Morning Poll: Lower Residential Speed Limits?

by ARLnow.com November 8, 2011 at 9:36 am 3,376 95 Comments

Two D.C. councilmembers are proposing that the speed limit on residential streets in the District be lowered from 25 miles per hour to 15 miles per hour.

The plan would make the streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists, while adding only a minute or two of travel time to most trips, advocates say.

Critics say such low speeds would be hard for motorists to maintain, would add to the District’s traffic woes and could actually increase incidents of aggressive driving and road rage.

Arlington has been especially conscientious when it comes to ‘traffic calming’ projects in residential neighborhoods. Should the county ask Virginia (a Dillon Rule state) to allow localities to post lower residential speed limits?

  • curiousgeorge

    Well kind of pointless since traffic laws rarely get enforced. In all fairness I have seen ACPD sometimes nail people speeding or running stop signs but the penalties are not severe enough to modify behavior.

    • CW

      When I first skimmed over your statement, I thought you had stated that you’ve seen ACPD speeding and running stop signs and was going to voice my agreement…

      • curiousgeorge

        Sadly that would also be a reasonable interpretation.

        • G::TheNativeArlingtonian

          +1 Those yahoos can’t wait to get a call and haul @$$ across Arlington. I regularly encounter cruisers failing to signal, driving over the speed limit (and then some) etc.

          As for the speed limit change… it is ridiculous. There is no way to enforce it. The greater dangers to pedestrians and cyclists is the not the speed of the vehicles, but rather the distraction of the drivers. Put super stiff penalties on operating a vehicle while talking (and hand holding) a cell phone, texting, etc. and we may get somewhere. Or putting on make-up, shaving, reading a map while driving… and yes, I have seen all these things within the last week.

          • Michael H.

            Unfortunately you’re right. There are far too many drivers out there texting and websurfing on their phones while driving, pulling out into traffic without looking and speeding on almost every road out there.

          • curiousgeorge

            There is an easy way to enforce speed limits. I advocate Speed Cannons ™

          • Zoning Victim

            While I agree that simply enforcing the 25mph speed limit and other traffic laws we already have in place would fix the problem, I reject the notion that there is no way to enforce the speed limit. It is actually quite simple to enforce the speed limit in residential neighborhoods. The fact that Arlington doesn’t do a good job of enforcing speed limits in the neighborhoods doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

          • CW

            I agree, and this enforcement doesn’t even have to be massive in scale. Enforcement is only secondary to deterrence; with sufficient deterrence enforcement becomes unneeded. If we start hearing about people actually getting busted to the extent of the law for their actions, and it becomes known that ACPD is out and looking for these things, the fear will, by and large, take care of the rest.

            In a similar vein, I’ve always advocated that they should drag a couple of taxi drivers a month down to the station in cuffs to make an example out of them. There are definitely things that the cabbies do that go way beyond civil infractions and well into the realm of criminal endangerment.

          • JamesE

            Cab drivers like to use both lanes at the same time, also just sort of randomly swerve around for no reason.

          • curiousgeorge

            Oddly in a completely unscientific survey of one 4 way stop near my home taxi drivers are the only ones who seem to come to a full and complete stop. Go figure.

          • curiousgeorge

            Also we need to have serious consequences for speeding. Something like $1000 and a point for the first offense and go up from there.

          • JamesE


          • ArlingtonChick

            Please tell me you’re kidding. The serious consequences come when real speeding occurs–20 over or over 80.

          • CW

            Got data? I’d be inclined to think that people going very fast might actually be, you know, concentrating on driving. In fact, I can usually tell when someone is texting/shaving/etc. because they start going SLOWER as they get distracted. If I’m driving down 66 and see a car drop from 65 to 50, 99% of the time as I pass by I see that they’ve just gotten a text.

          • chipotle_addict

            The penalties are fine, it’s just lack of enforcement. I drive north on Rt 1 from Crystal City to Rosslyn every morning, and if I drive 50mph I am the slowest car on the road, without fail. The speed limit is 45mph.

            If you think a $150-$200 speeding ticket is the penalty for getting caught speeding, you really have no idea. The real penalty is the increase in insurance cost, or worse, being dropped as an unsafe driver after 5+ speeding tickets in a short period of time.

