2014 Survey: Over Half of Decatur Residents Support 25 MPH City-Wide Speed Limit

Another interesting “special topic” question from Decatur’s 2014 Citizen Survey.

25mph speed limit

As you can see, over half of Decatur residents either strongly or somewhat support a 25 mph speed limit on Decatur roads.  Notice the question says “most” Decatur road.  State route speed limits, like Scott Boulevard, are controlled by the state.

After the jump, you can view from a proposed map, which was taken from the city’s Speed Limit study from a couple of years back.  As you can see, basically all Decatur residential streets would be affected if Decatur implemented this new across-the-board speed limit of 25 mph.  The city held public input sessions on this topic back in 2013. If the city moves forward with this change at some point in the future, the major change would be on 35 mph streets, like Commerce, Clairemont, College, South Candler, West Howard, etc.

Decatur Map (with 25 mph Proposal)


Decatur Map (with current speed limits)




36 thoughts on “2014 Survey: Over Half of Decatur Residents Support 25 MPH City-Wide Speed Limit”

  1. Excellent idea. The next and more expensive step is to skinny certain existing streets to slow drivers and make them more comfortable for peds and cyclists. Lane width specifications need to be brought down to 11 or 10 feet.

    I’m also tired of seeing oversize Sysco trucks trying to serve downtown. They’re tearing up tree branches and breaking curbs.

    1. Absolutely agree, DHer, with the road modifications comment. Most people drive the speed they feel comfortable with, while the posted speed limit is more of a guide to guide to how screwed they will be should they be caught going that comfortable speed. We live in Lenox Place and have to cross West Howard almost daily – it’s not quite as harrowing as crossing Scott, but it’s a close second! I know the city has a long-term plan to reduce traffic on Howard and other streets to one lane in each direction (a la West Ponce), but when?
      As much as Decatur likes to think of itself as being pedestrian and bike-friendly (and it is – kind of), what have we done lately to make it more so? Most of the progress we made happened years ago when merely acknowledging a cyclist’s right to use the road or contemplating a pedestrian’s right to safely cross the street was considered progress. We seem to have stagnated a bit since then. Meanwhile, City of Atlanta is poised to double, triple, or even quadruple the amount of protected bike lanes and pedestrian pathways. I know the state of Georgia and even the feds are not exactly flush with cash for transportation projects just now, but we need to keep our eyes on the prize, which is a community where walking or biking is on equal footing with driving. We’re not there yet, not by a long shot.

      1. W. Howard between East Lake Station and Thinking Man is like a racetrack. I bet the avg speed is close to 50 mph.

  2. Don’t be tentative. 67% unarguably represents “over two-thirds” not just “over half.”

    This can’t come as a surprise to anyone who believes Decaturites’ commitment to walkability and is aware of the statistics pertaining to pedestrian survival rates in collisions with motor vehicles. Isn’t it something like 80% or 90% survival if the car is going 20 mph, 60% at 30 mph and 20% survival if it’s going 40 mph?

  3. When will we address the giant safety hazard that is Scott Blvd? Any Westchester parent can tell you that it’s just one speeding car (sometimes going 60-70 mph) away from a tragic accident.

    I get that Scott is controlled by the state, but surely our city leaders can work with the state and encourage them to make improvements to increase safety and walkability.

    1. I agree 100% that the design and speeds on Scott are unacceptable given that it is going through a highly residential area past one elementary school and close to two others–Clairemont and Fernbank. However, as a former Westchester parent, I can tell you that getting the State to do anything about it has been close to futile for years and years and years. I wouldn’t blame the City for this–I’m pretty sure they’ve tried and tried. Actually, things are better–sidewalks now exist on both sides of Scott near Westchester and they are nowhere near as overgrown as they used to be. And those turn lane yellow poles didn’t used to exist.

      But do keep advocating. The “new” crop of Westchester parents seem even more into to walking to school than us (ahem) older parents were. There’s more of you and you all seem even more actively involved. So contact all the relevant City, County, State, whatever officials and advocate for a safer Scott. It won’t just help your children but it’ll help all the neighborhoods around Westchester.

    2. There was once a guard rail on Scott between the sidewalk and curb that offered some level of security for pedestrians walking from Coventry to Westchester. GDOT took it out because it was too dangerous for drivers!

      1. Aaargh. I remember that. Yes, a guard rail would be great. Not just in terms of deflecting cars, but also for keeping children from straying to close to the edge.

