Our corner has noisy, dangerous traffic. What can I do to change it?

September 7 |

HOMIES! It's my turn to ask your advice.

Dangerous corner Clandon
Photo by satguru. Used under Creative Commons license.
The tl;dr version: I live on a dangerous noisy corner and I want to change that.

The long version: We live at the end of a busy artery in our neighborhood. Not busy enough to have stoplights — more like this is the two lane street many people take to get from the north end to the south end of our whole part of town. There are just four stop signs over quite a few miles, so drivers get going pretty fast. Like, the first night we looked at houses on this street we named it "Dick Street" after how all the drivers acted.

By, "we live at the end of the road," I mean, "past our house there is just one choice: turn right." The street does not continue. Drivers can turn right onto another street, and that's it. Combine that with most drivers' speed and the fact that there is very little signage — and nothing ON the corner itself — and it's a dangerous, noisy place.

Drivers turning off our road often have accidents; I've seen six in less than a year. Sometimes they rear-end a driver who's slowed down, sometimes they miss the turn because of ice or intoxication or texting (I've seen all three) and careen through the intersection and into the school across the way. Drivers turning onto our road have just completed the climb up a mondo-steep hill and are happy to rev their engines at all hours of the day. I've mostly gotten used to it, but a couple times a day there is a dickbag who refuses to repair his muffler and also insists on accelerating at the fastest possible speed up the rest of the hill.

Solutions I've considered:

  • Lobbying the city council for a new stop sign — either on our corner or further back on our street, hoping to slow traffic a bit.
  • Mounting a street art-inspired campaign for change — using the corner's light poles to hang signs with passive-aggressive messages about noise and safety. (My dream? Do like this guy and make my own completely real-looking street sign.)
  • Standing on the corner and shouting like a crazy woman when a jerk drives by — which is what happens when I'm mowing my lawn. Let me tell you, I don't think I'm reaching anybody.
  • Gathering my neighbors for a meeting — For what purpose? I'm not sure. Possibly just further brainstorming.

This is why I'm turning to you guys; I know you must have some advice on how to proceed with dickish traffic.

  1. I think a combo of your first and last bullet points are a good place to start. If you get more people on your side, then you have supporters for your cause, and bonus, you have a personal relationship with those people. When a gas station was going to be built right next to my dad's neighborhood, he and his neighbors successfully lobbied to not allow the gas station to be erected. Never underestimate the power of smart people with conviction!

    3 agree
    • I agree. Sometimes it's not that hard to get traffic changes if people just ask for them and prove their worth. But you'll have more success if you do it as a group. My city has great resources and free training about starting block clubs and solving neighborhood problems. If you need some tips or resources about getting everyone together, see what your city or police department can offer.

      0 agree
  2. i highly recommend standing on the curb pointing a hair dryer at the cars – slacks and a dark button-down should help.

    if you want to lobby the city council, do the gather your neighbors for a meeting step first.

    also – that street-sign art story is *amazing*

    11 agree
  3. In our city it's pretty easy to get a stop sign erected or a speed limit decreased. I think you just write a letter to the city counsel with your suggestion and some justification, and they vote on it in their next meeting. I'd try that first.

    3 agree
  4. I'd try lobbying first. Although my favorite solution for living next to an intersection that people blow through all the time (when there are kids out!) is to have my police officer husband hide in uniform and then spring out into the middle of the road when someone is being a dick. I never get sick of that look on their face. "SHIT! COP! MAYBE I SHOULD DRIVE LIKE A NORMAL PERSON! QUICK, SMILE AND LOOK LIKE I WAS GOING TO STOP ALL ALONG." Or when the cop car is parked out front sometimes I'll open the front door and act like I'm the one running radar. They don't need to know he's just home to eat dinner. And all of the neighbors are thankful their kids don't get run over.

    Practically speaking, I'd try lobbying first and then make your own sign.

    2 agree
  5. i was gonna suggest putting up a fake speed camera in your garden/near the corner too!

    0 agree
  6. Maybe make a sign of your own and put it up in your yard. Sort of along the lines of those banners for politicians that you see on people's lawns right before elections. You have a little bit more freedom that way I think. You could make a sign that says "Drive Carefully, Dangerous Turn Ahead" or you could make on that just says "Dickbags, stop revving your engine, I'm trying to sleep." If you add in a little humor, you might be more likely to get people's attention as well.