            If the speed limits were strictly enforced for a month everyone would start following them, either that or quit driving.

    • Zoning Victim

      I was in traffic court recently and they had a guy on his second offence of driving without an operator’s license. He plead guilty and got a $150 fine. Just before him, there was a guy who was caught for the third time, so the judge gave him a continuance without him even asking because the 3rd offense carries mandatory jail time. I don’t get fining someone $150 for a second offense and throwing him in jail for the next. I expected the second offense fine to be around $500. $150 doesn’t seem like much of a deterrent.

      • Burger

        It is called three strikes and you are out.

        1st time, okay, you made a mistake
        2nd time, you are going to get punished
        3rd time, you are willfully ignoring the law.

        You can say the 3rd time is over-the-top because the judge doesn’t want to throw him in jail for a low degree crime but that is the law.

  • CrystalMikey

    15 MPH would be horrible. That’s all I have to say about that.

  • darren

    the wording of your poll question doesn’t follow the question in your post. There’s a difference between “Should Arlington lower the speed limit” and “Should Arlington ask the state to allow posting of lower limits”

    a uniform 15mph (or 20mph) limit doesn’t make sense. Neither does a uniform 25mph. Certain streets should be lower than 25, and any action should be to add lower limits to the allowable measures a community and the County can look at to address local conditions.

    • Zoning Victim

      I agree and actually voted that Arlington County should ask the state for permission to lower some neighborhood speed limits. A “one size fits all” 25 mph speed limit doesn’t necessarily fit all neighborhoods.

      I think they should ask the state for the right to tack on extra penalties to tickets like Falls Church has done, too. People in this town make a lot more than the rest of VA, so a fine that constitutes is a big deterrent in most of VA isn’t much of one in Arlington.

      • chipotle_addict

        >People in this town make a lot more than the rest of VA, so a fine that constitutes is a big deterrent in most of VA isn’t much of one in Arlington.

        Sounds like a terrible idea. Who works at the Macdonalds in Arlington, rich lawyers? Also, not everyone who drives here lives here.

        Although, I wouldn’t be opposed to changing all fines and fees into a % of net worth system. But then you get funny situations like recent graduates getting fined for negative amounts because they are $100,000 in debt.

        • Aaron

          Net worth is rather difficult for the government to calculate. What’s easy for Virginia in particular to assess is a percentage of the value of the vehicle that commits the infraction. It would be an easy proxy for wealth, using data the Commonwealth already collects, without causing any privacy concerns.

          The fine for running a red light shouldn’t cause one citizen to worry about missing a rent payment while causing another citizen to just bill his client for an extra 8 minutes of nonwork.

  • novasteve

    How about just get incompetent drivers off the road?

    • Chris

      Just say your thing about automatic transmissions… don’t beat around the bush.

  • Tre

    25 is plenty slow. The main issue is basically the “tuned” honda civics that see every residential block between stop signs as a 0-60 challenge.

    • Zoning Victim

      I’d be happy if it was just people who own those cars. I have a school at the end of my residential street, and sometimes parents in some very plush automobiles fly down the street at 35-40 mph.

      • Double Standard Much?

        What’s worse than a speeder? A RICH ONE!

        Tax them more, that will show them! How dare they speed in plush automobiles!?!?!

        Speeding is only for people who are OWED the right to speed, like poor people who can’t afford their rent…. right?

  • Gun Toting Liberal

    Lowering the limit is something I support–but what’s direly needed is enforcement of the existing law. No idea why, but ACPD seems to basically ignore the “boring” violations. We need more four-way stops, and if people don’t stop at those, then let’s spend the money on new traffic lights with cameras attached. Even in residential neighborhoods. I’d probably find them annoying as much as the next guy–but that’s better than people getting hit by cars.

    • Double Standard Much?

      How about we just convert the roads back to gravel? I bet if we don’t have them plowed when it snows that will slow people down as well….

