Sunday, March 8, 2015

The 20 Zone

My little neighborhood, its own municipality with its own elected government for some 120ish homes, has passed a new ordinance stating that no one may drive faster than 20 mph on our streets.

Now, I ain't no Sammy Hagar, but I can't drive 20.  Maybe 25 uphill, 30 if I had my druthers.  But I don't have that freedom.

Because they are serious about this.  So serious, in fact, that there is some talk of citizens in our hood getting in ther cars and following the perp to his (or her) home to inform that said speed limit has been exceeded.  This is but one of the proposals for dealing with violators.

If you know me, you know that I am not going to do well with this.  In fact, it rarely crosses my mind that I am supposed to be driving 20 mph.  But then, it didn't much cross my mind that I wasn't supposed to be driving over 30 mph on Germantown, after the traffic camera was installed, and I have 3 tickets and $150 in fines to show for it (which my wife, inexplicably, paid). Sugar Magnolia's got nothing on me.

I'd like to think that I drive pretty safely.  I'd like to think that other people believe that, but that is more of a stretch.  But, hell, a well-tuned vehicle will go 10 miles an hour without any foot on the gas.  And I get the reason--there are yardapes (pronounced "yar-dop-ehs", the Spanish word for children who are always lingering near the curb when you drive by) in our neighborhood, including some that are so omnipresent in the yard behind my friend's house that no one will buy his house.

In the 22 years I've lived in the neighborhood, no one has been hit by a car, and for many of those years, there were more open streets for outsiders to cut through, not just the one near me that funnels "wanderers" in the direction of my house and cars.

So I think the law is a bit excessive.  Yeah, err on the side of caution, but as is the trend these days, err too much.

I grew up a street kid, that product of the suburbs who was always outside playing one kind of game or sport or another, and when a car was coming, everyone knew it and would yell, "Car!" And the game would pause briefly.  And then we would return without hesitation.  Now, I suppose, that is too risky--we've got to rein in the driver who might be exceeding the limit.  It makes sense in the most logical way, but it does not make sense in a survival way.  If you are in the road and there is a car coming, you get out of the road.

Unfortunately, that isn't how it works in our little burb.  There is a group of women, for example, who regularly walk the streets (yes, streets, not sidewalks, even though we have sidewalks) at any time of the day or night, and should you, as driver, come up on them, it is your fault, it is you who will get the glare.

What I can't tell, as I reflect on then vs. now, is have drivers become more thoughtless and careless and, therefore, require additional policing through cameras and ordinances, or have we, as a society, become more cautious?

I'm sure you can tell what my theory is.  After all, that Germantown Road, which has relieved my family of $150, only has a speeding camera in one direction.  So, if speeding is such a problem, is it only a problem one way?  Does no one speed heading away from the interstate?  I do.  Because I can, and I know I won't get a ticket.

Same with my neighborhood.  I understand that they want people to drive more slowly through our neighborhood, but how slowly?  And because, why?  And how was that limit set?  And, why, you might ask, don't I go to the neighborhood meetings where such things are voted on and decide?  I'll tell you why: because having lived here for 22 years without such an ordinance and without the apparent need for it, we seemed to make it just fine.  Had we not, it's a gossipy little place with its own email group, and we would all have heard of it.  And we didn't.  So what wasn't important back then, when we had more through traffic, is important now.

And now, are we more safe, or just more Salem, Massachusetts, 1692, with everybody keeping an eye on everyone else's business?  Are we the "neighborhood watch" that is watching its own, rather than unwanted outsiders?  And is someone really going to follow someone else home in order to chastise them in their driveway for their driving?

In a crazy Red State where people can bring their guns to all kinds of unacceptable (to me) places, including the streets of our neighborhood, I just don't see that ending well.


rodle said...

20mph is low, as is 30mph for that stretch of Germantown. I didn't know Germantown had cameras in only one direction. I've gotten a couple of tickets there myself, and will gladly make up for it now by speeding towards Brainerd.

Billy said...

What the heck. A kid with a Schwinn can probably go 20 mph with just a bit of gumption.

Although I hate them with a passion, I would much prefer someone put the limit at 25 or (preferably) 30 and plaster those dang evil Car Killer speed humps throughout the neighborhood.

20mph is the speed the old lady in Ferris Bueller was driving that everyone mocked. To think we're gonna punish Ferris' dad for being the better driver...

Thanks Obama.