The bureaucratic phrase, “traffic calming,” has whimsy going for it, at least: We imagine the dispatching of city traffic engineers to problem areas, standing in the median as cars go by, arms outstretched and being slightly lowered with palms down — the international symbol for “take it easy.”
Traffic calming, of course, is the clever and usually annoying placement of impediments in a roadway designed not to move traffic but to impede it in an effort to force a stupid minority of careless leadfoots to approximate the speed limit. Scottsdale has seen its share grow in recent years.
These include speed humps and speed “tables,” the latter being those 10-foot-long, four-inch-high plateaus in the pavement that make your car bump up, then bump down. Do anything over 20 mph over them and soon you’ll be referring to your suspension in the past tense.
And yet they work, these and those little circular medians with the sapling tree stuck in the middle that you must drive around at no more than 15 mph or end up on the curb.
But they should be used only on streets on which people actually live, and certainly only on residential streets, not the larger collector streets designed to actually move traffic through areas as much or more as bring people into them.
Some residents who use Mountain View Road have been rightfully critical of the city’s recently announced plan to install speed “tables” and median islands/roundabouts along it between 96th and 112th streets.
No doubt Mountain View has seen its share of speeders of late. But it is a collector street of a type often seen in many planned residential communities, that is, nary a driveway opens out into it.
Rear walls of houses facing residential streets in the neighborhood’s interior are what line Mountain View, interrupted chiefly by intersections with residential streets that have stop signs.
Better traffic enforcement is what is needed along collector and larger streets to keep speeding vehicles in check. And those who are speeding should be cited and pay fines to remember. But to make 100 percent of such streets’ traffic slow down and, even at the recommended speed limit, have to bump up, then down on the “tables” and turn sharply right, then sharply left on median island/roundabouts is more of a frustrating impedence more than it is a, uh, calming influence.
Residential streets, whose primary duty is to bring people to and from specific places in an area rather than through it, benefit from such traffic calming devices. But their use should be avoided on most through streets.