Suburbia's Ironies

Via ARLnow, the Washington Post has a really sad story about a man in Fairfax County who was murdered because of his advocacy for speed humps in his neighborhood. Say what you will about crime in the city, but for being one of the wealthiest and perceptually safest places in the region, this is seriously twisted.

(from Flickr user afagen)

To me, this points to one of the ultimate ironies of suburbia. There's a conflict between wanting to live on a quiet street with low-speed traffic, and the desire to drive a car at high speeds to get everywhere. Because suburbs are typically built at low densities, single use zoning and without street grids, driving to stuff is a necessity. Everyone wants to drive fast, they just don't want other people driving fast near their home.

Theoretically, though, speed humps are only useful in places where the streets weren't correctly designed in the first place. Streets with narrow lanes and lots of intersections tend to calm traffic by their design. From my experience, building humps on long wide-open roads just tends to lead to an awkward driving style where people floor it between humps and then slam on the breaks as they approach them.

Maybe there's more to the Post's story then we're being told, but the idea that an issue like speed humps can cause blood to boil at all really says something about suburban traffic design.

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