Let’s be honest.
The posted speed limit on a growing number of residential streets in Manteca is viewed as a minimal speed by way too many drivers.
People drive too fast.
You could have a dozen police officers canvassing Manteca looking specifically for speeders and still people will exceed the speed limit.
Toss in traffic congestion and a growing number of drivers using streets never intended as connectors or they have turned wide connector streets into speedways and you have the ingredients for tragedies.
It is why the question needs to be asked: Is it time for Manteca’s elected leaders to start using a four-letter word in the eyes of more than a few Manteca residents? The word is “bulb” as in traffic bulb outs.
While speed humps might better address overall speed concerns, traffic bulb outs are much more specific at reducing speed to increase pedestrian safety.
Nearby cities — Turlock, Stockton, and Modesto among them — have deployed speed humps to effectively slow down traffic near congested, high-pedestrian areas such as schools as well as to discourage side streets through residential neighborhoods being used as high speed shortcuts.
Stockton speed humps in place to substantially enhance safety at August Knodt School where congestion before and after classes can be a nightmare. They are on Ews Woods Blvd. just after the traffic signal at William Moss Blvd. There is little doubt they bring a high measure of safety to a chaotic situation by slowing down traffic.
Ews Woods Blvd. is a wide street making it much more dangerous for vehicle and pedestrian movements than most streets around elementary campuses in Manteca that aren’t on major thoroughfares.
Future developments — including some breaking ground south of Woodward Avenue — will employ traffic bulb outs. They are a version of the much maligned tree planters downtown used to narrow streets at intersections where they are school sites and/or parks. They increase safety by reducing the crossing distance for pedestrians and create a narrower street that tends to slow motorists down.
If you don’t think a narrower street slows traffic, drive Grant Avenue between Yosemite Avenue and Edison Street sometime and then drive down the 600 block of Pine Avenue.
Speed humps can be problematic as they do slow the response of police, fire, and ambulance vehicles in emergencies. That said there are some streets that could be reasonable candidates for their use especially around downtown.
While reducing speeding should be a top priority for everyone from actual drivers to the city, the biggest problem in our neighborhoods is increasing the safety of those on foot that aren’t encased in 4,000 pounds of metal rolling along at speeds often in excess of 30 mph.
It is why the city deployed two strategically placed bulbs along Crom Street at intersections to improve the safety of kids walking to to and from Stella Brockman School. Crom Street is a classic connector where speeds can often exceed the posted speed limit.
Manteca Unified School District Superintendent Jason Messer astutely points out that the goal of everyone in the community should be to reduce the chances of the next pedestrian fatality and not simply react to the tragedies that have taken place.
To that extent, the city — and not the school district since that is not their responsibility — should adopt a pro-active approach to pedestrian safety that uses its main weapon as the installation of traffic blub outs at key intersections to enhance pedestrian safety and slow traffic.
In the past, the city has budgeted funds for possible use on traffic calming and or pedestrian safety improvements that is accessed only when neighborhoods make a full-court press to have something done.
They also should revive the safety committee that existed in the 1980s and give them the specific duty of identifying potential areas of concern for pedestrian safety.
They is no need to complicate the committee by having them work initially with an engineer or a traffic expert. Instead, an administrative analyst with the city manager’s office should be assigned to the group that would be charged with compiling a list of intersections that have significant pedestrian safety concerns.
Then they can compile a top list of five intersections where bulb outs could be deployed. At that point, staff with more expertise can be brought in to weigh the pros and cons of each suggested intersection using their general knowledge. The safety committee can re-visit them and make a recommendation to the City Council.
At that point if the council sees merits in pursuing traffic bulb outs at one or more intersections, they then can do studies — if they so desire — before making a final decision.
Bulbs would seem to make sense for pedestrians on a large segment of Center Street in the downtown area as well as at some select schools and parks that have adjoining streets that are wide with a fair amount of traffic and speed issues.
New neighborhoods benefit from designs and traffic calming devices that are basically the result of learning from what hasn’t worked in older neighborhoods.
If strategically placed traffic bulb outs are effective enough to warrant them in new neighborhoods then Manteca should actively pursue them in retrofit fashion for existing neighborhoods.
That’s especially true given growth is adding more and more cars to existing streets and increasing the chances of bad outcomes involving cars and pedestrians.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.
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