Main Street or your neighborhood – What’s your “safe” speed?

Left: When you see this sign, what speed do you drive? (Photo by Beth Melo)

There’s a question that has been on my mind lately. Do most drivers behave differently in their own neighborhoods than they do on other roads?

In discussions about Main Street reconstruction and a possible 40B development, residents of those neighborhoods have raised concerns about speeding.

The issue was explored when Police Chief Kenneth Paulhus met with the Main Street Design Working Group in May.

Some residents have worried that designs that “widen and straighten” the road will increase speeding. Therefore, some pose, designs should incorporate measures to control speed. Working group member Claire Reynolds expressed a different view.

Reynolds posited that speeding on Main Street is an enforcement issue. Paulhus’ response was that police have other issues (like dealing with problems along Route 9) that limit the department’s manpower for that.

More recently, Paulhus clarified his comments for me:

If Main St. (or any other area of Town) becomes problematic, we will direct our resources toward it. Turnpike Rd. takes up a lot of our energy by sheer volume which I’m sure you have noticed by looking at the call log. Traffic issues are the number one problem complaint recorded by most any law enforcement agency. Once the complaint comes in, we research the data and respond accordingly. In the last month, we have received a number of requests for traffic enforcement, but have had to direct our patrol focus toward a rash of Breaking and Entering complaints which certainly has taken precedent.

At the June meeting, Paulhus agreed to put up a radar device to gather some data on Main Street. It tracked average speeds of passing cars.

I assume the figures captured would be upsetting to most that live on or bike/walk along that stretch of road. But I can’t believe that all speeders are passing through town. Which leads to the question, where do you fit in these “speed bins”?

Reynolds tells me she believes that local residents must take responsibility of following the posted speed limit (even if they have cars on their bumper as she often does.) But from observation it seems to me that most drivers treat speed limits differently.

So when I look at the data (scroll down for that), I wonder what do you think?

What is your take on speeding in town?

  • What is the right speed on the west section of Main Street? Do you drive 30 mph there? 35? Higher?
  • Are speeds that seem alarming to others normal for you? (Or does it depend on the driver? You believe you are in control but have doubts about others?)
  • Do you obey the limit in your own neighborhood but ignore it in others?
  • Are there specific areas of town you are concerned about?

(Feel free to respond anonymously!)

As for the captured speed, there were a lot of reports. So I’ll just share a few data points. 

Town consultant VHB tracked speeds in their traffic study. According to the report for Main Street (On Wednesday, May 7th):

  • Past Sears Road
    • 38.1% of vehicles exceeded 39 mph, going eastbound where speed limit is 30 mph (4 were clocked going over 54 mph)
    • 15.1% of exceeded 39 mph, going westbound where speed limit increases to 35 mph  (1 clocked at over 69 mph)
  • Past Common Street where limit is either 25 mph or 20 mph when school zone lights are flashing:
    •  25.4% of eastbound vehicles exceeded 29 mph
    • 41.7 % of westbound vehicles exceeded 29 mph

The police radar data shows for one segment of 1,178 moving “vehicles” on Main Street near Deerfoot Road*:

  • Only 45.5% obeyed the 30 mph limit
  • 13% exceeded by 5 or more mph

*The device used for this is a digital sign that displays drivers’ speeds. It was acknowledged at the May meeting that the sign itself tends to effect the data. Drivers tend to slow down while passing it.

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9 years ago

I try to obey the speed limits and be respectful of others living environments. I live on a quiet neighborhood street but it provides access to a church and I don’t appreciate the high rates of speed that people take on Sunday mornings. The streets around me and the church parking lot also seem to be a common cut through for folks to get to the pre-school during the week, which presents the same problem. I guarantee you that if I did this in someone else’s neighborhood, they’d be out there telling me to slow down.

Booze-Lined Oak Hill
9 years ago

It would be nice to see if there was data on Oak Hill Road where I think problems far exceed speeding on Main Street and really most other places in town outside of Rt9. The high volumes of empty alcohol containers that litter the side of the road and the insane speeds of people rushing down Oak Hill to Rt9 and gunning up the hill from the Rt9 is staggering.

