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March 20, 2000
Last week, I received a letter from Brian Kanely, of the City's Public Works Department, proposing to add three new speed humps on SW 38th Street between the entrance to our subdivision and SW 6th Place. Included in the letter was a ballot for approving the plan or not. I strongly urge you to consider the consequences of approving yet more speed humps added to our neighborhood. Realizing that speeding is dangerous and should not be tolerated in our neighborhood is one thing. Disrupting traffic and increasing wear on all our vehicles is another. After researching speed humps on the Internet, I've also come to realize that emergency services people are almost universally opposed to them because they've caused debilitating injuries to firemen & paramedics, cause documented damage to emergency vehicles and delay vital life saving help from reaching us in time. I believe there is another option which is far less drastic than adding more speed humps.
I would propose that a much better solution would be to have the police department assign a car to ticket speeding motorists on 38th Street at peak driving times and as often as necessary to insure that the speed limit is enforced. That way, the few people who are really speeding will pay the price without disrupting transportation for the rest of us. I believe that is much more fair and reasonable than ruining a perfectly good street for the sake a a few bad apples. Actually, considering how few times I've ever actually seen a police car in our neighborhood, I would welcome a little more presence from them. In the six years that I've lived in this neighborhood, I've seen exactly one police car attempting to stop speeders on 38th street. That was about 2 years ago. I remember it well because I thought at the time how unusual it was to see them here. I observed the car off and on for about two hours until they left. They never did ticket anyone, at least from the time that I first observed them to the time that they got bored and departed. If we could persuade GPD to spend a little more time here during peak driving hours, the incidence of dangerous speeding would undoubtedly take a dramatic fall.
Having seen the cars in the Duckpond neighborhood going over speed humps, I have noticed that many long wheel based cars (most sports vehicles) cannot get over the speed humps, at any speed, without dragging their undercarriages. In my own case, when riding with two people in my sports car, I have to slow down to approximately 3 mph to clear the speed humps on SW 2nd Ave. Any faster than that & my car hits the top of the hump. I find that unacceptable on a road that was supposed to have a 25 mph speed limit. Incidently, the DOT says that 25mph is the slowest speed limit that the City can impose on residential streets. While there's no clearance problem with my truck, it is an unpleasant experience to travel over those bumps, even at 15 mph. My mechanic assures me that, despite Mr. Kanely's assertions that speed humps are not designed to damage vehicles, they indeed do increase the front end maintenance and shorten the life of the suspension and steering parts. In the Duckpond area, several residents believe that their vehicles now have leaking windshields as a result of the torque stresses from negotiating the humps. Those of you who received the letter may have noticed that Mr. Kanely very carefully avoids saying that the speed humps will not damage your vehicle with a rather misleading statement that the humps are not intended to damage cars. Who cares what they are intended to do? Common sense indicates that they can't be good for your car.
I've also discovered that speed humps increase automobile pollution by 50% when compared to unobstructed driving. As one would also expect, fuel economy also suffers proportionately. While this is probably no big deal for a single car, it really adds up when multiplied by a thousand or more trips every day. The speed hump problem is so severe that the federal government recently pulled its funding for the city of Portland, Maine's traffic calming program.
Perhaps, the biggest problem with speed humps on 38th Street is that with them now on 2nd Place and on University Avenue, the last unobstructed road for emergency vehicles into our large neighborhood is via 38th Street. The City's own rules bar speed humps on major emergency vehicle routes. I'm not sure what other route Mr. Kanely might have in mind for emergency vehicles, but if I had a serious internal injury or just a broken arm, I sure wouldn't want to be going over those speed humps in an ambulance. Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is the most frequent emergency call in the US and one of our biggest killers. The survival rate for persons with SCA is very dependent upon how fast help arrives. If the help arrives within two minutes, the survival rate is over 80%, but goes down drastically for each additional minute of delay. Each speed bump adds 10 to 15 seconds to the rescuers' response time, so if they have to negotiate three or four speed humps enroute to your house, it adds the better part of a minute to your rescue. We are fortunate to have paramedics situated almost at the entrance to our neighborhood. Unfortunately, what was a two minute response time will now be 25% to 50% longer. While researching newspaper articles about speed humps on the Internet, I found many accounts of both citizens and emergency workers who have been injured or killed as a direct result of speed humps. In some communities, the fire departments are suing to have them removed from the streets. Several other cities, including one in Florida, have also been successfully sued by citizens for property damage and loss of life caused by delaying emergency services.
Our neighborhood has stood here for almost 40 years. Never before has it been necessary to ruin our roads and damage our vehicles with speed humps. Why now? Some of you may have observed that, in the past few years, our City Commission and associated staff have developed an increasingly adversarial relationship to private vehicles here. Their stated goal is to encourage us all to stop using our personal transportation and ride the troubled RTS bus system. The reasons are purely financial. If we ride the bus, we help keep the line from going broke. Also, the city won't have to spend as much on road improvements. Thus, when an opportunity to choke off traffic in an area presents itself, they are all too anxious to oblige. If there's any purpose for speed humps, it certainly shouldn't be to advance the financial interests of our local government at our expense.
Finally, I'd encourage everyone to drive along SW 2nd Place or University Avenue this week. Ask yourself if you want to travel over three speed humps on your way in and out of the neighborhood every day for the rest of your life. If we decide that other means are not working, we can always ask the City to install the speed humps later but, remember, once the speed humps are in, we'll never get rid of them. If you're not sure whether or not speed humps are a good idea, please vote no until you have made up your mind. Let's try some more common sense solutions, like making the speeders pay, before we take another drastic action that will adversely impact almost all of us. If you did not get a voting ballot and you live in the neighborhood, call Brian Kanely's office at the City's Public Works Department to voice your concerns or you may write to his office before March 30, 2000 at: City of Gainesville , Public Works Department - Transportation Services Division, MS 58, P.O. Box 490, Gainesville, Florida 32602
I hope that this letter does not offend anyone. I certainly agree with those of you who want to keep our neighborhood safe for ourselves and our children but, I feel very strongly that this should not be done without very serious consideration. If the City would consider some other, less destructive measures for traffic calming, I'd be in favor of trying them. There are many effective alternatives to speed humps which do not damage vehicles or pollute our roads with ugly mounds of asphault. They just cost a little more, so the City is less inclined to use them. I realize that this is a very emotional issue for some folks. Some long time residents know that a dozen years ago, a young bicyclist was killed on 38th Street by a passing car. There are those who remember that incident and believe that makes 38th Street too dangerous not to have speed humps. In response, I'd have to say that this is the only incident that I know of on 38th Street. One isolated accident that happened 12 years ago does not provide enough statistical evidence to suggest that 38th isn't safe. Our neighborhood's been here 40 years. Who's to say that it won't be another 20 years before another such accident might happen? If anyone knows of other, more recent injuries on 38th Street, I would like to know about them.
Have the residents ever banded together
to ask the city to place some selective traffic enforcement patrols here?
I will welcome any thoughts that you all may have on this matter and will
promise, as time permits, to post every message I receive on the subject
whether for or against them during the next week. You can find
this web page at http://www.afn.org/~afn61094
. I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you do send a comment to be posted, please include your name and what
street you live on. Also, please include a line saying that it's
okay to post your message, otherwise your comments will be treated as private.
SW 3rd Place
A Concerned Neighbor
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