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Portland ‘Transformation’ bureau unveils a new trick: ’20 is Plenty’ signs


The anonymous street-safety activists at PDX Transformation are following the lead of successful campaigns in New York City and the United Kingdom to spread the idea of driving at nonlethal speeds.

The group took responsibility last weekend for hanging a set of signs that look like legal speed-limit signs but aren’t.

KATU-TV’s Reed Andrews reported Wednesday that the signs were “donated by someone who works for a sign-making company.”

The Portland Bureau of Transportation says it doesn’t condone the signs. PBOT says it plans to have maintenance workers take them down, but it’s not an immediate priority.

“We’re not going to be playing whack-a-mole,’ said PBOT spokesperson Dylan Rivera.

The street signs are part of a continued effort by the bike advocacy group PDX Transformation.

“We can only do so much. We don’t have unlimited funds,” PDX Transformation said. “We’re just proving it doesn’t take much to do something significantly. The whole environment of that area completely changed.”

The signs were donated by someone who works for a sign-making company. About half have been deployed so far, and the group plans on putting more out wherever they see the need.

The group has previously propped open TriMet’s swing gates crossing the Orange Line on the way to Tilikum Crossing and placed traffic cones alongside bike lanes.

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According to the American Auto Association Foundation for Traffic Safety, a car that hits a person traveling at 20 mph is approximately half as likely to cause either a fatality or a serious injury as one traveling at 25 mph.

For a serious injury, the probability is about 17 percent compared to about 30 percent; for death, it’s about 8 percent compared to about 14 percent.

After the British “20 is plenty” movement, the Scottish capital of Edinburgh lowered speed limits citywide to 20 mph in 2000 and began enforcing them in 2014. Last year, New York City lowered the default citywide speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph and created “slow zones” of 20 mph in some areas.

There’s been local action on this front, too. In 2011, the City of Portland won the right to cut speed limits on neighborhood greenways, the traffic-calmed side streets where biking and walking is prioritized, from 25 mph to 20 mph. Some neighborhood greenways are now marked with 20 mph signs, but not all.

And it’s all part of a much older movement, peaking in the 1920s, that unsuccessfully attempted to install “governors” in all motor vehicles that would have limited their speed to 25 mph.

Apparently the movement for slow driving in cities remains very much alive.

“We just placed an order for more signs,” the organization tweeted today. “Want one where you walk/ride? Hit us up.”

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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