Over the years I have seen a number of improvements made to address speeding around the city. One area remains particularly frustrating for me is Country Club Manor. While there are many locations which are subject to higher than posted speeds, there are 3 roads that are of particular concern because any pedestrian, cyclist, or transit user has to interact, use or cross this road. These roads are 36th Ave West, 7th Street NW, and 3rd street / Manor Park Drive NW. Other places that also experience speeding, but these 3 roads have the highest volume of speeding traffic.
If you are a stakeholder in this neighborhood please consider signing this petition: Change.org petition to address unsafe driving conditions in the Manor
A general rule is that speeding is a serious issue if the 85th percentile speed in 20% higher than the posted speed limit. This has be verified in the Manor and is particularly bad near Judd Park. A family pet was recently killed by a hit and run driver in this location.
City staff is somewhat fatigued after the Elton Hills Dr. discussion showed that there were easy changes we could make to make that roadway safer but neighbors objected. The council ultimately delayed action choosing what was popular with the majority of neighbors over what was safer. I fully expect that staff is not excited to jump into another one of these without some leadership from the Manor Neighborhood Association.
What causes speeding?
The easiest way to prevent speeding is to design roads the right way from the start. In general some things that cause drivers to drive faster all revolve around creating a sense that a road is meant to be driven fast. Some of these signals include extra wide roadways, a lack of boulevard trees, long straight stretches, especially down hills, and the ability to see a long ways. Not surprisingly these conditions are present in the Manor.
West Rochester Bikeway
A few years ago some volunteers and I put together a concept that would have created a series of protected bikeways and simultaneously narrow the width of the streets to slow drivers and reduce crossing lengths. A number of people were opposed to this option and the previous lack of a neighborhood association made it harder to engage concerned neighbors. There is a large cycling population in the Manor area who lack a safe connection to the rest of the City trail system. Here is a link to that concept.
One small piece of progress that was made was that when the County added a signal at 3rd Street NW & West Circle Dr. we modified the plans to create a short connection to the trail on the East side on that intersection. Because of the mixed response I would want to engage the neighborhood before taking any action.
Lower Speed Limits
We recently received state authorization to set our own speed limits which comes with the added benefits of being able to design roadways to a lower expected speed. In most neighborhoods I hope to see the posted speed limit at 25 MPH, with 20 MPH in some urban areas. My personal belief is that no street with frequent driveway accesses should ever be posted at more than 25 MPH.
It is important to not that changing a speed limit is unlikely to change driver behavior by itself. That said the consequences of a speeding ticket at greater than 10 MPH over the posted speed limit is more severe. A person driving 36 MPH in a 30 MPH zone is not likely to get a ticket. That same person going 36 MPH in a 25 or 20 MPH zone will receive a more significant fine & face insurance impacts. 36 MPH in a residential zone is entirely unsafe.
One of the best ways to reduce speeding is to have narrow roads. In general I never want to see neighborhood roads wider than 32′ curb to curb. In the Manor the roads are between 44′ and 48′ and this is a huge issue. A project to narrow streets is a huge financial investment. The planting of street trees helps to create a perception that the road width is narrower. In addition to the costs of pouring 1 or 2 new curbs, there can be additional expenses in adjusting the storm sewers. In the long run it would be my goal to narrow the problem streets in the Manor to 32′ or 36′ feet curb to curb. In the past 10 years we have made significant progress in proactively planting street trees in the Manor.
Additionally as Harriet Bishop gets rebuilt there will be an opportunity to reconstruct 36th Ave infront of the school to be much safer for all users.
Bumped Out Pedestrian Crossing
A step that greatly increase pedestrian safety, but is far less expensive than a full narrowing of a roadway would be to bump out corners to narrow the roads in strategic places. At the actual intersections the actual combined drive lanes can be narrowed to 20′ to 24′. This does cause cars to slow down and makes pedestrians more visible before the step out to cross a street. This can also lead to the need to make significant changes to the storm sewers.
In the Manor area there are some intersection that I would specifically target with these changes. These include:
- 7th Street & Manor Park Drive NW
- 7th Street & 41st Ave NW
- 7th Street & 36th Ave NW
- 3rd Street & Manor Park Dr NW (connecting to Manor Park)
- 3rd Street at Judd Park
- 3rd Street & 36th Ave NW
Speed bumps & speed tables are great in theory and not so great in practice. I have lived near some for many years and they really don’t work and cause other issues. Emergency responders and plow drivers do not like these. Additionally I have seen first hand how some people simply try to “make up time” between the tables. Lastly, these can be really loud and lose effectiveness over time. An additional complication is that speed tables are forbidden on Minnesota State Aid roads by MnDot. The problem roadways in the Manor are State Aid Roads.
Again this is great in theory, but incredibly expensive. Further it does not seem to work over time. Contrary to some peoples’ opinions this isn’t a situation where tickets pay for the activity. The actual revenue to the City from tickets is actually negligible and would not come close to the cost of having an officer out doing enforcement.
Additionally CM Palmer shared a story from our own PD where we measured speeds, did concentrated enforcement where 100 citations were given, and then measured speeds afterwards. There was almost no change in speeds. The issues is that you need to build safe streets, you really can’t enforce your way to it.
Another popular options that really doesn’t do anything. We installed some on Elton Hills Dr. The result is that there is still a huge speeding problem there with the 85th percentile speed more than 20% above the speed limit. In addition 2-9% of drivers go over 40 MPH depending on the location with dozens of drivers going over 50 MPH in a 30 MPH zone. These are an expensive way to accomplish nothing.
Anytime there are going to be big changes, I like to prototype. What this means is that the changes are initially made in a low cost way using inexpensive paint, cones and other similar changes. This gives neighborhoods a chance to experience the changes before the become permanent. Given the lack of consensus in the Manor area I would love to just try some prototyping for a month or so. This also gives engineers the opportunity to see how speeds change given the various steps.