Thursday, November 13, 2008

Comfort level, not limits

Writing to the NewMobilityCafe user group, Richard Layman of Urban Places and Spaces had an insightful comment on the New York Times speed limit article that I posted about earlier this week. Here is his comment in full:

Many of us have made this point for some time, that roads typically are "over"engineered to allow high speeds, as are cars. Therefore, for areas where you don't want to encourage people to drive fast (on a road on the edge of Greater Capitol Hill in DC--still urban--a car was clocked by a speed camera going over 90mph late at night, in a zone with a posted 25mph speed limit), change the materials of the road. I myself am fond of stone Belgian Block. With it, you get physical, visual, and aural cues that you should drive more slowly. And it's not likely to be supportive of 90-100mph speeds.

Using Belgian block/appropriately engineering roads based on the desired speed in many cases would eliminate the "need" for speed bumps, speed tables, and other road pimples.

But yeah, a truly "robustly" engineered road system wouldn't require secondary enforcement (police writing tickets) to optimize the system, it would engineer the system of pavements to generate the optimal result. (Emphasis added.)

I'm not sure about the universal feasibility of his proposed solution, but he make an indisputable point. The reason people drive too fast through our neighborhoods is that our streets are designed in a way that encourages them to drive that fast.

Clint Schuckel says that the goal in Newton is to make drivers uncomfortable but not unsafe. But, even Mr. Schuckel's very reasonable formulation sounds negative, as if the goal is to do something bad to drivers, to take something away from them. Maybe the better way to put it is this: the goal is to create on every street a level of driver comfort that corresponds to the appropriate speed for the street.

It's not that we have to make people uncomfortable. We need to take away some of the excess comfort.

1 comment:

Steve Runge said...

So right!

Parker, Centre, and Langley, all arrow-straight from Newton Center to Boylston; it always makes me nervous that the only "obstructions" to slow drivers on these stretches are crosswalks.