You're Speeding in a Residential Area, but It's Not Entirely Your Fault

I drove to the library in downtown Grand Rapids today. I was going 29 miles per hour and the speed limit was 30 miles per hour. But I kept slamming on the brakes. I felt like I was going so fast!

Then I realized why–thanks to 9th grade Science Class. Downtowns’ buildings are always closer to the street. You can walk right into these buildings from the sidewalks usually. I’m used to buildings being set back 10-50 feet from the road. Frame of reference! Ever notice, on the highway, how things far away pass by you slower than things very close?

I’d always wondered why planners started putting buildings so far back and increasing front yard length. It does make it more comfortable for the cars to go faster. It makes the driver’s perceived risk much lower, so they feel more comfortable driving faster. And the faster a car goes, the more deadly and frequent accidents involving that car will be.

Wide roads, far-away points of reference, many lanes: obeying speed limits has never been so hard for us, when our townships create mini-highways instead of streets.

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