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Norwalk Chief: Beach Road Speeders Are the Norm

NORWALK, Conn. – Speed limit signs and the proximity of children don't seem to make a difference to a majority of drivers heading to Norwalk's beach, according to one activist.

David Marcus, creator of the organization Livable Norwalk, recently borrowed a speed gun and used it on Calf Pasture Beach Road. Of the 367 cars clocked, all but one was exceeding the 25 mph speed limit.

This doesn't surprise Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling. "I've lived in Norwalk my entire life. People have been speeding on Beach Road since I was a child," said Rilling, who said his department "does a tremendous amount of enforcement on beach road."

Marcus did his experiment on Sunday, April 15, with a radar gun on loan from Transportation Alternatives . "It was sunny and 75 degrees ... a great beach day ... and there were a ton of folks out jogging and riding bikes," Marcus wrote on his blog.

He found that:

• 1 in 10 cars was driving 40 mph or faster.

• The fastest cars were clocked going 52 mph, more than double the limit.

• A police car was doing 44 mph, 19 mph over the limit.

"I'm not trying to highlight police bad behavior, but rather to point out that this road is designed in such a way that everybody is induced to speed, even Norwalk's finest," Marcus said in an email.

The results of Marcus' experiment are probably accurate, Rilling said. "I'm sure that the readings are not all that off," he said. "People don't slow down when they see him, but they certainly slow down when they know there's a police officer there."

Traffic on the road is a threat to school children, Marcus wrote in his blog post, which you can read here. He is campaigning to change the road from four lanes to two. The right lanes in either direction would become dedicated to bicyclists and pedestrians.

"Not everybody is a reckless driver, but on the beach road everybody is speeding," Marcus wrote. "That is a sign of a design issue with the road, a situation known as 'dangerous by design.' When a road looks like it is meant to be driven at 40 or 50, a 25 mph speed limit sign won't do much."

He's looking for signatures on a petition and phone calls to Mayor Richard Moccia. "Many people have asked why the same traffic that only needs two lanes on Gregory Boulevard needs a four-lane highway for the last half-mile to the beach. This is a good question."

The chief said he walks from Veterans Memorial Park to the beach and back nearly every night. "I do see cars speeding, but I also see a lot of officers doing enforcement down there," he said. "That's one of our main focus points."

The department's speed trailer will soon make an appearance on the road to remind drivers to slow down.

"There are three components to traffic calming: education, enforcement and engineering, the three Es," Rilling said. "When a person gets a ticket that costs them $250, that's education as well as enforcement."

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