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Claremont Fourth-Grader Makes Traffic Control Pitch

  • After making a copy, Claremont City Manager Ryan McNutt returns Oliver Beeman's petition to take home at the City Council meeting in Claremont, N.H., on May 9, 2018. Beeman, 10, circulated the petition in his neighborhood and amongst his classmates to reduce a longer stretch of South Street to 20 mph. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Jocelyn Beeman, of Claremont, N.H., wipes her eyes while watching her son Oliver, 10, speak to the Claremont City Council about a petition he circulated to ask for the lowering of the speed limit along South Street in Claremont on May 9, 2018. At left is Oliver's father, Jason Beeman. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Correspondent
Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Claremont — Oliver Beeman enjoys walks near his home on South Street with his dog Maggie and mom, Jocelyn.

What he doesn’t like is the speed of many cars, which take away some of that enjoyment and adds an element of fear to the trips.

So when the opportunity arose through a school assignment for Beeman to bring the problem to the attention of the city and propose a solution, the fourth-grader at Maple Avenue Elementary School decided he would do more than grumble.

“We were doing a project at school about government and the teacher asked us to write down a law we would like to change,” said Beeman, sitting on the front porch of his home on South Street, which like many homes on the roughly half mile street is just feet from the road.

Beeman said he immediately thought of speeding cars on his street.

“My mom always said cars go so fast (when we go for walks), and I agree with her,” Beeman said.

While working with Meg Hurley, a teaching assistant at his school, Beeman said she asked him if he wanted to take the idea further.

That led to a petition that was presented to the City Council on Wednesday night.

“She wrote most of the petition, but I gave her the ideas on what I wanted to say,” Beeman said.

He next walked up and down the street, collecting signatures, and also received support from some of his classmates.

“A few people said, ‘No,’ ” Beeman said, but that did not discourage him. In all, he collected 45 signatures.

At the council meeting, Beeman stepped up to the podium and in a clear, calm voice read his petition — entitled “Make My Street Safe” — to the nine-member council.

The petition first asked that the city monitor South Street for the speed and number of vehicles in a day and a week.

When school begins and ends, the speed limit is reduced to 20 mph in a short section in front of the middle school with flashing lights to alert drivers.

Beeman told the council he appreciates the lower limit, but said it is not enough.

“I still think that cars and trucks drive too quickly on my street, especially when they come down Chestnut Street and turn onto South Street,” Beeman said, reading his petition.

“My street has homes, schools and one of the most-used buildings in Claremont — the Community Center.”

He went on to say that many cars come out of the Arrowhead recreation area next to the Sugar River Valley Technical Center and people also park there and cross the street to the community center.

Beeman proposes that if monitoring shows too many vehicles exceeding the 30 mph limit or the 20 mph limit during school hours, that the speed limit on South Street, from Chestnut to West Pleasant, be reduced to 20 mph, the same as Broad Street.

He also wants the speed limit on Chestnut Street to be reduced on the approach to South Street.

When he finished, Beeman was asked by Mayor Charlene Lovett what prompted him to pursue the petition.

“So many people live on the street with cats and dogs and there are kids,” Beeman said to the mayor.

Lovett promised Beeman the city will study his request. The first step will be a discussion by the city’s Traffic Advisory Committee. Lovett invited Beeman to come back at the May 23 meeting for an update.

Outside the council chambers, Police Chief Mark Chase, the first person to sign the petition, said Beeman’s idea makes a lot of sense because South Street is a high traffic area.

He agrees that cars swinging off Chestnut Street do not always slow down to the proper speed.

“It is an area where if there are speeding cars (and) a lot of bad things can happen,” Chase said.

The sidewalk on the street runs the entire length but in some sections there is no curbing separating the street from the sidewalk.

Chase, a member of the traffic committee, said he would support monitoring the street as a first step.

Both the council and Chase complimented Beeman for his idea and poise in presenting it to the council.

“We don’t always know there is a problem until people tell us,” Chase said.

Beeman said this is his first foray into the workings of government and he plans to continue following up with the council to see what it finally decides.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.