From marijuana debates to late-night oil and gas hearings, the Windsor Town Board chambers have housed plenty of contentious decisions over the years. But on Monday, it was a lengthy discussion about residential speed limits that garnered some of the most passionate conversation in recent memory.
In a surprisingly emotional and heated 70-minute discussion, the board weighed a series of proposed changes to the town’s 30 mph speed limit. The board ultimately directed town staff to explore a number of routes including a sweeping change to town-wide speed limits, a patchwork plan based on residential area needs and a hybrid, educational approach to deter dangerous or potentially deadly driving habits.
“I live on a cul de sac and I watch people race up and down to a street that goes nowhere, and it makes no sense to me,” Mayor John Vazquez said after Monday’s meeting. Throughout the work session, he grew passionate and even angry occasionally, sometimes shouting or making emotional appeals while citing other traffic incidents in Windsor and Fort Collins.
“I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask people to take it down a notch within the residential areas where we know kids can come out at any time,” he added. “Speed kills, but if we can take it down a little bit, we can save lives.”
Board member Don Thompson previously brought the issue forward after receiving traffic-related complaints from his constituents. Since then, staff compiled research from across the region and noted that most communities in the region including Fort Collins, Johnstown, Milliken and parts of Loveland have residential speeds of 25 miles-per-hour. Greeley’s local street limit remains at 30 mph.
A portion of the conversation was devoted to evaluating just how effective posted limits are after several board members argued people will speed regardless of what a sign says. Police Chief John Michaels maintained that limits should remain based on the “85th percentile,” meaning that 85 percent of drivers are reasonable and will travel at a speed they feel is safe, regardless of what a sign says is legal. It’s a commonly-used measure for determining speed limits across the country.
During the past two years, Windsor witnessed 17 accidents between cars and pedestrians, bikes, or skateboards, he explained. Of those incidents, the vehicle driver was at fault about half the time. Beyond that, in 2012 Windsor police issued 2,651 traffic-related citations while doling out 3,827 warning tickets.
Board member Robert Bishop-Cotner questioned exactly what the need was for a sweeping change and sign replacements across all of Windsor. He acknowledged certain communities could warrant a change, but opted instead for a more holistic approach including public education and grass-roots awareness.
Staff is expected to return with more answers and options in the coming months, though no specific time line was set as of Monday.
“I think it sends a message to the residents that we’re concerned about speeding,” board member Myles Baker said of at least considering and potentially alternating the limits. “I think that will go a long way.”