The purpose of school zones is to protect city officials from parents. A story out of Cedar Rapids explains why.
The city upgraded school zone speed limit signs to flashing signs powered by leading-edge technology. That technology promptly went obsolete.
The city reassured parents by saying the signs didn’t matter. Which I do believe. And that the old signs were just as good. Which I’m not so sure about.
There is some evidence that flashing school zone signs do reduce traffic speed. A study in the 1990s found they reduced speed and normal signs did not. This result has been replicated, but also disputed.
The Cedar Rapids traffic engineers came down on the “ineffective” side. I haven’t seen their data, but the school zones look pointless enough to deserve to be ignored. School officials aren’t concerned enough to replace the signs out of their own budget.
These school zones are not trying to slow traffic while little kids cross the street going to and from school. The lead photo shows a street with no crosswalks. The only sidewalk is on the school side, next to a high school with a big parking lot. The school zone is in effect 3½ hours per day.
The school is a traffic generator more than a pedestrian attraction. Should I slow down because in an hour some cars and buses will come out of the driveway? I don’t slow down for office buildings or factories an hour before quitting time.
Cedar Rapids’ school zones are not safety zones. They reflect the principle that a school emits an aura. Within that aura there has to be a visible token saying “we care about reassuring parents that we care.”
I don’t care about your school’s aura. Your children are 200 feet away behind a row of trees and a concrete wall.
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