Traffic Calming

The city gaveth, and the city must taketh away.

I have been on a crusade of sorts for the last year and a half. At issue is the city's inept, ineffective and dangerous attempt at traffic calming in north Asheville, on Charlotte Street and on Macon and Kimberly avenues.

In the spring of 2008, City Council was considering a proposal to install traffic-calming features on these and adjacent streets. The deliberations followed a long process, including a petition by local residents in the area to get approval for the plan. Most of the people who signed this petition had no clue as to how poorly thought-out, draconian and dangerous the measures would be.

I expressed my protests, along with many others, including Emergency Services Director Jerry Vehaun, who had serious concerns about the measures' effect on emergency-vehicle response time.

Council would not listen to the plan's opponents, as they were attempting to placate a very small and influential group of people who lived in the neighborhood and were angry at the Grove Park Inn for building The Fitzgerald condominiums on Macon Avenue.

Many residents — who believe that these streets belong to them and that the rest of the community has no right to travel them — joined the chorus of support for the plan. Council basically extorted the $375,000 cost of the traffic calming in exchange for its approval of the necessary permits.

The option of going back to the planning phase, to consider alternatives, and to avoid the predictable mistakes and horrible results that ensued, was not even considered.

The project consisted of placing concrete dividers and "bulb outs" (globs of concrete that stick out into the street from the side of the road with the purpose of narrowing the road) throughout the area.

The design of the curbs appears to be an extremely vicious attempt to punish the scofflaws who go through this hallowed neighborhood. Instead of the curbs being low with rounded corners — so that if they are accidentally hit, a car tire will run up over the curb — they are 6 inches high with square corners, so that if struck, they will at the very least burst a tire and break a wheel and maybe an axle, but at the worst, the car will bounce off them and carom into oncoming traffic.

The unsightly warning signs placed in the concrete islands have been knocked down so many times that the city had to hire a pin-setter from the local bowling alley to set them back up. In some places, the city has designated bike paths, but the obstructions require that the bikers weave in and out of traffic to negotiate the street.

These obstructions have caused accidents numbering in the hundreds, which I dare say are more accidents than have occurred in this area in the last 10 years. I would estimate that motorists have suffered damages between $500,000 and $1,000,000 since these obstructions have been installed. The city has had numerous claims filed against it, and I suspect there are more to come.

Luckily, to my knowledge, no one has been killed or seriously injured to date, but that is, unfortunately, just a matter of time.

I live in this neighborhood and walk or ride through it daily. It is heartbreaking to see these drivers on the side of the road with their damaged cars. I can only imagine the extent of their trauma.

The worst part is that the outcome has been abysmal. All this expense and all the dangerous situations that have been created have not necessarily slowed the traffic on the main arteries. If one chooses, one can still run these streets at 40 or 50 miles per hour.

The city has even gone so far as to plant bushes in the middle of these islands, with the expectation that volunteers will take care of the gardening. We know from the experience on Montford and Murdock avenues how long this will last. Eventually maintenance will be an additional expense to the city.

You can put green lipstick all over this pig and it will still be a deadly wild boar that is going to kill somebody.

The only positive thing that has come out of this entire process is that the gentle speed bumps on such streets as Evelyn Place and Country Club Road are effective and have slowed the traffic without being dangerous and unsightly. Also, Macon got a much-needed sidewalk, although its poor design may cause safety problems in the sharp curve at the top of the hill.

The solution to the problem of getting people to drive through the neighborhood at a reasonable and safe speed is simple, but will cost money:
• First, all of the concrete obstructions must be removed.
• Then, after careful study, strategically install the same type of speed bumps that are on Evelyn Place and Country Club Road.
• Put up proper signage, so that both locals and visitors will be warned and aware of the speed limit, and install several speed boards (flashing signs that alert motorist of their speed). Unlike the temporary boards you might have seen used in the city, these devices are available in attractive designs.
• Finally, install a traffic light at the intersection of Charlotte Street and Edwin Place.

If you have an interest in effecting a change in this situation and would like to help, please contact me at


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17 thoughts on “Traffic Calming

  1. Judi Williams

    Mr. Sternberg continues his personal tirade by distorting the facts. His opinions are filled with inaccuracies and he knows it. He proves the saying “I’ve made up my mind,don’t confuse me with the facts.”

  2. AvlResident

    I have no information or judgments on the issue. Mr. Sternberg makes a persuasive case. Could Ms. Williams, rather than attacking Mr. Sternberg and accusing him of deliberate distorations, offer her view of correct, undistorted facts?

    Is there any information available on number of vehicles damaged and financial cost of the damanges? Number of suits, if any, pending against the city for these damages? Data showing that the traffic calming devices have actually worked?

    Any citizen journalists out there with information and not accusations?

  3. Mitchxout

    Although Jerry’s “facts” are over the top I agree with him 100%. The calming islands on Kimberly Ave are a dangerous travesty and a huge waste of money. Ironically, I was told by a cop that most of the speeders actually live in the Kimberly area.

  4. older than dirt

    Actually I am very much in agreement with Mr Sternberg. He pretty much hits the nail on the head on this one. The “traffic calming” measures on Kimberly Ave are both ineffective and a waste of money. They (the city)have recently added “traffic calming” on Wolfe Cove Rd,and ruined a perfectly fine road, probably to pacify a few voices complaining about Bartams Walk

  5. mtndow

    “Round-abouts” and rotaries didn’t work in the eighteenth century and they don’t work now. Seems as if some college graduate engineer from yankee land is making a good living off of city tax payers by messing up our streets. Thanks for nothing. One bent wheel.

