The recent installation of nine traffic calming devices on a short stretch of Camino Francisca in northern Santa Fe is agitating some residents.

The biggest complaint about the speed humps, set 300 feet apart, is that the city didn’t notify all the neighbors affected by them before the project began.

Erik Garcia, manager of the 245-unit Zocalo Condominiums, a luxury complex at the end of Camino Francisca, said people living in the condos were “blindsided” by the roadwork. “We’re the ones that were affected the most as far as number of doors and units because this is the entrance to our property,” he said.



John Romero, director of the city’s Engineering Division, said the Zocalo residents weren’t included for a reason: They live beyond the stretch of road proposed for traffic calming.

“The way the [traffic calming] policy is currently set up,” Romero said, “the intent is to take into consideration the affected people that live on the street, not the people that travel through the street.”

People who travel through a neighborhood are often “trying to go through with some form of efficiency,” Romero said.

In other words, they’re speeding.

If everyone who drove through an area was included in a survey on a proposed speed hump project, “then it would almost definitely die every time,” Romero said. “We wouldn’t be able to do any traffic calming.”

It was speeding that prompted Hugh Balaam, chairman of the Santa Fe Estates Neighborhood Association, to reach out to the city for a solution on the curved road, which posed dangers for residents.

“I had a number of residents that voiced that they’d almost gotten hit coming out of their driveway,” he said. “Also, we don’t have sidewalks on that street. People like to walk. If you’ve got traffic going at high speeds, it can be dangerous to pedestrians.”

Balaam said traffic has slowed down “considerably” since the speed humps were installed about a month ago.

Everything was done by the book when the Camino Francisca project was planned, Romero said.

The city’s traffic calming program calls for a three-step process that starts with a petition from an applicant, with signatures from neighbors who approve of installing devices. To initiate a traffic study, the applicant must get signatures from a third of the people in the “polling area,” which Romero said is defined as “up to 500 feet on either side of the area to be traffic calmed.”

Balaam obtained the required number of signatures from the couple of dozen homes along a stretch of Camino Francisca to start the process.

He said he first contacted District 1 City Councilor Signe Lindell, who shared his concerns about speeding drivers with police.

“On occasion, they would come out and do some enhanced traffic enforcement, but obviously they don’t have the resources to do it on any kind of continuing basis,” he said. “Signe then forwarded one of the emails to the traffic engineering department, and they contacted me with the information on how to go about petitioning for a traffic survey to be done to see if that stretch of the road qualified for the traffic calming measures.”

It did.

The city considers three criteria: traffic volume, cut-through traffic and speeds of motorists.

A street must receive a minimum score of 40 points to be eligible for traffic calming; Camino Francisca scored 55.

“When they conducted the traffic survey … 15 percent of the cars traveling on that road were going over 40 miles per hour, so you can see that speeding was an issue,” Balaam said about Camino Francisca, which has a posted speed limit of 25 mph.

“Nobody likes [speed humps], but if you’ve got people going that fast and with disregard for pedestrians and local traffic, then, you know, they seem to work,” he said.

Garcia, the Zocalo manager, said some residents of the complex aren’t opposed to the speed humps.

“I hear people that support them and people that are against them, but even the people that support them were like, ‘Well, they could’ve at least let us know or something,’ ” he said.

Still, others wondered why nine speed humps were installed so close together, Garcia said.

Romero had an answer: “We space them depending on what speed we want people to travel. … If you place them at 300 feet apart, you’re going to get people going a maximum of 25 miles an hour, so these speed humps that we put in are designed to be traversed between 18 and 23 miles an hour.”

Romero said he recently met with some Zocalo residents to explain the process.

“I wouldn’t say that they liked the humps, but it was a very professional meeting,” he said. “A lot of people still weren’t happy with the answers because the answer they wanted to hear is that we we’re going to remove the humps.”

Speeders fund the city’s traffic calming program through citation fees — and they’re showing no signs of slowing down.

“When we first did the traffic calming program, there was such a demand for [traffic calming devices] that you had to be put on a waiting list until we accrued enough revenue,” he said. “Right now, we’ve consistently had enough revenue to fund traffic calming projects as they come up.”

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

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(15) comments

Peter Neal

The technology exists for enforcing speed limits with electronic devices placed along roadways and highways that would instruct a car that it could not go over a certain speed... these devices could also adjust automatically for poor weather conditions, or hea y traffic. As new cars are designed and built , the software to enable this control could be built into the cars in such a way that it could not be over ridden or bypassed.

Khal Spencer

NYC advocate Charlie Komanoff and I were discussing the installation of GPS-based speed limiters in 2006. Its not a matter of inventing anything new as much as installing technology we know can work.

Khal Spencer

Of course the more basic, underlying problem is that the sanctions for bad driving (speeding, running red lights, etc) are inconsequential. When people start paying a month's salary fine for dangerous driving, or losing their license for three months, maybe we will be able to rely less on traffic calming (speed tables and humps, narrowing the road profile, etc). These are stopgaps for a real cultural problem.

Moe Towne

Good point. There seems to be an indifference/lack of understanding of the laws of physics by drivers in Northern NM.

Combine that with an unorganized law enforcement system and rampant nepotism, it's not hard to see why the problem still exists.

