Esplanade closure begins February 1st

PBOT will begin installing new 20 mph signs next month

Posted by on January 28th, 2013 at 11:33 am

Ginny Burdick with new speed limit sign

The wait is almost over.
(Photo: Michael Andersen/Portland Afoot)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is gearing up to install 300 new speed limit signs throughout the city. The new signs are the result of a law PBOT passed in 2011 that gives the city legal authority to lower speed limits by 5 mph on residential streets that have been specifically designed as bikeways (a.k.a. neighborhood greenways). Since these neighborhood greenway streets are already at 25 mph, the new law allows PBOT to set the new limit at 20.

The big unveiling of these new signs was in August of last year; but PBOT has yet to install any new signs. We asked PBOT spokesman Dan Anderson for an update on the project last week. Anderson says they plan to begin installing the signs early next month and installation should be complete by April or May. The 300 signs will cover about 70 miles of streets at a cost of $30,00 to $45,000.

The map of locations where the signs will go (which we shared last summer) closely mirrors where PBOT has focused neighborhood greenway projects in the past (PDF). No word yet as to whether or not PBOT plans to accompany the new signs with targeted enforcement actions; but that might be a good idea. As we all know, laws are only as powerful as the enforcement and compliance that accompanies them.

Another speed-related issue we’re following is the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s push to extend the 20 mph speed limit policy beyond Portland. As we reported earlier this month, the BTA has put lower speeds atop their 2013 legislative agenda. Specifically, they will lobby state lawmakers to allow all cities and towns in Oregon to lower residential speed limits to 20 mph. Stay tuned for that debate.

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • K'Tesh January 28, 2013 at 11:39 am

    Damn! Now I have a song stuck in my head…

    Slow Down… Take it Easy…

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    • Anne Hawley
      Anne Hawley January 28, 2013 at 11:45 am

      Yeah, thanks for that. 😀

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    • K'Tesh January 28, 2013 at 11:46 am

      Just checked the lyrics… it’s actually “Slow Ride, take it easy”
      Gonna have to add Foghat to my iTunes library

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  • Randall Sewell January 28, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Oh man, I’m so excited about motorists not following these laws either!

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  • Joe January 28, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    woot nice signage 🙂 now all I’m thinking is please don’t pass me when I’m doing the speed limit, scary on narrow downtown streets when cars do it.
    since they roll over the MAX train bumps as they zip past me

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    • Spiffy January 28, 2013 at 12:56 pm

      even though they’re not allowed to drive in the MAX lane…

      power corrupts…

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    • El Biciclero January 28, 2013 at 1:49 pm

      Sorry, Joe–my experience shows that most drivers believe that if you are on a bike, you Must Be Passed. I sometimes get passed even while I’m speeding and using the full lane. Seriously. I can recall one time I was going 29 in a 25 (it was downhill) and had two cars zip around me on a residential street. Another time on another residential street, I had a guy pull around and start calling out numbers (like he was my training coach or something–I’m sure he thought he was being “cool”) as he was driving parallel to me in the oncoming lane, “22! 23! 24!” All I was thinking was “If I’m going that close to the speed limit (25), why are you passing me?”

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      • spare_wheel January 28, 2013 at 4:15 pm

        illegally taking the lane on burnside and racing to the red light cam is $280 for the motorist and priceless for the cat-6 cyclist.

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  • Spiffy January 28, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Jonathan, can you post a new link to the 20 MPH map? the one linked in the previous article points here: and says the article doesn’t exist…

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  • andy January 28, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    I would like to see it simplified: the speed limit is 20mph for any road which does not have lane markings, and as posted. (Or something like that.) More streets, less signage.

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  • J-R January 28, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Any guess when PPB’s first speed zone enforcement action will be? I’m guessing early in 2015. Sarcasm.

    I was almost struck again on Sunday as a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk with a flashing yellow.

    It’s all BS until there’s some enforcement, some fines that make it hurt, and some publicity in the general media that makes it clear that traffic laws are real not just a suggestion.

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    • Glenn January 31, 2013 at 1:03 pm

      I agree on the effectiveness of enforcement. While the speed limit is being enforced, perhaps some enforcement could be extended toward cyclists who routinely blow through red lights and stop signs.

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  • Joe January 28, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    El Biciclero I hear ya bro, kinda freaks me out when ppl play games while I’m riding but have hard skin and let it roll off me or try too. one time I watched as this couple almost lost control right next to me as they passed. all to stop at a red light

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson January 28, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    20 MPH, a nice gesture, but it would not have saved my ass this AM when a big pickup seriously cut the corner at NE 7th & Tillamook and just about took me out as I waited to a make a right to continue west on the so called Bikeway. Tillamook is overrun with cut thru traffic and needs diverters at NE 7th and NE 21st.

