Blogs > Daily Local Dan

A blog that takes a look at West Chester area government, politics, and community events.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Those speed bumps will kill us all

A man named Tom McCarey, from Berwyn, showed up to Monday night's Tredyffrin Supervisors meeting and made some startling claims. He said that the two flat-top speed humps the township plans to put on Old Lancaster Road will "endanger the lives and property of hundreds of residents who live near the flat-top humps and condemn them to a life of inconvenience, pollution, noise, congestion and pain."


His premise was this: speed humps slow down fire trucks and ambulances, meaning that when you have a heart attack or when your house catches fire, those life-saving vehicles won't get to you in time. He also argued that the humps will increase traffic congestion, impede snow plows, cause noise, increase air pollution (slow down, go over hump, re-accelerate) , and be uncomfortable for elderly and sick people to drive over.

But township officials say they intend for the humps -- which will be part of the new sidewalk network that will surround Tredyffrin/Easttown Middle School and Conestoga High School -- to serve as crosswalks. At 6 inches in height and 22 feet in width, they are designed to make it easier for motorists to see the children who are crossing on them.

The Tredyffrin supervisors, who are very attached to the sidewalk program, did their best at Monday's meeting to dismiss Mr. McCarey.

But did he have a point?

Well, he would have if the township were installing abrupt speed bumps every 20 feet. He would have if the bumps were not, essentially, road plateaus with ramps on either end. But, given the facts, his arguments are extreme, and his credibility is ruined by the fact the literature he gave to me and to the Township supervisors on Monday night clearly identifies him as a member of the National Motorists Association.

As far as I can tell, this "grassroots" lobbying group is comprised of auto enthusiasts who believe that the government should get the hell out of your way while you're driving.

While some of the group's positions seem reasonable, others seem insane. For example, the NMA advocates for relaxed DUI laws, and offers its dues-paying members the following deal:

"PROTECTION AGAINST UNFAIR TICKETS - As part of our Traffic Justice Program, any person who receives a speeding ticket while they are a member of the NMA, fights it in court, and loses, will have that ticket paid for by us!"

Mr. McCarey did not help his case when he told me that traffic-calming measures like speed humps are examples of "new urbanism," a "top-down, Soviet-style" planning strategy.

Regarding walkable, new-urbanism-style communities, he told me, "That's not the way people want to live."


Anyway, Mr. McCarey, like any good community activist, made an extra special effort to be chummy with me and my colleague Chris Williams, a reporter from the Wynnewood-based newspaper Main Line Life.

Although his press-courting effort seemed a bit heavy-handed, I didn't regard it as unusual until I saw this on the NMA website:

From a section titled How To Build Opposition To Traffic Calming In Your Area:

"As a citizen activist, you will engender a degree of sympathy from the local newspaper. Approach the editors or reporters and let them know that you are forming a citizen's group to oppose traffic obstruction projects. With a little encouragement, the paper may do a story about your efforts. This is a tremendous opportunity to explain why you think traffic obstruction tactics are harmful to your community."


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