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20 mph no joke

Steve Geller
Saturday June 15, 2002

To the Editor:  

The proposed 20 mph speed limit is not a joke. 

The idea really isn't to slow down traffic. As things are, delays from congestion and traffic lights probably result in about a 20 mph average speed. 

The low limit is an enforcement tool. It's conventional for drivers to exceed any posted limit by at least 5 mph, and expect police to let them get away with it. Under this convention, a 20 mph limit is “really” 25 mph, the statewide “basic speed.” 

This convention isn't the law, but might as well be, the way speed is enforced. 

A “zero tolerance” enforcement of the present 25 mph would require drivers to keep a margin the other way, closer to 20 mph, so they don't surge over the limit and get arrested. 

Anyone who walks the streets of Berkeley knows that some drivers go too 

fast, without fear of law enforcement. The same applies to bicycles, speeding on the sidewalks where they shouldn't be anyway. Speed is dangerous, because it leaves too little time to react. Speed is stupid, because people are almost never in such a hurry that they need to put lives in danger. 

Somehow we have to get protection from the people who speed.  

If a local 20 mph limit would keep people from zooming at 25 and 30 mph on 

residential streets, then we should give our police this enforcement tool. 


Steve Geller