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New Aspen speed limit -- 14 miles an hour?

January 30, 2013|By John M. Glionna
  • The question is speed limit. In Aspen, Colo., the City Council is looking into the feasibility of making the official speed limit 14 mph.
The question is speed limit. In Aspen, Colo., the City Council is looking… (Los Angeles Times )

Mayor Mick Ireland had seen enough traffic scofflaws, the lead foots and stop-sign runners.

On leisurely patrols atop his bike, the top official in Aspen, Colo., had watched countless motorists cut through the Rocky Mountain resort town’s West End to avoid congestion along nearby Highway 82.

Every time traffic slows along the city's main thoroughfare, cars whiz out of traffic and onto the residential streets, rushing through a series of stop signs to keep making time.

“It’s crazy,” Ireland told the Los Angeles Times. “Drivers don’t really save any time because of all the stop signs, but they all tell me that they just feel better if they keep moving, rather than being stuck in traffic.”

The city installed bollards -- thin posts fixed to the middle of the road -- to slow traffic and increased police patrols and additional stop signs in the area. Nothing worked.

Then Ireland got an idea: Drop the speed limit to an oddball number, to get people’s attention.

To a limit like 14 mph.

“It gets people’s attention,” Ireland, 63, told The Times. “I don’t think many people even notice regular speed limit signs anymore.”

Now City Council members have directed staff to explore the cost and feasibility of the 14-mph speed limit. “One of the council members really likes that number,” Ireland said. “He’s a football player so, for him, it’s like two touchdowns.”

Ireland said he got the idea a few years ago when a resident who had traveled in Europe and had read about traffic studies there mentioned that injuries and crashes in residential areas declined significantly when the speed limit was under 30 kilometers, or 18 miles, per hour.

Residents told officials that local studies showed traffic already moved at about that speed in Aspen’s residential areas, so Ireland suggested 14 miles an hour.

But the mayor’s not done yet. He wants to install speed bumps in other areas as well as stop signs that command bicyclists to yield.

“Nobody’s going to go crazy here,” he said. “We’re not going to be handing out tickets for going three miles over a 14-mph speed limit. I ride my bike in that area and even I can go faster than 14 miles an hour.”

But like a black-diamond ski slope, the new signs will “get your attention.”

Ireland says he believes the new speed limit will soon become law in Aspen.

“I’ve been to resorts and seen weird numbered speed limits,” he told The Times. “They just stick in your mind. Not only that, it gets talked about. It gets picked up in the press. And you’re calling, me, right?”

Right you are, mayor.

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