Radar speed signs patrol Buckhead neighborhods

So it didn't take much to entice neighbors to buy into a new program that is sprinkling computerized radar speed signs throughout the shady neighborhoods of Buckhead.

The residents of Wildwood were near unanimous in their decision to spend $750 on one of the signs last year. But they were a little surprised by the results.

Neighborhood leaders used the data from their sign to convince Atlanta police to step up speed enforcement. During one crackdown, police issued about 50 citations, said Jud Ready, president of the Wildwood Civic Association.

Here's the kicker:

"Thirty of those had  addresses in the general vicinity of the sign," Ready said. "It turns out, it's keeping the neighbors on their toes more than anything."

Nonetheless, the device is still popular. Homeowners are vying to get it posted outside their homes, he said. It's moved up and down Howell Mill Road, where the average speed has dropped about 2 mph, down to 36, Ready said.

That's still over the 30 mph limit, but there are fewer vehicles virtually flying down the street. Soon after it was installed, the sign clocked several speeders at 80 mph, Ready said, adding that the data from the sign also helped convince the city to build bike lanes along the stretch of Howell Mill Road near Collier Road.

The devices cost about $3,000 but they are subsidized by the Buckhead Coalition, a civic group headed by former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell.

Massell said the organization set aside $94,000 to help neighborhoods acquire the signs. He chuckled about the citations issued to Wildwood residents and said that hasn't stopped other neighborhoods from buying into the program.

The devices, which are sold by All Traffic Solutions of State College, Pa., are about the size of a briefcase and can be locked to street lights and other poles. They flash an approaching driver's speed in white lights, kind of like the lights in a crosswalk.

They work as a "polite" reminder about speed, Massell said, admitting that he sometimes finds himself cruising over the limit when he comes across one of the signs.

So far, eight neighborhoods have bought the devices, and three more requests are under review, Massell said. He said he's had requests from as far away as Decatur, but said the units are only being sold at the subsidized price to Buckhead neighborhoods.

"The neighborhoods are able to get a real response from [police] by showing them the facts of life," Massell said. He said the goal is to slow down, rather than reduce, traffic in Buckhead.

It's a necessary measure because new sidewalks are drawing more pedestrians into the streets. But he said cars are still welcome.

Without them, he said, Lenox Square businesses would suffer, along with visits to the Atlanta History Center. And the new Buckhead Theatre, at the intersection of Roswell and Peachtree roads, would never have been renovated from the remains of the old Roxy.

"Our traffic is something we treasure," Massell said.

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