Lake Saint Louis may remain calm for now concerning “traffic calming” efforts on city streets.
A study of vehicle speeds on city residential and major streets found that while many drivers may exceed posted speed limits they aren’t going fast enough to prompt heavy ticketing by city police officers.
For the moment, that means that the city may not have to take major “traffic calming” efforts to discourage speeding. Those efforts often take the form of what Derek Koestel, the city’s public works director, called “changing the geometry” of roads and streets such as implementing lane widths or restrictions, lower speed limits and more traffic signs to slow down traffic.
Koestel told the city’s Board of Aldermen at its Oct. 3 work session that traffic counts conducted by the city on residential and non-residential streets don’t suggest that radical changes are needed.
What city officials are seeing is that, on some non-residential streets around town, people are pushing the speed limit a little more, Koestel said. That’s less apparent on residential streets where the posted speed limit is 25 mph.
Aldermen and city officials began the counts to get some idea if there was a speeding problem.
“The point of this, and the decision we have to make, is what is the right speed for people to drive,” Koestel said. “Are we happy if people are staying at or under the speed limit or a few miles over – is that good – or are we trying to get most people to drive slower than the speed limit in residential areas particularly? What’s our objective?”
Accepted traffic guidelines suggest speed limits of 15-30 mph on residential streets and 20-30 mph on non-residential streets, he said. Another general guideline is that police often apply some discretion, depending upon the circumstances, and not strictly enforce speed limits to the letter.
Koestel said often police make judgment calls and may allow vehicles to travel eight to 10 miles per hour over a speed limit before pulling over vehicles to issue citations.
The city’s counts suggest that on streets such as Dauphine, Savoy and Fox Trail, a majority of people – as much as 90 percent – are driving at or below that eight mile over speed limit target, he said.
Police Chief Mike Force said police probably writes 10 a day for speeding and other offenses such as running stop signs. Officers look at circumstances before deciding whether to stop a vehicle to write a ticket such as the density of traffic, if children are playing in the street, if it is a winding or hilly road and if there have been complaints or problems in an area, he added.
Sometimes it is a “matter of perception” whether some traffic is actually speeding, he added. Vehicles may accelerate from stop signs, slow down around curves, and may seem to be traveling faster if the engine gets louder during acceleration, he said.
The board took no action after the presentation. Koestel said the city may take more sample traffic counts, often using a radar gun, to check on traffic speeds.