Speeding prompts 'Slow Down' campaign in town

Paul Clark

A citizens campaign to slow traffic down in Black Mountain is having an effect, and not just the one organizers hoped.

People are stealing the bright yellow “Slow Down” signs in people’s yards, said Pam Hester, a real estate agent in Black Mountain who paid to have about 75 of them printed up. But the signs also seem to be slowing people down a bit, at least for now.

Residents in two parts of Black Mountain are hoping these signs will get drivers to be more respectful on their neighborhoods.

“Our neighborhood is posted 25 mph, and we see people driving through upwards of 35 mph,” Hester said, who spent $386 on the signs and gave all of them away. “They run through stop signs, and they don’t even slow down. My husband was almost hit. We have no sidewalks in our neighborhood.”

Hester and her neighbors are concerned about the young children who play in the area and the older people who use walkers. They worry when they back out of their driveways and when they walk in the road.

“Drivers act like we’re not supposed to be walking in the road,” Hester said.

Last month, she went to the town Planning and Zoning Board meeting with petitions signed by 65 neighbors asking the board recommend the speed limit be lowered through the neighborhoods between and Church Street and Rhododendron Avenue. Drivers cut through those residential streets to avoid the congested intersection at State Street and Montreat Road in the middle of downtown.

The Planning and Zoning board recommended that town staff members commission a traffic study, which it did, according to town manager Matt Settlemyer. The engineering firm that it hired helped create the town’s bike plan, so it is familiar with Black Mountain’s traffic patterns and street usage, Settlemyer said. While the town waits for the results of that study, it also awaits the arrival of two radar devices like the one it already has that tells drivers how fast they are going, the town manager said.

The traffic study will target another popular neighborhood bypass – First through Fourth streets and Portman Villa Road, Settlemyer said. Kirsten Hall is concerned about traffic there, where she and her family live.

Hall, who has lived in Black Mountain for eight years, created a Neighborhood Watch program among residents near her house “because traffic is insane” on Third and Fourth streets and Portman Villa, she said.

She and her family often walk around town, but they’re leery of the town’s crosswalks because of what she perceives as speeding. Hall said she’s seen people zip across the crosswalks and drive through stop signs.

“Trying to be a pedestrian in this small town has many challenges,” she said. The daughter of a family in the military, she grew up all over and remembers riding her bike on sidewalks. Black Mountain’s neighborhoods are seriously lacking in sidewalks, she said.

Settlemyer said the town’s pedestrian plan has prioritized completion of the sidewalk to Montreat and one down N.C. 9 past The Village of Cheshire. The town will continue to build other sidewalks, he said.

The Slow Down signs, up for about a month now, seem to be have an effect in slowing cars down in Hall’s neighborhood, she said. But that effect seems to be wearing off now, she said. Signs are disappearing out of people’s yards, and speeds seem to be creeping back up. That’s true in Hester’s part of town, too, Hester said.

“Our neighborhood is used as a cut-through, and we understand that,” she said. “But we want people to be more respectful of us. We hope that this doesn’t end up with someone being severely injured or killed before something is done about it.”