I need to carry a p&s with me on my commutes, though I couldn’t have gotten a picture of this without backtracking. I was pedaling past a high school, where the traffic is too fast and too rude and the pedestrians prone to shouting at me, and I saw an upside down car in the front lawn of the school.

It was hard to tell if it was staged or not. The windshield looked broken, there seemed to be broken glass around, a theory supported by the orange cones in the grass nearby, but it was at a perfect perpendicular to the road. Odd, you know?

But I didn’t have much time to look – too much needing my attention, with my left turn coming up, for which I have to negotiate with the car drivers.

I hope no one was hurt in that car wreck (if it was a wreck, and not some weird homecoming ritual), and I also hope that it prompts the traffic cops to start enforcing the speed limit. I ride other roads with the same speed limit, and this particular road is definitely the worst of the bunch.

It is interesting that Tom Vanderbilt, of “How we drive” posted today about some bad decisions being made in a nearby community, Montgomery County.

What strikes me in discussions like these is the weird disconnect between design and driver behavior. One of the reasons it can so often be difficult to enforce lower speed limits is that these limits are posted on roads that are intensely over-engineered. The supposed “fix,” as suggested above, is to assume that drivers are going to drive at a certain speed, and so to then rearrange the entire landscape — removing trees, etc. — to allow them to do so “safely.”

Of course, on the road “designed” for speed limits of 30 to 40 mph, they will inevitably drive faster. But then, of course, if someone crashes and kills a pedestrian or another driver, it’s an “accident,” it’s down to driver behavior; if they smash into a tree, it’s deemed poor traffic safety engineering. As the work of Eric Dumbaugh has found, looking at streets like the one above, at Stetson University in Florida, often the worst safety performance comes on the roads that are deemed “safe” by traffic engineers, while the best can come on tree-lined streets like the one above (which had no crashes and speeds below 30 mph during the five years he looked at it).

And when I think about it from that perspective, it is no wonder people drive unsafely on this particular road – mostly there are wide clear sight lines, it is a wide road for a 35mph speed limit. The other roads I am on with 35mph speed limits are narrower with more limited sight lines. And what do you know, people don’t drive like maniacs. Or at least not so much.

In juxtaposition to that road, as soon as I turn off I’m on super quiet neighborhood roads. A couple turns through the neighborhood, and I saw a young boy riding his bike. Maybe 10 or 12 years old? I’m bad at judging ages. I’ve noticed a few kids riding their bikes around there, I’m pretty sure they’re riding them to and from school. There is an elementary school tucked away back there. I said “hey” to the little boy today and he smiled shyly, but didn’t seem to know how to react otherwise.

Extra cute!

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