Calming starts behind the wheel

"There may, in the end, be nothing like the power of the ticket book to give drivers a little more respect for neighborhood speed limits.An example from earlier this month comes to mind:Irked by heavy dumptruck traffic roaring in and out of the Blakely Harbor/Fort Ward area, a West Blakely resident called police and asked if they'd swing through for a look. By coincidence, a patrol officer was already in the area on other matters. In the hour that followed, three truck drivers were cited for speeding, enforcement that was followed by a letter from police to the trucking company, asking them to slow their employees down.The next day, a neighbor reported following a dumptruck from Blakely Harbor to the highway. Its speed: slooowwww...On the front page, we chronicle the efforts of some Grow Avenue residents to deal with chronic traffic offenders on that street. It could be any neighborhood; complaints of speeders are almost pandemic on Bainbridge, say police and other city officials. The citizenry itself is being enlisted to document the problem, with ideas like neighborhood radar monitoring beginning to take shape.It's a start, as is the city's recent focus on traffic calming. Studies demonstrate that the majority of drivers will travel the speed with which they feel comfortable on a given roadway. Wide roads and wide lanes inspire a heavier foot on the pedal; narrower lanes, pedestrian islands and the like have a dissuasive effect on speeders. But real traffic calming begins in the driver's seat. And the problem, as it is with so much in contemporary life, has to do with our failure to acknowledge the larger patterns around us.We want good schools and public services, but we're not happy when the property tax bill shows up in the mail. We want healthy salmon runs - but by god, don't tell me I can't clear trees and build a house right next to the stream that runs through my land. I want every other driver to slow down - and to be ticketed when they don't. But don't ask me to leave home five minutes earlier so I'm not leaving a jet trail on my way to the ferry.The budgeting process for 2001 is nearly upon us; while we can't recall any past hue and cry from citizens for more police officers, this year might be a first. The prospect of an officer dedicated to traffic work full-time is an intriguing notion, and last year, citizen calls for more code enforcement prodded the city council to beef up that department.All well and good. But our real folly remains our vision, which doesn't extend too far beyond our own windshield.DwightspeakElsewhere in this issue, Mayor Dwight Sutton weighs in with some thoughts on the state of civic affairs.Now word comes from the administration that Hizzoner will be using the city's web site - - as a vehicle for similar columns, a Mayor's Corner perhaps, on a more-or-less weekly basis. The goal is improved communication with islanders about what's going on around city hall.We may run the columns periodically ourselves, as space and interest allows. But we would urge readers to track them down online as well, to see what else is available at the city site. Plans are afoot to revamp the web page and add new information and features; check it out and decide what you'd like to see, then let Hizzoner know."

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