Getting serious about street safety.

But which street? And how do we go about getting serious? If you have some answers to all this, you – like everyone – have opinions.

Government decisions should not always be based on the opinions of those elected, right? Because those answers are not yours, and because maybe that elected official has an incomplete or even distorted view of the issue. What oh what to do? Currently, our local government (like many others) has no method, no system, no way of making a reasoned assessment as to which of many issues should be addressed sooner rather than later, nor how to approach deciding what potential solution – in any issue – is the best fit.

We are lost in a sea of opinions, including mine, which is: local government needs a structured approach to problem issue solving. And why not? Virtually any large business you can shake a stick at has some structured approach in place, often called risk management. Call it what you want, what they have is a documented process that describes: A)  What exactly the issue of concern is. B) What the main concerns are. C) What applied methods might address those concerns. D) What the best solution is. E) And an explanation of why that solution was chosen.

Everyone has a favorite issue, and here is mine: Cleveland Drive, between Gerstein and Jacoby; it is the end of the Drive, but no one should drive the same way on this section as on the rest of Cleveland. What are the issues? Here’s my structured assessment: A) Pedestrian safety is the issue. B) No sidewalks, no streetlights, narrow undivided roadway, no shoulders, no clear view around tight curves, heavy pedestrian use, heavy vehicle use as a bypass for Rt. 129, excessive vehicle speed. C) Traffic calming device. D) Speed humps (my opinion). E) Making this section one-way is inconvenient for residents and addresses traffic in only one direction, signage and enforcement threat has little effect, traffic calming devices like speed humps work.

During a Trustee work group 2+ years ago, the use of speed bumps/humps was deemed unacceptable (no distinction between bump and hump was made). The main argument in opposition was presented via an email from a Fire Department Captain stating that installing speed bumps/humps would damage firetruck plumbing. That is expert testimony, but from only one source; no other input was presented or sought. For example, other local communities use speed humps – not speed bumps – but none were contacted to obtain their experiences. (Speed bumps are inches in height and inches in length, and rarely used, speed humps are inches in height and many feet in length and are the preferred traffic calming device in many instances).

Opinion vs. assessment: it is challenging to set aside personal opinions, particularly if it means having to follow a standardized approach to making decisions. It also takes work to install a management system based on structured assessments. (There are oodles of nonprofit and government resources on setting up risk management.) But some form of structured approach to problem solving will solve more problems than it creates: you can demonstrate that you’ve captured the critical details, you would be following an accepted and defendable style of problem solving, and you won’t have to pretend that your opinion is better than anyone else’s. So what’s the hold-up?