Kevin L. Hoover
Following minimal attendance at the previous Bayside Grange meeting, Old Arcata Road safety advocates hoped for a fuller turnout at the Sunday, Nov. 17 meeting.
Concern for roadside safety had flared after the tragic Sept. 27 hit-and-run collision which claimed the life of Suzanne Seemann and injured two running companions on Myrtle Avenue, a few miles down the same road.
But the meeting started with just six attendees – roughly half that of the first gathering, though as the meeting progressed, attendance swelled to 10 citizens concerned about traffic safety in Bayside.
The concentration of concern among a small group of Baysiders – and the apathy of the majority – was illustrated not just by the minimal meeting attendance, but events in the roadway immediately beforehand.
Four vehicles heading southbound on Old Arcata Road approached Jacoby Creek Road, where the Grange is located. Three used turn signals to turn left onto Jacoby Creek Road, but a white pickup truck that was second in the line of vehicles didn’t. All three cars that had signaled their turn pulled into the Grange parking lot for the safety meeting. With the road cleared, the truck’s driver mashed the gas pedal, accelerated and roared past the Grange, headed out Jacoby Creek Road at an ambitious clip.
Inside, the few attendees gathered at a single table. Some threads from the previous meeting were picked up, but emphasis was on practical solutions. With so many negative traffic experiences built up though, stories were abundant and used to underscore points and reinforce suggested courses of action
To slow down the chronic speeders, attendee Gordon Van Zee suggested installation of a blinking yellow light. He had been passed by an impatient driver while observing the speed limit near Jacoby Creek School.
The CHP disconnect
Attendee Sue Moore wondered why CHP officers sit passively at the Bayside Post Office, located at the intersection of Jacoby Creek Road, while cars whiz by in excess of the posted 25 mph speed limit on Old Arcata Road.
“They sit there every day,” she said. “They’re on the phone, texting and they do nothing.”
She said that in communities where the CHP has aggressively ticketed speeders, the enforcement has an immediate and positive effect. Attendee Scott Gracean said he’d been advised by a Fish & Game officer in the area to enlist the aid of the CHP in ticketing speeders.
CHP interest and participation in Old Arcata Road safety is questionable. On Thursday, Nov. 15 at 12:28 p.m., a CHP unit traveled northbound on Old Arcata Road/Samoa Boulevard at close to 40 mph, nearly 160 percent of the posted speed limit. It then rounded the roundabout at Union Street and returned to the CHP station.
CHP Public Information Officer W. Chase Adams, immediately notified of the speeding CHP car, said CHP officers are specially empowered to exceed the speed limit during enforcement action. Adams pointed out that exceeding the speed limit, even to clock a speeding CHP vehicle, is illegal.
The Arcata CHP Office hadn’t been aware of the Bayside safety campaign until after the first meeting, and though notified Nov. 15, wasn’t represented at the second meeting. The Arcata CHP office is currently without a commander.
Data and deterrence
Moore said that she wants her two children to have independence, but that speeders are undermining her plan. “The rate of speed at which they’re coming around the corner is a problem,” she said. “Both of my kids are having a hard time on their bikes. It’s terrifying to let them out the door in the morning.”
Ali Lee suggested systematic documentation of bad drivers to put details to document “this anecdotal stuff.” Data would identify patterns, specific violations and problematic locations. “You want to build patterns,” she said. “Anything to build that argument.”
Data ought to reflect more than just one season’s traffic patterns, but Lee said that disinterested agencies could impose impossibly lengthy data collection periods to discourage action. “If they don’t want to deal with you, they’ll say, three years,” she said.
Research would include use of a radar gun and camera to list time, date, the speed of the car, and “just build that data constantly.” A visible radar gun, Moore said, acts to abate speed, but hidden radar doesn’t.
Maggie Gainer said a friend of hers went out with a handheld hair dryer and it looked enough like a radar gun to slow cars down.
Gainer hopes to get City and county Public Works officials, along with Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace, to tour the area and inspect problem sites.
Attendee Karen Brooks said roadside foliage blocks visibility along roadsides. She suggested asphalt be marked with with “share the road” or other cautions. “I don’t think the cars are paying attention to pedestrians,” she said. But, she added, drivers generally do respect runners.
Attendee Kathleen Stanton said the City plans to put a roundabout at the Jacoby Creek/Old Arcata Road intersection, but she didn’t think the one at Buttermilk Lane has improved survival chances for pedestrians there. “I don’t see it being safer there for people crossing the street,” she said.