      Seriously though, you say that they need to enforce the existing law but then you feel like it’s not strict enough? How many people have been hit by cars on residential streets vs. the major arteries? I think you’ll find you’re investing a lot of money into a problem that doesn’t exist. That would be about par for Arlington though…

  • Don Ager

    ACPD needs to move their “permanent” speed traps off of Lee Hwy and Glebe Rd and relocate them to the residential streets to give more protection to residents, their children and pedestrians. Especially 26th Street N. The cut-thru residential streets such as 26th and others need the protection much more than Lee & Glebe.
    The reckless driving shown by adults and younger drivers is scary on these residential streets. Halloween night, I had a lady driving down 26th going roughly 40 MPH, if I hadn’t stood in the middle of the street with a flashlight forcing her to stop I was petrified she would have certainly hit any number of the kids i nthe street trick or treating. Happens every day.
    ACPD, refocus the speed guns on the residential streets rather than the main roads.

    • Burger

      Maybe you shouldn’t have bought a house on 26th st?

      Not to defend aggressive driving but with other roads limiting traffic…cough…cough 66…this is bound to happen as people drive on secondary roads to get places.

      I know it is shocking.

      • ArlingtonResident

        Burger, I don’t think people should worry that their kids will be killed by maniac drivers just because 66 isn’t wide enough.

        • Burger

          Sigh…it is called reasoning

          Because 66 is not wide enough or HOV (not HOT), it pushes people on to Lee Highway and Washington Blvd because they do not want to sit in 66 traffic or are not carpooling. Because this causes more traffic on those main roads it pushes local people that would normally drive Lee/Washington to the cut-through streets like 26th street and 20th St. to get places.

          I lived in EFC for the last 10 years and I always took 26th to go to Harris Teeter and never took Lee Highway. Why would I want to sit forever trying to make a left turn on lee highway because of traffic when I can make a right on 26th and cruise down to HT in seconds.

    • ArlingtonResident

      Amen to that. We have similar problems on the stretch of S. 23rd St. between Arlington Ridge Road and Route 1. People treat it like freeway instead of the residential street it is with 4 preschools. We have called police multiple times to request that speed traps on that stretch. I would support lowering the speed limit from 25 to 15, but if it’s not regularly enforced then it won’t do any good. They put up “yield to pedestrians” markers in the middle of the road in several places before marked crosswalks to remind people to stop for the many pedestrians and what happened? Cars ran into them because they were driving too fast.

      • Arlingtarian

        That downhill stretch of S. 23rd St. with its preschools, churches, grannies, nannies and kids on bikes, and the way it bisects a residential neighborhood, is a poster child for the need for traffic calming. People walking to the metro and the library have to cross 23rd and they must use great caution.
        Also, one of the biggest speeding offenders there is MetroBus. They come barreling down the hill at almost double the speed limit. I asked the police at a health fair if Metro had to obey the speed limit. They said yes they must, but that I was obviously wrong about the speed of the buses. The police said I was just scared of the big rumbly noise the buses make!

    • JamesE

      I can accurately gauge a cars speed at night with my bare eyes, if they are going even 5 mph over I run out into the street yelling and waving my arms around. I usually do this from behind a parked car so they don’t see me coming.

      • Zoning Victim

        That sounds like a great way to get arrested.

    • Slow Down


      I am also on 26th N. and we are amazed at how fast cars fly down the street and roll through our stop sign. For some reason, our stretch of 26th is the only portion with no speed humps. I would welcome ACPD to set up shop for several weeks and nail the crazies. BTW – I enjoy traveling between 15-20mph on my street to prove a point. I think 25mph is way too fast for that street.

      • Josh S

        Your “proving a point”

        A) leads to more aggressive driving by the poor folks stuck behind your righteous, stuck up, self-important self


        B) is not your point to make. Do you own the street?


        C) contributes to the growth of intolerance in society which only increases conflict and discord and entropy.

        • JamesE

          I enjoy going 45 in the left lane of 66 to prove a point!

          • CW

            Ah, you must work for Washington Flyer then? Or maybe a commuter bus service?

        • speedygonzales

          Please let us all know what the MINIMUM speed by law is for a residential street. We know the MAXIMUM is 25mph.

          If someone feels the safe & prudent speed is 20mph then so be it.

          It’s not the individual going “20 in a 25” that makes some @$$wipe more aggressive … it’s the @$$wipe’s over-inflated sense of importance relative everyone else around them.

