Olive Street Speedway 🏁

Recently there was some discussion online about drivers speeding on Olive Street. The comments were filled the usual litany of solutions: speed signs, stop signs, speed bumps, increased police presence…

All nice ideas, but I believe (and many studies have shown) that they will be ineffective at slowing drivers on this or any other residential side street in Chagrin.

A meaningful, lasting solution will require more significant changes to the design of the street, because the current design is a big contributor to drivers’ behavior.

Olive Street is a quarter of a mile long, perfectly straight, and three car lanes wide. There are frequent driveways on both sides but no cross streets. Parking is allowed on the south side, but it doesn’t seem to be used very often.

This basically makes it a dragstrip.

Yes, there is Robens Court, and stop signs in both directions at that intersection. But–as noted by many of the residents–those stop signs are often ignored.

This isn’t at all surprising. It’s a common misunderstanding that stop signs will help to slow traffic down, but that’s not the reason they exist and they don’t work for that purpose. Stop signs are used to assign right of way at intersections:

Because a stop sign is used to assign right of way at an intersection, it is not an effective means to control speeding. Research shows that where stop signs are installed as “deterrents” or “speed breakers,” there are high incidences of intentional violations resulting in accidents.

When vehicles must stop, the speed reduction is only near the stop sign, and drivers tend to speed up between stop sign controlled intersections. When not required to stop by cross street traffic, only 5 to 20% of all drivers come to a complete stop, 40 to 60% will come to a rolling stop below 5 mph, and 20 to 40% will pass through at higher speeds. Signs placed on major and collector streets for the purpose of speed reduction are the most flagrantly violated.

Stop signs are not warranted in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) as an effective measure to reduce speeding. source

There is not enough traffic coming to or from Robens Court for stop signs to be necessary to determine the right of way, and so they’re mostly ignored. They probably shouldn’t even be there.

Calming Things Down

So what would I try to improve the situation? First, I’d encourage Olive Street residents to start parking on the street. This will cost nothing (other than some added risk to your vehicle) and require no action from the village.

Next I would look at creating a few bump-outs and crosswalks. I’d place them in the vicinity of where Church, Water, and Walnut Streets would intersect if they continued south of Hall Street. This would have the benefit of narrowing the street whether on-street parking is used or not, and give people a designated place to cross the shorter width more safely.

These changes would help re-establish Olive as series of residential blocks, and not a high-speed cut-through. Once some suitable locations have been identified, all it would cost is some paint and plastic posts. If they are successful they can be made permanent with cement curbs, sidewalk ramps, and new grass. Perhaps some additional street trees, which are also known to calm traffic.

These aren’t band-aid solutions meant to be slapped on just during the Maple Street construction, but they’re not very difficult or expensive to implement either. And they could result in a more permanent change in driver behavior. But we’ll never know unless we try something, instead of recycling the same complaints year after year.