Fast times on Grow Avenue

Neighbors and a new advisory group will look at speeds, parking problems.

When Grow Avenue resident Barry Griffin was nearly run down on the shoulder by a speeding motorist, he did what any musician might do: wrote a song about the experience.

“It’s called ‘Fast Drivin’ Bainbridge Wives,’” Griffin said, “but it’s about men and women. It’s a good song.”

His neighbors appreciate the sentiment, and the city may soon as well; an effort to curb speeders on Griffin’s residential street is picking up some momentum of its own. Grow Avenue has been selected as the first area of study by the new Non-Motorized Transportation Advisory Committee, charged with helping the city implement a “bike/ped plan” adopted by the City Council in 2002.

“It seemed like Grow was appropriate, because we had a lot citizen interest,” said Jane Allan, one of several committee members who also happens to live on the street.

Neighbors have for some time been concerned about the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists, which Allan understands.

“A lot of people are around that area, one, because it’s affordable and two, because it’s close-in,” she said. “I sometimes don’t drive for days at a time.”

At immediate issue is the street’s deficiencies in non-motorized facilities, and also its place in the larger traffic patterns of islanders coming to and from Winslow from the south end.

Several years ago, residents Bob Conoley and Dave Corn spotlighted the problem of speeding drivers by borrowing a radar detector from police and documenting high speeds during the morning commute hours. Although posted 25 mph, many drivers headed toward town exceeded that on the downhill grade.

More recently, neighbors have been at odds with the city over whether the street should be classified “residential” or “collector” in the islandwide transportation plan, which could have implications for the posted speed limit.

And with downtown property owners calling for road, parking and pedestrian improvements on Winslow Way, Grow neighbors say the planning effort should include their street as well.

Just released are the results of a definitive neighborhood transportation survey by resident Maureen Newby, sent in October to 318 families on Grow and surrounding streets, polling respondents on their perceptions of traffic and parking problems and solutions.

While opinions varied in the scores of comments received, an overwhelming majority of respondents cited safety concerns.

Among the comments was: “I am 90 years old. I have ‘low vision’ and I am ‘deaf as a post but sharp as a tack.’ I walk my little dog every day on Grow Avenue. That can be translated into ‘foolhardy’ or ‘courageous’!”

The survey found support for speed humps or other traffic calming devices, perhaps a small traffic circle or a “pinch point.” More than half of residents favored lowering the speed limit to 20 mph, from the present 25.

The issue has also served to bring together residents from both ends of the street. Heretofore, those on upper Grow north of Wyatt have been primarily concerned about parking issues – namely, spillover from the high school – while those on lower Grow have been irked by vehicle speeds.

Neighbors gathered for an informal meeting Tuesday morning said those issues must be considered together, from High School Road to Winslow Way. A Grow Avenue Neighborhood Association is being formed, and survey results will be posted online at

Allan said the Non-Motorized Transportation Advisory Committee will hold public meetings, identify a “community vision” for the street, and advance design solutions to the city for consideration.

Certain to come into play are sidewalks, bike lanes and formalized parking; the street now has unimproved shoulders often clogged by residents’ own cars to the point that pedestrians are forced out into traffic. Open ditches complicate matters further.

But Conoley, who works on the recently improved Ericksen Avenue, suggested that bike lanes and sidewalks are insufficient to address speeders.

“People don’t go slow (on Ericksen). They go 40,” Conoley said. “The bikers are in their lane, and the people stay on the sidewalk. And the noise stinks.”

There is also a distrust of commuters and those coming from remote neighborhoods into town. Griffin observed, “Everyone wants a freeway from wherever they are to Town and Country.”

As another neighbor wrote in the survey: “Other island residents want their own neighborhood safe, but couldn’t care less about ours. They are in a hurry!”

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