By Dale Larabee | SDUN Columnist
On July 15 at 4:30 p.m., a “heavily medicated” driver careened up Aldine Drive in Kensington and lost control on the last curve, roaring over the curb and executing two young palm trees fronting homes on the west side of the street. The car destroyed a chunk of the wall and flipped upside down before it crossed into the lawn of Nate and Kate White.
I ride my bike up Aldine often. So does my wife, our friends and a host of others; we are not replaceable like palm trees.
Aldine is a street with a personality disorder. It runs all directions and changes its name to Van Dyke Avenue after starting in Talmadge, ending in Kensington. Aldine is two lanes with a tight turn at the top of the hill and an oft-disregarded stop sign at Adams Avenue.
It changes speed limits from 25 miles per hour at the bottom to 15 near top. Ten families live on Aldine, all bunched in Kensington: two homes receive mail on Aldine Drive, two on Adams Avenue and six on Van Dyke Avenue.
The 10 homeowners are understandably worried and angry, for this “medicated man,” who was hauled off in the back of a police car, is not the first driver to lose control and go off the road. Most were sober.
Patt and Neale Shinsky occupy one of the two houses along Aldine, and have for 33 years. Patt Shinsky showed me photographs of multiple car-tree collisions. The Shinskys luckily live out of harm’s way, except as they enter or back from their garage. Patt Shinsky helped have the speed signs installed but said they do no good.
Gary Crooks has lived in the danger zone for 12 years and remembers “eight or nine crashes,” he said. Only one driver was going downhill, all the others were traveling up. Sit on Crooks’ porch and you’ll note everyone heading up the hill is speeding.
When I asked about the 15 mph speed sign, Crooks gave me an example: “The insurance adjuster on his way to value our recent damage drove up at 15. A large pickup locked on his bumper, revving his engine and leaning on his horn until the adjuster was able to safely round the corner on Adams.”
The adjuster told Crooks it was terrifying, and I agree. Biking up Aldine in the narrow bike lane snug against a metal barrier with a huge bus on my butt is no fun.
“One morning at 2 a.m., we had a Jaws of Life rescue a passenger crammed downward, screaming his lungs out,” Crooks said. “The driver ran off.”
Both Crooks and Nate White have contacted the city to suggest installing speed bumps, and were told installing them would cause “cars to soar.”
Wait. No one traveling the speed limit will soar, and don’t speed bumps slow people down and prevent soaring or killing palm trees? Drivers are doing a fine job soaring with no help.
Expectant father White said a number of drivers blow the stop sign on Adams Avenue, and making them slow down would help immensely. White videoed the violators and forwarded his video – along with a petition signed by over 100 residents in 24 hours – to Councilmember Marti Emerald’s office.
White fears the city may try to “solve” the exceedingly dangerous situation by installing a metal barrier fronting his house and others, but of course H. L. Mencken once said, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.”
To White, “Metal barriers are ugly and may help our problem but careen speeding drivers like billiard balls across the street to our neighbors’ houses.”
I know we all have car crashes near us and we bikers shouldn’t be riding on such a dangerous street. I pick litter once a month on Aldine, yet if I actually lived on the street I’d be nervous mowing my own lawn.
Those who do live on the small street have big spirits. They plan to replant two palms, and have already replanted a third. They repaired the latest damage within hours of getting the car righted and towed away. They continue to be squeaky wheels with the city.
—Dale Larabee is a 40-year resident of Kensington, who is an occasional writer for local newspapers.