CITY OF FT. COLLINS, COLORADO
Mayor Azari

Using the Three "E"s to Stop Speeding in Neighborhoods

"Traffic, including speeding, was an issue for most everybody in our community. The problem was not only on our arterials but also in our neighborhoods. The Traffic Department has devised a comprehensive plan by location for traffic calming that includes design, signage, and camera radar. We are making progress - but still have a lot to do."
- Mayor Azari

Fort Collins is a fast-growing community located approximately 60 miles north of Denver. It has a population of 109,000 and is home to Colorado State University and its 25,000 students. Known as "The Choice City," it was listed in Readerís Digest as one of the top three places to raise a family, and Money Magazine listed it as number one for small midwest cities. Ft. Collins is one of the top centers in the West for high technology manufacturing, biotechnology, and environmental research. Since 1990, the population has increased by over 20,000. Growth results in many community issues, especially in the area of neighborhood traffic. In fact, surveys have shown that speeding in neighborhoods is the number one concern of many Fort Collins residents.

In 1996, the Neighborhood Traffic Safety Program (NTSP) was established to reduce speeding and increase roadway safety in neighborhoods for pedestrians and bicyclists as well as motorists. After researching traffic calming programs in other communities, our policies and procedures were written, committees formed, and applications sent to neighborhood representatives. Over the last two years we have received 57 NTSP applications and conducted studies on over 75 roadways.

Results from the studies of the top ten streets show that the average speed is 6 miles per hour (mph) over the speed limit, and in neighborhoods 86 percent of motorists were driving over the speed limit. On these streets alone there were 225 accidents. Through education, engineering and enforcement, our goal is to reduce these average speeds, decrease accidents, and increase roadway safety. The following is a short summary of our traffic calming activities over the last two years.

What Has Worked?

Involving all Departments

This was a key element of the NTSP. Many city departments have a role in neighborhood traffic safety and planning. The NTSP committee includes representatives from Transportation, Police Neighborhood Resources, Community Planning and Environmental Services, and the Fire Department. Each area contributes a different perspective, and we needed their cooperation, input, and support from the start to make this program successful.

Changing Attitudes and Behaviors of Drivers through Education

When the program was first initiated, the committee agreed that education could be a powerful tool in reducing speeding in neighborhoods. Each year a substantial portion of the budget is dedicated to education. The programís mascot is a friendly turtle named Bert, and the slogan is "Slow Down for Safety." The education side is divided into two campaigns: the Community-Wide Plan and the Neighborhood Plan.

The intent of the Community-Wide Plan is to increase public awareness about speeding in neighborhoods. Motorists are specifically reminded to drive the speed limit; obey signs and traffic signals; and watch out for children, pedestrians, and bicyclists. The following marketing tools have been applied:

  • radio ads reminding drivers of the speed limit in residential areas;
  • newspaper ads in high school, college, and local papers;
  • bus boards and bus bench ads;
  • table tents in the mallís food court;
  • flyers sent home with children in the school district;
  • posters taped to city vehicles;
  • participating in National Night Out and other public functions;
  • posters - distributed through the city; and
  • banners hung on arterial and collector streets.

The Neighborhood Plan reminds residents and other motorists driving in the neighborhood to obey the speed limit. Banners are hung from the light poles with the "Slow Down for Safety" slogan and have received positive reaction from the neighborhoods. Additional banners have been made that read, "For the Safety of Our Children - Drive 25." We will rotate them throughout the neighborhoods to keep the message in the public eye. The recent addition to our education program is trash can stickers. These are especially effective if the entire street is lined with trash cans parading the request "For the Safety of Our Children - Drive 25."

Another effective educational tool is the Smart Trailer, a mobile unit that monitors and displays vehicle speeds. Although vandalism to the unit has been a problem - it is a magnet for graffiti and has been set on fire twice - it slows drivers down and is very useful in gathering data.

Reducing Speed through Enforcement

Fort Collins was the second city in Colorado to use camera radar to decrease speeding and reduce the number and severity of crashes. Soon after camera radar was deployed, overall compliance to the speed limit rose from 17 percent to 38 percent. Today the compliance on arterial roadways is near 40 percent. Camera radar is used primarily on arterial and collector streets, but on occasion it has been used in the neighborhoods. As controversial as camera radar has been, there is no doubt that it has raised the awareness about speeding and its consequences.

When enforcement is used in the neighborhood, the effect on speeding is immediate, but as in most cities the demands on police officers limit the time they can dedicate to neighborhood traffic issues. In order to increase the efficiency of the police patrols in neighborhoods, results from the speed studies are shared. Patrol units then schedule officers in neighborhoods where they can be most effective.

Calming Traffic with Engineering

When neighborhood residents apply to participate in the program, staff then conducts comprehensive studies of the entire neighborhood. Along with assessments of speed, volume, and pedestrians, staff also looks at engineering needs. One consistent issue has been the many signing and striping deficiencies, and these are the areas that are first addressed.

With limited funding, neighborhood traffic issues must be prioritized. The city has developed a matrix process whereby those neighborhoods with the greatest need get addressed first. Also by using low-cost tools like signs and pavement markings, we have been able to address problems in most of the neighborhoods.

We have installed speed humps and raised crosswalks in nine neighborhoods, and citizen response has been positive in all but one. On the streets where after-studies have been completed, speeds have decreased in most neighborhoods. For example, before speed humps were installed on one street with a 25 mph speed limit, the average speed was 33.4 mph. After the humps were installed, the average dropped down to 26.7 mph. The 85th percentile was reduced by 6 mph — from 39.3 to 33.1.

What Has Not Worked?

More Neighborhood Input Needed

When the program first starts in a new area, we hold neighborhood meetings to share the findings from the traffic studies and discuss options and develop action plans. Attendance at these meetings has been very low. Sometimes less than one percent of neighborhood residents show up. Input from residents is essential, and we are looking at different ways to get their opinions and comments.

People Reluctant to Use Traffic Tamers

Traffic Tamers is a neighborhood speed watch program where residents can check out radar guns to monitor speeds of vehicles traveling through their neighborhoods. A letter is then sent to the registered owners who were observed speeding. Only seven neighborhoods have used the program. Residents seem hesitant, and many feel that it is too time consuming and donít like the idea of spying on their neighbors. However, neighborhood volunteers that did use the radar gun felt it was a worthwhile educational program. In some cases it changed their perception of the degree of speeding in their neighborhood. We will continue to promote the program.

Conclusion

It should be noted that there is a high expectation from the public towards this program. Staff time has been reallocated so that nearly two full time employees are required to make the program work effectively. The NTSP is still in its infancy, and each neighborhood continues to be a learning experience.

Contact: Eric L. Blake, City Traffic Engineer, Fort Collins, 970/224-6062.

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