Jim Tasse, assistant director of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition of Maine, on Nov. 14 describes the mixed feedback received from temporary traffic-calming measures demonstrated in North Yarmouth’s Village Center. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

NORTH YARMOUTH — Although data showed that a temporary set of speed-reduction measures in the Village Center significantly cut the percentage of speeding motorists, opinions are mixed among residents about the measures used in the one-month trial.

The demonstration – the focus of a two-hour Nov. 14 forum at the Wescustogo Hall & Community Center that drew 66 people – included 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. The $1,500 test covered a half-mile stretch that includes the two intersections of Routes 115 and 9, where the posted speed limit is 30 mph.

A radar speed trailer study conducted outside Stones Cafe & Bakery from Aug. 12-20 – before the installations, and with the speed display turned off – showed 67% of motorists were speeding. That’s compared with 20% between Sept. 26 and Oct. 3 during the trial, according to Jim Tasse of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition of Maine, whose organization worked with the town and several other groups with the authorization of the Maine Department of Transportation to conduct the tests.

This experimental crosswalk by Stones Cafe & Bakery in North Yarmouth was delineated by potted plants, while speed bumps on both sides created a “landing area” for pedestrians. Those measures drew particular ire among surveyed residents. File

Peak afternoon average speed was 31.9 mph beforehand and 26.8 mph during the project, while respective overall average speeds were 30.4 and 26.6 mph.

While 75% of 139 people who completed online surveys during the tests agreed the changes did slow traffic, 61% said the driving experience was worse, 27% said it was better and 11% said it was about the same. About 23% found walking in the area was worse, compared with 14% who felt it was better, while most hadn’t walked the stretch during the installation. Nearly 31% found the bicycling experience worse, nearly 4% thought it was better and the majority of the others hadn’t biked through there.

Speed bumps placed on both ends of the crosswalks to define a landing area for pedestrians, along with the plants, made travel more difficult and dangerous for bicyclists, some residents reported.

Bicyclist Katie Marquis-Gerard spoke to the difficulty, suggesting that “if you’re going to do something to have pedestrians, cars and bicyclists co-exist, you’d better think about a bike lane.”

“Lots and lots of hate” was directed at the planters, Tasse said, noting that in the areas where the shoulders were blocked bicyclists and motorists had to share the road, and motorists had to slow down and yield. The road cannot facilitate bicycle lanes, he said.

Support for the measures, much of which came from those living in or near the Village Center, lauded an increase in pedestrian safety due to a decrease in traffic speeds and a greater ease in crossing the street between The Lane and Stones.

“I applaud what you’re doing,” said David Messinger of Walnut Hill Road, whose wife crosses that street frequently with their baby. “I have never felt safer in front of my own house. Just waiting for the bus with my girls; it worked.”

But “aesthetically, I could leave those planters in the dust,” he added.

In response to resident proposals that the speed limit be reduced to 25 mph, Tasse warned that DOT studies can sometimes lead to raising the limit.

With some calling for a consistent police presence in a town that has none, Town Manager Rosemary Roy said the town is looking into contracting with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office for an officer dedicated to North Yarmouth. The first-year cost could be $185,000, including a cruiser and benefits, and $145,000 the following years, she said.

“This was one step, to get here to do the test and see what the results are,” Roy said, adding that she will work with the town’s Economic Development and Sustainability Committee, planning consultant, public works director and Select Board as the next budget season unfolds, to determine “what we’re going to do going forward.”

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