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Portland’s 20 mph speed limit bill passes Senate, nears final passage

Posted by on May 23rd, 2017 at 10:22 am

SE Division Takeover-5.jpg

East Portland resident Sarah Iannarone during a December 2016 protest at the corner of SE 82nd and Division.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

A new state law that would allow the City of Portland to reduce speed limits on over 3,000 miles of residential streets — that’s over 60 percent of all the streets in Portland — to 20 mph cleared a major hurdle yesterday.

With a vote of 4-1 in the Senate Committee On Business and Transportation, House Bill 2682 now only has to pass a vote of the full Senate before it can be signed into law. The bill passed the Oregon House 55-1 back in April.

The bill, sponsored by State Respresentative Rob Nosse, would only apply to the City of Portland. It was amended after cities and counties across the state said they didn’t want the added resonsibility of making speed limit decisions themselves and would rather have ODOT’s continued oversight.

At a hearing prior to the committee vote yesterday, City of Portland Active Transportation & Safety Division Manager Margi Bradway told legislators that with an increasing volume of cut-through traffic (thanks in large part to traffic apps like Waze and Google Maps), this law is needed now more than ever.

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“When I think about residential streets, I think about people walking their dogs, playing with their kids… it’s really important we send a message.”
— Margi Bradway, Active Transportation & Safety Division Manager at PBOT during testimony in Salem yesterday.

“When I think about residential streets, I think about people walking their dogs, playing with their kids. My kids like to ride their bikes and little scooters in the street,” Bradway tesified. “And as Portland gets more crowded unfortunately we’re seeing more cut-through traffic on those streets so it’s really important we send a message by lowering the posted speed limit and keeping those residential streets safe for familes and kids.”

Residential streets currently have a default maximum speed limit of 25 mph. Bradway explained to Senators that even at these relatively low speeds, five miles an hour can mean the difference between life or death. “If a person driving a car hits a pedestrian at 25 mph they are 42 percent more likely to kill that person than they are at 20 mph. That’s a big jump.”

A representative for the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon also testified. Several fatal collisions in 2016 happened just blocks from their offices on SE Division Street. “Too many of our community elders have been killed crossing the street. We believe these deaths are preventable… slower speeds may have saved their lives.”

While this new law wouldn’t give PBOT the ability to lower speeds on arterials like Division, they can still use other tools to tame traffic on larger streets. Bradway said this is a “good compromise” with ODOT, who wasn’t comfortable giving PBOT authority over arterials because of the presence of freight vehicles.

The Street Trust and Families for Safe Streets both wanted the bill to include arterials. In a written statement submitted to the committee, The Street Trust wrote, “We also would like to see this bill go further in allowing the City of Portland and other jurisdictions to also lower speed limits on arterials and other high-speed streets, including those designated as high crash corridors.”

The lone Senator who voted against HB 2682 was Fred Girod, who represents a rural district east of Salem. Girod said he thinks enforcement is more important than speed limits. He also said he doesn’t like how Portand is being “separated out” and that if Portland wants to reduce deaths on arterials they should take jurisdiction of them away from ODOT.

The bill now moves to a vote of the full Senate.

In other legislative news: Senate Bill 493, which would create a new crime of criminal negligence with a motor vehicle, has passed the House. And the distracted driving/cell phone bill, HB 2597, is scheduled for a hearing and possible Senate vote tomorrow (5/24).

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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

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Hello, Kitty
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Hello, Kitty

Good news!

Scott H
Guest
Scott H

[Fred Girod] also said he doesn’t like how Portand is being “separated out” and that if Portland wants to reduce deaths on arterials they should take jurisdiction of them away from ODOT.

Um, that’s kind of what we have been trying to do. It would be awesome if people didn’t have to die because of ODOT’s incompetence, so if Fred could go ahead and help Portland, and every other city so that we’re not being “separated out,” show ODOT the door that would be great.

younggods
Guest
younggods

First good news I’ve read all day!

dan
Guest
dan

This is great, but we need enforcement! I live on Lincoln, which is currently posted for 20 mph, and I would guess that a majority of drivers are traveling faster than that.

