Slow Rider
August 18, 2012 10:34 AM   Subscribe

How do I slow down traffic on my quiet residential street?

It's a quiet, completely residential street - just two blocks long, no businesses or traffic lights. But an upcoming detour will re-route a very busy commuter route onto my street for the next month. I expect lots of speeding. Philadelphia has experimented with these (they're actually more effective than you'd guess) but I don't know if I can duplicate it with paint.

I'm looking for a DIY solution. Any ideas?
posted by sixpack to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have one of these things and it works very well. I live in a subdivision. We have some speeders. When my kids are out skateboarding or whatever in the front, I put this out and I can literally see people putting on the break even when the kids aren't in the street.
posted by Fairchild at 10:38 AM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

A simple lawn sign (especially if it mentions kids) might work.
posted by drezdn at 10:40 AM on August 18, 2012

If you & neighbors are feeling ambitious, painted intersections generally slow traffic. Perhaps not worth it for just a month, but they are a pretty addition to a neighborhood.
posted by susanvance at 11:04 AM on August 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

People in my neighborhood use the exact same signs as Fairchild links to, and it seems to be effective. I don't speed in my neighborhood, but I still reduce my speed even further when I see those signs. They are really noticeable and the nice thing is they can be brought inside when not in use -- not permanent fixtures that would get the homeowners' association upset or generally fade into the background when people get used to them.
posted by Houstonian at 11:06 AM on August 18, 2012

This seemed to work but I'm not necessarily recommending it.
posted by davcoo at 11:16 AM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One of my favorite signs on our street is the one that says "Drive Like Your Kids Live Here."
posted by Wuggie Norple at 12:11 PM on August 18, 2012 [6 favorites]

People tend to drive how fast the road feels or, perhaps more accurately, at the speed the actual physical details comfortably and safely supports. Wide, straight roads with very new/"clean" looking pavement and no visual distractions encourage high speeds. Pavement in worse shape, curves in the road, visual clutter, etc encourages slower speeds.

Some of that you cannot control. But you can add visual distraction and you can potentially park in the street instead of the driveway to make the road narrower and you can put plants, planters, signs, decoration etc near the road to make it feel more cramped and narrow and (visually) busy. You might also be able to put visual defects in the pavement, like spilled paint. It might evoke that "oh, nos, potholes! Must slow down!" reaction out of some drivers, enough to force everyone to slow down if they don't want to wreck.

It might also work to simply leave the front yard cluttered with toys and set up a portable basketball hoop near the entry to your driveway. Anything which would be visually distracting, make the road feel more closed in, and give people reason to feel concern about hitting a kid and/or damaging their own vehicle.
posted by Michele in California at 12:30 PM on August 18, 2012 [6 favorites]

I myself drive more slowly on a narrow, parked-up street than I do on a wider one. I'd say anything you can do to put things (like your car, a basketball hoop, trash cans) on the street-side, but still out of the traffic lane, the better.

I also like the theory that mixing people and cars in the same space can work. Rather than stay out of the street, I'd be in it as much as possible. Jaywalk at will, ride bikes, etc. Repeat commuters will remember that it's a people AND cars space. Drivers don't want to hit people, they just don't think any people will ever be in the road because, you know, roads. Don't let them get used to this idea on your street.

Be careful though. This worked VERY well on the street where I lived a few years ago, but there was still the occasional jackass (usually a high-school kid) who didn't get the concept.
posted by ctmf at 2:17 PM on August 18, 2012

A nice bright tennis ball sitting in the street so it catches their eye will give any driver pause that a child may be running into the street to fetch it.
posted by any major dude at 2:55 PM on August 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

I know you are looking for a DIY solution, but your city government may have some help for you. A temporary speed feedback sign could be set up to help discourage speeding. Try contacting your local city council person for assistance.

Michele in California makes an excellent point about how the street feels. I know that when there are a bunch of cars parked on the street, traffic slows down. Some large item parked in the street (a dumpster? one of those rental Pods?) would also work. I have no idea what the parking situation is in your neighborhood or if that's even feasible.
posted by ambrosia at 3:17 PM on August 18, 2012

There are safety reasons we are asked to keep roads clear of parked cars, shrubs, etc. For example, if there is an emergency then the ambulance, fire department, police need to go down the street quickly. For another example, children chasing after an errant ball are hard to see behind things and thus seem to "dart" unseen from behind the objects. Please think carefully before taking this approach.

If you decide to paint or otherwise change a street that was paid for by either tax dollars or homeowners dues, make sure you ask whatever body governs these decisions so that you don't get in trouble or have your creation wrecked.
posted by Houstonian at 5:23 PM on August 18, 2012

Houstonian is right and I am not suggesting you engage in vandalism or do anything dangerous or illegal. (My suggestion of spilled paint is a nod to the OP's indication he might be willing to paint the street. I wouldn't be personally comfortable doing either thing but if you wish to do something like that, paint spills happen naturally and I would be less bothered by something like that.) But urban planners who study this stuff for a living have found that improving roads does not solve congestion. It tends to make it worse. Making the roads "worse" in that regard -- narrower, curvier, less speed-demon friendly -- actually reduces traffic and increases safety.

Assuming there is sufficient room to legally and safely park in the street, Paris has street parking in part to increase pedestrian safety by placing a barrier between car traffic in the streets and pedestrian traffic on the sidewalks. Trees planted near the road can encourage people to slow down while also reducing glare from the sun, which can improve safety. Some places have found that removing traffic lights from certain intersections and thereby forcing people to look the other driver's in the eye and visually get or give right of way actually reduces accidents. Some of this is counterintuitive but there are studies on how to do this type thing right.

I wouldn't personally place a ball in the street. But I wouldn't hesitate to add a few bushes or trees close to the street-side of my yard but still perfectly within zoning laws and add a little visual clutter. You don't have to create a safety issue to make people hesitate to go zooming past at high speed. I would encourage you to google and see what studies you can find. You could also go someplace like Planetizen or Cyburbia and look for articles or ask for feedback.
posted by Michele in California at 5:50 PM on August 18, 2012

> But an upcoming detour will re-route a very busy commuter route onto my street for the next month. I expect lots of speeding.

I don't know if speeding is as likely as congestion and horn-blowing. When people are detoured, they don't tend to zoom down the unfamiliar, smaller streets, because they don't know where they'll have to turn next.

If you haven't already, I think the first step is to find out from the City who you should contact during the detour who can handle problems caused by traffic flow. (I know, I know, probable wild goose chase, I live in Philly too.)
posted by desuetude at 1:27 PM on August 19, 2012

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