Say no to South Rose Hill speed cushion ballot proposal

On May 10, South Rose Hill residents received in the mail a ballot proposal regarding the possible placement of several speed-cushion humps and one raised crosswalk on some of our neighborhood streets.

While the ballot proposal offers important information, it does not include some facts that voters should have in order to help them decide whether to vote for or against the installation of traffic devices on our streets.

If you are a South Rose Hill resident and haven't yet completed and/or mailed your ballot back to the city, I would like to suggest that you do so after considering the following:

Approximately half of the SRH traffic committee members who worked with the city did not and do not approve of the ballot proposal plan to use speed cushion humps and a raised crosswalk to slow traffic speeds in the neighborhood. Although those of us opposed to the plan agreed to having the ballot mailed to residents in our neighborhood, our preference was and still is to work toward finding alternative ways to improve traffic and pedestrian safety.

Because speed cushions humps increase emergency rescue response times, Kirkland's firefighters and Medic One emergency responders are opposed to the use of these devices. While emergency vehicles are able to travel faster on streets with speed-cushion humps than streets with standard speed humps, streets with neither of these devices are optimal. Lost seconds can result in lost lives.

A recent review of data from Kirkland's Police and Fire departments compares the number of speed-caused accidents in residential neighborhoods with the number of emergency responder vehicle rescue missions. There are very few speed-related accidents on neighborhood streets; fire department data shows that there are very many "critical" (life threatening) emergency response calls. Motor vehicle accidents involving pedestrians or cyclists on residential streets average about one injury every four or five years for the entire city; about two-thirds of these accidents occur at vehicle speeds well below the speed limit. The Kirkland Fire Department makes about 1,000 medical emergency calls per year to family residences on neighborhood streets.

It should be noted as well that, while speed cushion humps will slow average traffic speeds, these devices will not slow all vehicles, and the variation in vehicle speeds will be considerable. About 15 percent of drivers travel over speed cushion humps well above the speed limit while others do the opposite, sometimes at less than half the speed limit.

Many drivers resent having to contend with traffic devices on a daily basis - sometimes several times a day - in order to slow the occasional speeder. In other words: "Why should the many have to be punished for the transgressions of a few?"

The proposal doesn't mention that studies have shown that the braking and accelerating that occurs on streets with speed cushion humps significantly increases vehicle gas consumption and air pollution levels. (Federal officials withheld funding for speed humps on a street in Portland, Maine, because air-quality tests showed that these devices were increasing smog and air pollution levels by almost 50 percent.) The proposal also mentions nothing about the noise that residents living near speed humps hear as vehicles "bump" their way over these devices and accelerate between them.

For these and other reasons (outlined more completely in available handouts), I (and many others on the Neighborhood Traffic committee) urge you and others to mail in your ballot proposal with a "No" vote.

I hasten to add here that voting no does not mean that we should be content to do nothing to enhance traffic and pedestrian safety on our streets. On the contrary, a No vote should mark the beginning of a new process that will lead to traffic and pedestrian safety solutions that are much less problematic than those offered in the speed cushion humps ballot proposal and much more likely to promote a cooperative and consensus-based approach to making our neighborhood a better place for all of us.

To help us begin the process, it would be helpful to mention in the ballot's comments box that, should the ballot proposal be defeated again (as it was a few years ago) we would like to have the money targeted instead to other speed reduction and/or pedestrian safety alternatives in our neighborhood. Some viable options would be: sidewalks, pathways, crosswalks (possibly lit and/or flagged), electronic "Your Speed Is" signs, photo radar, increased police-patrol enforcement and other non-device alternatives.

Finally, we should focus our resources and problem solving efforts on our most needy streets. This would include 122nd Av. N.E. between 70th and 80th, followed by 124th Av. N.E. This is not to say that we couldn't support simultaneous improvement efforts on all of our streets.

In addition to registering your No vote, don't forget to include the information asked for in the bottom half of the comments box ... and, don't forget to mail your ballot back to the city.

Doug Love can be reached at[[In-content Ad]]