I'd like to add some remarks to Speck's underappreciated blog entry about people driving too slowly ("Stop Driving Slow" on July 24). It's not just the price of gasoline that has people's panties in a wad -- it's also the latest in "protect-my-kids-against-anything-bad" attitudes that makes anyone driving a car in the neighborhood some kind of hazard.
In my neighborhood, they decided to lower the speed limit from 30 MPH to 25 MPH. They did this to make the roads safer for kids. Now I could be wrong, but my understanding is that the roads were constructed and paved for cars, not someone's kids. Your walking on the side of the road with your family and dog(s) is more of an adjunct use of the roads. I'm not saying you shouldn't safely and considerately (to drivers) walk on the side of the road when appropriate - sure, it's for everyone's use....but the primary function of streets is to allow people and their vehicles access to the homes.
So let me address the 30 MPH vs. the 25 MPH speed limit. First - to my knowledge, and I feel I am fairly knowledgeable in this regard, there have not been any traffic fatalities in my neighborhood due to people driving 30 MPH. Seriously, 30 MPH has worked for years. I can easily reach that speed on my bicycle (although maybe not in 100 degree weather). Second, my car is not as fuel-efficient at that speed. Third, watching my speedometer for the speed-Nazis means taking my eyes off the road and your kids I'm about to hit. Finally, to get out of my neighborhood is effectively 1 mile. At 30 MPH that is 2 minutes, at 25 MPH it's 2.4 minutes. Now 0.4 minutes doesn't sound like much, but over a 1 year period, assuming a typical routine like work and other activities, that 0.4 minutes tallies to 6.24 HOURS per year. So to you assholes who think that lowering the speed limit doesn't have any significant affect on my life, please give me 6.24 hours of my life back that you waste every year.
To add insult to injury, there are some condescending pricks who take it one step further and purposely drive 15-20 MPH just to piss me off (seriously, I have proof). They'd be wasting at least 10 hours of my time each year.
Now I can hug trees and be environmentally conscious with the best of people, but the fact is that suburbia is built around automobiles for transportation and there is no reasonable way around that (once you've established the community layout). If you don't like cars, then move to New York City or Washington, DC where they have built the community around a good, well-established mass transit system. Don't give me this bullshit that cars kill people and kill the environment. People on cell phones in the car kill people, and people who drive huge SUVs kill the environment (yeah, those SUVs that cart around my neighbors' overprotected kids).
As for people driving slowly on the highways, consider this: It's not really so much the speed that wastes gas (within reason, of course), but it's the inconsistency of speed. Getting up to highway speed quickly (not jackrabbit fast, but reasonably quickly) and then staying around that speed is the best way to save on gas. Keeping everyone moving means being in the correct lane going at a speed appropriate for the road, which for major Texas highways is 65 MPH. If you're doing slower than that in the fast lane then you're going too slow, for sure. Furthermore, if you're paying attention to the road and not to the person on the other end of a cell phone connection, then you can anticipate changes in road condition that will not only save you gas (less sudden changes in speed) but it is also safer. People don't need to drive slower, they need to drive smarter. Other ways of getting better gas mileage from your car that has nothing to do with speed: Keep your tires properly inflated (the tire and repair shops never fill them up correctly - you need to do that), maintain your engine (change the oil and filters at regular intervals, taking into account "extreme" conditions), and schedule your errands so you do several in one trip (this works because engines work more efficiently once they've warmed-up). I realize these have become cliche, but I've tried them and they do seriously have a substantial impact on gas mileage.
So there ... a rant and some educational commentary. Drive fast, drive safely, and keep your car maintained. I'm out there with you!