Residential area citizens

Should we have 100km/h speed limit for residential areas?

Think of an Irish residential area as a place with a bunch of houses built. Where people live en-masse. Where people live out their lives inside and outside. It’s where work on their gardens, walk to the shop, or walk to school. Where kids are brought up. Where people grow old.

Now let me ask you this question:

Should residential areas have speed limits of 100km/h?

If you replied yes, then this post is not for you, I kindly ask you to leave ūüėČ

If you replied no, then why did you answer no?

I’ll assume that your reasoning has something to do with the view that it’s too dangerous.

The danger to you is not really the question, because you’re free to put yourself in danger. It’s the real danger you’re posing to other people¬†¬†is the crux of the matter.

Why do you think it’s too dangerous to drive at 100km/h in a residential area?¬† Travelling at that speed means that:

  1. The time you have to react to an “obstacle” is minuscule
  2. The physical impact of your vehicle on the thing (person) it hits would be devastating

As a sidenote, an underlying working principle today in Ireland is: I am driving my car on this road, and you do not have the right to get in my way. If you are crossing the road and you do not get out of my way, I may not “see” you until it’s “too late”. This societal behaviour is part of the context for the next question:

If 100km/h is not a reasonable speed to drive at, what is a reasonable speed in a residential area?

I’d define reasonable as a speed where you’re highly unlikely of doing damage to another person, be it that the person is in a vehicle or not, and including the full cross-section of ages of people living in the area.

The European Commission cites a study by¬†Tingvall & Haworth (1999), where they say the principle of “appropriate speed limits” is set on:

The driver/vehicle/road system should operate such that, in the event of an impact, forces are not exerted on vehicle occupants or other road users which are likely to lead to a fatality. 

Note that this study is looking at the WORST case scenario of death. They are not even considering what speed limit would avoid major brain injury.

That same EC page states that based on this study, “where pedestrians are present, vehicle speeds should be no higher than 30km/h“.

So the academics and EC have concluded that, no, residential areas should not have speed limits have 100km/h. That in order to “reasonably” avoid people being killed by others driving their cars, a “safe speed” LIMIT¬†for our residential areas is 30km/h.

Irish Cities as Footpaths

Irish cities are roads. We could instead treat them as footpaths.

A road is a very specific place, a place that we designate with a function:

  • A way to get from A to B
  • Priority by law given to people in vehicles
  • Covered by laws encoding not slowing down those behind you

A footpath is much the default state of our world:

  • Walk where you please
  • You can’t fatally injure someone by walking
  • You’re not making much noise
  • You can bump into people and have a chat
  • You have the right to be there, no matter what your age

Let me give you an example in Limerick of the current situation. You’ve made your way into Limerick city. You had your lunch. Next you’re walking from a pharmacy called Roberts Pharmacy, to AIB bank which is about 20 metres away. You’re on the main street of Limerick city. You have on thing to cross, though: a four-lane-wide road called Lower Cecil Street.¬† There are two lanes of drivers on this road, driving onto O’Connell Street. And your crossing looks like this:

Lower Cecil Street in Limerick, Ireland.
Lower Cecil Street coming onto O’Connell Street. This is Limerick city as a road. Imagine you’re walking form Robert’s Pharmacy on the left to AIB Bank on the right:best of luck to you! Imagine your route if Limerick was instead a footpath. Copyright Google.

The reality of that situation is that you’re using Limerick city, and Limerick city’s core emphasis is on being a road. If you’re driving in your vehicle, you can power on through. If you’re walking “across” Limerick as a road, you only have the speed of your legs to get out of the way of people using the city as a road.

Our cities in Ireland could be footpaths. We can make them that if we wake up and realise that’s what you want. That’s where you can wander from shop to shop. You can buy your lunch, walk to grab a coffee. On a footpath, you’re not typically open to being fatally injured by vehicles. You’ve got the chance to either walk as fast as you like, or bump into friends and have a chat with them. You don’t need one-way footpaths, or traffic lights, or speed bumps, or flashing lights on a footpath.

You can be human on a footpath. Our cities can be footpaths.

Questions about the driverless car

  • If a kid walks out in front of it, will it stop at sudden discomfort to the occupants? What about an adult?
  • If a dog walks in front of it, will it stop at sudden discomfort to the occupants? What about a seagull or a pigeon?
  • Will it pull out at oncoming people on their bikes if there’s a car parked on its side of the road?
  • Will it stop at stop signs?
  • Will it take shortcuts through residential communities?
  • Will it stop on bike areas at junctions?
  • Will it drive faster in cities at night?
  • Will it be at fault for damaging itself for driving over speed ramps at too high a speed?
  • Will it drive at max speed limit, or at a speed relevant to the road conditions?

Many of these have been answered already in software, although it’s still worth asking.