  6. Oh no!, not that!

    Those damn college graduate engineers. And yankees, too?! Well, I’ll be.

  7. Marilyn L. Patton

    Last year while visiting Asheville, my husband and I were coming down the street towards Kimberly Ave when a large truck’s front tire hit one of these monstrous “bunkers”. The truck wobbled and almost flipped over onto us. I think that these obstacles should be removed.

  8. mtndow

    Yup, an J.D. flipped it when he hit the one on Montford.
    I am a Yankee engineer. Have you looked for the schools of engineering at W.W. or UNCA?

  9. Jake

    Anyone who hits one of the traffic islands or bulb-outs is guilty of inattentive driving, period. You snooze, you lose. Focus on the task at hand, and you won’t run into anything.

    Mr. Sternberg can whine all he wants (and we know that he does), but I, for one, am glad that these things have stopped more than one drunk driver.

  10. Jerry is correct on this one. We should not let the city ruin anymore streets until it proves that the ridiculous bump outs actually work; with real statistics, use Murdock as a case study, have there been less traffic accidents or fatalities(including pets) and have people actually slowed down since we installed those hazards.
    Kimberly is one of the most attractive streets in the area(even with the new concrete warts), but it is a very wide street and people drive faster on wide streets.
    At least with the Kimberly “Traffic Calming” devices my tax dollars did not have to pay for it. But I would have rather had the $375,000 extortion money to repair city streets instead making them uglier. Maybe they could have fixed the low spot in Hillside around that drain inlet(now that is an effective traffic calming device!). Who knows since the Jewish Community Center is expanding it’s commercial activity into a residential area, maybe the city will extort money from them to repair Hillside.

  11. Judi Williams

    responding to avlResident – replying to Jerry’s inacurate statements would take more space than allowed here. Suffice it to say he has had personal one-on-one time with those of us directly involved in the traffic calming process and was given the correct information and explainations. Yet he continues to espouse them. Is he entitled to his opinion to not like the devices? Yes, but he’s not entitled to support that opinion by distorting the facts without being challenged. A response editorial has been submitted. Watch for it.

  12. Barbara Blomberg

    I couldn’t agree more with Jerry Sternberg. I know of at least three accidents that have occurred as a result of these ridiculous and unsightly “islands”—one affecting someone in my family. And it is indeed a horror to behold the condition of Kimberly Avenue—WHY can’t it be paved???

  13. killarue

    Okay now, let me get this straight, Mr Sternberg, if that is your real name, you are more concerned about the welfare and cost of repairs to motor vehicles than you are with human life, hmmm. Sorry, I couldn’t resist a small joke. Seriously though, the traffic calming devices don’t move. Yea, I know! I was shocked by this fact too. It appears that they just sit there imposing their fear on all that pass through. Why they don’t even quiz you to see if you are worthy or not.Ha Okay, very serious now, please stop with this silly and falsely inflated tirade on this topic. It isn’t worth your time. Possibly, there is a story in that vault of your’s pertinent to this matter. Hmmm, I imagine you listening to your father espousing his wisdom concerning the conspiracy of the stop sign, street light or school zone, “damn, we’ll never get these beasts to the slaughterhouse on time, m**f** federal meddlers, they can keep their stimulus money”. Sorry, couldn’t resist again. Anywho, it seems to me the simplest manner in which to protect our children would be for drivers to pay attention to the road and proceed slowly through these neighborhoods and not to complain. There are plenty of things that you could focus your attention, and steely eyed gaze, to demonstrate your love and support for the people and this lovely city. May I suggest you rail about the horribly managed downtown park that is going into its fifth year of reconstruction. Now that is a topic to sink your teeth into.

  14. Asheville Native

    I drive down Kimberly ALL THE TIME, never have I felt that these traffic control structures are out of whack. Here’s an idea…Learn how to drive your vehicles and quit your whining.

  15. hal

    the roads here are bad enough already, how about some STAND-ALONE LEFT/RIGHT TURN LANES? whoever designed the roads here was smoking something.

  16. hal

    To whom it may concern;

    I think you are making a mistake by considering the addition of any devices that impede the already poor efficiency of the roads in Asheville, regardless of the road’s location. It is not really in the interest of the public to create any new problems/obstacles/bumps on roads that are already so horribly maintained that it is unsafe to navigate them regardless of these things. How about calming traffic by adding more independent left and right turn lanes, paving roads as needed, fixing intersections that all merge into one lane which could be wide enough for more lanes, putting turn arrows on traffic lights at intersections that can use them, and instead of “no turn on red” signs put “green right turn arrows” at those intersections to show all times that it is safe to turn? Any medians or traffic calming devices, especially speed bumps, should not be considered because the roads aren’t even smooth enough anyway. If you do not keep the goal of roadway efficiency and safety in mind, 5-10 years form now this whole town is going to be in gridlock for certain hours every day. I have seen what Atlanta has done to “calm traffic” and the only purpose it serves is to “cause traffic jams”. You must consider that the reason people are not calm on the roads is because the roadways are NOT efficient in the first place. This would not be a problem once safety AND efficiency takes first priority.

  17. Mister Blister

    Perhaps if you quit drinking and driving you wouldn’t keep hitting things with your car.

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