9 years ago

This area is a HAZARD. When school is back in session and kids have to cross the street, it is downright dangerous. We had seen several of the officers sitting on Walnut as well as Asaree and Maple for a while but now they are no longer there. The cars go so fast it is hazardous to walk on that street even on the sidewalk. I urge the Chief to bring the officers back up there and make is safe for our kids to get on the school bus. I can’t believe how fast some of these people go and have no regard for the flashing red lights of the school buses.

9 years ago

Last year I complained to the Chief (Moran) that one of her officers told me that he wouldn’t stop anyone unless they were doing over 45 mph (25 mph zone). She said “Everyone’s in a hurry these days” and “If you don’t like it, you can move”. With this attitude it’s no wonder there is little traffic enforcement in town during the day shift. I was hoping that there would be a change with the new chief, but I haven’t really seen any.

Just Curious
9 years ago

I am very disappointed to read Chief Paulhus’ whiny excuse that the police cannot speeding regulations on Main St. due to activity on Rt 9. That is pure BS.

You do not need a police officer to sit on Main Street for 24 hours per day to enforce the speed regulations. Simply have an officer sit at different locations on Main St for 15 minutes at a time, several times each day. People will get the message and slow down.

How about putting an officer in a police car about 100 yards past the speed radar sign then write a ticket for anyone who does not slow down when the speed radar sign warns them they are going too fast. If someone if driving 39 mph in a 30 mph zone AFTER seeing the warning on the radar sign, they deserve 2 tickets; one for speeding and a second for being dumb.

Perhaps Chief Paulhus could explain why Southborough Police have to devote so much of their time to Rt 9 when it is a STATE HIGHWAY that is patrolled by the STATE POLICE?

This excuse from the Chief smacks of him trying to try to justify additional positions n the police department. I am really disappointed in him. I expected so much more from him after watching his interview on tv.

I hope the BOS put his feet to the fire and have him start enforcing the rules.

Just Curious
9 years ago
Reply to  Just Curious

On 8/4, Beth posted Police logs (7/31 – 8/3/14): Hit & runs and accidents with injuries. I recommend everyone take a look at that report and analyze the level of activity of crimes/police activity in Southborough.

Personally, I am very pleased to note the low level of crime in Southborough. That is one of the reasons I chose to live here. I suspect the low crime also played a role in others’ decisions as well. It certainly is part of the “quality of life” that makes Southborough attractive and I suspect that many of us take it for granted.

Also, on the very few interactions I have had with the Southborough Police, they had been very professional and effective. (And no – I do not want to use my name just in case I get stopped by one of Southborough’s finest ;)

Nonetheless, when I looked at the Police log, I was struck by the reported comments from the Police Chief: ” If Main St. (or any other area of Town) becomes problematic, we will direct our resources toward it. Turnpike Rd. takes up a lot of our energy by sheer volume which I’m sure you have noticed by looking at the call log. Traffic issues are the number one problem complaint recorded by most any law enforcement agency. Once the complaint comes in, we research the data and respond accordingly. In the last month, we have received a number of requests for traffic enforcement, but have had to direct our patrol focus toward a rash of Breaking and Entering complaints which certainly has taken precedent.”

Here are my takeaways:

1) Rt 9 is a state highway. I called the State Police HQ traffic office in Framingham and they said Rt 9 is patrolled by BOTH the State Police and Southborough and it co-jurisdictional. OK – when is the last time you saw a state trooper in a radar car on Rt 9? I suspect the younger police officers in our town would rather work radar assignments on Rt 9 because 1) it is busy and 2) they are less likely to have to write a ticket for a Southborough resident who might give them the “DO you know who I am line.”

2) The Police logs reported for the 4 day period did not show any breaking and entering events.

