Twenty Is Plenty Tuesdays

Happy Tuesday! Tuesdays are a great weekday to be paired with other weekly things that start with T, such as Taco Tuesday and Two For Tuesday. The only thing that could make Tuesday worse is if you have to drive a motor vehicle as part of your routine, but here’s another T thing for Tuesdays which may help.

20-IS-PLENTYTwenty Is Plenty Tuesdays

It’s exactly what it sounds like. In places where the speed limit is 30 (remember, speed limits are maximum limits rather than minimum limits) you simply drive 20 MPH instead. Scale up as necessary for urban streets that are 35 or 40 MPH.

This works best on streets with one traffic lane in each direction, because then “prudent drivers [you] set the speed.”

Why slow down?

Because slower speeds are safer in complex urban environments. And that includes for you, the motorist. There are many blind spots that prevent motorists from seeing other motorists and taking appropriate action.

Ever driven in the left lane on Park or Portland with cars parked on the left side approaching an uncontrolled intersection? Blind spot! Ever driven in the right lane on a Four Lane Death Road, past a motorist waiting to turn left from the left lane, and past another motorist trying to find a gap to turn left through your lane? (This is the “offset left,” and I’m convinced it’s the cause of a high percentage of car vs. car crashes in Minneapolis.) Blind spot!

You can do something proactive about this. By slowing down, and other motorists are improving the signal-to-noise ratio as you communicate via your motor vehicle’s movements and signals. You are giving other motorists gentler windows to turn left across traffic, or cross a busy street at an uncontrolled intersection, or many other routine driving frustrations in complex urban environments.

But most importantly, slow speeds are safer for street users who are made vulnerable by their lack of a steel cage around them.

20-30-40 MPH

What does the law say?

The law actually encourages people to slow down, even slower than the speed limit. Again, remember speed limits are maximum legal limits (excepting passing per 169.14.2a, grrr). Here are some choice details from Minnesota statutes, emphasis mine.

Before laying out any particular speeds, we find duty to drive with due care.

No person shall drive a vehicle on a highway [legal definition, but means street in this case] at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions. … In every event speed shall be so restricted as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person, vehicle or other conveyance on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care. (169.14.1)

In qualifying the actual speed limits defined by law or local authorities, Minnesota statutes even call out specific examples where reduced speeds are required, basically any street in a complex urban environment.

The driver of any vehicle shall, consistent with the requirements, drive at an appropriate reduced speed … when traveling upon any narrow or winding roadway, and when special hazards exist with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions. (169.14.3)

Are there minimum speeds required by law? No, unless signs are posted (such as along some portions of interstate highway. (169.14.8) Though, if you’re driving slower than “the normal speed of traffic,” you’re generally obligated to use the right hand lane. (169.18.10) Which is why your slow driving is even more useful on 2-3 lane streets.

Enjoy the journey


Leave “hot and fast” driving for the racetrack. Cities move better low and slow.

Go Twenty on Tuesdays. It’s plenty. In complex urban environments, 20 MPH is not slow; it’s reasonable and prudent. You’ll get where you’re going, but you’ll notice more along the way. When it’s noticing something new along your journey or being able to look at or smile to other road users, you’ll be able to smile. When it’s noticing a potential car, person, or obstacle in your path, you’ll be able to react with little-to-no stress. Before you know it, you may wish to drive twenty every day of the week.

We’re all in this place together.

14 thoughts on “Twenty Is Plenty Tuesdays

  1. Monte Castleman

    So is fifty nifty for rural highways at night?

    There seems to be a basic contradiction, in that 169.14.1 says you shouldn’t drive so fast you cannot avoid crashes, yet the lack of night speed limits seems to endorse the idea, since it’s essentially impossible to avoid a crash if you’re over-driving your headlights (which at 50 mph or so).

    1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

      I’m generally supportive of driving the speed limit on rural highways, because speed differential is a valid safety concern on high-speed facilities. Speed differential is an inherent part of driving on streets in complex urban environments, therefore I don’t see speed differential as the same risk on low-speed streets as high-speed roads.

    2. Jeff

      There’s nothing contradictory about a statute that says drive at a reasonable speed and not having night speed limits. There’s no endorsement in the lack of a night speed limit. There would be an endorsement if there wasn’t already a requirement to maintain a reasonable speed.

  2. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

    Speed differential may not be a huge factor in slower urban environments, but road rage and maneuvers by other drivers should probably be a consideration. I’ve seen cars going 25 on Cedar (in a 30 zone) getting passed on the shoulder. I was passed myself going 30 on Portland in Richfield (in a 35 zone).

    On some streets, I think you can absolutely go 20 without creating road rage potential — like on the parkways, and certainly any residential street. But I wonder about the kind of maneuvers other motorists might resort to when you try to go that speed on a speed where they expect to go 5 or 10 over the limit.

    I guess my more conservative starting point might be always shaving off 5, rather than shaving off at least 10.

  3. GlowBoy

    I got road raged last year for going 30 mph on the short 35mph section of Portland Avenue, from 62nd to 60th. Guy yelled and screamed at me “it’s 35!” Yes, for two blocks.

  4. GlowBoy

    The above said, I don’t hesitate to keep my speed down to 20 on residential streets. Having just moved from Oregon, where residential streets have a 20 mph limit, and business districts are 20 (!!)

  5. Alex

    I had to stop driving 20mph on Minneapolis streets because I got passed on the left too many times, which I think is a net loss in safety. When driving 25mph I got passed a lot less.

    Minnesota has too big a road rage problem, it needs baby steps.

  6. Pingback: Washington State GOP Claims a Scalp in the Name of Socialized Roads |

  7. Rosa

    what’s the source on the pedestrian death rates at different speeds? I want to repost that graphic and I *know* someone’s going to challenge it.

Comments are closed.