Side Streets: Readers all have tales of Springs speed spots

By Bill Vogrin Updated: September 12, 2013 at 11:41 pm • Published: September 12, 2013 | 11:40 pm 0
photo - Toby Norton whistles Tuesday to slow down a speeding motorist in the school zone on  Van Buren Street by Stratton Elementary School. Norton points her orange hair dryer at drivers hoping they'll think it's a radar gun. Reis photo
Toby Norton whistles Tuesday to slow down a speeding motorist in the school zone on Van Buren Street by Stratton Elementary School. Norton points her orange hair dryer at drivers hoping they'll think it's a radar gun. Reis photo

All I have to do is mention speeding, schools and neighborhoods to get a strong reader reaction.

In Wednesday's Side Streets, I reported that Facebook friend Amy Berger wanted to know how to request a speed trap be set in her neighborhood near Horace Mann Middle School. Amy said commuters turn Templeton Gap into a drag strip each morning and evening.

The calls, Facebook messages and emails came as expected, pointing out speeding hot spots and urging Colorado Springs police to write more tickets in neighborhoods and school zones.

Reader Jerry St. James commented on my column that Capulin Drive in southeast Colorado Springs is more like a freeway than a neighborhood street.

"I wish the city would give me a camera and a radar gun," Jerry wrote.

That's exactly what the city did for another caller, Steve Haver, who used to partner with Toby Norton back in 2000 to slow commuters charging back and forth on Van Buren Street past Stratton Elementary as they took a short cut between Circle Drive and Union Boulevard northeast of downtown.

"Toby and I used to run a radar gun on Van Buren," Haver told me. "We got flipped off a lot. But it actually worked."

Actually, Toby started by parking along Van Buren and holding a hair dryer out her window to resemble a radar gun.

"Finally police got involved, trained her how to use a radar gun," Haver said. "She'd run the gun and I'd take down the data - the description of the car and license number."

Police would look up the registration and send a warning letter to the owner to slow down.

"It made a lot of people very angry, but her daughter and my daughter were a lot safer and I felt pretty good about that," Haver said. "That's a possible solution for Amy. Get out there with a hair dryer.

"Citizen action will take care of these people."

Reader Frank Merritt wrote to complain that speeding hot spots need to be more diligently patrolled by motorcycle cops during morning and evening rush hours. He's especially upset about Collins Road in Falcon Estates north of Woodmen Road.

"Our street is a speeding hot spot as cars shortcut between Woodmen Road and Academy Boulevard," Merritt wrote. "A few months ago, a beautiful sheep dog across the street was mowed down."

Merritt said the city would generate needed tax revenue by "ticketing these rogue drivers."

Others echoed that sentiment, urging more police traffic patrols in neighborhoods.

But it's not that simple, said CSPD's Sgt. Rob Kelley, who supervised the city's 20 motorcycle cops from 2009 until he recently switched assignments.

For years, Kelley explained, his unit focused patrols on major intersections in an effort to slow traffic and reduce crashes.

But residents wanted motorcycle cops more heavily deployed into neighborhoods. So, in 2009, they got their wish. Complaints virtually disappeared, Kelley said. Instead, so many neighborhoods asked for similar attention "it overwhelmed our resources."

There was another problem. With few highly visible motorcycle cops at major intersections, motorists got more daring and drove faster with predictable results. Wrecks at busy intersections spiked.

Kelley said the unit is trying to balance the needs to patrol both neighborhoods and busy intersections.

Now, neighborhoods with speed limits under 30 mph do not qualify for motorcycle enforcement.

But each morning and afternoon motorcycle cops are required to patrol a school zone for a minimum of 30 minutes.

"With over 120 school zones in the city, we don't get to work any one area long enough to have much of an impact," Kelley said apologetically. "But we try."

So, if you have a hot spot you want to report, call your local police substation - Falcon, Stetson Hills, Springs Ranch or Gold Hill.

And if you get really upset, grab your hair dryer and do your best Toby Norton impression.

-

Read my blog updates at blogs.gazette.com/sidestreets.

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