Honking off lousy drivers -- it's my civic duty

DeWayne Bartels

Our nice weather has put me in a foul mood.

It’s not the weather that is making me surly. It is the fact I’m outside more now and seeing the driving habits  in my neighborhood.

Many of the drivers treat my street like a race track, except this race track is populated with little kids on tricycles, big wheels and bikes.

Stop signs, forget it. Neither the kids nor many of the adults driving cars pay attention to them on my corner. 

For kicks, I like to stand on the corner and wait for drivers who barely hesitate at the stop sign to start going through and step out into the street. It’s fun to watch them lock up or swerve around me, hitting the curb. 

I’ve been threatening to do “It” for a long time. I am in the midst of a two-week vacation and the time has finally come, I think.

“It” is getting a piece of poster board and writing on it “That’s a stop sign, stupid.”

Then I plan to go stand on my corner — a corner with a four-way stop I requested from city hall — and stick my sign up at the 12 trillion drivers who run it each day.

I might end up in the ER with a black eye or worse, but it will feel good to strike a blow at the morons who constitute what I believe is a sizable portion of Peoria’s driving population.

And, a good number of those sliding through the stop sign, I have reason to believe are North Peorians. I see a lot of BMW’s and such on their way to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, going right on through.

This is why the effort by Pat Sullivan, head of the city traffic commission, and others on the commission to reduce Peoria’s speed limit in residential neighborhoods  is such a worthy cause.

It is going to take a “very, very long time,” but, if Peorians want it, the residential speed limit will fall to 25 mph, a city official said after the last traffic commission meeting.

Nick Stoffer, a city traffic design engineer, told the Peoria Traffic Commission, the state will not allow Peoria to just drop the speed limit on residential streets 5 mph all at once.

“We could, however, do it on a neighborhood or subdivision level,” Stoffer said.

Sullivan said, “It is not complicated. I think most of the public wants this.”

Sullivan said all residents have to do is bring a petition to the traffic commission. From there the city will do a study and, if warranted, reduce the speed limit.

Stoffer said since the process does not require city council approval it can be done in about a two-to-three-week period.

“Public support for lowering residential speed limits is good,” Stoffer said.

Peoria Heights police chief Dustin Sutton said about five years ago the village lowered the speed limit to 25 mph on Prospect Road through the village’s business district. He said the lower speed limit has, in his view, improved safety on the busy thoroughfare.

“Safety was a concern with all the foot traffic we have. There’s four crosswalks in a three-block area,” Sutton said.

“The secret to making it work is enforcement. We do quite a bit of enforcement.”

Sutton said like many residential neighborhoods throughout Peoria, the Heights was seeing fast traffic on Prospect because people used it to avoid traffic on Knoxville.

“Prospect is a main traffic vein. People are cutting through Peoria Heights from all directions to avoid traffic. They blow stop signs. Speeding is an issue. I could put four or five traffic cars out on our streets and keep them busy seven days a week,” Sutton said.

 “If we don’t keep on it, it gets out of control. As soon as we’re not visible we have a race track.”

Sutton said enforcement is really the only way to control speed in residential areas. He said most Peorians would probably be in favor of the idea.

“People would be for it, especially if they have pride in their neighborhood,” Sutton said. “People care about the kids in their neighborhoods. Reduced speed limits work with enforcement.”

Me standing on a corner with a sign reading “That’s a stop sign, stupid,” is not exactly enforcement, but it’s a start.