So many of these road ‘improvements’ and flashing lights only make me see red

The “Road Closed” signs appeared a week ago at intersections along Ridgedale Road from Ironwood Drive to York Road. Stanley Clark School sponsors a run through the Twyckenham Hills neighborhood once a year, but that event is traditionally in the fall. Ridgedale Road was just resurfaced a couple of years ago, after years of being in shoddy shape. So what was going on with the road closure?

A week later, construction crews began digging three shallow trenches across Ridgedale near the nursing home, at the bottom of the hill at Hilltop, and near the York Road intersection. If these were some sort of water or utility lines, why weren’t they installed when Ridgedale was resurfaced? Who in the city is coordinating this project? Why were they messing up newly paved Ridgedale?

After a week of finding ways through Twyckenham Hills to avoid the road closure, the answer appeared in newly placed signs: “Speed Hump.” My first thought was, the sign should say “Boondoggle Ahead.”

A fews years back, flashing warning signs were installed at Logan Street and the north riverwalk along the St. Joseph River. It seemed like a good idea. There is a lot of pedestrian and biking activity at the crossing. The lights went red at the push of a button and traffic was supposed to stop. It rarely did. I biked through that intersection frequently, and I learned that until you saw cars stopping in both directions, you did not cross.

I called both the City of South Bend and Mishawaka to report the safety issue. Both cities said it was the other’s responsibility. Nobody seemed to know who installed the lights or which municipality was in charge of maintaining them. I saw South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg at a downtown festival and asked him what could be done. He had no answers. How did he qualify to be the U.S. Secretary of Transportation? It certainly wasn’t because he oversaw the conversion of downtown streets from efficient one-way to inefficient two-way streets. Or maybe it was. Smart streets equal slow streets.

A local television station ran a report about how the lights on Logan were being ignored by drivers. Local police patrolled the area for a short time. And then a bold move was made: The red lights were changed to yellow. Motorists were now being asked to yield instead of stop. From my point of view on my bike, the situation was now more dangerous. For the past year, the lights have been non-operable and are covered by black vinyl bags. 

A flashing red light became a yellow light then was covered at Logan Street at the riverwalk.

In the neighborhood where I live, Ridgedale Road has always been a bit of a speed zone in the middle of a large residential area. The hill between Woodmont and Hilltop invites those with a predilection to put pedal-to-metal to do so. A few years ago, the city installed electronic speed monitoring signs. They accomplished nothing. The flashing admonitions to “Slow Down” are mostly ignored. In a posted 30 mile-per-hour zone, it is rare to see drivers obeying. Heck, I can go 25 miles per hour down that hill on my bike without pedaling.

Seeing how ineffective these expensive and unsightly signs are, I was further dismayed to see dozens of them being installed in school zones the past couple of years. In the area around Stanley Clark School and Monroe Primary there are at least nine of the ugly flashing lights, two of them within a couple hundred yards of each other near the intersection of Donmoyer near High Street. I don’t know who controls the lights, but they are frequently flashing when there are no children present. Is it any wonder drivers don’t take them seriously?

For the past year or so, there have been two removable speed humps on Erskine Boulevard between Donmoyer and Ewing Avenue. That stretch of road doesn’t get a lot of traffic and the humps do seem to slow drivers down.

So now South Bend is going to give concrete speed humps on Ridgedale and Calvert a try. Even before the cones, signs, and yellow tape were removed, I saw several drivers maneuvering their way around and through them. Some got out of their cars to move the barrels aside. 

Our roads are full of people in need of anger management classes, “Fast and Furious” aficionados, and distracted drivers. Local police departments, mostly citing budget constraints, seem to have abandoned any sort of traffic enforcement. 

I have my doubts speed humps are the answer. Either the speeders will use them to “get air” or the snow plows will chunk them up. Meanwhile, some company is busy planning the next expensive traffic control boondoggle. I would rather see South Bend concentrate on patching and paving its many dilapidated roads.