Editor's note: On September 9, Xpress published "Traffic Calming: The Gospel According to Jerry." In it Jerry Sternberg decries the city's "inept, ineffective and dangerous attempt at traffic calming in north Asheville, on Charlotte Street and on Macon and Kimberly avenues." Here, Grove Park resident Glenda Burgin issues a point-by-point rebuttal.
Jerry's "gospel": Jerry has been on a crusade for a year and a half.
Fact: Grove Park neighbors have been on a traffic-calming crusade for about 10 years.
Jerry's "gospel": "Most of these people who signed the petition had no clue as to how poorly thought-out, draconian, and dangerous these measures would be…"
Over 60 percent of affected neighborhood households had at least one member who signed the petition, and many of them helped design the measures. From beginning to end, the process took several years. Residents attended numerous meetings with city staff and representatives of the engineering/architectural firm that drew up the plans. Postcards, city notices and signs in the neighborhood announced the locations and times of meetings.
All neighbors were invited to come up with suggestions and provide input about troubling areas. Small groups of residents formed to review and mark up the plans, which evolved as the months went by. Any neighbor could review plans at the engineering firm during its office hours.
Calming measures adopted by other cities were shown to residents, and methods thought to be appropriate for our streets were presented and explained. Compromises were continuously made so that the measures would be in accord with safety requirements and city code. Volunteers took the final plan around the neighborhood, getting signatures from members of more than 200 neighborhood households in order to reach the required 60 percent approval threshold.
Jerry's "gospel": "Council would not listen to the plan's opponents, as they were attempting to placate a small group of residents who were angry at the Grove Park Inn for building the Fitzgerald condominiums on Macon Avenue."
At several Council meetings where public comment was invited on this topic in accordance with law, residents — whether for or against — spoke up. Those opposed to the traffic calming did not sign the petition, but, as noted previously, members of the majority of households on the affected streets did sign it.
And the Grove Park Inn was a partner in the traffic-calming project. It not only provided $375,000 to help pay for the project, but it also cooperated as a good neighbor in many other ways. The inn built sidewalks, saved and planted trees, handled construction in an environmentally safe and aesthetically pleasing manner, put up signs to remind their employees and guests about driving in a residential neighborhood, and hired an ombudsman who made sure that communication was clear, constant and positive during building of The Fitzgerald. The traffic-calming project has improved relations between the Grove Park Inn and the surrounding neighborhood.
Jerry's "gospel": "The option of going back to the planning phase, to consider alternatives … was not even considered."
See the above two facts! There was a long planning phase, a long period during which alternatives were considered, and many opportunities for any person, including Jerry, to show up, voice concerns, disagree, mark up sample drawings and offer different suggestions.
Many of the folks who are just now having issues with the traffic-calming devices could have had input by showing up for at least one of the many relevant meetings. Were they out of town all that time? Were they just not interested back then? Were they convinced nothing would happen? Were they too busy to work on issues confronting their own neighborhood?
Talk to any of the neighbors who did work on the project, and you will hear just how much time from their lives — and jobs — they sacrificed for the sake of the project. (Not all of the supporters of the traffic-calming measures are "old biddies" with lots of time on their hands, as Brent Brown insinuated in his cartoon published in the Sept. 9 Xpress. Some are even young parents!)
Jerry's "gospel": "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."
Fact: The city did not plant the bushes. The neighborhood raised money to purchase and plant the bushes, and the city provided only the soil. That was always the plan and was well understood by neighbors. The city never maintains landscaping in traffic islands. With help from Quality Forward, a group of neighbors spent their own time digging and planting (and occasionally being harassed by disgruntled drivers). Let's hope that more neighbors will come forward and offer time and money so that landscaping can improve the appearance of the islands, which Jerry describes as "unsightly." The landscaping may also help some drivers notice that the islands are there.
Jerry's "gospel": "I live in this neighborhood and walk or ride through it daily. … the outcome has been abysmal."
I live in this neighborhood and walk or ride or drive through it daily, and I see slower, more cautious traffic than before. This is not always the case, of course, but the situation has improved from the years before the islands and humps were added.
I have also talked to other residents who live on the directly affected streets: Kimberly, Grovewood and Macon. They likewise feel that the traffic is generally safer and slower and that it is consequently a bit quieter to live or walk there. By the way, residents suggested traffic humps for Kimberly many years ago, but the city responded that they would not be safe for the emergency vehicles that must use Kimberly.
Jerry's "gospel": "Finally, install a traffic light at Edwin and Charlotte."
That traffic light was already requested by interested and involved neighborhood residents during the traffic calming planning process and is being considered by the city's Traffic Engineering Division. It depends upon available funding.
Anyone interested in learning more about the Grove Park neighborhood traffic calming project can email me at email@example.com. Volunteers for helping to tend the landscaping would also be appreciated.
I live in this neighborhood. . . and I see slower, more cautious traffic than before.