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City reveals map of streets to get new 20 mph speed limits

Posted by on August 21st, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Is your favorite greenway on the
map? See larger version below.

At their meeting tomorrow, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) will ask City Council to adopt a map of streets where they plan to install hundreds of new 20 mph signs.

Back in July, I shared details on how PBOT plans to roll out the new signs. The signs are the final piece of PBOT’s effort to lower speed limits on low-traffic neighborhood residential streets that are part of the existing neighborhood greenway network. (PBOT helped pass a state law in 2011 that gave them the authority to reduce speeds by 5 mph in certain circumstances.)

According to the ordinance filed by the City, they’re planning to install up to 300 new signs on 70 miles of streets. Most of the installations will be on already well-known neighborhood greenways streets in north, northeast, and southeast Portland. A few streets in southwest will also get the treatment, including portions of SW Illinois, Vermont, Maplewood, 52nd, SW Cheltenham, and others. Only a few of the signs will be installed downtown, with SW Harbor Way near Riverplace the only location in the plans. PBOT plans to eventually install some in the Pearl District/Northwest Portland area, but they are still analyzing data.

Here’s the full map (download PDF here):

PBOT must adhere to mandates in the new law, ORS 810.180, that says only streets that meet specific criteria can quality for the speed reduction. The streets must have fewer than 2,000 motor vehicles per day, have 85th percentile speeds (the speed at which 85% of the traffic is travelling) lower than 30 mph, and have pavement markings to indicate the presence of people walking and biking (sharrows).

These are the same criteria PBOT uses to identify neighborhood greenways streets, so in effect, the law will allow them to eventually sign every neighborhood greenway in Portland with a 20 mph speed limit.

PBOT pursued this speed limit reduction authority because they understand the connection between speed and safety. In the ordinance, they write:

“10. A pedestrian stuck at 20 MPH has a 95% chance of survival. If they are stuck at 30 MPH, the only have 60% chance of survival. A small difference in speed has significant benefit for safety.

11. On residential streets, creating 20 mile per hour travel speeds is an international best practice for improving safety and livability. The City of London has had 20 MPH residential zones for more than 20 years, which has led to a 40% reduction in traffic injuries and death attributable to the slower speed designation and networks of traffic calmed streets.”

PBOT expects this first wave of installations to cost about $30,000 to $45,000. If Council passes the ordinance, they’ll begin installing them immediately.

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  • 9watts August 21, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    But as someone pointed out in an earlier story on this topic, why not stick a reflective #5 over the #0 on the existing signs. I bet it would be much faster & cheaper than $30,000 to $45,000 (is that $100-$150 ea.?)

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    • Indy August 21, 2012 at 3:16 pm

      Probably because
      1. There is no “0” in the number “25” 😉
      2. There’s likely regulations that prevent such a modification, due to the perception that if a number doesn’t quite match the old one, people might not “trust” it? I don’t know here, but templates seem like a better idea overall than complete sign overhaul.
      3. They can recycle the old signs anyway.

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      • 9watts August 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm

        Um, I think those concerns could be overcome/dealt with if they wanted to.
        And don’t be too sanguine about what recycling those signs would yield. Aluminum cans are ‘recycled,’ but not back into aluminum cans. The alloy in the lid and the body differ, and as such the resultant metal is unsuitable for either.

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        • Indy August 21, 2012 at 3:39 pm

          I mean literally just use the 25 mph signs anywhere else in the city/state/country. There’s no reason they can’t just repurpose them.

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      • Spiffy August 21, 2012 at 4:19 pm

        hooligans would just peel off the 0 sticker and it’d be 25 again…

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    • Paul Cone August 21, 2012 at 3:21 pm

      The new law says they have to include the words “SPEED LIMIT”, which many of the old signs don’t say — they just say “SPEED” (without the “LIMIT”).

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    • SilkySlim August 21, 2012 at 3:22 pm

      Or remove every neighborhood speed limit sign, and have the rule be “20mph in all neighborhoods.”

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    • Elliot August 22, 2012 at 11:40 am

      I’m guessing they have to install new signs because there are no existing speed signs to modify. Think about how often you see speed signs on residential streets: almost never, unless there has been a previous traffic calming effort in the area, where they might have put in a 25 mph sign to accompany speed bumps or traffic circles.

