Bainbridge council agreeable to lower speed limit on Fletcher Bay Road

Residents along Fletcher Bay Road have petitioned the city of Bainbridge Island to have the speed limit lowered to 25 mph from 35 mph on a stretch of the busy roadway.

People who live along the road said the existing speed limit makes no sense, and drivers are ignoring it anyway.

Petitions submitted to the city have called for the speed limit to be lowered along a short stretch of Fletcher Bay Road, between New Brooklyn and High School roads.

North of New Brooklyn Road, up to the Bainbridge Gardens area, the speed limit is also 25 mph, but changes back to 35 mph near the Jiffy Mart. Residents said that encourages drivers to hit the gas before entering a blind curve where there are residential driveways as well as the entrance to Island Center Hall.

Suzanne Miller, a 25-year island resident who has lived by Fletcher Bay Road for nine years, said she is a frequent walker and has noticed an increase of traffic along the road.

It’s likely coming from drivers avoiding congestion on Highway 305, she said.

“It’s four times as many cars as you try to pull out of your driveway than it used to be,” Miller told the council at its meeting Tuesday.

She also said that stretch of the roadway has two school bus stops, and she’s seen inattentive drivers eating sandwiches or talking on the phone while speeding past.

“The cars going by … they are going 50, or 55. It’s really terrifying,” Miller said.

The close calls from traffic have inspired a joke in her household, she added. Her family members always turn to her to ask where misplaced and missing things can be found.

Her response lately: “When I get hit by a car, this is where such and such is…”

Fletcher Bay Road is classified as the city as a “secondary arterial road,” and one that is expected to accommodate a “high level of traffic at a moderate speed, sometimes for through trips,” according to city officials.

Officials said the section of roadway where residents want the speed limit dropped had not been the subject of any recent traffic studies. They note that Fletcher Bay Road to the south was studied in 2013, and the recommendation then was to keep the speed limit as-is.

Most of Fletcher Bay and Miller roads, according to the city, were posted as 40 mph until the speed limit was lowered to 35 mph in 2016. At that time, the council also lowered the speed limit to 25 mph on Miller Road through Island Center because it has Neighborhood Town Center zoning, with multiple business entrances, including some with parking areas with direct access to the road.

According to the city’s Public Works Department, the design of Fletcher Bay Road supports the posted speed limit.

People who live there don’t agree.

“That stretch of road is a dangerous place to have 35 mph,” resident Will Nickum told the city council Tuesday. Drivers accelerate as they leave the 25 mph zone at Island Center but enter a blind curve when they head south past the gas station.

Though the city has recently expanded shoulders along the road to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, Nickum said that has given drivers the freedom to go faster.

“For better or for worse,” he added.

The petition drive was started by his wife, Catherine Nickum. She thanked Councilman Matthew Tirman for visiting the area and for conscientiously addressing the issue.

“I know every neighborhood wants 25 mph,” she said, but added that the neighborhood wasn’t asking for much. “I realize that you probably get this request often, and that people complain when you do lower the speed limit. And that may be the case with our stretch as well. But we’re talking about a quarter of a mile from Brooklyn to High School Road.”

Councilwoman Sarah Blossom said she supported lowering the speed limit, but worried that the council would be subject to frequent requests from other neighborhoods wanting the same consideration.

Councilman Joe Deets agreed on both counts, and added, “I am sympathetic.”

Tirman recalled going out to Fletcher Bay Road to jog along the road through the neighborhood. The cars going past weren’t as bad as trucks and other large vehicles.

“It was terrifying,” Tirman agreed.

The council didn’t take action this week on lowering the speed limit, but the issue will come back to decision-makers soon. The council unanimously voted to direct city staff to prepare a resolution that would lower the speed limit as suggested by the neighborhood.