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    • Terry D January 29, 2013 at 9:04 am

      Absolutely. PBOT is way too shy about diverters. Salmon needs them at 11th/12th (like 86th and Stark/Washington) , 20th and 30th as well…as well as Clinton needing a few when the Division redo is over.

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      • Mabsf January 29, 2013 at 9:16 am

        Ah, 11th and 12 th… My favorite wind tunnels…
        I think bicyclists and pedestrians need to get organized and perhaps demonstrate what 20mph really means: having a day-long picnic long a 20 mph street with one 2 radar guns and then flushing friendly signs to everybody who goes faster…

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  • gumby January 28, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Okay. So now the cars that are going through the neighborhood at 50 are going to slow to 40? Nice gesture, but I would be really surprised if these signs change anything. The people that will obey these signs are not the problem.

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  • Peter January 28, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    Thanks for checking in on this Jon. I’ll send you another email in a few months if nothing happens. It would have been nice to hear what the delay was for.

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  • Skid January 28, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    I still think this is ridiculous. 25mph is plenty slow enough.

    On the other hand I will be able to keep up with traffic, although I may get a speeding ticket while going downhill.

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    • niko January 28, 2013 at 9:53 pm

      I agree that 25 is plenty slow enough. 20 can be painfully slow for drivers who are capable safe drivers who need to be somewhere on time- bank, post office, work, etc. It should not be illegal to travel quickly.

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      • Art Fuldodger January 29, 2013 at 9:51 am

        Interesting word choice, using “painfully”.

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      • Chris I January 29, 2013 at 10:45 am

        BS. Have you driven any of the streets they are proposing this on? They are all narrow, quiet neighborhood streets with cars parked on both sides. You may think you are being safe driving through at 25-30, but you are living a fantasy. Stopping distances increase significantly as your speed increases. I don’t feel comfortable driving faster than 20 on any neighborhood street, because I need to know that I can stop before smashing some kid that chases a ball into the street, or a dog that bolts across after a squirrel.

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        • niko January 29, 2013 at 7:42 pm

          Yes, you are all correct. I am living in a very dangerous 25 mph fantasy land of death and injury.

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          • Chris I January 29, 2013 at 9:19 pm
            • niko January 30, 2013 at 7:23 pm

              There is good info there and on this wikipedia page:

              BUT- the research seems to be saying that 20mph is a better speed to be traveling if you are running over people. If I am not running over people I don’t see why 25mph is too fast. My argument is not that 25mph is appropriate for all road conditions (ie- parked cars on each side of a narrow street) in fact it is likely that I will slow to 15mph in these situations, but if there is an open road I dont see why 25mph is dangerous. 25mph is the speed limit- not the speed requirement.

              Overall, I think I can safely drive 25mph when it seems safe- even on the streets on this map. But, yes, looking at the evidence, it is safer to get run over by a car only going 15-20mph and 20mph limits do seem to improve neighborhood livability according to the research:
              ” It is considered to be a space for people who live, work, play and study in the area, not for people who cross the zone to get somewhere else. The theory is to reduce rat running while improving the safety and quality of life in the area.”

              OK- fine. Y’all can have some 20mph zones…

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    • are January 28, 2013 at 11:29 pm

      look at the map again and identify a street on which it would be necessary to go 25 rather than 20. we are talking about side streets here. there is a faster street a block or two away. and if it is not in fact faster, you have motorists to blame.

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  • Doug K January 28, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    Gee, if you need to be somewhere on time (isn’t that almost everybody?), then you should have left soon enough so that you could get there on time, AND obey the speed limit. Further, auto drivers shouldn’t be trying to make time on these streets anyway. They’re local streets, not arterials.

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  • Hazel January 29, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Has anyone had any success using this resource to report speeding?
    I agree that there doesn’t seem to be much traffic enforcement in Portland as it is. Not sure that this new signage will be anything but a waste of money if enforcement isn’t stepped up.

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    • Ron January 29, 2013 at 10:56 am

      I have submitted several requests for enforcement on NE Fremont where the 20 mph limit is routinely ignored. They finally responded and said that they may get to it if enough people request. Enforcement is a joke in PDX.

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      • Mabsf January 29, 2013 at 11:41 am

        Ok Ron… so the first “This is a 20mph-zone” picnic is going to be along NE Fremont? Do you have a date in mind?

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  • jim January 30, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    20 mph is fast enough for most of the streets the greenways are on, this could be expanded to more residential streets.

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  • jim February 2, 2013 at 3:21 am

    Are they making the speed bumps higher? Emergency services aren’t going to like that

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