3) Here’s a summary of times on those logs where there are very long periods of relative inactivity in town :

Thursday, July 31, 2014:
midnight to 9:35 am – no police activity
2:07pm to 5:48pm – 1 accident with no injuries, 2 parking complaint calls

Friday, August 01, 2014:
midnight to 7:34 am – tree knocked down
9:11 am – 5:28 pm – assisted one disabled motorist, one person sleeping in a car, solicitors going door-to-door
7:32 pm – midnight – stopped one car for Hopkinton Police

There are at least 2 officers on patrol during these times, and the new budget approved a third officer for the midnight to 8 shift.

I think it is very clear that there are significant periods of downtime in this schedule so that The Chief could direct the officers to set up a radar patrol on Main Street, Deerfoot, etc.

Also, the Chief’s comments “…Once the (traffic) complaint comes in, we research the data and respond accordingly… ” is just plain administrative silliness. We live in Southborough, not Los Angeles. We do not need research and data to direct a Police officer to set up for radar on Main Street. All the Chef has to do is tell the officer. Jeez!!!!!

Summary – All the Chief needs to do is try a little. Maybe put a police car at the transfer station a few times on Saturday for 10 minutes at a time to send a message to people trying to get in without a sticker. Maybe put a car in front of Mauro’s for 15 minutes in the morning to catch the people speeding east on Main Street in that 20mph zone.(Yes – it is 20 not 25.)

This is not a complaint about the Southborough Police officers. It is just a citizen’s reaction to the Chief’s inattention to this problem.

Hundreds of people in Southborough read this blog. Some will agree and some will disagree. Perhaps the Chief would like to make available a complete log of Police activity that would include car stops, tickets written, etc. The Chief clearly captures all of this data – I recall the article where the officer assigned as the senior liaison was identified as the officer who had written the most tickets in town.

If the Chief feels this post is off base, it would be helpful for him to follow the example of Mr. Cimino and Mr. Rooney and post facts to show thatI am off base. If I am, I will apologize and stop posting on this topic.

Thank you for reading this.

9 years ago

I TRY to stay within the speed limits. I believe they are for everyone’s safety. (I do, however, find that RT 85 north beyond St Marks to where Framingham Rd comes in is hard to stick to 30 or 35 mph. I find it way too easy to lose track of the proper speed there and have been stopped twice. I’m still trying!)
But! What really bugs me is when I am going just a tad OVER the speed limit and someone is right on my tail wanting to go way faster, so that its very hard when I need to turn. I slow down very gradually and put my directional signal on way ahead to -hopefully- give them PLENTY of warning! I got rear-ended once and that really shook me up.

Tom Marcoulier
9 years ago
Reply to  Debbie

A quick poll question here…..the speed limit is 25 mph in front of Mauro cafe…

My poll question:
If a person is riding their bicycle at 25 mph in the middle of the road in this stretch, does the person in his/her car behind the cyclist have the right to honk his horn for the cyclist to move over? If yes why?

9 years ago
Reply to  Tom Marcoulier

I just checked
and see: “You may ride your bicycle on any public road, street, or bikeway in the Commonwealth, except limited access or express state highways where signs specifically prohibiting bikes have been posted.”
So does someone have the “right” to honk at a cyclist going the speed limit where he/she is allowed to be? Yes – a person has the “right” to honk and the “right ” to be rude and obnoxious! –so “if yes: why”?: because there is no law against being rude and obnoxious and having bad manners! But they ARE “wrong”!!

Anita Reeder
9 years ago
Reply to  Tom Marcoulier

Sometimes motorists (I am one) toot to let a cyclist know that they are there. I once had someone on a bicycle turn into my car, bounce off the windshield and end up on the road. (I had given him wide berth and slowed down, something I was taught during driver’s ed and by my dad. Thank God I had done that, as if I were going the speed limit, he would not have survived.) He never looked before turning. I was not cited and in fact the police said I was not at fault in any way, but I have to live with that every day of my life. Maybe things have changed, but when I was taught to ride a bicycle, I was taught that you stay as far off the road as possible, NEVER do you think you are a car!!!! So, if a cyclist is riding his bike in the middle of a car lane, I imagine I would think he was being obnoxious and putting himself, and those in cars, in harm’s way. Bicycles are not cars. And although they must obey the rules of road as those in cars do, so many do not. Please remember, cars are much bigger than bicycles and can kill you. Stay to the side of the road. I have passed so many on bicycles that swerve all over the place, do not watch for anyone behind them and don’t use hand signals, or turn at the last moment. I just commented to my husband the other day when following some cyclists who were not being careful that I couldn’t wait until winter when they are not on the street anymore. I don’t like feeling this way and would love to be able to share the road, but unfortunately, I keep seeing cyclists that don’t feel the same way. Please, do not take chances with your lives or those around you. Ride with care.

