Does Riverside need a law that limits vehicles to just 20 mph near its parks? In 2006, the Riverside Village Board thought so, and made it a law near Harrington Park, Big Ball Park, Blythe Park and Turtle Park.
But in the eight years since the board passed the law, it hasn’t been enforced one time, since the signs establishing the speed zone never went up. In the wake of the law being passed, officials quietly decided to abandon it after learning that the new speed zones would also mean the installation of scores of new signs.
On March 20, the Riverside board asked residents for their input to help them finally decide, once and for all, if the park zone speed limits are necessary or if the law should be repealed.
The village board, however, doesn’t appear to be in too great a hurry to resolve the issue. The board last week gave Police Chief Thomas Weitzel at least a month to deliver additional information.
If the village were to begin enforcing the law now on the books, it would have to install 80 signs at a cost of nearly $6,000 along the roadways near the four parks. In addition to the expense, trustees wondered if that many more signs were desirable.
“We need to do something to get rid of all the signs,” said Trustee Joseph Ballerine. “It’s [visual] litter.”
Ballerine suggested seeing if school zones might be extended in order to include park areas in school speed zones. However, since school is not in session on weekends and in the summer, police would not necessarily be able to enforce the speed zones when the parks are most in use.
At least one trustee wondered whether the law was even necessary. Doug Pollock pointed out that the speed limit for Riverside’s residential streets, including its busiest ones, is 25 mph.
“We’re talking 5 miles per hour; it’s not much,” said Pollock. “What I’d like to see is stricter enforcement. My feeling at this point is that 25 is a safe speed in front of parks.”
Data gathered recently by police during a speed study near Swan Pond Park, which is not on the current list of park speed zones, appeared to indicate that speeding isn’t particularly a problem.
From Jan. 14 to 22, according to Weitzel, police conducted a speed study along the 100 block of Fairbank Road. Of the more than 1,500 vehicles traveling on the street, while 470 drove faster than 30 mph, just 22 — or about 1.5 percent — exceeded a speed that could have resulted in successful prosecution in court, Weitzel said.
“The court system will not accept tickets unless they are 11 miles over the posted speed limit,” Weitzel wrote in a memo to village officials at the end of January. “If we issue tickets for lower than that speed, they will be dismissed outright.”
Village President Ben Sells asked Weitzel to see how far school speed zones might be extended to encompass park areas, and bring that information back to the board for consideration.
“We’ll figure it out in the next couple of months or so,” Sells said.