City planners are having a difficult time getting drivers to obey posted speed limits. It turns out that posted speed limits don’t have the greatest effect on how fast drivers will travel on a road. Instead, the design of the road itself is said to have a greater impact.

Despite posted speed limits as low as 20 mph, drivers still tend to go fast on roads with little traffic and few obstacles. It’s only when drivers feel that the road dictates such low speeds will they obey the posted speed limits.

On wide roads with virtually zero street parking, drivers feel that they can get away with driving fast. When these streets have no distracting trees or sidewalks, people often treat them more like a dragstrip than a public road.

In contrast, narrow roads that are lined with trees and parked cars cause people to take more caution by driving slower. The fear of running into a hazard is more prevalent, and people are more likely to drive carefully and obey the posted speed limits.

What it all comes down to is that urban planners must take careful consideration when designing roads.

Of course, they can post whatever speed limit they want, but people are only likely to obey them when the situation dictates it. If planners want people to drive only 20 mph in a designated area, then the area should be designed like a 20 mph area.

Enforcing these speed limits on every road is costly and not very feasible. It’s no surprise that the public will take matters into their own hands when they feel as though they can get away with it. If planners really want to slow drivers down, then they should design roads that match these intentions.

If planners want slower roads, don’t make the roads so wide. Add some trees here and there. Encourage some street parking. This is a road, not a raceway.

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