Times checks in to see the ways CPD tries to stay on top of traffic behaviors in town.
The numbers are in after the Crookston Police Department placed its “speed display trailer” at two of the busiest entrance corridors into Crookston – on University Avenue (southbound traffic) and East Robert Street (westbound traffic) – and they show that average speeds are slightly more than the posted 30 miles per hour limit, but 85 percent of motorists recorded over the three weeks the trailer was posted at the two locations are driving slower than 40 mph.
So what does it all mean?
Overall, Crookston Police Chief Paul Biermaier said when reached by the Times, it means that overall people are probably driving a bit too fast, but they do appear to slow down as they get closer to town. “However, I also believe a contributing factor, on both University and East Robert especially, is the openness or rural feeling of still being on a highway,” he explained. “This is a common experience in many communities, not specific to Crookston.”
In providing answers to several Times’ questions regarding the CPD’s efforts to stay on top of speeding and other driving behaviors in the community, Biermaier stressed that he’s not an expert on analyzing traffic data, and that some of his reactions are his personal opinion more than indisputable facts.
The speed display trailer was placed on East Robert from June 21-27. It was on University Avenue from June 6-21. On East Robert, the fastest recorded speed during that time period was 53 mph. On University, it was 52 mph.
Biermaier says he hears people complain that the 30 mph limit on those two corridors should be higher, but he disagrees. Although state statute requires a 30 mph speed limit in residential areas, Biermaier also noted that speed display trailer data from various residential areas in Crookston over the past year or so shows that 85 percent of drivers were traveling at 30 mph or less.
Asked if the CPD sometimes places a squad vehicle near the speed display trailer to catch speeders, Biermaier said that’s not typically the case because more than likely the squad vehicle would be visible to drivers along with the trailer, and they’d likely hit the brakes as a result.
“Our squad radar units have the ability to monitor traffic in both directions with the squad moving or stationary,” he explained. “Patrol officers usually find there own place to watch traffic and run radar.”
Other topics touched on
• The Times asked Biermaier about the alley near Subway Restaurant, where a squad vehicle is often parked. Since traffic is typically traveling fairly slow on Sixth Street in that area because of the adjacent 90-degree turn from North Broadway, he said the officer there typically is looking for distracted drivers or unbelted people in vehicles. Once the new Subway is built, he said an officer will likely return to a perch in the parking lot facing west to monitor speeds of vehicles coming down the West Sixth Street hill toward the underpass and the North Main Street turn.
• The Times also asked Biermaier about digital speed limit feedback signs. There’s one on Polk County Highway 11/Fisher Avenue in front of Drafts that provides a digital readout of the speeds of oncoming vehicles, as the speed limit slows from 55 mph to 40 mph. Biermaier at a recent Crookston City Council meeting said that signs similar to that one seem to slow down traffic, and he suggested the possibility that more be added to some of Crookston’s busiest traffic corridors.
Biermaier said he’s included some cost data in his proposed CPD 2020 budget for the purchase of an additional digital speed limit feedback sign. He expects more discussion to come. The sign on Fisher Avenue cost approximately $5,700.
“I believe signs like this can be effective if they’re placed in the right location with other variables in play,” he said, adding University Avenue might be considered as the location if a second sign in indeed purchased.
A big consideration before deciding on a location for such a sign is determining the nature of the majority of the motorists passing through, he added. Are they local? Or passing through from out of town? “If they’re locals, will they become oblivious or numb to the speed display and eventually continue traveling as they are now?” Biermaier wondered. “If so, the cost/benefit will surely be a strong consideration.”
There are basic digital speed signs and then more elaborate ones, including ones that take photos of violators or flash a “You’re speeding! Slow down!” message. Some more expensive signs record data in the cloud for future analysis.
Doing what they can
Ideally, Biermaier notes, the CPD would prefer to not have to catch anyone at all because all motorists are abiding by all of the traffic laws. “That’s not the case, so we do what we can when time allows,” he adds. “If every driver was to do these three simple things: wear a seat belt, slow down, and put down all the various distractions, our city streets and roads would be so much safer for everyone using them.”