Traffic calming is an attempt to strike a balance between vehicular traffic and everyone else who uses the street: pedestrians, bikers, business people and residents. That balance tilts away from cars. Some see traffic calming as a way of "reclaiming" local streets from a traditional domination by automobiles. Others see it more modestly as a way of trying to restore the safety and peace in neighborhoods that are becoming overwhelmed with speeding traffic.
In many ways, this approach upends the traditional goals of traffic engineering, which strive to move auto traffic quickly and efficiently. Roads have been designed as wide, straight routes, with few obstructions to the motorist's vision or progress, and strict barriers or space between vehicles and pedestrians. Traffic calming, by contrast, seeks to do the opposite.