A group of Beaver Lake-area residents is taking it slowly, with hopes of getting other people to do the same.
The residents of Beaver Lake Road, North Shore Road and their side streets are hoping to see the speed limit lowered in their area and hope to address the issue with the Highway Safety Committee, but not before they’ve done their homework.
Katelin Tolman, a three-year resident of the area, noticed that drivers were exceeding the 30-miles-per-hour speed limit shortly after she moved in. She checked with other homeowners and learned that they felt the same, so they asked Derry Superintendent of Operations Alan Cote to do a traffic study. Cote’s study came back with people going 45 mph in the 85th percentile, according to Tolman.
Rather than immediately going to the Highway Committee, the neighbors began meeting, with Tolman’s mother, Robyn Tolman, as organizer. “She was the one who called Alan Cote and she formed the group,” Katelin Tolman said.
They first met in January and will hold a follow-up meeting this month, with the hopes of getting on the Highway Safety Committee agenda in March.
“One of the reasons we’re meeting as a group,” Tolman said, “is because when we talked with individual people they all said, ‘Yes, I called the Highway Department.
“There are a lot of roadblocks,” Tolman observed, “for individuals trying to get things done.”
But pooling their resources might be a better plan, she added. “There are a lot of perspectives, a lot of different backgrounds, and we can put all our skills together and use them,” she said.
Tolman is a young mom with one daughter and a child due this July. “There are several young children in the neighborhood, and they can’t ride their bikes in the road,” she said. But it affects families at all stages, she added, saying, “One parent is worried about their high-school child waiting for the bus.”
Tolman and her mother have gleaned information from longtime residents, and to their understanding, the speeding didn’t become an issue until the road was paved in 1991. Now it’s used as a cut-through by commuters, errand-runners and Pinkerton students coming in from Hampstead, “who may be trying to make up for lost time,” Tolman said.
She’s particularly concerned about road rage, saying, “When my daughter was smaller and we went for walks, I would encounter road rage. People would be angry because a baby carriage was in their way.”
Tolman gives the drivers the benefit of the doubt, saying, “They’re not thinking about what’s on the road, they’re thinking ‘I need to get where I’m going.’” But, she added, “This is not a highway. This is a neighborhood.”
The group has brainstormed several options and will finalize them in February. So far, she said, the options are:
• They would like to see a greater police presence in the area, to discourage speeding;
• They would like to see crosswalks; and
• Ideally, they’d like to see the speed limit lowered. But they’ve been reading old Highway Safety minutes and realized, Tolman said, “That almost never happens.”
“If the town lowered the speed limit to 20 or 25 mph, the fine would be a couple of hundred dollars and that would discourage drivers from speeding,” Tolman explained. “But with the current speed limit of 35, if they go 45 they only get a $30 fine.”
Cote confirmed in a phone interview last week that he had conducted the traffic study and that people were indeed speeding. He said he had forwarded the information to the Police Department.
Cote declined to speculate on the reasons for speeding or the demographics of the speeders. He said, “I’m not convinced that changing the speed limit would change their driving habits.”
Cote added, “Just because you keep the speed limit low, it doesn’t mean people will slow down. In my opinion, it’s an education and enforcement issue.”
The group will meet Saturday, Feb. 14, at 10 a.m. in the Derry Public Library. For more information, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/BeaverLakeNeighborhoods