          • JamesE

            Minimum Speed Limit: No person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.

          • Bluemontsince1961

            Amen, JamesE!

          • ArlingtonResident


        • Gun Toting Liberal

          The speed limit is the MAXIMUM allowed–not the minimum. He has every right to go 15 or 20.

          • Burger

            no, he doesn’t.

        • Burger


          I don’t generally agree with your positions but I congratulate you on this one. You are exactly right.

        • Double Standard Much?

          Wow. I couldn’t have said it better. Bravo.

    • Josh S

      Kids are hit on 26th st every day?

  • Arlington Native

    No!! Most accidents and vehicle rollovers (such as the one pictured above) aren’t caused by driving at the currently posted 25mph limits. They are usually caused by excessive speed and distracted drivers.

    A 15 mph speed limit would be a nightmare for law abiding drivers to maintain.

  • JamesE

    Make it 5 mph, think of the children.

    • G Clifford Prout

      Thanks for the set up.

    • Aaron

      And everyone should be required to tootle their horn with great vigor at every intersection.

      If it saves just one person’s life, then it will be worth it.

  • novasteve

    Car free diet! Just ban cars!

  • Clizzledizzle

    I think current speed limits are not being obeyed. Yesterday I went for my after work swim at Washington-Lee and the person behind me was very irate (kissing my bumper) that I dared to follow the 25 MPH speed limit on 15th street and even had the nerve to make full stops at the signs.

    Speeding next to school, makes me sick.

    • Josh S

      Let’s see, if it was your after work swim, I’m just going to go out on a limb and guess it was after 5.

      The kids left over an hour ago.

      Does speeding next to a school in July make you sick, too?

      • Clizzledizzle

        Maybe I was overreacting a bit, but there are still classes going on. Kids on the fields, swimming lessons (that go on until 8 pm), after school activities in the theater, etc.

        I never hang in the left lane if I am not passing, but I seriously get annoyed by people riding my bumper in these situations.

        • Bluemontsince1961

          Right on, Clizzledizzle! The same thing happened to me about three weeks ago on Patrick Henry just past Swanson going toward Wilson Blvd. Some bimbo in a Jetta was hanging on my rear bumper, trying to pass on my right into the bike lane, etc. I was going the speed limit and I wasn’t about to speed up because her so-damn-important self just had to get some place two seconds sooner or because she had a wasp in her drawers. If there had been a cyclist in the bicycle lane, I’d bet she’d have tried to intimidate them or chance running them over.

        • MC 703

          Twice a month this happens to me:

          Waiting (yielding) at a light to turn left, usually off of S. Glebe, and the car behind me will honk and lean on the horn as the light turns yellow to “encourage” me to make the turn so he can either run the light straight or turn left behind me.

          Even if I was considering turning left as the light turned, I am definitely not going to help this a$$clown get where he’s going quicker.

      • ArlingtonResident

        Josh, I’m guessing you don’t have kids otherwise you would realize that there are plenty of kids in a school zone after 5pm. They have after school activities, sports, music, after care, etc. I take my daughter to swim practice at 6pm at Washington Lee High School and there are kids everywhere.

        • Double Standard Much?

          SAVE THE CHILDREN!!!!

      • Don Ager

        Students ar e still at the schools into the evening for various after school functions. [Sports, theater, meetings, etc.]

    • CW

      Just throw things out your window at tailgaters. Milk shakes and chili dogs are idea.

      It’s also fun to run them through roadkill – just swerve into the next lane at the last minute and they’ll track right through. Works best with dead deer and other large, messy game.

      • chipotle_addict

        Or fire at them with a handgun out your rear window. Replacing the window is a small price to pay for the satisfaction this can give you.

  • G Clifford Prout

    You can pretty much guarantee if DC lowers the limit to 15 m.p.h. there will be 1500 more speed cameras installed. Think of the revenue opportunities.

  • veeta

    Maybe ACPD should just enforce the damn speed limit. I agree with moving the speed traps from major roads to residential areas.
    It is astounding the level of self importance that some drivers have–speeding, rolling through stop signs, and texting while driving are rampant.

