Ed. — From the Sunday, June 6, print edition.
SANDBRIDGE — Dick Lohrmann, a retired naval officer who also worked in the defense industry, and his wife moved to Sandbridge in 2018. They got a home on Sandpiper Road and noticed, as others in the residential resort community have over the years, how fast people drive along the road, which is the main north-south connection through the area.
“It’s three-and-a-half miles of straight road with an s-turn,” Lohrmann said.
The speed limit signs say 35, but people sometimes move a whole lot faster, and there is concern about passing in some spots. This is along a road which tourists and families cross each day to get to the beach, and a recent drive through the neighborhood on Memorial Day showed some folks walking along the road carrying beach chairs.
At first, the Lohrmanns just purchased and posted “Drive Like Your Kids Live Here” signs as an individual act to get people to slow down. Then Lohrmann decided to go to the Sandbridge Beach Civic League, learn about efforts to address speeding and safety in the community and see what might be done.
There have been other attempts over the years to address speeding and to seek a lower speed limit on the road. Recently, Lohrmann and about a dozen people have gotten together to address Sandbridge traffic safety, and he said perhaps 60 people are now involved.
In recent months, residents have posted dozens of “Drive Like Your Kids Live Here” signs along the road and some other streets, particularly focusing upon Mothers Day and Memorial Day weekends to reach both residents, locals and visitors.
“We’ll do it periodically,” Lohrmann said. “It’s really just to get people’s attention and change their behavior in the way they drive up and down Sandpiper Road.”
“This is their effort to hopefully get people to pay a little more attention to the speed,” said Andrew Roper, president of the civic league, during a recent interview.
On Friday, May 14, the concerned citizens released a lengthy report called Sandbridge Traffic Safety Improvements, which builds upon a graduate school project by Chris Whitney written about the community in 2017. The new report includes contributions from a number of residents. Lohrmann said it has been provided to the civic league.
The new community report was written so the civic league and city could consider suggestions for “traffic safety measures before a serious accident occurs.” It endorses recommendations made by Whitney, such as additional study of issues such as whether speeding is significant during certain times of year, crosswalk improvements and ways to calm traffic.
Problems identified include speeding and hazards to pedestrians and bicyclists, concern about increased speeds following the recent road improvements here, drivers failing to yield to people using crosswalks and high-speed passing and racing, including near beach accesses and intersections.
There are detailed recommendations down to specific intersections.
“You do not need to be a longtime resident to observe unsafe conditions on our roads,” the report states. “We are all deserving of a pedestrian-bicyclist-automobile safe environment. It is in everyone’s best interest to do everything possible to make Sandbridge as safe as possible.”
The civic league is aware of their efforts, which have been discussed during meetings, and some of the recommendations already have been presented to a civic league infrastructure committee. That committee, according to civic league meeting minutes, recently has asked the city for some safety measures to be put in place.
In April, the committee reported that a request for pole-mounted speed radar signs has not been met because, while there is a program testing such signs where speeds drop, “Sandpiper Road does not meet the current criteria.” The committee also asked for block designation signage which could help with emergency services and help ensuring “passing lanes are in compliance with intersections and crosswalks and are clearly labeled,” March meeting minutes say.
The city, according to correspondence about a recent repaving projects included in the report, does not consider Sandpiper a purely residential street.
Additionally, the number of accidents in recent years is considered low, and a software program used by Virginia Beach recommends a 35-mph speed limit there.
“All we want to do is have a conversation among the city, the civic league and the community at large,” Lohrmann said. “What can we do? We’ve learned from the answers from the city why things are the way they are, but nobody’s really looked at the way things could be.”
Anyone interested in learning about or joining the work of the citizens group can contact it by email via email@example.com. Lohrmann said anyone who wants a copy of the Sandbridge Traffic Safety Improvements report can request it from that email address.
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