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    • Jamie August 22, 2012 at 1:31 pm

      Speaking as someone who works at a sign shop, while this is the cheaper option, it’s not generally done because as someone else pointed out, it looks modified and not “official”. (You would, however, have to scrape pretty hard to get that reflective material off.) Also, it is not the same grade as the sign itself, and may deteriorate at a different rate than the sign. Not to mention that properly aligning and applying the sticker would take about the same amount of time as undoing a couple of bolts, if not more, depending on how dirty the sign is beforehand.

      Municipalities and other transportation bodies also must follow the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, and while I have not read the relevant clauses, I would be surprised if they did not have directives that must be followed on matters like these.

      Anyways, that’s probably more than you needed to know!

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  • Alex Reed August 21, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Here are the commissioners’ email addresses:

    Mayor Sam Adams ,,,,

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    • Alex Reed August 21, 2012 at 4:30 pm

      FYI – I emailed the commissioners because I believe the article says this issue will soon go before City Council. Let your voice be heard!

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  • Alex Reed August 21, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    Oops, HTML fail. Sam adams is

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  • CPAC August 21, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Now I’m wondering if the ongoing research in NW is why those pneumatic hose counters have appeared on NW Marshall, Overton, and Raleigh streets in the last week or so

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    • Nick August 21, 2012 at 3:31 pm

      I don’t know, but they just installed one on N Central too (within the last week), where they’re finishing up a new greenway.

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    • Paul Cone August 21, 2012 at 3:31 pm

      Perhaps, but not necessarily. The City regularly does traffic counts on streets all over town. If you’ve seen them in the last week that data probably wouldn’t be reflected in determining the streets targeted on the map.

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  • Chris I August 21, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    This is awesome, but I’m a bit dis appointed at the streets that “did not qualify”. I don’t think 2,000 cars a day and prevalence of cars that break the law and speed through neighborhoods are a good enough reason to keep the limit at 25. These are the streets that need a lower speed limit to improve safety. This should just be a sign that these streets need a lower speed limit AND additional traffic calming measures applied.

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    • Nick August 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm

      My understanding is that speed limits are not very effective on their own. The design of the street is what tends to dictate speed. So putting up 20MPH speeds on a de facto 30+MPH street would further undermine respect for traffic laws in general. Traffic calming must come first to curb the instinctual urge to drive fast, and then the signs can go up to remind/reinforce. Not a traffic engineer; this is just from what I remember reading in the past.

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      • Chris I August 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm

        Traffic calming is great, but we can’t afford to do it everywhere. The fact that people break the law should not prevent us from setting a standard for safe practices. IMO, all neighborhood streets should be 20mph. People can choose to break the law if they want to; and those people will risk fines or automatic fault in the case of a collision.

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    • MossHops August 21, 2012 at 4:10 pm

      This. Fundamentally, I don’t quite understand how streets could be “calm” enough to be considered greenways, yet aren’t calm enough to designate 20MPH speed limit. It seems that 20mph should further enhance greenways and all greenways should automatically get the designation.

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      • Terry D August 21, 2012 at 8:24 pm

        Absolutely some of the routes make little sense. I live a block off of Everette-Davis which will get the 20 MPH rating and yet there is no traffic calming in sight. A few bioswales at 47th and some sharrows but nothing else…oh yes, the lack of a proper crossing at 60th is traffic calming all right…..if you can cross it during commute time.

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    • Mork August 23, 2012 at 9:53 am

      I am beyond disappointed to see that Ankeny below 28th “does not qualify”. Is this due to the increased automobile volume that stemmed from all the Sandy-Couch modifications?

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    • Alex Reed August 24, 2012 at 7:44 am

      Everyone’s a critic (myself definitely included) 🙂

      I see these 20 mph designations as one good step among many that Portland will have to take in order to achieve a high bike mode share. Widespread traffic calming infrastructure on greenways is another good step that the City should take soon, but it costs more money than 20mph signs, so it will take longer. Please email your Commissioners about the issue and hopefully we’ll get action on it sooner rather than later!

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  • Ben August 21, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    I’m disappointed to see that the city still considers the neighborhoods south of Foster to be unworthy of safe streets. I’ve come closer to being run down on Steele than I ever have downtown. We’re overdue for some safety improvements, and getting some calmer streets would really help. Why should Steele be a highway from 39th to 52nd?

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    • Oliver August 21, 2012 at 5:40 pm

      I don’t think a significant portion of the residents out that way are interested in traffic calming. We’re not quite there yet.

