Community Post

The Long Battle to Slow Down the Speed Demons

Today we bring you another reminder that if you fight for change along enough, victory can be yours. For 10 years along a stretch of 20th Avenue, neighbors have cringed at the out-of-control speeding and careless driving. Cars hitting 50 miles an hour is not unusual, especially since the street is basically a straightaway with NO traffic calming measures in place from Cherry to Union. (Crafty drivers will use 20th as a faster route to get around traffic on 23rd or 19th.) Every now and then, nearby homeowners tell us they walk outside to find that their vehicle has been sideswiped. Not good. But change is coming to 20th and Marion.

Brenda Neuweiler (owner of the popular catering service) along with a small group of dedicated neighbors, including Dena and Misty, are hoping that a new traffic circle and a pair of “chicanes” will get people to hit the brakes. (You’ve seen chicanes before. They’re those bits of land or pavement that jut out into the street. You have to drive around them.) After nearly a decade of lobbying the city, the neighbors tracked down grant money to put the traffic slowing measures in place. Pink lines on the street now mark where the work will be done. Brenda tells me it was all a “slow process” and that many nearly “gave up.” But a neighborhood meeting not too long ago re-energized them to keep up the good fight. Here’s part of an email she sent:

June 07 we applied for a Street Calming Grant $15,000. through the Neighborhood Street Fund and were notified in the fall of 07 that we received it. In January 08 we met with our city Rep Jane Rebelowski who is handling the process with us till completion. I had to canvas the neighbors between union and marion and get 65 percent of overall signatures for approval. After that was completed I got the radar gun for 3 days and now we have an auto speed sign registering all traffic driving north and south. Construction and completion is scheduled for sometime this summer. Thomas Whittemore is with the Dept. of Neighborhoods and is another great source for information.

An “auto speed sign” is one of those big digital boards that tell you how fast you’re allegedly going, usually seen in construction zones, though it’s no longer there at the intersection. The neighbors, along with the city, had to document traffic and speeds in the area. Two years ago, neighbors actually had the pavement at the intersection of 20th and Marion painted with a colorful design with a few hundreds dollars in grant money and the city’s help. It was a temporary solution to get drivers’ attention and get them to slow down — that’s no longer doing the trick. Now they wait and wonder if these new “permanent” additions will make the street a little bit safer.

Brenda says if you’re interested in trying to add traffic circles or chicanes to your neighborhood, get ready to be persistent and to “keep at it.” She recommends checking with the city’s Department of Transportation to find out who your representative for traffic calming might be. To borrow that radar gun to measure speeds, there’s a lengthy waitlist. Start investigating the possibilities of grant money (because the city itself won’t be dishing out the cash.) And, as always, get ready to get involved, and talk with neighbors.

0 thoughts on “The Long Battle to Slow Down the Speed Demons

  1. thanks so much for your post.

    We’re dealing with this every day down here on 22nd Ave/Union! People fly down our street and many a cars are sideswiped…we fear for our children’s safety.

    Its nice to see that it actually happened. Hopefully we can rally enough support/energy to get a something going on down here.

    enjoy the peace.

  2. The painted design in the street at 20th and Marion was the first visible landmark of the SPCC “Reclaiming the Streets for the People” project. The project’s goal is to assist residents in efforts to make neighborhood streets safer and more friendly to pedestrians and bikers and to create “community-building” spaces in public places, like intersections, sidewalks, and parking strips. A version of the report prepared by the Council with the help of a traffic consultant is at The plan has examples of projects but’s not intended to be a complete list or plan. People who want help with support/energy on projects for their streets and sidewalks can get together through the Community Council. (To see examples of where a lot of community effort could lead see

  3. i liked that painted section of the street so much better before i knew it was supposed to keep me from speeding.

  4. I’ll ignore the immediately preceding post, and say this:

    The only reason why anything happened at 20th & Marion is because the neighbors got together and didn’t give up. Bureaucracies move slowly, and change takes time. You have to be willing to make the commitment. There are people out there who will help – as Bill says, the SPCC is a great resource. All of us at Feet First are also more than willing to do whatever we can to help neighbors reclaim the streets for people *AND* cars, as opposed to only the latter.

    It’s too bad that our intersection repair process – incidentally one of only two city-wide – hasn’t had the hoped-for traffic calming results in this particular location. But if anyone is interested in trying it at your own intersection, please feel free to contact Feet First and we’ll be happy to tell you what Brenda and everyone else involved at 20th & Marion learned in their process.

  5. Hope you Keep it nicer than I (feeling guilty) and my neighbors have not kept ours up!

  6. That is a great success and the advocates who made this happen should be proud. Those of us who live south of this area, specifically in the S Charles and S Norman areas of 20th, need to do the same. For far too long cars careen down this stretch of road at very dangerous speeds. Are there lessons learned or a game plan that folks in other areas can follow?