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20’s Plenty for Brooklyn

January 30, 2012
Via n8than, here’s an astute comment about recent claims that instituting 20 mph zones in one neighborhood will cause drivers to speed in another:
Crime and traffic are not “like water”, as sometimes claimed.  If you make speeding and robbery difficult, people will do less of those things.

Whether it’s the result of poor street design or the NYPD’s laissez-faire attitude towards enforcement, the city has made speeding remarkably easy, allowing dangerous driving to spread so much that few parts of Brooklyn remain free from its cancerous effects.  If drivers can exceed the speed limit on Fourth, Flatbush, Atlantic, Coney Island, and Ocean Avenues by 20 or 30 mph without consequence, why on earth would anyone expect them to obey it when they turn onto a side street?  Traffic enforcement does not work on the honor system.

But while a driver racing at 55 mph on Fourth Avenue will easily turn into a driver doing 50 on 9th Street, it does not hold that a commuter doing 20 mph in Park Slope will turn into a NASCAR driver as soon as he escapes the neighborhood’s confines.  Enforcing the law does not tamper down some innate tendency human to want to break it; I know of no place that has a high murder rate because the neighborhood next door is so darn effective at preventing murders.

But, for a moment, let’s say that the critics of 20 mph Slow Zones are correct.  If one is willing to argue that drivers simply will not obey the posted speed limit if the road “allows” them to ignore it, or that they have no more self-control than wild animals and that slowing them down in one area will cause them to relent to an irresistible and irrepressible urge as soon as opportunity knocks, then that is precisely the reason why traffic calming measures must be put in place all over the city.

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