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      • NF August 21, 2012 at 7:58 pm

        The residents “out that way” (5 miles?) are really no different than everyone else.

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        • Oliver August 22, 2012 at 10:53 am

          I have to disagree with you. Demographic factors including age, socio-economic status, education levels, and national origin influence the attitudes of residents and their amenability to change with regards to movement away from the status quo and toward a safer environment for vulnerable road users.

          There is a reason why attitudes in East County, Outer Northwest, Clackamas, Deep Southeast etc are different than they are close in. If you live out there then you are aware of what I’m talking about. Multiply that for people who work in the trades out there, and commute in from even further out.

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    • spencer August 21, 2012 at 7:05 pm

      Steele is completely unsafe. People pass, drive 50+mph, and text constantly on that street. I’ve contacted PBOT, but have not received a reply to my concerns. Its BS that Steele is a 50 mph thoroughfare with ZERO speed enforcement. I’m a commuter, voter and `100% cyclist and I cant ride safely in my REED/Woodstock neighborhood. FIX IT PBOT!

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      • Ben August 28, 2012 at 5:02 pm

        I’ve been meaning to pick up a used radar gun and do some data collection on that street. Maybe we can at least lobby for a connecting bike lane.

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    • Terry D August 21, 2012 at 8:11 pm

      We need an east-west Greenway in southern Portland. Raymond from 33rd to 58th, cut south to Mitchel then east to 72nd, then head north past Foster returning to Raymond heading east to 82nd, it can then via Liebe be extended to Lentz Park. I am surprised that the master plan missed this one. It is all residential, low traffic volumes and only has crossings at CC, 52nd and 72nd to worry about. The intersection with 72nd can be configured properly as part of the Foster street scape plan being funded for 2014.

      It could be a nice Greenway, particularly if the city invests in 33rd/34th from Reed to Ankeny in SE which already has some traffic calming and bike activated street lights. Steele-Harold is too fast with too many cars on it. This combination would give southern Portland residents a Greenway route through some difficult areas.

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      • Steve Beattie August 23, 2012 at 3:00 pm

        Actually, if you look at the bicycle master plan map, it’s already conceived for Raymond east of 72nd to become a greenway to 82nd, and then continue on Liebe. So that part of it is at least there aspirationally.

        But otherwise, as a Reed neighborhood resident, I completely agree with what you say. Raymond is already to an extent a de facto greenway; it would be great to turn it into a real one with crossing improvements at Chavez (nee 39th) and SE 52nd. As you say, it would also be a great thing to extend the existing 34th/33rd bikeway south to Reed College; Steele and 33rd just recently got a marked crosswalk, but the biggest issue with the route is attempting to cross SE Holgate at the jog at 33rd/34th/Kenilworth Park.

        (Also, coming up with a way to connect comfortably with the Westmoreland and Brooklyn neighborhoods further west would make a Raymond greenway even more useful.)

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  • Todd Boulanger August 21, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Some cities (Puyallup, etc.) post a sign at their city limits reinforcing that all streets without speed limit signs are set at the lowest speed (typically 25 mph). So this might be another tool in the plan.

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  • Spiffy August 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Is your favorite greenway on the map?

    I think they are, but it’s hard to tell with no street names for the green lines…

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  • Tom August 21, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    looks like they forgot southeast past 205 ??? SE Main between 139th & 148th REALLY needs it.

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    • Terry D August 21, 2012 at 8:17 pm

      That greenway is slated for construction next year. it is called “The Three M’s”: Market-Main-Mill. The city wants to extend it from I205 to Gresham so combined with Harrison-Lincoln there would be a greenway from Gresham over Tabor to the river.

      You should look at the plan “East Portland in Motion.” Hopefully, if the next mayor funds the recommendations approved by city council, there will be 40 more miles of greenways build in east Portland past 82nd over the next four years. In theory the funds have been appropriated.

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  • Alex Reed August 21, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    This map also points out the paucity of greenways south of Powell even west of 205. Sorry, but door-zone bike lanes are not enough!

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    • spare_wheel August 22, 2012 at 7:36 am

      ummmm….many bike lanes east of 205 are on arterials and do not have wall of parked cars on the right.

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      • Alex Reed August 22, 2012 at 11:39 am

        I’m talking west of 205 – SE Steele, SE 52nd, SE Flavel (I think?) all have door-zone bike lanes for considerable lengths I believe. They are also almost the only bike infrastructure between Eastmoreland and Lents aside from the Springwater Corridor.

