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.

Matt Steele

About Matt Steele

Matt's passion is fostering resiliency in local transportation and land use decisions. He's at @matthewsteele.