For years, the neighborhoods featured signs warning about children at play, which local authorities are removing in favor of posting "Neighborhood Speed Limit 25" signs. Their rationale: the "Children At Play" alerts don't fit with Current National Standards.
What would we do without Current National Standards?
Charlie Zegeer, director of the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center at the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center, said he had not heard of a city removing all of such signs at once, although a number don't install them anymore. Still, he agrees with Naperville leaders' rationale.Yes, I understand the pejorative connotation associated with "letting your children play in traffic." And yet, where there are neighborhoods full of children, there will be basketballs getting away from players, youngsters still getting the hang of their Big Wheels and bicycles, and energetic dogs taking kids for a walk. That's where Strong Towns gets it. Streets are for people, not cars.
"Signs like this are often assumed to make things safer, when really they're likely doing the opposite," Zegeer said. "They might be giving the message to parents, and kids for that matter, that it's OK to play in the street."
Zegeer said he recommends towns install new speed limit signs that are accompanied by speed bumps, strategic street painting or a number of other traffic calming measures.
"Simply putting in a lower speed limit doesn't mean drivers will obey it," Zegeer said.
Naperville spokeswoman Linda LaCloche said no other efforts are under way to slow down neighborhood traffic.
Not all residents agree with the logic behind removing the "Children at Play" signs.
"People don't respect speed limits," said Uriah Jones, 34, at his home off Aurora Avenue, west of downtown. "When you see a visual of kids or the elderly, people respect that."
Too many streets, though, give drivers all sorts of clues that it's OK (not legal, not safe for kids, dogs, or basketballs) to go fast. There's a neighborhood speed limit of 25 governing the streets serving Cold Spring Shops headquarters, and yet the street in front of headquarters provides a convenient, relatively free of parked trucks, shortcut from the townhouses to the mile road. I'm not saying it's an expressway, and yet an early evening on my deck with a radar gun might be instructive.
Thus, posting Naperville streets for 25 mph, in the absence of other hints to take it slow, isn't going to work.
Humans are smart. We pick up on dozens of cues and hints from the world around us. We intuitively know if an environment is designed for walking or driving, but we often have a hard time explaining why.Naperville is one big environment designed for driving. Put another way, it is one big collection of visual clues to go fast, never mind whether the sign warns "children at play" or "speed limit 25."