You don’t have to live in Suffield for long before you get a feel for its roads. Your hands seem to anticipate the twists and turns.
Imagine my surprise when I recently drove down South Stone Street and didn’t feel the impact of a pair of speed bumps. The warning lines were there, but the anticipated jolt was gone.
What happened to the speed bumps?
After roughly five years of testing vehicle suspensions, the speed bumps (or, to be more specific, speed tables) have been flattened. It seems during these divisive times, all Suffieldians seemed to share the universal antipathy for the South Stone Street tables. “We received SO MANY complaints,” said Suffield First Selectwoman Melissa Mack. “I have a file of complaints.”
The speed tables were proposed back in 2014 in response to rampant speeding down South Stone Street. The speed tables were set up. Soon enough, problems started. Tractors bottomed out, boat trailers unhitched and people drove on lawns in a move to avoid the tables. And, cut-through drivers were still zipping through Suffield. The speed table solution was folded, and it was back to the drawing board.
Late in 2020, the Board of Selectmen created the Pedestrian and Traffic Safety and Infrastructure Committee to brainstorm solutions. These type of committees always come up with something interesting. In Easthampton, Mass., where a pedestrian was killed in 2018, the city put out cones of fluorescent flags at crosswalks which people can wave while crossing the street. (“Hello, do you see me now? Don’t run me over!”)
Regrettably, the solutions, no matter how ingenious, can only be temporary. Even the 2014 Suffield Police Department memo that proposed the South Stone Street speed tables acknowledged that when evaluating speed enforcement methods: “Unfortunately, these type of approaches are a temporary fix, as officers are only effective when they are in the area, and the radar trailer is continually moved about town to other problem roads.”
Traffic, like water, flows in the direction of least resistance. The town could wall off North Stone Street, and traffic would just flow down Mountain or Ratley Roads.
The most comprehensive solution is for drivers to simply slow down. A little empathy and courtesy could be extended to the people whose neighborhoods we pass. No elaborate obstacles required. No high-tech radar signs needed. Just a modest amount of manners could reduce a lot of stress, anxiety and just maybe save a life.
Then again, that might make us a few minutes late for wherever we’re going, so someone will have to think of something else.