Wednesday, September 19, 2012

COMMENTARY: The fault is not in our streets but ourselves

Tony and I moved into Kingston Woods Neighborhood seven years ago in November. The real estate agent told us at the time that the neighborhood was very friendly with an active neighborhood association.

Well, that was half-true. At the time, the neighborhood association was very active. The group had one major goal. Since a dedicated exit off I-40 for West Town Mall was opening up shortly, the group wanted traffic control to prevent drivers from using our neighborhood as a shortcut to get from the mall to other portions of town.

We made enemies right off the bat at the first meeting when we both spoke up. Been there. Done that. Had the speed bump right in front of our house in Austin to show for it and that bump didn't slow anything down, but it did make an awful racket, give you a backache driving over it and create an interesting palette for an inspired neighborhood graffiti artist.

The folks in charge assured us this would be different. They pointed us to a cross that's already in place from where a young boy was killed in a traffic accident. Surely, we'd want to prevent something like that from happening again? We both backed quietly away and watched as the scenario progressed.

First, the city of Knoxville conducted a traffic study of the three entrances to our neighborhood to determine if there actually was a speeding problem. The results (I've rounded DOWN to the nearest 10% because I cannot remember the actual numbers):
  • Luscombe -- 80% + over speed limit
  • Twining -- 60% + over speed limit
  • Cessna -- 30% + over speed limit

Seeing that we had a problem, the next step was to bring the police out and ticket the offenders. That was pretty revealing. Over sixty percent of the drivers ticketed were our neighbors.

Emotions in the neighborhood were heating up. At that time, the association was made up of four distinct groups. One of those groups did not want traffic calming and backed out of the association, causing some serious ill feelings. The president of the neighborhood association got threatening phone calls and had one anonymous neighbor follow them to church in his van threatening all the way.

Then, the final design came in. Big surprise, the speed bump that was supposed to be in our area got moved when someone the president described as a VIP didn't like the hump in front of their home. Yes, you can still see the spot in the pavement where the original hump was supposed to be. So much for good traffic planning, eh?

So, we now have speed bumps. Sadly, we don't have a graffitti artist in residence. They haven't slowed traffic down, but we're already getting complaints about auto maintenance issues from neighbors who are driving over them at full speed or dodging at the last minute to avoid jarring their backends or spilling their coffee.

No big surprise, when it came time for someone else to run for President, nobody volunteered. Our neighborhood association is defunct save for an Internet group, which provides news of government events, break-ins, and other neighborhood pertinent information.

The group who broke off from us wanted traffic calming after ours came in. Guess what? Knoxville isn't providing that service anymore because it's too expensive. (And while I've never caught anyone actually admitting it, traffic calming does not change the behavior of drivers.)

To paraphrase the Bard, the fault was not in our streets, but in ourselves. Nothing, not even a little white cross, is going to stop someone who's bound and determined to keep speeding through a neighborhood zone where people walk and kids play. Clearly, this kind of respect is something too many people expect others to provide.

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, September 2012

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