Rob Wood of North Yarmouth, at left, and Angela King of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition of Maine, set up a planter Sept. 24 in the town’s Village Center, meant to bring added motorist attention to an existing crosswalk. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

NORTH YARMOUTH — Reactions to a new set of speed-reduction measures in the Village Center Clark have been mixed, according to Public Works Director Clark Baston.

“Usually the naysayers can be more vocal,” he said Sept. 27, three days after the installations along a half-mile stretch that includes the two intersections of Routes 115 and 9. In this case, “it’s kind of a 50-50 (mix).”

More than a year in the planning, the measures include channelizer posts, or bollards, set up on both sides of the travel lanes and along the center lane, and large potted plants on both sides of two crosswalks. They will be trialed through the end of this month, and a public input session will be held at some point in November.

The posted speed limit along the stretch is 30 mph, and the data culled from a radar speed trailer of passing traffic has recorded many violations in the past several months. The device was placed by Stone Post Road from Aug. 20 to Sept. 5 in “stealth mode,” so that no speeds were displayed to motorists. Nearly 54,000 vehicles passed by in those two weeks, of which more than 37,000 violated the speed limit, according to data posted at the town’s Public Works website.

The average vehicle speed was 32 mph, only 2 mph above the limit, although speeds into the 80s and as low as the single digits were recorded at various times of the day and night.

North Yarmouth has no police department, but the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office has handed out 91 citations and warnings from 2014 to today, according to Capt. Don Goulet. The highest number was 22 in 2014, compared with 13 in both 2015 and 2016, 19 in 2017, 16 in 2018, and eight so far this year.

This set of bollards is intended to slow motorists down as they enter North Yarmouth’s Village Center. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

The project marks a collaboration between the town and several groups like the Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition of Maine, with the authorization of the Maine Department of Transportation. The town’s contribution to the project is about $2,000, which comes from economic development funds and is matched by a Community Development Block Grant from Cumberland County.

“We are working to test treatments that will help to slow drivers as they move through the center of the village,” said Vanessa Farr of the Maine Design Workshop, who is the town’s economic development consultant.

The experiment is meant to determine what works and what doesn’t, and make improvements “before investing significant resources in construction of permanent infrastructure,” she said.

As they drive between the sets of posts along sections of the Village Center, motorists are “passing through a space that is not actually narrower than what was here before; it has the feeling of being narrower because there’s friction being created from the bollards,” Farr said.

This experimental crosswalk by Stones Cafe & Bakery in North Yarmouth is delineated by potted plants, while speed bumps on both sides create a “landing area” for pedestrians. Those measures have caused headaches for some bicyclists. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

The planters on both sides of the crosswalks – both the one near the northern intersection of Routes 9 and 115 and new ones being tested for the month at The Lane and by Stones Cafe & Bakery – are meant to give an additional feeling of bulk and further slow motorists before pedestrians can cross, she said.

Speed bumps were also placed on both endpoints of the crosswalks to define a landing area for pedestrians. But those, and the plants, are making travel more difficult and dangerous for bicyclists, resident Scott Wentzell wrote Sept. 26 in a letter to the town and bicycle coalition.

“The use of speed bumps in seemingly random places creates hazards for cyclists, as do the huge planters that not only completely block use of the shoulder but also obscure the view of the road with tall/bushy plantings,” he said. “This creates a less safe situation that forces cyclists to be within several feet of oncoming traffic in these sections, and also forces cyclists to abruptly take the lane, which is a move that could easily surprise some motorists (especially distracted drivers which we all know is a problem) causing sudden braking and swerving that jeopardizes the safety of all.”

In his response to Wentzell, coalition Assistant Director Jim Tasse acknowledged that the planters, created by North Yarmouth volunteers, could be “trimmed or tied up to tighten their visual profile.”

The “sharrow” marked on the road at lower left is meant to remind motorists that both they and bicyclists need to share the road, particularly right ahead. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

In advance of the curb stops that create landings at crosswalks for pedestrians, forcing bicyclists to move around them, “shared lane markings (sharrows) have been placed in the travel lane to suggest an appropriate position for bicycles,” Tasse wrote. “These pavement markings have been reinforced with ‘Bicycles May Use Full Lane’ signs.  Ultimately, with the reduced traffic speeds resulting from the gateway treatments and crosswalks, I feel that conditions are actually improved for bicycle riders, and drivers have been informed via signage and pavement markings that this is a roadway on which bicycles should be expected.”

But Wentzell had pointed out that many motorists “don’t understand their responsibilities as a driver and react aggressively when they encounter bikers who ‘get in the way.’ I know this to be true because I have seen it and it has happened to me on too many occasions.”

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