US/NC/Durham/neighborhoods/Pinecrest Road/speed humps

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This page is about the issue of getting (or preventing) speed humps on Pinecrest Road.

Introduction

Whenever discussion takes place, a clear majority of those present seem to favor speed humps, but apparently there is one minority who are quite deadset against them and another minority who are simply unsupportive of the idea.

From discussion thus far, the proponents of speed humps are not talking about the 1970s-style "short, sharp shock" round bump 1-2 feet wide, of the sort often found in older shopping centers such as Lakewood and which tend to punish you for going over them at any speed, but of the newer gradual-rise-and-plateau style (I believe one city official stated that the rise, plateau, and fall were each 8 feet) which only "punish" at speeds above 15-25 MPH.

(new 2006-11-19) Some detailed background history is now available: Nightmare on Pinecrest

Status

2005-10-28: The following information emerged from the firehouse meeting on 10/27, as remembered by my questionable memory; listen to the audio recordings posted in the parking ban page in order to hear what was actually said.

Funding is not an obstacle at the present time; if a petition is signed and the street is approved for hump installation, then Pinecrest would simply be added to the list to be taken care of at the next round of hump installation, which happens once or twice a year.

However, the city wanted to take the process in a particular order so as to avoid misunderstandings. In the past, apparently, residents (on other streets, I presume) have signed petitions, been qualified and received approval, and had the paving equipment show up -- only to be met by an angry resident saying "oh no, you're not putting a hump there!, or even by a lawyer challenging the city's right to install humps on the street at all.

The city's current methodology, then, is:

  • "qualify" the street, i.e. measure traffic flow and determine if the x-MPH-over-the-limit criterion is met (I seem to recall that it was something like "the 85th percentile speed must be at least 7 MPH over the posted speed limit")
  • draw up a detailed plan showing exactly where the speed bumps will be, so that alternative positioning can be worked out in the event that anyone has a problem with the proposed location
  • and finally, give the go-ahead for circulation of a petition, with the understanding that the petitioners are agreeing to the detailed plan worked out in the previous step

As part of the discussion over the proposed parking ban, the City of Durham began collecting traffic data for Pinecrest Road a week or two ago. Apparently the average speeds were sufficiently above the posted speed of 25 MPH to qualify Pinecrest Road for speed humps, so the "qualify" step has now been done.

To the best of my recollection, it was implied but not stated that plans for proposed hump location would be drawn up. I'm not sure if someone in the neighborhood is checking on this. In any case, that is where the "ball" is at present.

Missing Data

  • Do we have pictures of the current speed hump prototype? It's hard to say "well I think they look fine!" without being sure what we'd actually be looking at...
  • Does anyone have experience living near a speed hump of the type the city would be installing (or of any kind at all), so as to evaluate how they affect the noise level?

Arguments

Favorable

In general, the favorable arguments are concerned with slowing down and reducing through traffic, with safety of children and pets as a prime concern.

Unfavorable

  • factual issues
    • they slow down access for emergency vehicles (see DFD Traffic Issues Criteria for some specifics)
    • they cause irritating repeated sounds of acceleration (and sometimes braking, when commuters are particularly obnoxious) in the general vicinity of each hump
    • they cause gradual damage to cars (especially those of residents who will go over them more than transients.)
    • Pinecrest Road has house with large yards and has sidewalks on both sides of the street, both of which mitigate the need for speed humps.
    • Pinecrest Road has extremely light traffic with most of the traffic being generated by residents themselves.
  • unsubstantiated issues (possibly true, but we need data)
    • they reduce property values
    • they encourage kids to play on the humps & in the road
  • subjective and non-substantiated issues
    • they are ugly
    • they reduce the charm of the neighborhood