    My only negative thought with this idea is that because it's a personal sign, and not one put up by the city, it might be less effective than a city mandated one. But maybe it could help until the city steps in.

    1 agrees
  7. Another thing to ask the city for might be a speed bump or hump. If the intersection is raised, even dicks think twice about speeding over it.

    3 agree
  8. It took me several years to get a streetlight at a very dangerous intersection that was completely black at night. I wrote letters to the major and lobbied the city counsil. I would do that, but I think it would have been quicker had I enlisted some neighbors.

    0 agree
  9. Find out if you may put something (a huge flowerpot) on the sidewalk – the street looking narrower because of the flowers should already slow down some of the dicks. Write to your city counsil and ask them tu put some "sleeping police men" on the road, or other decelerating devices. You neighbors may want to sign that one, too – or write their own letters, to the counsil and the newspapers.

    0 agree
  10. install a maze!!!

    no, but i think speed bumps & more stop signs would probably work, mostly speed bumps b/c people care more about their cars than others

    2 agree
  11. All I could think of when I read this was "Slow down your neighbors!" sign from Modern Family. I just wanted to interject a little humor.

    2 agree
  12. Your first and last ideas are probably your best bet. You could get a sign for your front yard like the ones that say "Please Slow Down, Children Live here", but like "Please Slow Down, humans Live here", which might be ineffective, but it shows initiative!

    0 agree
  13. If people are cutting around the corner and tearing up the yard, put a fence, boulders, or big planters around the corner. It will make them slow down to make a more careful turn–or at least they'll learn their lesson if they don't.

    0 agree
  14. I don't know what the laws are where you live, but in Portland, some hippie-types got together to try to fix this problem a while back. What they came up with was painting the intersection. I think the first one happened when people just…did it. They closed the streets without a permit for a weekend, and just painted their intersection. Over time, the group that initially did this developed a nonprofit called City Repair (really googleable) that tries to connect residents to the places where they live.

    One consequence of the painted intersections, and the other stuff they do as part of what they call "intersection repair," is that people drive more slowly. And, because the neighbors got together to paint the intersection, they get to know each other. It's a labor-intensive idea, and the city may not go for it, but I thought I'd suggest it, as it serves multiple purposes.

    There's a video about it here: http://www.streetfilms.org/intersection-repair/

    0 agree
  15. If people are actually going over the speed limit, then get a group of neighbors (constituents) together and ask the city to enforce the limit randomly but intensively for a while and then do random but less intensive follow-up enforcement. The city might be unwilling to add speed bumps (it can slow down emergency vehicles) or add a stop sign (which people might just ignore), but unless totally strapped for resources should be willing to enforce the law by giving painfully large tickets to speeders. Once the area becomes known for enforcement and large tickets, things should get a lot better. I've seen how amazingly effective this can be!!!

    0 agree
    • On the contrary, I've seen this NOT work. My Great Aunt lives on a street on which people crash into her fence several times a year – 2 people have even died there – and our county has done this a couple times in the past 10 years. Did nothing.

      0 agree
  16. If you're going to ask the authorities to do something about it, take some research with you. Between you and your neighbours, document how many excessive speeders, excessive noise makers, near misses and accidents you notice in a one week or one month period. That way you've all got evidence of the disturbance. Or install a camera on your property but facing the junction or the worst stretch and you'll have video evidence of bad driving.

    If you see no action after your efforts then in the middle of the night smoosh something with the colours and consistency of minced beef bolognaise over the road and claim your beloved, expensive and extremely rare animal has been killed and you're seeking damages because the authorities were warned it was a dangerous road and did nothing to combat it. Vindictive? Sure. But sometimes its fun to play dirty

    2 agree
    • Definitely agree with the first part. I'm not sure what the policy is about signs, but in order to install a stop light (which it sounds like you will ultimately need), they need prove that such an investment is necessary. Gather your neighbors, and have the lot of you document what's going on in the way that Sarah O'S described. Then present this information to the appropriate council members at the Town Hall, and tell them that in light of this information, there needs to be better signage and a formal study needs to be commissioned regarding whether or not a stop light is necessary. A state sponsored study (I'm not sure how long they take) is the first step in getting a stop light installed. The more people you have on their ass about this, the more likely they'll be to arrange the study. Good luck!