      2. Well, yes, sort of: it came down because it was a rigid butt-ended rail and agencies all over the U.S. were getting sued and losing when drivers ran into them and were literally impaled. Because of the numerous curb cuts it was not possible to install the turn-down ends on the rails that were their option at the time. But that was over 20 years ago. Perhaps there are other options now, like the cables used on 78 that might work. Does anyone know?

  4. Is it really half of Decatur’s residents? Did they actually get feedback from more than 10,000 people? I’m growing tired of all the surveys and polls that don’t actually reflect the true opinions of Decatur residents, but typically reflect those with strong opinions about the particular topic. I’ve opposed many of the ideas floated in these polls and surveys, and I seldom hear my point of view reflected in the summaries that are presented to the City Commission. They just gloss over the dissenting opinions or even better, they engineer the surveys in a way that makes it impossible to give a negative response.

    The scary thing is that surveys and polls are leading to new laws and ordinances that many people don’t even know about. How many people really take the surveys? Are the elderly and lower-income folks (those without computer access) included?

    1. How is it impossible to give a negative response (in this survey anyway) when one of the choices is “strongly oppose?”

    2. It’s a sample of just under 500 people which is described as “representative.” How representative it could be depends on several factors including how the sample was obtained (who was invited to participate, how were they qualified, etc.) Those methodological details are apparently provided in a separate document, which I can’t locate. The overview also indicates a margin of error of +/-5% for the survey as a whole. That’s completely reasonable, as long as the demographic profile of respondents resembles the demographic profile of the population and/or data subsets were weighted appropriately.

      It’s obviously critical to consider which questions are asked (and which aren’t) and how they are framed–the language used and the range of possible responses offered. It’s less likely that questions and answers are “engineered” than that a canned survey instrument was used, with limited options for customizing questions and/or limited expertise/attention deployed by the consultants when it comes to precision and nuance.

      1. Yeah, it looks like they never put up the methodology for 2014, but you can find it at the end of the 2012 survey.
        http://www.decaturga.com/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=3430 It’s the same company so I would assume it’s the same.

        It’s a pretty standard survey, with a 95% confidence level. I think this is probably the last thing you’d say isn’t truly representative of the Decatur population, after election results, blog comments, open city hall comments, etc.

        It’s a “mail out/mail back” survey, not online.

    3. All opinions are reflected in the results, from those who are happy to those who most assuredly are not, so I don’t see how anything’s being glossed over. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that, generally speaking, there are more people in Decatur satisfied with city operations than not. Sometimes by healthy margins. But however the city ultimately acts on the data, one thing’s guaranteed: Not everyone’s gonna be happy about it.

      “The city doesn’t care what its citizens think.”

      [City conducts survey to determine what its citizens think.]

      “These results aren’t valid.”

      1. Same thinking Mitt’s supporters and Fox News were using leading up to the last election. You don’t agree with what the survey is telling you? Blame the methodology. Seems like we have gotten to a point where everyone feels entitled to be right. Even when they’re wrong.

        1. There are, occasionally, legitimate errors with surveys, but they are largely due to bad samples – in 2008, some surveys claimed McCain would beat Obama, but they failed to sample anyone who had a cell phone and not a landline. Cell phone-only households in 2008 were primarily under 30 – and people under 30 were (and are) more likely to identify as Democrat than the over-30 population.

          Surveys that only polled land-line users were either leaning McCain or a split down the middle, surveys that included cell phones showed Obama with a several-point advantage.

          Legitimate sampling problem.

    4. Ahem:

      “The Community Livability Report provides the opinions of a representative sample of 478 residents of the City of Decatur. The margin of error around any reported percentage is 5% for the entire sample”

      I literally teach research design for a living. I can’t find the “technical appendices” for 2014, but in 2012 they did a mail-out survey of 1200 households with a response rate of just under 50%, which is pretty good for mailers. The 95% margin of error means that if 33% of respondents said something is “very important” to them, the “real number” is somewhere within 29-38% of respondents.

      As far as whether or not you accept the validity of a survey of 500 people accurately representing the population of Decatur, that’s the commonly accepted “magic number” for 95% validity. Has been for decades now. Without going into standard deviations and a bunch of other math on a Sunday morning before coffee (and not getting paid to do it!), well. Find a friendly statistician and ask about the Central Limit Theorem.

