Disabled community members call for alternative to ‘jarring’ speed cushions

Speed cushion (KXAN Photo)
Speed cushion (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Many areas in Austin are vying for tools to slow down speeders in their neighborhood, but some in west Austin have raised concerns about speed cushions themselves. Members of the disabled community say this particular method is causing unnecessary harm.

Karen Sironi is bringing her concerns to city leaders, backed by a petition with about 100 signatures. The petition states, “While safety is still the concerns and the reason for speed controlling devices, these Speed Cushions are known to cause ‘pain to people with disabilities’, as they are very jolting to both the body and vehicle. We the undersigned do not want them in our City and want the City to use an alternative similar to the softer less jarring asphalt humps that currently are installed around Austin.”

“Very jarring on my skeletal system,” Sironi said, explaining her disability as the result of a serious car crash 10 years ago.

“We are not against speed mitigation in some form,” she emphasized, but pointed to city documents KXAN found posted online that state a disadvantage to speed cushions is that they “cause a ‘rough ride’ for all drivers, and can cause pain for people with certain skeletal disabilities.”

Council Member Alison Alter’s office said they’ve met with those affected and take the concerns seriously, but also take community concerns about speeding seriously and the risk to public safety.

“We rely on our professional engineers at the Transportation Department to determine the best way to provide for the safety of children walking to school, of bicyclists, and of everyone behind the wheel,” Austin DeGroot, communications and outreach coordinator for Alter, said.

The city says it’s received positive feedback from others living in the area. The speed limit along the portion of Far West Boulevard where speed cushions were installed is 30 mph. For a comparison point, the Austin Transportation Department (ATD) says it sampled 250 cars going more than 45 mph in the area before the speed cushions were installed in April.

After that installation, ATD found just 9 cars going more than 9 mph over the speed limit. Because of the documented safety concern, Sironi says ATD told her, though it sympathizes with her condition, the speed cushions will not be removed.

Still, Sironi maintains there are other options. “You don’t realize how many people this affects” she said.

ATD says initial plans in the area for medians, which it says is not as effective in reducing speed, would have cost close to $90,000 more.

Other areas that received funding approval and are just waiting for speed cushion construction include Mesa Drive from First View Drive to Cross Valley Run, Riddle Road from Howellwood Way to Allred Drive and Yaupon Drive from Fittonia Drive to Spicewood Springs Road.

The Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities was expected to take up the issue Friday night but ended up having to cancel the meeting because not enough members were present. The next meeting is scheduled for July 14.

Alter’s office says speed cushions will be discussed at a District 10 Town Hall on June 19 at Westover Hills Church of Christ from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. ATD engineers will be available to present information on speeding in the area and answer questions.

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