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  • Writer's pictureTricia Babischkin

Keep Traffic Calm

In an effort to keep the fact checking process organized and easy to follow, I decided to take the top themes of the board meeting on 11/24/2020 and break them up into a few posts to outline the truth and fiction and realities of the way our village handles things.

During the last board meeting of 11/24/2020, the board adopted a traffic calming policy -- which essentially sets the standards to review if changes to signage, speed, or enforcement are needed to keep and maintain safe roads in our village. There are a few interesting things to note about this policy.

Fact Check #1: Trustee Alexander commends Sgt. Cole for "drafting the traffic calming policy."

Upon review of the original direction given to the board, it appears that in July 2020, CAO Smith included the traffic calming policy that was adopted in 2016 by the Village of Antioch, IL. It appears that our policy is remarkably similar to theirs. In my review I found three occasions where the words differed throughout the policy:

In reading CAO's Smith's original request for the direction to build this policy, she mentions that Tim Hartnett of HR Green had recommended this administrative policy. I looked at other communities that HR Green works with and it appears most of them have adopted similar policies or have a very public process to request a speed review on specific streets.

One of the items that tips off that this policy wasn't written by CAO Smith or anyone in the Village is the use of the term "Plan Commission" instead of "Planning & Zoning." One of the villages HR Green works with and appears to have one of the more well developed processes is the village of Oak Park, IL; which actually has a Plan Commission (because Antioch, also calls their's Planning & Zoning) -- but I can't find that they policy originated there. Needless to say, it is my guess that the policy wasn't originally written from Antioch and CAO Smith, again, used her powers of cut & paste to 'develop' a policy.

Where this is slightly interesting is that during the discussion regarding the policy, Trustee Eddy calls out the "Plan Commission" typo and our lawyer offers up a truly odd explanation. "If you wanted to define the Planning Commission [sic] as Planning & Zoning, that's fine. I think what the policy alludes to is um, one half of the responsibility of the Planning & Zoning Commission are long range planning issues including traffic flow, traffic improvements -- things of that nature -- SO, is that in reference to Planning & Zoning? That's what I took it as." We pay $125/hr for that kind of high, quality legal advice. Dear CAO Smith, we don't have a Plan Commission, we have Planning & Zoning -- if you meant Planning & Zoning, please admit your miss in your editing and fix the policy. OR please establish a Plan Commission to adhere to your newly minted policy.

Finding: False. This Antioch policy was likely provided by HR Green to CAO Smith, who added some definitions before the procedure section -- though, I found those verbatim in a quick Google search.

Fact Check #2: Phil mentions that there are 2 million cars that go down Lake Ave a year.

Research: From the October 27, 2020 board packet, There is a Speed Study of Lake Ave that was conducted over about 33 days. It shows that there are on average about 3,300 cars that go in each direction daily -- or 6,600 per day. If you multiply that average by 365, you get 2.4 million cars a day on Lake Ave.

Finding: True. Phil is correct that Lake Ave has that many cars traveling down it daily. But that actually wasn't the point that was trying to be made during the discussion. You see, one of the changes that the CAO made in the Antioch Policy was the traffic criteria to be considered for additional action beyond direct enforcement by the police or additional signage by public works. The requirement is 300 to 5,000 cars per day.

When I did my board packet review, I mentioned that I thought this daily count would apply to less than 10 streets in the village. Trustee Eddy, who is concerned about the traffic on Turnberry Trail, wondered about this too during the discussion. My guess is that if Lake Ave, arguably the busiest street in Lakewood, actually exceeds the criteria to be considered, then I'm guessing that Haligus, Bard, Huntley, Lakewood, and maybe Turnberry Trail & Broadway are likely the only streets to meet the 300/day car threshold. What I'm rather sure of is that there are not 300 cars per day going down Woodland Hills Blvd, which appears to be Trustee Alexander's biggest concern.

Speaking of Woodland Hills Blvd., he mentioned that it was his belief that the speed limit on his street was not correct because it was 30 mph. But here's the thing, that's the norm in IL for residential streets. My street is 30 mph; very few streets in the village are 25 mph. One of those that I can think of is Longmoor, but is connected to a Crystal Lake street that is 25 mph and is used as cut through to get from Lakewood to Crystal Lake. No one is cutting through Woodland Hills -- so one must ask, who is Trustee Alexander complaining about? His neighbors?

That said, one of the advantages that Lakewood streets have is that very few of them are straight -- when we talk of traffic calming, it isn't just about speed limits, its about how the roads are built to help control or encourage a safe speed. Just like major highways have few curves, which allow us to safely travel at 65+ mph, our neighborhoods are built with these flowing curves, which naturally tend to make drivers drive slower.

Fact Check #3: We are going to have a 'resident run program for voluntary compliance.'

When asked what this interesting piece of the policy referred to, CAO Smith said "we could give residents speed guns..." Um, say what? While funny images of residents standing outside with speed guns made me laugh, I want desperately to give the CAO the benefit of the doubt and that she didn't realize how silly this sounds. What I want to believe she was trying to explain is that speed is hard to judge when you are standing still. I happen to know that there are whole courses for the police on being able to judge speed without a speed gun and they have to get it within a few miles per hour to pass. Let me tell you the difference between 25 and 30 when you are standing on the side of the road worrying about your child isn't much -- and both will feel like the car is flying by. But is giving residents speed guns really the right answer?

First, there's the practically of it. The Village of Lakewood owns ONE portable speed gun. it costs about $600+/year to calibrate it so the readings can be used in a court of law. This one gun also has no battery pack and would need to be plugged into a cigarette lighter to even work. I highly doubt that our police department would hand out this single precious speed gun to private citizens. I would suggest that maybe the village would consider purchasing some that aren't admissible in court for perception but do we really have budget for that?

Second, there's the residents policing each other issue. Think about what happens if you check out a radar gun and find your down the block neighbor is a habitual speeder. You call the police (or maybe you text Phil -- since he prefers you don't call McHenry County Sheriff) and what are they going to do? Talk to your neighbor, maybe? They can't write a ticket, they weren't there. They enforce the speed limit on your word, you aren't deputized. This has an incredible potential to cause rifts between neighbors -- when it could have been avoided by just knocking on your neighbor's door and chatting politely.

Finally, we have a small police department. Thankfully, we have limited crime too. But our officers all have better things to do than manage a speed gun lending library. The CAO did mention that there were 4 options that could be used to help calm traffic issues and this resident run program is only one of the four. I just happen to think it probably should have been edited out better OR at least give the residents a better explanation than "arm residents with speed guns."

Finding: Likely False. I highly doubt that this idea will ever actually happen. I do wonder if the CAO realizes how funny it sounded.

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Steve Schwertfeger
Steve Schwertfeger
Nov 30, 2020

We live on Ackman right by Lou Malnotti's and the posted speed is 40. My guess is that 60 is the norm. Several older people live on this stretch of road, no monitoring of the speed limit is just an accident waiting to happen.

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