A Modest Proposal on Speed

SUBHEAD: There would be several benefits to reducing the speed limit throughout Kauai to 35 mph. By Juan Wilson on 4 April 2012 for Island Breath - (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2012/04/modest-proposal-on-speed.html) Image above: GEM specialized utility vehicles for municipal police and commercial use. From (http://www.polarisindustries.com/en-us/gem-electric-car/Pages/city-fleet.aspx).
"Hey, slowdown! You ain't on the mainland!" bumper sticker often seen on Kauai
While driving to Kapaa from Hanapepe to visit the Plant and Seed exchange at Children of the Land this last Sunday, something occurred to me. Wasn't it funny that that the speed limit on the Kuhio Highway, including the area between the Hilton and Aston resorts (passing the Wailua Golf Course), was reduced from 50 mph to 40 mph rather than to 35 mph? Needless to say, this area, nicknamed "Blood Alley", was a deathtrap. People sped along this section at 70 mph to make up for all the time lost in jams coming from either in Kapaa or Lihue. Many fatal accidents occurred, and even fender-benders could tie up traffic for hours between Hanalei and Lihue. The speed limit needed to be reduced. But why 35 mph? One result is that it excludes alternative vehicles from the roadway such as street legal electric golf carts, mopeds and other vehicles that are limited to 35 mph. I called the State DOT office on Kauai and spoke with the chief engineer, Ray McKormick. He had calculated that racing the few miles of Blood Alley at 65 mph saved only a few minutes on a trip between Lihue and Kapaa. He told me that he used a standardized test the Kuhio Highway along "Blood Alley" and found it was not safe at 50 mph. The speed had to be reduced or the highway re-engineered and rebuilt. He then pushed for a 35 mph zone there, but our mayor and others wouldn't have it (politically impossible). That's why it's 40 mph now. Ray added that he would support 35 mph throughout Kauai because it would increase safety. Safety would be achieved not only because "slower is safer", but because uniform speed is safer. Changing the speed up and down on our highway, as we pass through every residential neighborhood, adds to likelihood of accidents. It also adds to the likelihood of congestion. Uniform speed (even at a lower speed) actually reduces congestion (stop and go traffic) and can reduce the duration of trips. My proposal is that the maximum speed on the island of Kauai be set to 35 mph. This would let street legal Electric Vehicles (EVs), like the GEM 4-wheel enclosed carts or the Capri electric scooters, roam all of Kauai. Currently, short segments of greater than 35 mph highway strands vehicles we need on this island that no use fossil fuel and have zero CO2 emissions. Unfortunately, as it is now, one cannot legally drive between Waimea and Hanapepe, or even Hanapepe and Kalaheo in one of these vehicles. Throughout Kauai, due to sections of the Kaumualii/Kuhio Highway that pass through 35 mph residential or commercial areas, we can forget about using a street legal cart get to the mall, the airport or a movie from anywhere but in the Lihue/Puhi area. Image above: GEM electric personal vehicles -Two and four-seater. From (http://www.polarisindustries.com/en-us/gem-electric-car/Pages/personal-use.aspx). By reducing the speed limit and allowing these street legal EVs there are some real advantages:
  • We would reduce fossil fuel consumption (even if EVs were not widely adopted at first).
  • We would reduce the cost of owning a new vehicle. Small EVs are less expensive than larger conventional vehicles.
  • It would motivate people to join a smaller fleet of cars already using the road.
  • We would have a segue into the future of transportation.
The disadvantages are few. The argument that time would be lost in travel is weaker than most people imagine. If we ignore delays for red lights, left turns (as well as ignoring 25 mph in a few instances), and assume constant speeds, we can compare the time needed to complete a trip using three different situations
1) a trip at a constant 35 mph 2) a trip at a constant 50 mph 3) a trip of mixed 35 and 50 mph
For example, the distance from Hanapepe, where I live, to the Home Depot in Puhi is about 16 miles along the Kaumualii Highway. Because of all the communities along the route, only about half of that trip has a 50 mph speed limit. If the speed limit along the whole trip were reduced to 35 mph, the trip would take 27 minutes. If the speed limit along the entire route were raised to 50 mph. the same trip would take 19 minutes. A savings of 8 minutes. Today's current mixture of speeds makes the trip 23 minutes. That's only 4 minutes less than at 50mph! So what's the big deal? Our sense of time and speed is entirely psychological. We feel like we are going fast when we are accelerating. It feels good. But when we're accelerating it is because we've just recently been stopped or going slowly - in "stop and go" and that feels bad. Moreover, the larger the vehicle the less sense there is that you are speeding along (even when your going faster and burning more fuel). These tendencies combine to make us feel better when we are speeding or accelerating away from a traffic jam - even though that behavior is a contributing factor in creating the "stop and go" traffic we all despise. Getting used to a slower and smaller scale of traffic on Kauai will actually enhance our appreciation of the island - and contribute to a healthier, safer environment. Image above: The Capri Electric Motor Scooter offers zero emissions, low cost per mile operation, and a fully street legal design that meets or exceeds US DOT standards. . From (http://www.allelectricscooters.com/Capri-Steel.html). See also: Ea O Ka Aina: Solar Powered Cars 11/25/11 Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaii charges towards EVs 2/9/10 Island Breath: Three Wheel Wonders get 200mpg 6/27/08 Island Breath: KPD and Patrolling 6/7/08 Island Breath: KPD - Protect & Serve - Let's roll! 4/4/8 Island Breath: Things a driver can do 11/25/05 .


Anonymous said...

GO SLOW KAUAʻI ! - i have been saying 35 for years. if you donʻt like it, go back to the ʻinsaneʻland, you ʻspeed freakʻ!

Gelfling said...

If this happened i would be so happy! I have been drooling over those cute and cheap city cars for years now! =) No car payments AND no gas fillups!

Schar Freeman said...

I too have been saying this for years. Would make such a difference in safety and consumption of fossil fuel! I would love to see alternatives for travel and slowing us down will bring us into a promising future.

Anonymous said...

Lets not forget that the NEV's ( neighborhood electric vehicles, like the GEM) that you speak of have a built in speed limitation of 25 mph. So even though they are allowed to be on roads with 35 mph or less speed limits, they can only go 25 mph ( unless the owner makes illegal modifications)So if we reduce the speed limits on Kauai to 35 mph and allow NEV's everywhere we will be inviting 25 mph traffic.

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