Counterpoints to Unfavorable points

  • Factual issues
    • slowing down access: conceded; they do, however, increase overall safety by making it less likely that children and pets will get run over in the first place. We would rather build guardrails at the top of the cliff than buy more ambulances to service those who fall off.
      • Anonymous user adds: We raised children on this street and never had problems with traffic. You can live in a bubble if you want to and avoid all risks, including those that do not exist. My parents had a motto that they often quoted to me: "Of all the troubles great and small, the greatest are those that don't happen at all."
        • Woozle replies: how long ago was this? My impression is that the traffic has inevitably increased significantly, as both Durham and Duke have been expanding dramatically in the past few years. Also, as far as slowing down access, the DFD Traffic Issues Criteria says that each speed bump costs about 8 seconds, for a maximum of (I think) 40 seconds. I will concede that this can make a life-or-death difference, but only under very particular circumstances; I would counter-argue (again) that the reduction in overall speed will lead to fewer accidents in the first place – I think we all agree that "those that don't happen at all" are the best accidents to have.
    • irritating sounds: does anyone have personal experience with this? Also, I'd rather hear that sort of irritating sound than the irritating sound of someone cutting through with their pedal to the metal, which does happen regularly.
      • Anonymous user adds: It happens "regularly?" There are few cars, if any, speeding through Pinecrest in a petal to the metal mode. ... And wait until you have the speed humps when cars speed up and slow down as they approach and leave speed humps.
        • Woozle replies: Sandy (who spends the most time out on the sidewalk with Josh and is livid about the speeding) agrees that the noise isn't really an issue with the speeders; it's more, well, the sheer speed. But that point is addressed elsewhere. (It should probably be noted that our house is right near where the City measured the highest average speeds; your mileage may vary depending on your location in the block...)
    • gradual damage to cars: probably less damage than the pits in most roads around here cause. Is this a serious point? Does anyone seriously think they can avoid speed humps altogether? (The speed bumps we go over at CFS twice a day are much worse than the speed humps we're trying to get for Pinecrest, which are expected to be more like the ones on Swift Ave. and Cranford.)
      • Anonymous responds: A specious argument. What you do outside is not relevant. These are humps that we residents have to traverse EVERY time we come and go on our street. Shocks or struts are engineered for a limited number of shocks.
        • Woozle replies: "not relevant" how? We have to go over those speed humps at CFS every day of the week, not to mention the bad paving between here and many other parts of town. The proposed speed humps will be trivial by comparison, if we're talking about car damage. (And I speak as someone who can ill afford extra car repairs; I really don't think they will have an adverse effect on any of our cars.)
    • large yards and sidewalks: This, unfortunately, does nothing to stop children and pets from going into the street.
      • Anonymous responds: But realistically, the number of pets and children that I see on the road is vanishingly small. I have difficulty remembering seeing children playing on the street. We have leash laws for pets and our children never played on the street. They had no need.
        • Woozle replies: There's a reason there are so few, and that reason is that the street isn't safe. I do see plenty of kids going up and down the street, but they generally stick to the sidewalk and are rarely unsupervised (I sometimes see older kids without any adults). Unfortunately, younger kids (and autistic kids) and pets can't be trusted to do this, and have to be kept inside – where you will never see them – in order to keep them safe, or supervised by adults. (Should I tell the story about Josh wandering out into the middle of the street, after months or years of being perfectly reliable about staying near the house?)
    • extremely light traffic: This is just untrue, especially at certain times of day. Most of the traffic coming by in the morning, when at least one autistic child is waiting on the curb for his bus, is both non-local and well over the speed limit.
      • Anonymous responds: Good policy is not made to deal with the exception. Traffic on this block is generally light and even during rush hour, it is not heavy. As a taxpayer, I object to spending public money for something that is not needed.
        • Woozle responds: The first part of this argues by simply contradicting me (me: it's busy at certain hours; you: traffic is light even at rush hour) and the other part is a circular argument – you object to the humps on the basis that they are not needed, which is what we are discussing.
  • Aesthetic issues (difficult to debate, but here are some points to consider):
    • ugly: It is generally agreed even by pro-humpers that early attempts were definitely ugly. ("The first humps the city installed were garishly painted, and each was accompanied by signs on each side that said HUMP. The signs were rumored to be prized by teenaged vandals, who enjoyed the sexy overtones of the word.", says one Pinecrest resident). Newer speed humps are much more subdued, however, and arguably aesthetically pleasing – but "still ugly" according to some.
      • Response: They look fine to me; they give a street a nice homey feel because they help the neighborhood to be more connected instead of split down the middle by a river of cars. --Woozle 18:09, 7 November 2007 (EST)
    • reduce the neighborhood's charm: this is also purely an aesthetic consideration, and arguably wrong (see "ugly", above). The humps certainly are un-charming in much the same way as a fence around one's house; on the other hand, they help to preserve that same charm by reducing commuter traffic and (a minor point) possibly slowing down "getaway" vehicles in the event of a crime (or alternatively drawing attention to such vehicles if they don't slow down for the speed humps).
      • counter-counterpoints: (This is really a minor point to be haggling about, but the counterarguments seemed to me quite specious and arbitrary, so I had to respond...) (Anonymous says: I could say the same about your arguments, so let me respond.) (Woozle says: nobody is stopping you. I am a great believer in letting all points of view be heard, especially if I don't agree with them.)
        • Anonymous responded: I have not seen a speed hump that is aesthetically pleasing. On the other hand, I have seen fences that are aesthetically pleasing.
          • Woozle replied: This remains an aesthetic point. You don't like the way they look; the pro-hump contingent either do like it, or find them sufficiently non-objectionable to be worth the ugliness. There's no point in discussing this further unless new data comes to light, e.g. actual pictures of the proposed humps.
