More brainless anti-speeding propoganda

This time from the editorial board at the Edmonton SUN. Here's an entirely (well, 85%) senible letter that was in the paper yesterday:

Re: Oct. 1 police crackdown on speeders. Are 1,200 speeding tickets in a day by Edmonton's finest a display of good police work, impatient drivers, or a sign that perhaps the maximum speed limits in some areas are way too low? I try to obey the rules of the road and haven't received a ticket in almost 30 years. But when you're travelling at the pace of the rest of traffic, look down at your speedometer, and realize everyone around you is going five to 10 km/h above the posted limit, then we should be able to reasonably assess that the posted limits are set way too low.

Garry Humeniuk
Ah, I see that Garry is aware of what the 85th percentile is all about. Unfortunately, the SUN's editor is not, juding from the one-liner response:
(Nope. People drive 10 km/h over regardless of the limit.)

They do, huh? Really? Really really really? Let's demonstrate what a crock of shit this is with a couple thought experiments:

How about we change the speed limit on Whyte Avenue between 109th street and 103rd street from the present limit of 50 km/h (or is it 60? my uncertainty helps my thesis, as we'll see) to, lets say, 120 km/h. By the SUN editor's logic, people will start driving 130 down Whyte Ave. Does anybody seriously think this would happen? The whole reason I don't know the Whyte Avenue speed limit is because I never get to drive it. Between the regular traffic that keeps you under the limit, the geography forces you to drive a continuous 40 km/h (or 30, if its the season for hot chicks in tight outfits). The point is that the actual speed people on Whyte Avenue drive has nothing to do with the fancy number the City of Edmonton has stuck on the side of the road.

Now lets take a different tact: build a nice fancy expensive freeway, and name it after a famed explorer -- Benjamin Frobisher, lets say. Four lanes (expandable to 8), wide open sight lines, and the works. Any such roadway in the province would have a 110 km/h limit and any such roadway in Germany would have a nice sideways "8" as its maximum velocity. Instead, however, lets put up a speed limit of 70 km/h and ask what speed people will drive. Again, the editor at the Edmonton SUN thinks the answer is "80 km/hr". If you slow down all the way to 80 km/hr when travelling northbound on the Anthony Henday at the Cameron Heights Drive intersection I will cheer when you are murdered. Unless we have reason to expect a speed trap, we shall be driving around the 100 km/h mark -- precisely what reasonable people have determined the proper speed to be driving on that road is (well, personally 105-110 is the better choice, but some variation in traffic speed is permissable.

The whole innovation of idea like the 85th percentile in civil engineering and related fields is that people are clever, and can come up with perfectly reasonable policies all on their own. The same Edmonton SUN that uses its readership numbers as an ad campaign can hardly turn around and claim that adults 25-54 have absolutely no business making decisions about how fast a roadway can take.

In the same way that the price of oil is not set by any central authority like "oil companies" but rather the collective force of humanity acting out through markets, the speed at which people are comfortable in driving is not determined by a City of Edmonton administrator trying to find his EPS buddies with a photo radar van a new source of revenue, but rather the people who actually drive on the road.