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  • q`Tzal August 21, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    I do say: it seems said that map indicates Ladd’s Circle and some of the neighborhood have this new 20MPH designation.

    It sure would be funny if the enforcement action required to educate the public about this change were to net some violators that live in the same neighborhood.

    Seems like that is the sort of thing that would prove that the “BIKES RUNNING STOP SIGNS IS THE MOST DANGEROUS THING!!!” crowd here are a bunch of hypocrites.

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  • dwainedibbly August 21, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    Fantastic news! I was wondering when the new law was going to be implemented.

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  • GlowBoy August 21, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Wow, this is great. I am disappointed that the two bikeways I use most — Clinton and Harrison/Lincoln from 12th to 39th — are in the “does not qualify” category. Presumably due to traffic counts?

    And I am absolutely THRILLED that the new signs will say “SPEED LIMIT“. It has always bugged me that Oregon’s signs just say “SPEED” and don’t call out that it’s a maximum. Unlike EVERY other state I have ever been in.

    BTW, there’s no reason (except adding the word “LIMIT” — yay!) that they can’t just put a “0” sticker over the “5” on the existing signs. Back in the 80s when the nationwide 55 speed limit was repealed for rural freeways, it was commonplace for DOTs in numerous states to slap a “6” sticker over the first “5”. And there are plenty of adhesives strong enough to prevent hooligans from peeling them back off.

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  • Ron Richings August 21, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    Vancouver, BC did something similar about a year ago. Virtually all bike routes and greenways changed to a 30 Km/hr speed limit (about 18 mph) from 50. In addition to some pre-existing traffic calming, this has helped keep bike routes fairly quiet this year.

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  • Zaphod August 22, 2012 at 9:50 am

    A step in the right direction. Thank you

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  • jack August 22, 2012 at 9:55 am

    I love the idea of removing the speed limit signs and making all neighborhood areas 20 mph. Would definitely make it safer.

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  • Don August 22, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Here in Szeged, Hungary the speed limit on many of our neighborhood city streets was recently reduced to 30 kmh/18 mph and overall it seems to have slowed down traffic and encouraged drivers to use other streets if they want to go faster. People still speed on the 18 mph streets, of course, but in general the effect has been positive for biking. Hope it works back home in Portland, too!

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  • Randall S. August 22, 2012 at 11:18 am

    This is great! I’m totally looking forward to it, because I definitely envision motorists obeying the new lower speed limits. You know, like they obey the cell-phone ban. Or the current speed limits. Or stop signs, red lights, seatbelt laws, right-of-way, bus lanes, no-turns signs, bike lanes, or no-parking signs.

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    • Chris I August 22, 2012 at 12:02 pm

      The glass is always half full, isn’t it?

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  • chasing back on August 22, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    52nd and Steele is not outer SE.
    This is great PBOT. Thanks for working on this. Is there a plan for education / enforcement of this new speed limit? I unfortunately expect to see little change in general driving habits without some PoPo actions.

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    • Alex Reed August 22, 2012 at 9:04 pm

      Never said it was! East Portland and the southwest hills clearly have the greatest lack of greenways. However, the greater Woodstock area (though much smaller) also has a distinct paucity.

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  • jim August 22, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    In a residential area this would make it safer for children playing outside, as well as bikes. Maybe it will make people choose the main arterials instead of the little streets.

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  • Unit August 23, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Looks like it’s time for the city to make Ankeny and Clinton into real neighborhood greenways. Not qualifying for this 20 mph limit is a pretty strong indication that the current treatments are inadequate for the number of cyclists on these streets.

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  • Brian August 24, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    Link to large version of map is 404 not found. Please fix, as I’d like to see the details of the map

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  • KC August 27, 2012 at 3:14 pm
  • Erinne August 27, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    What Brian said. Anyone have a fresh link to the large map?

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  • Mike S September 28, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    I think the reduction to 20mph is great for the neighborhood greenways, but it seems really strange to me that some of them that this would benefit most will be excluded based on the excess volumes and excess speeds they currently have. If a neighborhood greenway is designated as such, shouldn’t it get the same treatment? Isn’t the whole purpose of this initiative to make these streets safer? Why would they exclude the greenways that are most in need of this?? It’s very backward for sure.

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