Northside

Traffic calming chicanes presented to Kalamazoo residents in North Side event

Kalamazoo residents got their first look at chicanes, a physical barrier used to calm traffic on city streets where motorists drive too fast at a special event, Thursday, July 30, at LaCrone Park. Neighbors were invited to see how the chicanes work and ask questions about them.

And early indications are that first impressions were not favorable. 

Residents expressed disappointment that the chicanes appeared to be little more than paint on the roadway, which they could not see as effective in slowing down speeding drivers. 

More than one neighbor said it appeared to be a $30,000 bandaid approach that did not get to the root of the problem — that Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety officers are not policing traffic as it should be or arresting those who are making streets dangerous on the North Side.

City planners and Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety officials listened intently as the comments came in. Listening and acting on what residents say is at the heart of the move to install traffic calming devices.

As part of a pilot program to gauge the effectiveness of chicanes, the barriers are to be installed on residential streets throughout the Northside Neighborhood. Before-and-after traffic data and feedback from neighborhood residents will be used to assess whether chicanes should be installed in other parts of the city.

The CIty of Kalamazoo reports studies have shown that chicanes lower traffic speeds and reduce traffic crashes by about 29%.

The chicanes that will be installed will be semi-permanent, consisting of a marked off area extending from the curb with flexible posts installed along the boundary. The city says this makes them cost-effective, more easily installed, and faster to implement than a concrete chicane or roadway redesign. It also makes it possible to adjust their location if necessary. Unlike other traffic calming designs like speed bumps, chicanes are easy for bikes and emergency vehicles to navigate.

They will be installed at locations on Staples, Woodward, Bosker and Cobb avenues, William, Elizabeth, Mabel, Florence, Ada, Burdick, Edwards, and Prouty streets, and a location near the intersection of Cadillac and Hawley streets.

Because they extend from the curb, some on-street parking spaces will be lost to accommodate the chicanes. And adjustments will need to be made in the winter.

Feedback from this project will help determine how to best plan and coordinate future projects with residents, how to identify the underlying issues that contribute to unsafe traffic, and what the best ways are to address them, the city says. Once developed, staff plan to use this process implement more traffic calming projects each year starting in 2021.

More information on this project is available here

Read more articles by Kathy Jennings.

Kathy Jennings is the managing editor of Southwest Michigan's Second Wave. She is a freelance writer and editor.
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