        • Getaway vehicles are unlikely to slow down for speed humps: this seems very unlikely to me; if they don't slow down, they will either go flying in the air or at least make loud noises as their undersides scrape against the hump.
          • Anonymous responded: I do not think that I have noticed many get-away vehicles on this block which indicates to me that you want to spend public money for a problem that does not exist.
            • Woozle replied: I believe the phrase "getaway vehicles" was being used (by myself and others) to refer to any vehicle used by criminals to leave the scene after committing a crime – and we have certainly had plenty of those. The fact that they have been largely unobserved is a problem, one which (I argue) humps will help to address, however slightly.
        • There is so little traffic on Pinecrest that a getaway car would be identified in any case. How so? I'm not sure what time of day you're looking at, but in the mornings and afternoons the traffic is quite regular – maybe 1-3 cars per minute, mostly cut-throughs going in excess of the posted speed limit. This might not have much effect on cars doing drive-by pumpkin bombing in the middle of the night, it's true.
          • Anonymous responded: If this is really and heavy traffic period, it would seem that this hypothetical get-away car would be slowed down by the other cars.
            • Woozle replied: Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, for our sanity), it is mainly "heavy" in the sense of being fast and frequent. We do not actually have regular traffic jams on Pinecrest.
          • Anonymous continued: The speed limit on this block is 25 miles per hour. However, until fairly recently, it was 35 and only reduced to 25 when residents requested the city to reduce it. The city did not think that 35 was unsafe. There are very few cars, even during rush hour, that exceed 35 and many observe the 25 limit. Perhaps they are the residents!
          I have not counted the number of cars per minute during rush hour so I cannot confirm or refute that rate. Even if that rate is correct, it is still light traffic and does not continue through the day. The fact is that the horrendous traffic that residents who are in favor of speed humps claim simply does not exist.
          • Woozle replied: The city measured average speeds on the street, and found it far enough above the limit to justify speed humps. Perhaps the city has set that limit too low? This is an arguable point, at least... but in that case it is the city you should be arguing with, because obviously the pro-hump folks are happy that the hump qualification limit was set as low as it was.
  • unsubstantiated points
    • property values: it seems to me that "property values" should be pretty low priority as far as this kind of decision goes; it's more important how we, the current residents, feel about it than it is how prospective buyers might feel about it. We all want the neighborhood to remain a pleasant, desirable place to live, and that is what is primarily driving people's opinions on this issue. Even if property values were a prime consideration, we have no reason to think that speed humps would in fact decrease such values. They may even have a positive effect on property values by making the neighborhood feel safer and more cozy and even a bit "gated community"ish (which may have its own positive and negative aspects, but surely cannot be said to drive property values down). However, we definitely lack hard data on this issue.
      • Response: Though it may be difficult to quantify the effect on property values, I know that I would not buy a house on a street where there are speed humps because it signals to me that thee are traffic problems on that street. Even if a minority of potential buyers feel that way, the fewer bids offered would reduce that ability to sell a home or would reduce its property value.
        • Counter-Response: I would think that the speed humps would signal that there had been traffic problems, and that a responsive neighborhood group was able to take action towards solving that problem (even if the speed humps weren't the solution), thus signalling the presence of an active and vibrant community – surely something most home-buyers would be looking for.
          • Anonymous responded: I would certainly not look at speed humps and conclude that the "neighborhood group was able to take action towards solving the problem." Speed humps do not do away with the problem. Speed humps signal prospective buyers that there is a problem on the street. Some, like you, may not be concerned. But some will be concerned. Even if a minority of prospective buyers agree with me and not buy on a street that has painted lines or speed humps, that would reduce the number of bids offered. Even as a long term resident, I am concerned about that. Were I buying, I would just cross the street off my list.
            • Woozle replied: I wasn't so much saying that they (the hypothetical neighborhood group in my argument) did solve the problem, but more that the group existed, was responsive to the problem, and took action. But in any case... without data on speed humps vs. property values, we can't really argue this point sensibly one way or the other, aside from me saying "I don't think it will affect property values and anyway that shouldn't matter as much as safety" and you saying "yes, it will lower the property values and that matters a great deal to me" (I hope I am accurately stating your point-of-view on this).
          • Anonymous continued: You say that "it's more important how we, the current residents, feel about it than it is how prospective buyers might feel about it." As a present resident and potential seller, I am very concerned how prospective buyers might feel about it. For me to have a sale, I have to have a buyer.
            • Woozle replied: If that's your priority, and you believe that the values will be lowered, then I entirely understand your conclusion. I just don't agree with your premises or priorities on this one... but you are nonetheless entitled to them.
          • Anonymous continued: Were I to feel that Pinecrest were "gated community"ish, I would leave. I believe in inclusion, not exclusion.
            • Woozle replied: On that, I think we can perhaps even agree ;-) (The comparison was, I think, an attempt to show how some folks with high regard for property values nonetheless don't seem to mind speed humps... but if it fails to persuade, then it fails as an argument – so I'll concede the point that gated-communityism is probably not what anyone wants to aim for here.)
    • encourages kids: This actually seems like an argument in favor of the humps – kids should be able to play safely in the street, and adults should be able to walk safely in the street. Personally, if I'm out biking on this street, I'd feel safer knowing that cars were being slowed down at various points rather than having the entire length to use as a runway. So... how is this bad? --Woozle 18:09, 7 November 2007 (EST)