2010-12-09 / Front Page

Brakes put on North Road speed-limit reduction proposal

By Phil Zahodiakin

The Jamestown Town Council this week opted that any decision on a speed-limit reduction along the Great Creek stretch of North Road should await the findings of a state traffic study.

The Jamestown Bike Path Design Committee advanced a proposal to reduce the 40 mph speed limit along Great Creek to 25 mph during a May presentation to the Council by committee member Bob Sutton.

The presentation described the layout of the bike path. Sutton said the speed-limit reduction should run from the water treatment plant to Arnold Avenue, which is a distance of half a mile.

Sutton also said that the speedlimit reduction is justified by the absence of shoulders along that stretch of the bike path. But it is unclear how much support a speedlimit reduction would have from island residents.

“This 25 mile-per-hour speed limit has been proposed by the Bike Path Committee,” said Council President Mike Schnack, “but is there public demand for the reduction?”

One member of the public, Blake Dickinson, questioned the arguments in a letter published in the Nov. 18 edition of the Jamestown Press. The letter asserted that the speed-limit reduction is justified by the risks to cyclists from speeding motorists, but Dickinson argued that the state already has laws requiring various safety measures when driving near, or past, cyclists.

If it is impossible for motorists and cyclists to coexist safely, then “I would propose banning cyclists from that stretch of North Road,” Dickinson said. “Otherwise, you would be punishing [motorists] to solve the problem.”

Schnack replied that he would oppose a ban, but no one on the Council expressed any particular support for reducing the speed limit, either. Councilor Bill Murphy, moreover, pointed out that “the vast majority of the use of that road is vehicular. How many bikes are using that road on a daily basis?”

The answer to that question could “direct and inform our decision [on the speed limit],” said Schnack. The Council agreed to ask the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) to perform a traffic study.

Because the total population of, and visitors to, the island reaches its lowest total during the winter, the Council agreed that the study would be most useful if it was performed when the North Road traffi c is at its peak. Therefore, Town Administrator Bruce Keiser will ask the RIDOT to study North Road traffic during the summer.

Keiser also noted that there is some additional pressure to reduce North Road speed from the school department.

At a minimum, Keiser said, school Superintendent Marcia Lukon would like the RIDOT to place a reduced-speed-ahead sign at the base of the hill for southbound traffi c, thereby alerting or reminding motorists that the speed limit drops to 25 mph within a short distance.

“Ideally, [Lukon and Planning Director Lisa Bryer] would like to see the 25 mile-per-hour limit start at the base of the hill for school safety purposes,” Keiser said.

Bryer has a particular interest in the issue because a speed-limit reduction dovetails with the Safe Routes to Schools initiative to increase the safety of kids walking or riding their bikes to school, specifi cally the Lawn Avenue School, which is situated on Arnold Avenue.

Bryer supports a speed-limit reduction along the entire Great Creek stretch. “I served on the Bike Path Committee and I voted for the proposal to reduce the speed limit.” she said.

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