One example of a “stroad” with an artificially low speed limit

November 30, 2013 at 11:27 pm

I just wrote a post about proponents of a higher speed limit on the Illinois Tollway claiming that the rampant speeding (by 95% of drivers) is the result of artificially low speed limits, which are currently set at 55mph for the Tollway.

I drove on the Tollway home to my place in Chicago (since Metra does not allow small dogs like mine) and on the way drove through a small town, Paddock Lake, WI (pop 3,722) near my hometown. Highway 50 through the small town is the perfect of a “stroad” with an artificially low speed limit.

A “stroad” can loosely be defined as a roadway with characteristics of a street (retail, residences, several access points) that acts like a high-speed rural road. In this instance, the state highway, whose limit is 55mph, turns abruptly into a 35mph road with no change in the number of lanes nor the width of the street (66′). It feels unnatural to drive so slowly through it:


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Here is the roadway upon its westbound approach to the town:


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However, it’s safer to drive more slowly because of all of the turns that drivers may be making into the parking lots for the businesses and those that are trying to turn out of them and onto the road. For this reason, I don’t think the speed limit should be changed, but rather, the roadway should really be narrowed to one lane, with the rightmost lane acting as a planting zone where trees can lower the visual width of the street. I don’t know what kind of demand for bicycling there is, but there is a high school nearby and putting in safe bicycle infrastructure could do something to make it safer.

In the town in which I grew up, the same highway ends and narrows into one lane for about 1.5 miles while it goes through the downtown area:


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While I recognize the concept and existence of “artificially low speed limits,” I don’t think they automatically mean a certain roadway deserves a higher legal speed limit. The lower speed limit here is ostensibly set for everyone’s safety.