    • Lou

      Better enforcement of everything. I was in stop-and-go traffic the other day and noticed a pickup truck, some sort of repair service, about 4 cars ahead of me with no brake lights showing. After we moved forward a bit, I realized they were completely burned out. There was an Arlington police cruiser between me and the truck in the other lane. He did not notice. Just seeing that summed it up for me, the police should be more vigilant and aware of opportunities to enforce traffic and vehicle safety laws.

    • ArlingtonResident

      Exactly. If people do all of that crap at 25 MPH speed limits, they’ll do the same things at 15MPH speed limit as well. Enforce the laws and things will get better. If people think they will get an extremely expensive ticket for speeding, maybe that will be the motiviation. It’s certainly not pededtrian safety that’s motivating any stupid drivers right now.

  • Clarendon

    Seems we are coming full circle



    Milwaukee recognized some of the impacts of motor vehicles at an early stage, particularly the impact of the speed of motor vehicles. In 1902, when motor vehicles were fairly new to the City, the Common Council passed a resolution limiting the speed of motor vehicles to 8 miles per hour on streets and public grounds, while imposing the additional limit of 4 miles per hour on “crowded streets”. In 1904, the Mayor asked for even tougher speed limits, noting that “many of the automobilists seem to be perfectly regardless of human life.”4 It is worthy to note, not coincidentally, that 8 miles per hour is the speed of a adult running, and 4 miles per hour is a brisk walking speed.


  • Chris

    I have to admit I’m slightly confused on this question. Its my understanding that the state of virginia(VDOT) sets the speed limit and that there is a state law which says the minimum speed on any state run road can’t be lower then 25MPH. So can Arlington government lower the speed and then enforce it?

    • novasteve

      Would that stop liberals from trying to nanny state?

      One of the candidates for the county board promised to outright ban plastic bags despite knowing state law would prevent her from doing so.

      • Double Standard Much?

        The sick part is they probably would have spent millions suing the state…

    • ArlingtonChick

      Maybe they’ll just waste money posting signs suggesting a lower speed and then take pictures of themselves next to the sign with a thumbs up sign?

  • Tabby

    Drivers are NOT flipping cars at 25 MPH.

  • charlie

    1. I drive on 26th street to avoid I-66. and to avoid the stupid light at Harrison/Lee Hwy. I don’t speed. but it is an issue. cars HAVE to go somewhere.

    2. We need enforcement. Route 7 in Falls Church is a known speed zone. no one speeds. Challenge is that 26th STreet doesnt’ have the volume of cars to warrant a police officer out there. So i’d be glad to see RoboCop and Speed cameras.

    3. WTF is it with people getting out and standing in front of speeding cars. Are people really that dumb?

    4. my coworker complains about people speeding on her street. and yet i’m terrified to drive with her during business appointments. i tell her that people live on Glebe Road — her christian-soccer-mom-in-the-minivan-response, well, they shouldn’t live on Glebe Road. that is the problem.

    5. 15th Street has cut thru traffic but that accident was a distracted driver who had gone less than 40 feet from his house and could not have been speeding in that particular car in 40 feet.

    • Josh S

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t you the one who said you sped up on Arlington Ridge Road after the speed limit was lowered there?

      • charlie

        don’t think so.

      • charlie


        August 5th, 2011 12:53 pm

        i don’t get.
        The civic association wants everything slowed down, except what it wants.
        i use ridge road all the time and the traffic calming measures have been absurd and a waste of money.
        people still drive fast.
        and this slip turn is dangerous to everyone. the world will survive.

  • Matt Wavro

    At a County Board Meeting this year Chris Zimmerman specifically dismissed the idea of increased enforcement and the resulting increase in driver’s consciousness of their speed as something he was not interested in pursuing. Just one more indication that Chris is out of step with the Arlington Community and not interested in increasing the quality of life across Arlington County.

    • Thes

      Citation, please. Out of context, this could be referring to anything, such as, for example a preference to spend that money on road improvements that would be present 24/7 instead of a cop that’s there 30 minutes a week.

  • JimPB

    Move decision-making to those closest to the scene,

    Residents on residential (not thru way) streets should be able by “super-majority” decision to set the speed limit (for safety) for their particular streets and decide which (if any) of an array of measures should be utilized to foster compliance.

