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Despite concerns, no city traffic calming needed

By Grace Lovins


Following a request by Birmingham City Commissioner Andrew Haig made at the meeting on August 15, the commission examined potential traffic calming measures that could be employed throughout the city during the commission meeting on Monday, August 29, and following information provided by the police department, determined it is not an immediate concern, but warranting continued study by staff and committees.


On August 15, Haig proposed that the commission revisit the idea of adding speed bumps in the city for traffic speed management. He relayed his experience in London, England, noting speed bumps, speed tables, and other traffic measures are commonplace, stating these techniques are frequently used and effective.


After receiving direction from city manager Tom Markus, Birmingham Police Chief Mark Clemence looked into prior traffic calming measures that have been discussed by city staff. He noted that the topic had been looked at in March of this year by the traffic and safety board, however, the conclusion presented to city staff regarding traffic measures suggested that it was not an immediate issue.


“The traffic consultants, city staff and the multi modal transportation board felt that speed bumps or speed tables were not an issue that the city of Birmingham should be using at this time based upon the current statistics,” Clemence said. He additionally proposed that if the commission would like to continue looking into traffic calming measures, they could instruct him to work with the multi modal transportation board to conduct more comprehensive research on the topic.


Multiple commissioners indicated that while there may not be an immediate need to implement measures like speed bumps right now, the topic is worth deeper evaluation. Haig referenced chief Clemence’s report which mentioned that Ruffner Avenue, which could potentially serve as a test site for certain traffic measures.


“Your report mentioned that Ruffner may be an ideal spot to do a study because there is a lot of cut-through traffic both east and west on Ruffner. I would whole-heartedly support going down that pathway if we could to understand, because that may be a test case for us. Historically there has not been a need, but it does appear as though many behavior patterns are not changing for the positive with driver behavior,” said Haig.


Commissioner Clinton Baller echoed Haig’s concerns over driver behavior and cut-through traffic, an issue he says he has observed on several occasions sitting on his own porch. Baller indicated that with all of the tools available to alleviate issues surrounding traffic and speed, the city should be able to slow down traffic with a concerted effort. Despite Baller’s push for action, Clemence acknowledged that inappropriate use and placement of such measures could hurt more than help.


“If you don’t put things in the right place at the right time, it’s going to make things worse. I know it’s not what a lot of residents want to hear because they feel a stop sign is the end-all-be-all to everything, but the reality is that driver behavior doesn't follow that and we have to be smart about what we do with those things,” Clemence said.


He reiterated that he would be more than willing to continue working with the multi modal transportation board, engineers and traffic specialists to identify streets throughout the city that would meet the criteria to test certain calming measures.


Commissioner Elaine McLain and mayor Therese Longe additionally expressed their support of a continued evaluation into traffic issues, Longe noting that it appears to be a worthy topic of concern to citizens. Longe instructed Clemence to continue looking into the traffic issues in conjunction with the multi modal transportation board to conduct more comprehensive research into traffic issues and applicable calming measures.

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