Traffic calming is one of those topics that tends to generate spontaneous reactions. I’ve found that there is no middle ground for opinions when you’re talking speed bumps, humps and tables — you’re either a fan of traffic calming or you hate it. I suppose there are those who could care less but that’s just because they don’t live near them or drive over them so it’s the old out of sight, out of mind, don’t care sort of thing for them. But for those that have to drive over, around or stop because of traffic calming measures they seem to develop very specific opinions about them which they are usually quite good at expressing to their City Manager.
The thing is speed bumps and humps are designed to be annoying, that’s the whole point. So it’s really no surprise that they annoy people; mission accomplished. In the good old days neighborhoods had white picket fences and quiet tree lined streets but Norman Rockwell’s Kent now has a lot more people with a lot more cars buzzing around trying to get to school, to work, to shop, to the doctor — you get the drift. And being an efficient minded lot, we seek the shortest distance between where we are and we are going which often takes us through those old nice quiet neighborhoods with tree lined streets. Hence the interest in traffic calming — make the neighborhoods so annoying that most people won’t want to drive through.
A lot of cities jumped on the traffic calming bandwagon because it was the trendy sort of thing to do over the last 10 years. Somewhere it must have been written that in order to be considered a progressive city you had to have at least 5 speed humps strategically placed around town. I won’t say those humps had no purpose but it seemed to me that too many bumps and humps were installed in areas where their credentials were stretched. I think that contributed to a bit of a credibility crisis which is too bad because they definitely have their merit under the right circumstances.
There are a number of neighborhoods in Kent right now that have had some minor traffic calming measures put in place, e.g., new stop signs, and there are some neighborhoods that are studying much more significant changes, e.g., Crain Avenue. For that matter, the Crain/Fairchild Avenue Bridge replacement is in part driven by the need to restore the sense of neighborhood along Crain Avenue that has been wrestling with increased traffic for years.
I know cities can be accused of moving glacially slow sometimes but traffic calming is actually one area where haste really can make waste — and worse than that when it comes to traffic calming you have to be careful what you wish for. Many cities pulled the trigger too quick and saw conditions get worse in neighborhoods. Traffic calming measures are expensive enough to install but then when you have to go back and tear them out the dollars and taxpayer frustration add up in a hurry.
Kent Planning and Public Service Departments have staff that will go out into the neighborhoods, listen to traffic concerns and work with neighborhood associations to come up with solutions. I always encourage a slow and steady course on these matters. Try something small and watch to see how traffic responds.
And if that fails, I received an email of the latest European Traffic Calming measure. It’s a video of it in action and I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before I get an official request for the City to buy one. You can say you saw it here first.