Sick of Speeding, Baltimoreans Deploy DIY Traffic Calming

Fed up with speeding cars, and a city bureaucracy seen as slow to respond to their complaints, residents and artists in Baltimore have taken it upon themselves to remedy the situation by creating their own traffic calming measures.

As Baltimore officials pull the plug on a troubled speed and red-light camera system, the city's residents have discovered cheaper, but illicit, means of calming traffic. A small potted tree, a steel sculpture, and a “snowmom” and two snow children wearing orange vests are among the tactical interventions that have appeared along the city's dangerous streets to attract attention and slow drivers.

"Painting the street, playing ball in the street, decorating the yard, murals, sculptures—basically anything that creates visual interest and surprise—also slows down vehicular traffic," writes David Engwicht, urban designer and author of Street Reclaiming, a guide to addressing neighborhood traffic problems.

"Engwicht advises his readers to make obstacles temporary and not to ask permission," notes Edward Ericson Jr. "Several Baltimoreans have followed Engwicht’s prescriptions, though none had heard of the author." 

“You go through the dumb bureaucratic ladder with the city, it’s gonna take 10 years and they’re gonna put something stupid,” says Matt Fouse, a Charles Village artist who created one of the illicit interventions. “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission. That’s the motto of my life.”



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