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The One Answer to Every Dangerous Street Concern

Every motorist has concerns when driving: This road is too curvy, that bicyclist came out of nowhere, that pedestrian shouldn’t cross the street there.

Luckily, there’s a quick & easy solution to most of these concerns: Drive more slowly.

Sure, we feel pressure to get places faster, pressure from the annoying driver behind us, social pressure to go faster than the speed limit. (When’s the last time you saw anyone get a speeding ticket?) Bb9e2117 64f7 4813 Aee3 Ea4e427fac19

But this one trick — driving more slowly — can solve a multitude of motorist concerns. Here are some complaints you might have said yourself as a driver, or known someone who’s said, and the quick & easy answer:

  • “This is a dangerous curve — the road should be widened here.” Drive slower.
  • “Why do people wear dark clothing and walk in the street at night? I can’t see them! Walkers and runners should wear reflective gear at all times.” Drive slower.
  • “I didn’t see the person biking [walking, running] in broad daylight.” Drive slower.
  • “People shouldn’t cross in the middle of the street.” Drive slower.
  • “I’m not looking for cyclists or scooters on the sidewalk!” Drive slower.
  • “That person on the bike is slowing traffic down.” Drive slower.
  • “I had the right of way! That person in the crosswalk didn’t have a walk signal.” Drive slower.
  • “How could I be expected to see the crosswalk after the curve? Drive slower.
  • “That lady on the bike veered into my lane to avoid a pothole. How was I supposed to know?” Drive slower.
  • “That kid on the bike came over the hill suddenly!” Drive slower.
  • Nobody uses their turn signals [stops at stop signs, or uses their headlights at dusk, dawn or in the rain or snow]. Drive slower.
  • “It’s so dangerous for that parent to cart his kids behind him on his bike on this busy street. What is he thinking?” Drive slower.

Driving more slowly enhances your life — and potentially the lives of others — in three ways:

  1. The slower you go, the more you notice your surroundings. You see people you might have missed; you notice people in the shadows; you see more movement.
  2. Your reaction time doesn’t change, but the distance your vehicle travels during that reaction time is much less when you’re driving more slowly, meaning you’re less likely to hit someone.
  3. People in the street have less chance of being severely hurt, or killed, when a slow-moving vehicle hits them. So even if you do hit someone, he or she is more likely to survive.

Driving slower has other benefits: It gives you the confidence that you’re protecting your family and others’ families, by being reasonable and cautious. It helps you relax, giving you time to more fully understand and predict your surroundings. And you’ll never have to worry about paying a speeding ticket again.

The next time you get in your car, truck or SUV, ask yourself how fast you’re going to drive on this trip. Don’t you want to make it relaxing, enjoyable and safe?

About Lou Miranda

Lou is a board member at Streets.mn, newly (2019) appointed to the Hennepin County Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC), and has been on the Edina Planning Commission since 2018. He was formerly Vice Chair of the Edina Transportation Commission. He tweets at @TheNewLou

37 thoughts on “The One Answer to Every Dangerous Street Concern

  1. Quinn Haberl

    I have a few thoughts, part of the problem is how we design our streets. Our streets are designed with white travel lanes, very little visual stimulation, and speed limits. I do not believe that speed limits will cause drivers to drive slower. If he really wants someone to drive slower, the street it’s self must be re-designed.

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      Yes, people are responding to the signals and incentives our built environment provides. Our streets are too wide, among other issues. We’re fixing some of it, but it’s going to take awhile.

      In the meantime, we can all lower a blood pressure a little by following Lou’s advice.

    2. Eric AnondsonEric Anondson

      True. There are streets, like the stretch of Louisiana Ave between 7 and Minnetonka Blvd that will challenge the ability to drive the speed limit without actively looking at the speedometer.

      But it’s not even true that posted limits are safe enough all the time. 30 is the residential speed limit, as it is on Grand Ave and Mainstreet. But 30 is still unsafe and driving slower is better there.

    1. Quinn Haberl

      Can you tell me a little more about where you’ve noticed this? I haven’t seen this in my experience?

      1. Paul y Howell

        Yes, when you only get one through a green light because they confuse the traffic light.

    2. giacomo

      Very, very few people drive too slow. Almost every single motorist could reduce their speed by 7 mph at almost all times and have only positive effects on the world.

      1. Paul

        I feel there is a pulse to urban driving. People who drive too fast, which is way worse, and people who are just too damn careful.

        1. giacomo

          I have never seen a driver who is TOO careful.

          Just like I have never seen someone handle a firearm TOO carefully

          A 2 ton machine that can kill with a slip of the ankle needs to be treated with extreme care.

            1. mary

              Then drive slower. People need to drive the speed limit, if it is safe enough to do so. Personally, I think 70 is too fast. I remember when they made 55 the speed limit and 60…fast enough. If not leave earlier. Saves gas also, so there’s that.

          1. J N

            What happens when someone drives too slow is that the drivers behind them get frustrated and will over compensate by going too fast (often dangerously and disastrously so) when the opportunity presents its self.

            I’ve seen it hundreds of times on country roads, the suburbs, and small towns.. I don’t do enough city driving to comment about behaviors there.

            People driving too slow can be a real problem, especially on highways (especially in the left lane!).

