Devices doing little to slow drivers, may endanger cyclists

Rubber devices meant to slow down reckless drivers on a steep residential street not only aren’t slowing down cars, but may pose a hazard to bicyclists, locals say.

McGarvey Avenue residents have had their share of trouble, including totaled cars and dead pets, caused by speeding drivers. For two years, they asked Redwood City leaders to install something more effective than warning signs, and this winter they thought they’d finally gotten their wish.

The rubber traffic chokers were installed along the sides of McGarvey Avenue near Chesterton Avenue and Fernside streets this winter for a six-month trial. They’re meant to narrow the traffic lanes so that drivers get nervous and slow down, but residents aren’t seeing much effect.

“I don’t live right by the chokers, but I talk to my neighbors, and what I’ve been hearing is that they’re not helping all that much,” said Kathy Schrenk, a McGarvey resident and vocal supporter of traffic-calming devices on her street.

Between September 2000 and September 2005, police logged 60 automobile collisions on McGarvey, including 10 with minor injuries and 12 hit-and-runs, according to a report from city spokesman Malcolm Smith.

Unsafe turns, failure to yield and speeding were among the top causes.

Although there haven’t been any accidents since the chokers were installed, local cyclists say they’re an accident in the making.

“These berms will force a cyclist to swerve out into the lane,” said local cyclist Adrian Brandt, who has heard similar worries from other bike riders. Or, if a bike tire hit one of the chokers, “they’d instantly throw you down.”

“The residents on McGarvey have a legitimate need for some manner of traffic calming,” Mike Jacoubowsky, owner of the Chain Reaction Bicycles shop, said. “The irony is, they’ve made McGarvey hazardous to cyclists, and with probably very little effect on auto speeds.”

Some McGarvey residents said they wanted the city to install traffic circles or stop signs to reduce speeding, but leaders couldn’t find enough support for those measures after a long public process, Smith said.

This spring, city employees will survey residents to find out how the chokers are working.

“If it doesn’t make any difference, they’ll be removed,” Councilmember Ian Bain said. “There are other options.”

bwinegarner@examiner.com  

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