    • ArlingtonChick

      The General Assembly would NEVER let that happen.

    • Burger


      Let’s go by mob rule…that surely will be effective.

      • Double Standard Much?


    • Whitney Wilson

      The streets do not belong to those who live next to them. There is no reason why people on a “residential” street should have more control over the speed limit than someone who, for example, lives on Old Dominion Drive, or Walter Reed Drive, or Pershing Drive, or Kirkwood Road.

      Of course, whatever the speed limits are, they should be obeyed. There are very few streets in Arlington where you should be driving faster than 40 mph, and most streets are properly limited to 25 or 30 mph.

  • Don Ager

    25 is a fair speed limit.

    Enforcement needs to be made better and frequent and publicized. Have a couple movable speed cameras that can be mounted on telephone poles or in parked cars dedicated to residential 25 MPH streets, move them every day or two to different streets.

    Dramatically increase speeding fines in zones marked 25MPH.

    • Citizen Cain (not Herman)

      Great idea. But too sensible and cost-effective. More likely would be a new county outreach program with several staff positions, whose job will be to produce videos about the dangers of speeding.

  • Joey

    Are you sure localities that control their own residential roads (e.g., Arlington, Henrico, and the cities) can’t set their own speed limits?

    My one-way residential street (which is incredibly narrow with parking on both sides) is signed as 15 mph. When someone actually drives it at the posted 15mph, it feels as if the driver is flying.

    (I’m not advocating a flat 25mph — I’m more questioning whether, based on my experience with the speed-limit posting on my street, Arlington already has the authority for flexibility.)

  • John K.

    Conceding that some of the tortured, non-grid-patterned mess of roads around here need other measures… what exactly is Arlington’s reluctance to use the four-way stop sign? Sure, some jerks will roll through, but still, it’s better than all of this other traffic-calming mess they do. If they aren’t enforcing 25 (or 30 or 40) mph in most cases, why bother with 15? Why not just tear out the roads and reintroduce horses for those of us who don’t live on Metro lines?

    • Thes

      Traffic engineers and elected officials have long wrangled over 4-way stop signs. Engineers have studies that show that “unwarranted” stop signs train people to ignore all stop signs, and that leads to more accidents. Politicians don’t want to believe this. It’s sort of like global warming or teaching kids about birth control. You can believe the science, or you can believe your “gut” about what’s safe.

  • kaeth

    Speeders will speed whether or not the limit is lowered. The only people that will be punished by lowering the limit to 15 are the people who DO drive the speed limit, and will now be forced to crawl along instead of driving at a normal speed.

  • Mr. Brown

    If you want to increase the fines for speeding, you need to…

    a. Privatize Enforcement
    b. Start a company that will prey on speeders
    c. Donate to Favola
    d. She will increase the speeding fines for you.

  • Carol_R

    They need to start ticketing bicyclists and pedestrians for not obeying the traffic laws.

  • charvakan

    25 mph is fine. I don’t see a need to lower the limit. Yes, occasionally I see someone racing on my cut-through street (4th St So between Wakefield and George Mason). They’d do it if the limit were 5 mph too. Those idiots just don’t care what the sign says.

    Those calling for increased enforcement seem unaware that this has been tried many times. When a neighborhood’s squeaky wheels make enough noise, a cop is sometimes stationed on a residential street. Invariably, the County pays a cop all day to catch from zero to four speeders. It’s a big economic and opportunity cost loser, and deters very very few people. The anecdotes about “seeing speeders all the time” prove to be the product of selective memory. The speed traps on busy roads catch way more people and so are a bigger deterrent against speeding on ALL roads. Thus, they aren’t a waste of resources.

    It seems that just about everyone who asks gets a speed hump, four-way stop sign, or big island in the middle of an intersection. Those things have slowed people down quite a bit. Enough already.

    If there were statistics on how many kids got mowed down by speeders, I’m sure the “unsafe at any speed” crowd would cite them. Maybe the problem is not so bad after all. What the parents do have control over is how often their kids play in the street. Cars can’t run over a kid in the back yard or the park.


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