Tom Marcoulier
9 years ago
Reply to  Anita Reeder


When riding I do like a toot but not a honk (if that makes sense). A toot tells me there is a car and a honk scares me that I am about to be hit.

Frank Crowell
9 years ago
Reply to  Tom Marcoulier

In current conditions, no.

In the future when Main St has a bike lane (2025 my current forecast), then the bike should not there and should get the honk.

Just Curious
9 years ago
Reply to  Tom Marcoulier


Actually, the speed limit in front of Mauro’s is only 20 mph! It drops from 25 to 20 once you cross School Street heading east.

Also, several pedestrians have been injured crossing this section of Main Street.
One can hardly see the speed limit signs which have deteriorated so much.

9 years ago
Reply to  Tom Marcoulier

I believe the speed limit is actually 20 in that area. If you look at the speed limit sign posted right before Latisquama is reads 20 not 25. I think that goes through the town center.

9 years ago

I’m always amazed at how fast some people drive through the center near Mauro’s like it’s just a way to get from one place to another. Check it out – there’s a lot of activity there, people parking, opening car doors, crossing the street, etc. I’m always looking for people – especially kids – who may step out from between two cars. It just makes sense to slow down there.

About the poll question, if you’re on a bike in the middle of the road, you should go back to the side when it’s safe to do so. If you don’t, you would expect to be honked at. As a bicyclist, I think it’s asking enough of cars to share the road with me, and in turn I’ll do my best to stay out of their way, I think a bicyclist who insists on riding in the middle of the road is more obnoxious than a driver who toots his horn to communicate.

But back to Main Street – do you have any idea how bad the road is between Marlboro Savings Bank and Fay School (and further) for a bicycle? Westbound in particular, the road is so chunky it threatens to throw me into the motorized traffic, and I am concerned about keeping my wheels round. It’s really bad!

I would like to see a 3 foot wide strip of asphalt laid for a bike lane – this shouldn’t have to wait until the Main Street project begins.

Tom Marcoulier
9 years ago
Reply to  judy


The point of my question is; if the speed limit is x and the cyclist is riding at x does the car have the right to honk and make the cyclist move over (so the car can break the speed limit). I’m not sure if there is a right or wrong answer here. Just curious to what people think.

Townie D.
9 years ago

I would love to see more radar by the Finn school/mooney field area! Before school after school and around 6:00pm when parents are rushing to pick there kids up from extended day or a drop off to a sport meet at mooney. I’ve never let my kids ride bikes during the “speed way” hours! Parkerville is long and flat and the south side doesn’t have speed bumps like the north side of Parkerville does. (Why?) Lots of children in this area as well as thickly settled. Leave earlier and slow down!!!

Parkerville Rd/ southwood / Finn area
9 years ago

The neighborhood I live in has no children that play out of indoors ever. Even though there are over 50 children. Our kids play outside as well as our door. Kids and dogs occasionally go in the roadway as careful as we are as parents. We have tried to get the police to sit at the stop sign and monitor both stops and speed and it has not happened. They have written not one ticket for these offenses. I agree with warnings as well especially if a person has no tickets. It tends to work. Three years ago I complained to the parents and the police about a certain youth who drove like her parents (I make the mistake once in a wile as well but not every day) and did not stop at the stop sign. One day while working I viewed this girl fly though the intersection and out onto Parkervile and hit another young lady. I helped both of them out of the cars and assisted until the police arrived (the offender kept saying over and over ‘oh Mr. ____ my mother hates me and she will kill me”.. It will happen again but I believe if the police had written some tickets it would have and will help. I will see the chief again but I will probably hear what the chief has posted and I believe what the chief has posted is true. I do not think they are not telling the truth. They can only do so much. But, all the immigrants in this neighborhood all go literally like heck and they do not care if you ask them to slow down and stop. As I write this the white Lexus RX just now did what her daughter did two years ago , when her daughter almost killed another young lady. I think it borders on arrogance as this one particular person told the person i was prejudiced. Thank god my best friend is an Indian and an Asian as proof I am not. I would say to everyone, especially newly arrived immigrants and out of staters who have moved in and don’t care, women driving and texting, please slow down before another dog gets killed or worse yet a child or an elderly person. Thank you very much.

