Insomnia Log

This is what keeps me awake at night???

Who needs sleep? (well you’re never gonna get it)
Who needs sleep? (tell me what’s that for)
Who needs sleep? (be happy with what you’re getting,
There’s a guy who’s been awake since the second world war)

-- words and music by Steven Page & Ed Robertson

Location: Boulder, Colorado, United States

Everything you need to know about me can be found in my posts

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Boulder Tries to Slip Under the Radar

The City of Boulder is the target of ridicule again, but this time it's probably deserved (although not necessarily for the reason that people think). It seems that the city has been "parking" a photo radar van in a no parking zone, in order to catch speeders. When someone pointed out the lack of logic in that, the city simply mounted a sign under the no parking and tow-away zone ones that said "Police vehicles excepted".

Now, I have nothing against photo radar -- when it is correctly implemented. But, for several reasons, the city's program is not well implemented, and may even be illegal. It literally stinks.

If you want to get a feeling for this specific location and whether it is appropriate for photo radar, check it out on Google maps. Turn on satellite view and zoom in, or better yet, check out the street view. The van parks right under the tree on the east side of the street.

3860 N. Broadway, Boulder CO

Look at some of the issues:
  • When it was pointed out that the van was parked illegally, the response of some at the city was that the van wasn't parked, because the engine was always idling and someone was always on board. And besides, this is a critical area for stopping speeders, because of the merging traffic lanes and the bike lane. Well, I'm sure I speak for many other cyclists on this; I ride past that location often, and I'd rather have the speeders than the lung full of accumulated, stale gasoline fumes. If parking the van in a no parking zone is an issue, then leaving it idling for hours, which would be a violation of municipal ordinances if I did it, isn't any better. Plus, it is clearly contrary to the city's Climate Smart program.
  • This section of North Broadway is no parking for a reason. The traffic lanes and the bike lane leave the van no room to park except by squeezing onto the gravel landscaping. Just 50 yards past the speed trap, the two north-bound lanes merge into one. So, parking there is adding a hazard to a tricky spot. Certainly, cars should have planned the merge before then, but sometimes, especially when traffic is heavy, it just doesn't work out, and you have to speed up or slow down to merge safely. I point out the following from Colorado's traffic code, which basically says that it is legal to speed if doing so is required to avoid an accident:
The conduct of a driver of a vehicle which would otherwise constitute a violation of this section [speed regulations] is justifiable and not unlawful when ... It is necessary as an emergency measure to avoid an imminent public or private injury which is about to occur by reason of a situation occasioned or developed through no conduct of said driver and which is of sufficient gravity that, according to ordinary standards of intelligence and morality, the desirability and urgency of avoiding the injury clearly outweigh the desirability of avoiding the consequences sought to be prevented by this section.
  • Back in 2002, a number of folks were very upset by Boulder and other cities using (and some say abusing) photo radar. A law was passed by the state legislature that limited how cities could use this technique. For example, the law requires a temporary sign posted at least 300 feet before the radar. As I stated earlier, I live nearby and go by there often, and I have never seen such a sign. If I were contesting a ticket at that location, this would be my first line of defense.
  • According to the same law, photo radar can only be used in a school zone, adjacent to a park, or in a residential neighborhood with a speed limit of 35 MPH or less. This clearly isn't a park or school zone, so the city is obviously calling North Broadway (which I would call a boulevard) a residential neighborhood. On the east side of the street is a large apartment complex, behind a high sound barrier/fence. There are houses on the west side of the street, also behind a fence, but those houses are set back quite a bit, with access and addresses on Orange Pl and Oakdale Pl. This is clearly not a residential neighborhood as you or I would view it. Photo radar is definitely not protecting kids playing and loose dogs and quiet enjoyment of suburban households.
  • Oh, and while the speed limit on that stretch of road is 35 MPH, in just a quarter mile it is raised to 40 MPH.
No doubt the city's attorneys studied the state law and found the one location on North Broadway where they thought they could get away with photo radar. However, at a minimum, I don't think they are playing within the intent of the law.

I call on the City of Boulder to follow state law, and use photo radar appropriately, with adequate signage, in true residential neighborhoods, and in a climate smart manner.

New sign!

Note the newly-added exception to the No Parking sign. Interestingly enough, the similar signs 50 yards on either side do not have the same exception.

Street scene from a quiet neighborhood

See where the radar van has to squeeze in between the sidewalk and the bike lane.

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