“I get more phone calls about this than by far anything else in the city,” said Councilman Johnny Sinclair, who requested the issue be put on the agenda. “This whole safety of our streets and quality of life in the neighborhoods has become a major issue.”
The city’s speed hump policy requires 65 percent of property owners in an affected neighborhood to vote in favor of the speed humps before the Council will consider authorizing their installment.
Sinclair wants to ease that restriction by not counting the property owners who fail to vote on the petition as “no” votes.
“In an election, if somebody doesn’t vote, you don’t make an assumption about what their vote is. You just don’t count them,” Sinclair said.
Patrick Thompson, who lives in Rambo Estates off Whitlock Avenue with his 12- and 14-year-old children, said speed humps would slow down drivers who cut through his neighborhood on their way to and from Atlanta.
“I’ve seen cars treat our road like a drag strip,” Thompson said.
The drivers cut through his neighborhood in order to avoid the congested turn from the Loop onto Whitlock Avenue, he said.
“It’s west Cobb and Paulding County,” he said. “They’re heading down Whitlock and trying to beat the traffic. So they cut through here to try to beat that light. … I understand their dilemma: They’re trying to get home, and it’s traffic. But our dilemma is we have families living on these streets that have children and elderly people.”
Councilman Philip Goldstein has reservations about changing the policy.
“When you’re doing something that is as intrusive as speed humps in the neighborhood, you ought to require full participation and say from folks in that neighborhood … so that it’s not something if folks wake up tomorrow and say, ‘How did we get this?’” Goldstein said.
Just because someone didn’t vote doesn’t mean they approve of installing speed humps in their neighborhood, Goldstein said. They might be on vacation, for example.
“You’ll find there are a number of folks that absolutely do not like them,” Goldstein said. “It also impedes flow whether someone is going the speed limit or not. It slows people down sometimes substantially lower than what the speed limit is, and to me, when you’re impeding getting to someone’s home, that’s intrusive.”
Mayor Steve Tumlin is also cautious about any changes.
“We don’t want to make it too easy or too hard, and we don’t want a minority to speak for the majority, ever,” Tumlin said.
Tumlin says he’s not sure yet what the voting formula should be.
“If it goes on Chestnut Hill Road, does everybody in Charlton Forge get to vote? Does everybody in Whitlock Heights?” Tumlin said. “We’re going to have to make sure we have the right people voting.”
The Council approved a speed hump policy in 2002 and has since installed speed humps in a few locations that have requested them and agreed to pay for them. East Park Subdivision paid for some to be installed, and WellStar Health System agreed to pay for some on Campbell Hill Street, said Dan Conn, the city’s public works director.
As part of a pilot project, the Council also installed speed cushions on Wright Street and Bellemeade Drive. The rubberized devices allow larger vehicles like fire trucks to pass uninhibited but slow down vehicles with smaller wheels.
The pilot revealed that traffic slowed in the immediate vicinity of the speed cushions, Conn said.
There were also two line items approved in the 2011 SPLOST for traffic-calming devices, which include speed humps, speed tables, raised intersections or textured crosswalks: $400,000 for installations throughout the city and $740,000 for 13 specific intersections identified from a planning study, Conn said.
Last September, in deciding where to spend the $400,000, the Council approved a prioritization list based on such things as how fast cars drive on a particular street, if there is a nearby school or park and the amount of accidents.
Conn said his office has received more than 50 requests for speed humps at different locations in the city.