To enforce speed with radar, laser or other electronic devices, cities must establish speed limits by conducting traffic surveys every five years, according to the state’s “speed-trap” law. Without validation, speed limits can be enforced only by officers following a motorist for a quarter mile or more and “clocking” their speed, Johnson said.
Local streets and roads automatically have 25 mph speed limits and are exempt from surveying.
“As far as I am concerned, any residential street should be at 25 miles per hour,” said Mayor Gary Bric, the lone dissenting voter. “To sit there and speed through residential areas is ludicrous to me.”
The council, citing potential danger to pedestrians, equestrians and cyclists, asked Johnson to resurvey Riverside Drive between Olive Avenue and Buena Vista Street, which the traffic engineer recommended go from 30 to 35 mph.
“This is just crazy, especially on Riverside,” Vice Mayor Anja Reinke said. “There’s horses, there’s bikes, there’s pedestrians. I understand we have to comply with the law, but if we can do something to defer that, especially in that Riverside corridor, that would be helpful.”
The council took a similar tack in years past to Riverside Dive, and for five years police officers have been unable to enforce speeds using radar or laser, Johnson said.
The Engineering and Traffic Survey examines highway and traffic conditions on a street or segment and includes prevailing speeds, accident records and roadside conditions. Limits are set at the speed at which 85% of drivers travel slower than the posted speed limit. Some 37 street sections needed to be revised, of which city executives recommended increasing four streets by 5 mph.
The surveyed 85th percentile speed on sections of Lincoln Street, Olive Avenue, Riverside Drive and Scott Road was 40, 35, 33 and 33 mph, respectively.
Surveys typically include up to 200 test samples taken in off-peak daytime hours. City executives will return to the council in six months with updated results for Riverside Drive.
“I’d like to see it recalibrated, redone, put off, and if we don’t write a couple of tickets for a while we can double up in another area or something like that,” Bric said.