Editorial: Holistic approach

I do think that there ought to be a 20 mph speed limit, but it ought to be addressed to straight-line skates and skateboards,” Champaign Mayor Gerald Schweighart said during a Nov. 1 city council meeting. “Them things come out of nowhere.”

The only thing that came out of nowhere was the decision made by the city council and the actions of four Illinois Student Senate members.

All nine members of the Champaign City Council voted against an ordinance to lower the speed limit within the University area on Nov. 1, even after the suggestion was made and endorsed by the Campus Area Transportation Study committee.

This comes after Urbana and the University both reduced campus area speed limits to 20 mph.

It would appear that Champaign stands alone in its decision to maintain a 25 mph speed zone. But this is not the case. University’s Illinois Student Senate co-president Ryan Ruzic, student senators Joseph Davani and Sophie Doroba and Chair of Governmental Affairs Committee Justin Cajindos all spoke out against lowering the speed limit during the council meeting.

All four of these student senators stressed to the council that opposition to the speed limit reduction was not intended to be against safety reform on campus.

“I drove my colleagues in opposition to this bill,” Cajindos told the council. “In doing so, I urge the council not to construe our position as pro-speeding, pro-reckless driving or anti-pedestrian safety.”

Despite this comment, we believe otherwise. While we applaud the fact that student senators want to institute what changes they view as substantial and helpful, we contend that a 20 mph speed limit would contribute to an increase in pedestrian safety, and that for these four student representatives to persuade the Champaign City Council to vote down the bill was folly.

“Lowering the speed limit to a similar level to that of an elementary school zone is not needed,” Ruzic said at the meeting.

But school speed zones are put in place to make drivers more alert and aware of students who might be walking to class and therefore promotes pedestrian safety. In fact, the need for pedestrian safety is much higher at the University because the volume of students walking to class is much greater than that of an elementary school.

“Is a speed limit reduction what our community needs, although there is an obvious lack of speed related accidents?” Danavi asked at the meeting.

A community should not wait until there is an excess of speed-related accidents before it should act. Prevention of tragedy works better than reaction to tragedy. By Danavi’s measuring stick for lawmaking, we should continue to maintain the course of inaction that continued after the death of Caroline Jeffers and took the death of Sarah Channick to break from. We look forward to Danavi leading the call for a speed limit reduction after the next member of the campus community is hit by a speeding car.

“How can we be sure lowering the speed limit … will have any effect at all on pedestrian safety?” Doroba asked at the meeting.

Any look into a common physics textbook would provide Doroba with an answer: lowered speed provides for shorter stopping distances, which means more time for a driver to react to pedestrians or cyclists on the road. A mere reduction from 25 to 20 mph can decrease stopping distance by approximately 16 to 20 feet, depending on the condition of the tires, road conditions and quality of vehicle breaks. These obvious facts were obviously ignored.

“Why not reduce the speed limit to 15 then?” Cajindos said during a telephone interview when asked what it would hurt to lower the speed limit to 20 mph.

If speed is not a factor in pedestrian safety and acts as a barrier to student transportation on campus, then perhaps the community should push for a 45 mph speed limit on campus.

Again, we do praise the fact that student senators mentioned, along with the Champaign City Council, the city of Urbana and the University are all actively engaged in finding solutions to increase awareness and safety on campus for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. But we believe the council’s voting record and the four student senators who moved against a meager 5 mph reduction acted in a manner that contradicted the very concerns they hoped to advocate.

No one is in contention that the deaths of Jeffers and Channick came from problems associated with intersections and that measures must be taken to combat this issue. But we hold that the campus community needs cohesion from the University and the city government of Urbana and Champaign. Speed reduction would not have prevented the two most recent deaths, but could take steps to decrease more than just intersection-related incidences.

Arguments of the inability and difficulty of enforcement of a reduced speed zone put forth by the mayor and others are laughable. If traffic law is difficult to enforce in certain areas, then why should we abide by the laws or create them? Enforcement is part of deterrence and making excuses does not excuse one from taking actions of responsibility.