Let’s Talk About Speeding

One of the most common complaints we get as council-members is about speeding in residential neighborhoods.

I had a meeting with a resident this morning to talk about one of these complaints, and I thought this was a good opportunity to discuss the city’s process for dealing with speeding complaints.

At a high level it works like this:

  • Citizen Makes Complaint
  • Traffic Study Conducted
  • Targeted Enforcement if Necessary
  • Corrective Action/Adjustments Made

Citizen Makes Complaint

These complaints originate from many places such as calls to the police department or city hall, or conversations with residents at events or meetings.  I would encourage people to start the complaint process with their council member.  This allows us to monitor the process and make sure we know where problem areas are. We really like to know what goes on in our neighborhoods.

Traffic Study Conducted

After the complaint is made, the city will deploy the traffic count device to the area.  You’ve seen it- it’s the thing with the two rubber tubes that go across the street.  This device will count all of the cars that go down the street and also track the speeds.  At the end we get reports like this one:


This allows us to see what the average speeds are, and if speeding is happening- when.

In the image above, we can see that 738 cars went down Louisiana Ave on the Tuesday in question. The speed limit is 30. 90% were going less than 35mph. 9% were between 35 and 40 and a few jerks exceeded 40.

Targeted Enforcement if Necessary

If there is a speed issue identified, and if the speeding fits into a pattern, the police department will institute targeted patrols to the area to help identify who is causing the speeding.

Most of the time when we get speed complaints the residents think it’s people cutting through the neighborhood that are doing the speeding.  Unfortunately, the real speeders are usually people who live in the neighborhood.

Corrective Action/Adjustments Made

After the data is in the city will also look at making traffic control adjustments such as adding or removing signs, adding or removing pavement markings, or temporarily deploying the radar speed trailer (that sign that flashes when you go too fast).

How Long Does This Process Take?

Longer than you want it to but as quickly as possible.

The traffic counter is used for more things than responding to speeding complaints, and there are other things to consider when counting traffic (weather, time of year, school break, etc.) to make sure you get good numbers.

That’s great, but can’t I just get a stop sign?  

Well, no.

I’ll admit that before I was on the council I didn’t understand this one. But after quite a bit of explaining and convincing and watching quite a bit of time-lapse traffic video, I begrudgingly understand… Stop signs don’t actually impact speed or improve safety the way you (or I) think they do.

When drivers perceive stop signs as “unnecessary” they either roll through them, or speed up after going through the intersection to “make up” the time that they “lost” by stopping.  (Yes, you know and I know that’s irrational. But we also drive around town to save a penny on gas even though we burn up more in gas by doing so.)

Stop signs can also create a false sense of security because people, especially kids, figure that if there’s a stop sign that cars will stop.  And that’s a bad assumption.

So, it’s not personal, and we’re not being cheap or mean by saying no to a stop sign request.  What we’re doing is trying to make the roads as safe as possible for everyone.

In Conclusion, the Necessary Disclaimer

This is obviously a high level overview and every situation is unique.

Again, if you have concerns with traffic or speeding, I encourage you to contact your councilmember (or if you don’t know who that is, contact me and I’ll get you to them).

Thanks for reading, and drive safely out there.

UPDATE: 10/11/2016

One thing I forgot to mention- the traffic tubes don’t work well in temperatures that are less than freezing.  So if requests are being made now, they may not get fulfilled until next spring, as there is already a queue of requests from this year.

9 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Speeding”

  1. Huh, I am actually kind of happy to see your explanation about stop signs. This is the first time I’ve ever lived in a city, and when we bought our house, I naively assumed that living at a 4 way stop would make traffic a little slower in front of our house, but it only seems to piss people off. I thought maybe it was just my perception.

  2. Not only the speeding of the garbage trucks on Wednesdays in my neighborhood. The cars that run the stop signs on Jersey & Fairview. That gets brought up every year at are get together at night to unite. There’s kids walking to Forest School and the park. I’ve almost gotten hit in my truck at that intersection because you don’t have a stop sign on Jersey and they come flying down Fairview thinking that we have to stop. We’ve all learned to stop even though we don’t have to on are block. We’ve had Police sit there but that only helps for a little while. Not sure what could be done long term. Jim Jopp

    1. Jim – based on your comments it looks like we will be deploying the traffic camera to that intersection to look at potentially changing the signage there. We’ll see if there’s anything we can do.

      1. Hi Jeff. Jim makes a really good point about the garbage trucks. I live on a stretch of jersey near 41st flanked by two unregulated intersections and I’m always shocked at how they speed through the neighborhood. I’ve made a couple of calls to the companies that seem to be going particularly fast – but I can’t police all of our streets. Do you think there is anything that can be done about this specific issue?

  3. Hi Jeff. We talked about the stop sign issue at the meeting we had at Bassett Creek Park. The problem is the speeding on 32nd Ave from Adair to the top of the hill by the dog park. Some of the very young kids that live on Zane cross over 32nd to go to the park. They don’t seem to pay any attention to traffic and I’m afraid that someday one of them will be hit. Targeted enforcement might be a good idea.

  4. Is there an opportunity to look at speed limits on residential streets without painted lines? We live off of 36th on a road without stop signs or lines down the middle, and see people “flying by” constantly. Well, after years of this my husband and I have realized we travel at about 15mph on these streets because there are kids, dogs, and people walking EVERYWHERE, and when you drive at 30 it seems way too fast. Lots of people drive faster than 30, and it’s dangerous on these small streets.

    Where I’m from, the neighborhood speed limits on streets like ours range from 5mph (yikes!) to 20. Is there any precedent for changing this in Minnesota? It doesn’t make sense to us that the speed limit on our road is the same as the speed limit on 36th Ave – people need to be slowing down when they turn onto our streets, and without the reminder there and the law on our side, there’s nothing we can do to stop people from going 30-35mph down the road and not slowing for children and pedestrians because they’re *allowed* to go that fast.

    At 5mph over the limit they’re not going to get ticketed, whereas if the speed limit on these roads were 20, that would be 15 over the limit, which is certainly what it feels like when there’s a car barreling down the street at you, your two children, and your two dogs! (We’ve had to jump the stroller onto lawns before to avoid being hit by a school bus. A school bus!!) Now, I would obviously prefer even lower than that at 15mph, but I think that 20mph is completely reasonable for these streets.

    1. Hi Sarah- Thanks for the question. In Minnesota speed limits are set by state law. Cities have limited discretion in these types of decisions.

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