saving Fort Thomas lives.

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