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How Much Time Do High Speed Limits Save?

By JAMES KENNEDY



It's true that as a pedestrian or bicycle advocate, one might shun high speed limits.  But don't drivers have some rights too?

I did a calculation after our recent Blackstone Blvd. speeding piece was published by Eco RI.  The highest speed I clocked was 44 mph, in a 25 mph zone.  Assuming that that driver faced no obstructions during his or her entire trip, how much time was saved by this speeding driver?

Google Maps says that Butler/Blackstone Boulevard combined, from Waterman Street up to the intersection with Hope, is 3.3 kilometers or 2.05 miles long.  At a steady pace of 44 mph, a driver will save two minutes and thirteen seconds over a driver going the speed limit.  Not a lot of time.

That assumes that the driver continues driving at 44 mph the whole way.  But my personal experience has been that fast drivers often meet me again at the next red light or stop sign.  That's because it takes several seconds to accelerate to such a high speed.  And as the study showed, a large number of obstacles besides lights do get in the way of fast drivers.  One-third of drivers going under 30 mph were slowed down due to a turning vehicle.  

Around the country, 25 mph speed limits are actually being lowered--to 20 and even 15 mph--on many streets, as a way of improving pedestrian and bicycle safety.  How much time would be lost for a lawful driver on Blackstone Boulevard if he or she had to obey this new speed limit?

At 15 mph, It would take approximately eight minutes to get from Waterman & Butler to Blackstone & Hope.  At 25 mph, the driver who is following the law already takes about 5 minutes to get to their destination--that assumes they never hit a light.  Is three minutes worth it?

In some cases, lowering speed limits while synchronizing lights may make a 15 or 20 mph journey faster than a 25 mph one.  Slow and steady. . . 

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