      0 agree
  17. Instead of a fake radar gun, (which makes me worry about impersonating a police officer charges) you could set up a real radar system attached to a sign that lights up with a happy face if people are going a nice speed and a frowny face if they are being speeding dicks. (These have been shown to work better than the signs that just show your speed.) You could do the same for the noise–a happy face with promient ears for acceptable noise levels and a sad face covering its ears for unacceptable noise levels. I haven't looked into the price on setting up such a system, but I am willing to bet there are hackery types on the internet who have done it for relatively cheaps. You could make it a block project and fundraise for it while you are lobbying

    2 agree
    • I don't know if it would work and I'm not a hackery type, but apparently Arduino is a free programming system that you can use on just about any kind of computer-y chip thing and it can respond to specific inputs (such as noise, movement, pushing buttons, etc.) and then do a task assigned to that specific movement.

      For example, someone once put a bunch of arduino'd chips in planters, trash cans, street drains, etc. that played music when they detected movement nearby.

      http://www.arduino.cc/ – the software is free, so all you need is some boards and a computer nerd.

      0 agree
    • LOVE. Maybe this paired with an Arduino system…

      1 agrees
  18. Not really any new suggestions, but this reminds of how my dad lobbied the local council to get some signage on the road in front of my parents' place (the road heads straight toward their house, and then takes a 90deg corner to the right).

    He told the council if they didn't put something up soon, he had a sign ready he was ready to install, which read "Slow down, you bastards!".
    Within 3wks there was offical signage installed.

    0 agree
  19. "careen through the intersection and into the school across the way"

    This is in the vicinity of a SCHOOL?? You should make that your main focus!! People are alot more inclined to lower speed limits when kids are involved.

    You could get a school sign with flashing lights. I tend to slow down when I see those, even if the lights are flashing at the moment. http://www.dallascourier.com/Portals/44779/images/school%20zone.jpg

    They can also paint "school zone" markings on the ground, and put up plenty of regular "school zone" signs. Extra markings and signage usually encourage people to slow down, or at least pay attention.

    1 agrees
  20. You could also have reflective markers installed in your yard.

    They have small ones, like this: http://image.made-in-china.com/2f0j00ReNtfPYGVOba/Solar-Street-Marker-Reflector-for-Road-Safety-Can-Light-on-Night-BXJ-R04-.jpg
    http://bxjshen.en.made-in-china.com/product/KofnOcwxnChQ/China-Solar-Street-Marker-Reflector-for-Road-Safety-Can-Light-on-Night-BXJ-R04-.html

    The small ones would probably be cost effective. In my neighborhood though, they have huge ones for this unlit corner by my house. They are really tall (like person-height), a few inches to a half a foot wide, and they reflect all the way up and down with silver reflector material. They are installed a couple yards apart, all along the curve of the corner, like 8 or so of them.

    0 agree
  21. There was a really interesting article in a recent issue of Wired magazine about feedback loops and how they affect human behavior, and they specifically used the example of a city trying to get people to slow down when driving through school zones. They tried increasing public awareness, increased enforcement….nothing worked as well as installing a "your speed" sign that showed how fast the person was driving, right next to the posted speed limit. It works lke this: 1) the driver is shown evidence of how fast they are going. 2) the driver relates their speed to the posted speed limit. 3) this reminds the driver of the consequences of speeding. 4) the driver takes action. In this case, drivers slowed an average of 10%, usually for several miles. Sorry to geek out on ya'll, but the article was really interesting, and it thrills me to be able to bring it up! Perhaps ask law enforcement to install a "your speed" sign and hope people will slow themselves down. Good luck!

    0 agree
    • Yeah, we have one of those "your speed" signs on a long straight hill near our house, and it's truly remarkable. I ALWAYS check it, and then it becomes a game to see if I can keep my speed below 35 on this long incline. Psychology FTW

      0 agree
  22. Two additions to this post:

    The night before it went live, a NEW accident happened: someone finally hit the lightpole at about 3 AM. They drove off.

    And yesterday evening two dudes walked off the intersection with what I assumed was an insurance agent. They were there quite a while, looking at power lines and poles and distances from here to there. Everything. Definitely describing an accident.

    0 agree
  23. As well as a new stop sign, I would recommend lobbying for other traffic-calming measures, such as speed bumps, or islands which will narrow the street at regular intervals. I've actually heard recently of a few traffic studies which show that the REMOVAL of signage actually slows traffic, although it is unclear why exactly.

    But the speed sign is an excellent idea! Might lobby for that in my neighbourhood!

    0 agree

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