A traffic-calming plan is now being implemented in the Brookhaven Heights neighborhood, with police officers issuing warnings to motorists using neighborhood streets as a way to avoid congestion on North Druid Hills Road.
Signs proclaiming “No Left Turn” from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. were recently installed at several intersections in the neighborhood and at the corner of busy Peachtree Road and North Druid Hills Road. The signs are meant to thwart motorists, especially users of the popular Waze app, who use the neighborhood as a cut-through to avoid congestion.
“I sympathize with those who see the streets of our neighborhood as a way to get to Starbucks, to Kroger and even to work … but it’s a good thing to have a lessening of cars,” said Michael Jones, who has lived on Thornwell Road for approximately 20 years.
City Council in August approved the traffic-calming plan worked on by many residents in the neighborhood who complained the cut-through traffic was becoming intolerable as well as unsafe. They said speeding cars wind through the streets where people walk dogs and children play because there are no sidewalks.
The No Left Turn signs in the Brookhaven Heights neighborhood are located at the intersections of Oglethorpe Avenue and North Druid Hills Road, Thornwell Drive and North Druid Hills Road and Standard Drive and North Druid Hills Road.
On Thursday and Friday, Feb. 23 and 24, the police department had several cars parked in the neighborhood watching for violators. Officers began issuing warnings to those who ignored the No Left Turn signs. On Thursday, 30 warnings and one citation were issued; on Friday, 50 warnings were issued.
Department spokesperson Officer Carlos Nino said during the first few days of enforcement, only warnings were to be issued to motorists. Officers planned to keep track of drivers receiving warnings and if they were stopped a second time, they would receive a citation for approximately $200, Nino said.
The crackdown proved so successful that the activity was reported on the Waze app to warn drivers to avoid the area.
“I saw one officer at the corner of Thornwell and North Druid Hills pull over a dozen people while we walked our dog,” Jones said.
Officers are not enforcing the signs every day, Nino said, but the city’s 2017 budget includes $145,900 to hire three police officers as part of a dedicated traffic unit. That unit has not yet been established.
Giles Stevens, president of the Brookhaven Heights Civic Association for the more than two years the traffic-calming plan was developed, said the police crackdown is just the first step in the plan approved by the council last year.
Waiting to be installed and implemented are 12 new speed bumps; a roundabout at Oglethorpe Avenue and Colonial Drive; and 19 “bump-outs,” or curb extensions, which narrow streets. Restriping of the bridge on Colonial Drive to create narrower lanes was recently completed, Stevens said.
“We’re excited,” he said of the work being done, adding he has already noticed less traffic in the neighborhood.
“We’ve been working with the city to make sure the plans are implemented and designed correctly from the start,” he said. “We’re looking forward to our project being a model for other interactions with the city.”
The plan being implemented now, however, is a compromise after some in the neighborhood voiced opposition to the original proposed traffic-calming measures, which included partially closing access to certain streets.
Jones said he believes the compromise overall will work for everyone in the neighborhood.
“The root of the problem for all of us is the traffic congestion at North Druid Hills and Peachtree,” he said. “There was a lot of discussion [about traffic calming measures] and the signs are a compromise, which seems reasonable other than blocking streets.
“I think neighbors are generally supportive and are happy to see action being taken,” he said.