            1. Alicia Valenti

              Seems to me the problem is the impatient drivers, not the ones proceeding with caution.

            2. Rosa

              Yes but then the problem is the people who can’t be safe when they feel frustrated or worried. People with so little control over their behavior shouldn’t be behind the wheel – they are dangerous.

  2. Eric Ecklund

    Unfortunately Americans don’t think that way, but they certainly should.

    A pedestrian or biker getting hit by a car at 30 mph has around 55% chance of surviving. That statistic alone should scare drivers straight and make them more cautious and patient. Sadly it doesn’t because they think it’ll never happen to them. I had two close calls with bikers while driving and I knew I was in the wrong and now I’m much more cautious. However it shouldn’t take close calls for drivers to be cautious.

  3. Brian

    So, basically we should all drive at walking speed then? It would be impossible to deal with everything on that list at much over walking speed.

    Sorry, but I am not driving at 5 MPH in case some pedestrian in all black in an unlit area decides to step off a curb without looking.

    I’ll agree that most drivers drive far too fast. I was turning from one 55 MPH road to another recently and a driver passed me while I was turning. The driver didn’t even wait to see if I was going to drive too slow for them.

    1. Karen Nelson

      Did someone say all drivers should drive at walking speed on all roads?

      Driving 25 mph max on all surface would be a great improvement over what American drivers do now, and would hardly hurt trip times.

      I drive much slower now on City streets and very often find drivers who want to have much higher peak speeds don’t get places faster than me. They pass me in a huff and then I meet them at next stop light.

  4. Bill LindekeBill LindekeModerator  

    FUN EXPERIMENT CHALLENGE.

    Take a week, seven days, and drive the speed limit in urban areas.

    Report back what you find out. Write it up on a post for streets.mn, and i’ll send you a signed copy of my book.

    1. Monte Castleman

      I already do drive the speed limit in urban areas (and rural and suburban areas too). Not even 60 or so in a 55, what the sign says is what I go.

      What kind of reports are you looking for?

      1. Eric SaathoffEric Saathoff

        The report would probably relate how other drivers treat you. I know if I drive 30mph on Maryland Avenue between 35E and Edgerton people ride my tail angrily.

        Maybe the experiment should be driving 5 miles under the speed limit. Can people tolerate someone going under the legal maximum?

          1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

            Me too and sometimes those things happens but a lot of times people just tolerate it too.

            My informal hypothesis is that the reactions vary considerably based on the mix of suburban commuters versus urban drivers (i.e., streets that connect to freeways are worse). Although that may be hangover effects of people wanting to/having just zoom-zoomed on the freeway too.

            1. Eric SaathoffEric Saathoff

              If I drive 25mph on Payne Avenue there’s no problem at all. It’s a dense commercial street that’s fairly narrow and with bike lanes.

              If I drive 30mph on Maryland I am closely tailed and people are switching lanes quickly.

              Some streets are built for zooming, and you can just feel it. There are all sorts of visual signals, and I don’t mean speed limit signs.

        1. J N

          Driving below the speed limit on highways does not protect pedestrians…

          Yes it can in residential areas, but not on highways..

          Please don’t purposely p%$$ off people on the highways..

          1. giacomo

            Americans are funny. They will indulge a million behaviors that are meant to p**s people off: Confederate flags, loud music, a bunch of other stuff.

            But drive the speed limit on a highway and you’re a real menace to society.

        2. Monte Castleman

          So in other words, keep a log of the number of car horns, middle fingers, and illegal passing by street and time of day?

          Now that people can no longer drive 50 mp down Portland and Nicollet in Bloomington you’d think the apocalypse has come judging by the Facebook freakouts I’ve seen.

  5. Andrew Evans

    I drive 30ish in the city, and yes that helps, but it’s not the magic bullet. Haven’t really had the finger given to me, other than when I block drivers from passing on River Road, but that’s really about it. If anything I give out the finger more to speeders than I get in return.

    Most of my complaints are on River Road, so I’ll keep it to that.

    Quite a few of the crosswalks are terrible at night, and oncoming headlights don’t make it easy to see what’s going on in the shadows. Going slower really won’t solve that issue.
    Traffic can hide pedestrians, and they can stay hidden even when following a few car lengths behind. Going slower won’t really help, and usually when there is traffic everyone is pretty much going the speed limit.
    Pedestrians or bikes darting out away from crosswalks, sure, driving slower helps, but reaction time is only so much.

    “Start Seeing Motorcycles” is a proactive approach by riders to inform other drivers. It isn’t a “everyone should slow down” and it goes hand in hand with motorcyclists taking steps to be seen. That’s really what it comes down to here, drivers being more careful and alert, and pedestrians being more careful and alert.

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      Going slower helps in each instance you mention, at least in relative terms. It means you’re not going as far in the time it takes you to react, that it will take less time for you to stop and that even if you can’t stop, you will do less damage if you hit something.

  6. Andrew Evans

    Yesterday I saw 3 bikes heading north on South Minnehaha drive, almost run into another bike trying to cross at the crossing south of or nearby the old bridge to get to the VA home. Not sure why the bikes felt they didn’t need to stop. On that note I didn’t stop either, saw the bikes coming toward me on their side of the road and didn’t see the person crossing.

    I guess we all needed to be driving slower.

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