Khal Spencer

The Santa Fe traffic calming protocols are very similar to the ones in Los Alamos, which I am quite familiar with from my time chairing the Transportation Board up there. They are fair and reasonable.

Speeding is a significant problem on our streets. There are several studies (Florida DoT and AAA Foundation authoring two of them) showing the asymtotic death rates for people hit by cars. At 20 mph you will probably live. Above 40 mph and you will probably die. Speed humps slow cars down so that they are travelling at a speed where a mishap in a residential area where one can expect people to be out and about will not necessarily be catastrophic to the victims. This is good.

My wife's car was totalled by someone sailing down our street and who plowed into the back of her car for whatever reason. Our car was parallel parked. A witness coming the other way stopped and testified that the person who hit my wife's car appeared to be traveling fast enough that the witness actually pulled to the curb to get out of the way.

Its about time we enforced traffic laws. Speed humps are OK. Good for the city.

Elise Arena

This article fails to emphasize a few important points about the city’s decision to install 9 speed bumps along Camino Francisca, the primary access road for residents of the Zocalo development. Namely, a mere handful of residents “a couple dozen homes” were able to dictate the installation of speed bumps affecting the residents of 245 homes. Further, the individual who made the initial request for speed bumps doesn’t even live along or use Camino Francisca to access his home -so is not even affected by the new speed bumps.

For many reasons, speed bumps have fallen out of favor in recent years because of their affect on response time for emergency vehicles, wear and tear to automobiles, related reduction in property values, reduced fuel efficiency and increased air pollution. Plus they are expensive to install, upwards of $3000 per bump. Certainly the city could have better used the money to install sidewalks along Camino Francisca.

For more on problem with speed bumps see: www.radarsign.com/why-municipalities-are-moving-away-from-speed-humps/

Moe Towne

Interesting, thanks for sharing this. I wonder if future civil engineering will be able to address speeding/reckless behavior in a more efficient manner.

Obviously speed bumps are a short term solution to the real issue of speeding itself and reckless driving. That all comes down to the person and their driver education.

Perhaps Santa Fe needs to mandate stricter and better driver education programs. It won't be a fix-all, but it honestly seems like many people in Northern New Mexico have no idea what safe/polite driving looks like.

Every state/city has bad drivers, but there seems to be a universal recognition here that the drivers are terrible. I'm wondering if NM simply has poor driver education programs or there's just a cultural aloofness to the value of life/self-absorption embedded in that.

Khal Spencer

I note that Radarsign is not exactly a disinterested party or research organization. Its a company marketing a competing product.

David Cartwright

Whatever happened to the public safety argument against speed bumps? That is, that police and fire responses slow down considerably when a road has speed bumps. This safety concern was paramount in a prior age where more sensible people ruled. Now, it seems that all it takes are a couple of disaffected people and all reason and thought disappears. The bureaucratic response is to avoid an argument, and just put in speed bumps to the detriment of 95% of the rest of us.

Moe Towne

So what's a solution to speeding that doesn't include speed bumps? I'm not trying to be argumentative, genuinely just curious?

I've seen people of all walks of life drive erratically in Santa Fe, but on the Northern/Eastern sides of town which are overall wealthier, there seems to be entitlement associated with rude/erratic driving.

I've seen countless people speed by/nearly hit pedestrians and bikers (sometimes myself included) in their Range Rover/BMW with no recognition of any fault. Perhaps it's a cultural thing, the super-wealthy with 5 homes that come here to gallivant around town in their ridiculous Indiana Jones hats.

Khal Spencer

From my conversations with the city, the city ranks streets and roadways according to a system that recognizes emergency vehicle access. Speed humps and other forms of traffic calming that could interfere with emergency vehicles are not allowed on certain classes of city streets. The rest of your comment is spurious as that is not how the system works.

Julian R. Grace

Hypocritical. The expansion of Richards Avenue to Rodeo Road was approved to allow for traffic calming on Camino Carlos Rey. Never happened because one District 4 councillor said people living in the Richards area didn't want it. So far as we can tell he was the only one who killed it. So Carlos Rey remains a dangerous speedway. I was told in 2006 not to petition for calming because the plan was approved. Please do what's right and finish the project.

Chris Mechels

Speed bumps are for idiots. The Europeans are going away from them. Los Alamos doesn't use speed bumps, and I don't see a problem with speeders. Speed bumps are for idiots, so lets stop being idiots here in Sfe. BTW stop running red lights. That would also be a good idea. Here is SFe, it seems our God Given right to break the law, as its about "personal freedom". Idiots... And our Idiot City Council caters to these idiots.

Moe Towne

How are speed bumps for idiots? Speeders are idiots, speed bumps are just a way to address idiotic and reckless behavior.

If they're inefficient/bad for cars, etc, I understand that argument. However, what's a better solution? Roundabouts? I can't imagine Santa Fe drivers would be able to handle those too well, but worth a shot, perhaps.

William Craig

“We don’t have sidewalks on that street. People like to walk.” Why not build sidewalks? Narrower streets also have a “calming” effect on traffic, as would inexpensive all-way stop signs at Calle David, Luna Vista, etc.

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