Parkerville Rd/ southwood / Finn area
9 years ago

Sorry, before some smart ___ corrects me, I meant Dog in the first paragraph

Donna McDaniel
9 years ago

Here’s a spot where the speeding is dangerous… on Route 30 (Boston Road) going west from the Framingham line to the corner with the lights… seems that right after the road to the Fayville Dam drivers look ahead and see a clear stretch, straight for much of the way, and come speeding along. They are apparently unaware, partly because of the foliage, of the access/to and from Southborough Meadows and have really picked up speed by the time they get there, apparently thinking they can go fast until the lights.
I wonder if a sign of some sort (“thiickly settled” because there are two roads and several houses from that point on or??). But I also wonder if this is out of the town’s hands since it is a state highway?
This represents my 16 years of experience trying to pull out to go east onto Boston Road.

9 years ago

so many commuters think they can dramatically exceed the speed limits … Woodland Road, Parkerville( south side.. the one without the speed humps…why?? ), Southville, Oak Hill.. to name a few..
I agree with the commenter who thinks it’s wise to leave Route 9 to the state police

9 years ago

I’m one of those “annoying” do-gooders who always wears her seat belt, always uses her blinker, and always obeys the speed limit :) Installing cameras around town and automatically ticketing violators would be effective but require an initial investment. I live on Clifford St which is windy and there are no sidewalks, the limit is 25MPH but most cars exceed that. I would like to see raised cross walks installed on Clifford and Deerfoot at the walkways to the Trottier/Neary complex!!!!!

Concerned Citizen
9 years ago

I have to say that General Henry Knox is also quite a speedway, especially during school drop off/pick up times.

John Kendall
9 years ago

Living in the Cottage Street/Hammond Street
neighborhood can be a nightmare. People zip
around these small streets to jockey for position
for T passenger pick-ups on Parker Street, or use
It as a short cut to Highland Street. We have young
kids living in this area once again, and people need
to slow down. Besides the kids we have a larger group
of older folks who walk around for exercise. I dread the
day someone gets hit, but at the rate things are going, it’ll
happen. Put your phones down, pick your heads up, slow
down, and drive responsibly!

Tom Levi
9 years ago

Its a very tough situation here. The reality is there will always be speeders out there-not just in Southborough. No matter what, police officers cannot do enough to stop everyone from speeding. People speed on my street all the time. I hate it and find it annoying but I know they all can’t be ticketed, or stopped so I just make myself more aware. The police can certainly set up traffic posts in hot spot areas and pull over cars, give tickets or warnings but that’s it, a cruiser can’t stay there all day. They have other calls they respond too and patrol the town for other activity i.e. the past break in’s etc. Unfortunately we live in a society today where its rush rush rush. Cars are built comfortable, quiet, fast and a lot of people are distracted drivers, and some people just don’t have the common sense to realize they are speeding. Police traffic posts, speed bumps, MPH digital read outs etc are all are used to combat speeding but it won’t cure it. And I feel comfortable with the Southborough police patrolling route 9. If you notice they make many arrests and stop a lot of people that end up arrested due to intoxication and active warrants. Rt 9 can be a gateway for “bad guys” to enter into the community or cut through it. Personally I’d rather the SPD stop and arrest a drunk driver or wanted criminal from route 9 than worry about the soccer mom going above the speed limit.

9 years ago
Reply to  Tom Levi

Or soccer Dad.

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