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Sherwood's Notebook: Slow Down, Simple as That

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Sherwood: Slow Down, Simple as That

If you’re one of the more than 31,000 people who have gotten caught by the new speed camera on Foxhall Road NW, you may not want to read any further.

It’s not a sneaky speed trap. And there’s not much sympathy for you.

“The residents have repeatedly complained,” Police Chief Cathy Lanier said last week on WTOP’s “Ask the Chief.” “The goal is to have [drivers] slow down out there.”

Some motorists have complained that there are no warning signs.

Sorry, not a good excuse.

Some drivers have complained that the camera is on a downhill slope.

Sorry, not a good excuse.

Some have complained that it’s a four-lane road and that the 25 mph limit is ridiculously slow.

Sorry, not a good excuse.

Unless there’s a mechanical error with the police camera, you were all speeding.

We stopped by the speed camera one day last week to watch traffic.

It was demonstrably slower. That’s in part because of the publicity prompted by Geoff Tracy, the owner of Chef Geoff’s restaurant and the owner of three speeding tickets.

Tracy didn’t deny he was speeding but said he felt like the camera was unfairly nabbing people. He hired a guy to stand out on the roadway with one of the twirling mattress-sale signs, this one warning drivers of the speed camera ahead.

Chief Lanier wasn’t fazed. “I’m all for it,” she told WTOP reporter Mark Segraves. “I hope he slows down, too.” Despite popular opinion to the contrary, Lanier said the principal purpose of cameras isn’t city revenue but citizen safety.

She didn’t mention it, but the area of the new speed camera includes three schools: St. Patrick’s Episcopal Day, the Lab School of Washington and the Mount Vernon Campus of George Washington University.

Lanier said that of the 31,000 tickets sent out, about 20,000 were given as “warnings” and another 11,000 were real tickets levying fines as high as $250. Some motorists complained they got the “warning” ticket in the mail too late -- that they also got a real speeding ticket before the warning arrived.

Bottom line in the city is this: Unless otherwise marked, all roads and streets have a maximum speed limit of 25 mph. If you travel faster than that, you’re legally liable. Maybe the D.C. Council should change it to 30 mph or even 35 mph, but police know that people tend to drive just over the speed limit anyway.

So, Segraves asked a key question. He wanted to know how much over the speed limit you have to be going in order to set off the camera.

Chief Lanier wouldn’t say. She smiled and just replied, “When you speed.”

• Full disclosure.

Your Notebook knows more than a few people who have been nabbed by this camera, and we’re not entirely unsympathetic. We’ve received only one radar ticket, a couple of years ago on Loughboro Road NW. We can’t say we don’t speed now and then, but we do pay better attention.

• Merry Valentine’s Day.

Okay, we admit this is our annual rant.

Valentine’s Day is this coming Tuesday. It is way past the time to take down your Christmas and other holiday decorations and to turn off the outdoor light displays. We’re happy to report that there appear to be fewer malingerers this year.

And yes, we know that some people keep up white lights as “winter lights” rather than holiday lights. That’s fine with us; just take down the multicolored lights, wreaths and especially those plastic blowup Santa Claus figures, et cetera.

• Foil Philly fans?

We know the Super Bowl was just held, but the Washington Nationals are busy getting ready for the 2012 baseball season.

Last week, the team announced an effort to end or at least ease the embarrassment level when the Phillies come to town. Nearly all of the seats are taken by Philly fans, including a healthy number of obnoxious ones who act out all game long.

Now the Nats are offering a presale for local folks to buy up tickets for the first series with the Phillies here on May 4 through 6.

The team is calling it “Take Back the Park.”

If you want to be a part of it, check out nationals.com/ourpark.

We hope this Nationals promotion works so we can get started on those New York Mets games.

Spring training starts for the Nats players this coming weekend. It’s time for the fans to warm up, too.

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