Saturday, July 20, 2002

Township hopes islands slow traffic

By Janice Morse,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WEST CHESTER TWP. — A residential shortcut just became a little more complicated to negotiate.

[photo] New triangular islands called chicanes slow down traffic in Cobbler's Creek/Homan Estates.
(Michael Snyder photos)
| ZOOM |
        A pair of triangular islands called “chicanes” were installed this week on Live Oak Drive in an attempt to force traffic to slow down and zigzag through the Cobbler's Creek/Homan Estates subdivisions. The subdivisions have been hit by increased cut-through traffic since the nearby Wetherington subdivision closed its streets to the public and because of construction work on other nearby arteries.

        The neighborhood of nicely landscaped properties ranging from about $150,000 to $250,000 now offers virtually the only quick cut-through from Tylersville to Cincinnati-Dayton roads.

        “In this area, our roads are so close to saturation, you can have one incident or factor change, and the drivers automatically jump to alternate routes like this one,” said Sgt. Barry Walker of the township police department's traffic safety unit.

        Kim Barger, who recently had a car careen through her lawn in the 7500 block of Live Oak, said, “I sure hope this helps, because we're sick of it. It's like the Indy 500 going through here. ... I've told (township officials), "I don't care what you do, just get them to stop.”'

 Sgt. Walker
Sgt. Walker
        Sgt. Walker said the perceived shortcut through Cobbler's Creek really isn't more efficient than the main arteries. “I have driven all the routes and never found it faster to come through here,” he said.

        This is the first time the township has used chicanes, Sgt. Walker said. He hopes they will remain in place several months to allow police to compare traffic counts, speeding, and other violations and neighborhood complaints. If the “traffic-calming” devices prove effective, they might be used in other areas of the township, he said.

        Traffic studies show 1,800 cars a day traveling through the area where the chicanes were installed — significantly fewer than the 11,000-14,000 vehicles daily that were traveling through the Wetherington subdivision before that community, the Tristate's wealthiest, shut its gates in March. Still, traffic has more than doubled through Cobbler's Creek and is at a volume that makes residents feel unsafe, police said.

        Micheline MacDonald, 35, said the chicanes appeared make a difference Thursday, a day after township crews installed them.

        “It does seem to slow people down, which is good because people floor it through here,” she said. “I can't let my children ride their bikes anymore. My daughter was almost hit last summer.”

        Moments after Mrs. MacDonald spoke, a trio of cars with male teen-age drivers came southbound on Live Oak. They whizzed past the chicanes, beeping their horns, grinning and steering their cars as though they enjoyed the obstacle-course-type challenge.

        “See what I mean? What if my daughter had been out here on her bicycle?” Mrs. MacDonald said.

        Sgt. Walker set his jaw, jumped into his police vehicle, flicked on its flashing lights and took the joy out of the youths' joy ride on their last day of summer school at Lakota West High School.

        Sgt. Walker released the boys after running background checks and issuing them warnings.

        “Just a handful of people go speeding through here like that,” Sgt. Walker said; a few have been clocked at 55 mph — 30 miles above the street's 25-mph speed limit.

        A four-way stop at the Live Oak-Pinemill intersection wouldn't be an option, he explained, because state law forbids stop signs' installation solely for speed-control purposes. Besides, stop signs often encourage motorists to drive faster between the signs — or blow past them altogether, he said. Speed bumps might not work because “the faster you go over them, the smoother the ride,” he said.

        “This was the safest option we could come up with.” Sgt. Walker said. “It's a test.”


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