A year after the City of La Mesa installed two traffic circles, six low medians, and a "pork-chop island" on Harbinson Avenue to try to slow speeding traffic, most residents — and a small traffic study — say the efforts only put pedestrians and residents in danger while while making less street parking available.
Many of the residents say they want speed bumps. Drivers have long used Harbinson Avenue as a speedy and fun alternative to 70th Street. The avenue, about four blocks east of 70th Street, curves through a middle-class neighborhood.
Traffic studies have found that drivers rush through the otherwise quiet neighborhood at speeds of 35 to 40 miles per hour, whipping around curves. The avenue has had a number of crashes — including ones in which cars have ended up on residents' lawns; that's changed little in the last year, most residents say. And the "traffic obstacles," as Jeffrey Bauer called them, force drivers to the sides of the road where they threaten the safety of pedestrians.
"As a person who walks the neighborhood, these things scare me," Bauer said. "They've taken the cars from the center of the road to the sides on a street where there are no sidewalks." Bauer said he appreciates the work city engineers have done. "They are well intentioned but they didn't work."
Others are not as kind.
"I've been wanting to complain about the street hazards installed by the City of La Mesa for some time," one resident said on condition of anonymity. "Those hazards are impediments to traffic and damaging to vehicles. I keep seeing the rubber skid marks on those hazards, demonstrating that the concept is a ridiculous failure."
Down the street, Rick Woolverton said he wants the traffic circles removed and hopes others do, too. He said there have been seven accidents since the December 2013 project — including two in which cars ended up in people's yards, damaging a hedge and a chain-link fence.
"If not for the hedge, she would have gone into the house," Woolverton said, noting that the owner has replaced the hedge with a four-foot-tall brick and cement wall. "Kids live there." The traffic circles are lower and smaller than people expected and lack adequate signage to indicate traffic flow around the circles. "They're confusing," Bauer said. "Half the cars turn left onto Annapolis [Avenue] before the circle, making things more dangerous."
But most telling is the study done with a radar gun that found the speeds in 2014 were about the same or higher than they were in 2010. Every measurement was above the 30-mph speed limit. But there are those who believe the traffic circles are working — mostly city staff.
The city's engineering reports found there were no accidents from the installation in December 2013 until August 2014, when there were four crashes on Harbinson. City engineers seemed to suggest that three of those were problems with the drivers — two were DUI and a third was driving distracted — and not with the road.