      Take the word of someone who has done this for a living – if it wasn’t an adequately representative sample, this particular survey methodology wouldn’t be used by cities across the country, from Decatur to San Jose.

  5. Sounds like a great fund raising idea. Won’t slow anyone down, of course, but it can help raise money.

  6. How about a car free city 🙂 We are not addressing the real problems just making then worst.

    Speeding vehicles are going to move onto residential roads.

    How about taking a crack at distracted drivers texting, talking and doing other things that will eventually result in accidents. I guess this isn’t important until an innocent child is killed by a distracted driver. I hope I never get to see this happen in cod but it’s a matter of time.

  7. +1 on preferring that distracted driving–overwhelmingly cell phone related– be prioritized over speed limit enforcement. And please don’t tell me about it being unenforceable; if that’s the case then we are hiring blind police officers.

    1. someone from my office got a ticket in downtown Atlanta for using his phone while stopped at a light- VERY expensive ticket. He sheepishly agrees he deserved it, but wished he had known that stop lights/signs are still valid ticketing situations.

      1. There’s no such thing as a very expensive ticket in downtown Atlanta. Just demand a jury trial to move the case from municipal court to state court. There’s less than a 50-50 chance that the case will ever actually reappear in state court and, if it does, they will likely dismiss it or at least offer a much better deal.

  8. Thee are a couple of things that have to be taken realistically, among others:
    * For many routes, there is no practical bypass of some part of Decatur. You can discourage drivers from going through, but some will anyway because it’s the only reasonable way to get where they’re going.
    * Decatur businesses need deliveries. You can’t ban commercial traffic because there is no other way for them to get the goods that they need.

    1. Totally agree that Scott is a direct route for many from OTP Dekalb/Gwinnett into Atlanta and they have every right to take that route.

      But they don’t have a right to speed sometimes, 30mph over the speed limit, drive while distracted by their phone, or otherwise drive recklessly and endanger our children. Extending MARTA to Gwinnett would help, but since that will happen approximately never, then why not at least enforce the driving laws we have?

      Sometimes it’s just so frustrating seeing people who have made the choice to live in far out suburbs use our intown neighborhoods (albeit on a state road) as a race track into Atlanta. I feel like there are trade offs living ITP and OTP. ITP = smaller homes, occasional crime but shorter commutes. OTP = larger homes, less crime but longer commutes. OTP’ers shouldn’t get it both ways, the larger home in a spacious suburb AND free rein to endanger in town neighborhoods through speeding, reckless driving just for the sake of a shorter commute.

  9. Scott Blvd. may be the only road in purple but many other Decatur streets are commuter routes, even 2nd Avenue in the SW side of the city bringing people from I-20 up/back from Ponce de Leon. 30 mph means 41 without a traffic citation even as an option because the neighborhood designation doesn’t exist. That signage was recently added to Sycamore over near Dekalb Memorial Hospital and coupled with the lowered speed limit, an actual slower traffic flow is happening.

  10. This didn’t happen in COD, but I thought I’d share anyway. This morning I was on Lawrenceville Hwy headed towards Tucker. There was a school bus on the opposite side with the sign out, so I prepared to stop. As I did so, I noticed in the rear view mirror there was a pick-up truck approaching me at a high rate of speed and not slowing at all. I swerved into the middle turning lane, and at the same time the truck swerved into the right lane. I thought for sure the driver it was going to blow through the bus stop sign, but she slammed on the brakes and skidded to a stop.
    Now comes the crazy part. About 500 feet ahead, there was another school bus stopped and boarding kids. At this one, the pick-up truck stopped and a kid jumped out and ran to catch the bus, with the woman honking her horn to get the bus to wait, which it did.
    Based on the location and the kid’s apparent age, I’d guess the bus was headed to Tucker Middle, which is less than 2 miles from where this happened. Could it have really taken that much more time for the woman to simply drop the kid off at school instead of driving like a damn fool?

    1. YES.

      I drop my son off at CHELC every morning and it adds a good twenty-plus minutes to my commute to get down there and then fight my way back out to 78 and the interstate. We didn’t bother with the bus because my work schedule was amenable to it fall semester. Oh well.

  11. With regards to Scott Boulevard, it has apparently become optional to stop for red lights at the Superior/Scott Boulevard intersection. I am surprised when no cars run the light.

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