Deputy Director of Public Works Morgan Kessler said later that while it has been suggested, there are no firm plans to install a roundabout at the intersection.
Greta Montagne said that environmental restoration in the area has increased critter populations and roadkills. “There are more deer and small animals being killed,” she said.
Participants discussed pro-active efforts being made to reduce speed in Manila, which include safety signs and bumper stickers.
“Manila’s doing their stretch, and eventually we’ll meet up in a loop around the bay,” Lee said.
As at the previous meeting, the potential of shaming speeders was advocated. Gainer said $625 remains of the grant which funded the safety initiative. She suggested that the funds be used toward a video camera which might stream traffic views on the Internet.
A still camera was also suggested, with photos of misbehaving vehicles posted online. Attendees puzzled over what website could be used to display the photos for maximum exposure.
Suggestions included the Bayside page on the nextdoor.com site, though that would limit views to Bayside residents. Other suggestions included the websites of Streamguys or the Six Rivers Running Club.
Transportation Safety Committee
At the subsequent Tuesday, Nov. 13 meeting of Arcata’s Transportation Safety Committee, several citizens complained of misbehaving drivers and bike riders in other parts of town.
TSC member Matthew Daniel related a lengthy tale of a near-miss by a careless, wrong-way bicyclist at 11th and G streets. “It makes it hard to cheerlead for projects that will flood the streets with bicyclists to run roughshod over everyone else,” Daniel said. “They act like they’re special because they’re stopping global warming.”
Member Melanie Williams, an alternative transportation advocate, noted that laws against wrong-way riding are already on the books in the Arcata Municipal Code, but that it all depends on enforcement. Arcata Police weren’t represented at the meeting, though usually an APD officer does attend.
George Ziminsky, representing Friends of the Arcata Marsh, said speeding on I Street has become a problem. The long, straight stretches that lead to the parking lot and boat ramp have no signs, and several unmarked trail crossings.
“Signs tend to be ignored, so I guess the wish list is speed humps,” Ziminsky said.
A lot of Marsh visitors, he said, hit 45 on the straightaways while talking on cell phones, leading to “many close calls at the turns.” He said that even a 25 mph speed limit is excessive for the area, given the pedestrian traffic.
“We’d like to just mellow out South I Street,” he said. “Fifteen miles per hour would be nice.”
Deputy Director Kessler said the City could start studying the situation there with use of its “speed box,” a small radar unit which measures traffic.
Humboldt State Employee Katie Whiteside said she has almost been run down several times at 17th and G streets. “I just want people to stop at the stop sign,” she said. “That’s my basic request.”
The intersection is the last one before people enter the freeway, and is ill-marked, with the “STOP” paint at the crosswalk worn away. She said that because cars routinely stop inside the crosswalk instead of before it, she walks outside the crosswalk on the far side.
Bella Waters, an Aloha Way resident, complained of a “huge problem with speeding.”
Visibility on the cul-du-sac is limited by numerous cars parked on the street, which is a hazard for children and animals. “You can’t avoid them or swerve as there is no room,” she said.
Most of the speeders are visitors, she said. Many park in red zones on the street, worsening congestion.
TSC Chair Stanley Elcock suggested that Aloha Way might be a “perfect place to try temporary speed bump.”
“That might be an appropriate situation,” agreed Kessler. The temporary humps are made of recycled rubber in sections, bear a different profile than perma-humps and are bolted in place.
Another attendee who didn’t identify himself said all users of the roads – pedestrians and drivers alike – “don’t really respect each other.” He said that though pedestrians have the right of way a police officer didn’t pause to allow him to cross.
“There’s a lack of public awareness,” the man said. “People forget respectfulness.”
Kessler said that “pedestrian sting operations” performed in the town of Saratoga were effective in taming careless motorists.
Many safety issues surrounding the bizarrely laid-out and busy instersection of Sunset Avenue and L.K.Wood Boulevard. The confusing design leads to many conflicts between pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers.
More pavement-painted signs were suggested, but Kessler wasn’t convnced it would help. “There’s a lot of paint out there already,” he said. He said any modifications would have to be discussed during the monthly meeting of the City/ HSU liaison group.
Gainer asked that Bayside issues be agendized for discussion during a future TSC meeting.