BB
Guest
BB

Queue the pearlclutchers who are constantly whining about 20 mph being an undue hardship..

rick
Guest
rick

Yes ! So cool ! Next step is more enforcement !

Travis
Guest
Travis

Enforcement.

And Willamette. Willamette with smaller lanes, numerous curves, no buffer, on street parking, lots of wide fast exists, kids crossing for school and parks, UP students getting struck by cars, and a significant chunk without bikes lanes (thanks a handful of neighbors) is still 35 mph compared to Rosa Parks 30 etc. Cause why? Given how important Willamette is to the growing number of commuters and the long-standing weekenders, I don’t understand why more folks are not pressuring on this. Lowering Willamette has been on PBOTs radar for some time now. Maybe in my life time.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

This is great. Now Portland can have 20mph limits both on residential streets and in business districts.

Wish we could get this kind of sense in Minnesota. We have 30mph limits on both residential and business-district streets. And our residential streets are actually slightly narrower than Portland’s.

SE Rider
Guest
SE Rider

Not to be picky Jonathan, but (unless she’s recently moved) Sarah I. technically lives in SE (Mt. Scott-Arleta), not East Portland)

Audrey
Guest
Audrey

This isn’t 100% on topic, but I just needed to vent that I’ve had a spate of encounters with aggressive drivers recently that I haven’t dealt with in the past. I think people are more and more frustrated with the bad traffic, and are taking it out on slower moving bikes.

Yesterday I was almost hit twice in a 10 second span with my two year old on the back of my XtraCycle as I took the lane on Alberta for like 100 yards in order to cross over I-5. This is people purposely driving aggressively, not inattentiveness, and if a woman with a baby on the back of her bike is taking this kind of abuse I shudder to think of what others are faring.

SD
Subscriber

A moment of sanity and a step in the right direction.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

3 step solution. Lower the speed limit on residential streets. Allow cyclists to turn in speeders cars specially,using electronically registered and calibrated go pro type cameras. After two infractions the speeders cars have mandated governors installed that limit them to 20 mph everywhere. That way we do away with the hassle of figuring out who was driving the car. I would guess after their first trip to Roseburg on I5 going 20 they will rethink their careless behavior

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Now the next step…creating legislative permission to lower school zone speeds [were appropriate] to a 15 mph…similar to cities back east…and other places.

Mike Sanders
Guest
Mike Sanders

Agreed. In MT, I think the school zone speed limit is 15mph.

9watts
Guest
9watts

It is perhaps worth remembering right about now that it was Ivan Illich who first identified 15 mph as a crucial speed threshold –

“From our limited information it appears that everywhere in the world, after some vehicle broke the speed barrier of 15 mph, time scarcity related to traffic began to grow. After industry had reached this threshold of per capita output, transport made of man a new kind of waif: a being constantly absent from a destination he cannot reach on his own but must attain within the day. By now, people work a substantial part of every day to earn the money without which they could not even get to work. The time a society spends on transportation grows in proportion to the speed of its fastest public conveyance. Japan now leads the United States in both areas. Life-time gets cluttered up with activities generated by traffic as soon as vehicles crash through the barrier that guards people from dislocation and space from distortion.”
https://worldstreets.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/energy-and-equity-ivan-illich/

Adam
Subscriber

Great news. However, it’s disappointing that this bill does not include collector streets, since those are the most dangerous to walk on and cross. Additionally, nothing will change once the speed limit is dropped because PBOT won’t re-engineer all the streets to encourage slower speeds. This is a good start though.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

We on the westside of Vancouver are seeing the steep increase in regional “rat-running” on local arterials guided by dynamic social traffic apps, as Portland commuter traffic hops off of I-5 onto Columbia St (Main St, etc.) to slingshot around stalled traffic before hoping back on I-5 at 5th Street ramp. Time to retime the traffic signals to break up these platoons of traffic vs. the “green wave” for peak traffic. Then apps like Waze will recalibrate the routes back onto the interstate/ state routes…etc.

…Similar to what CoP “Active Transportation & Safety Division Manager Margi Bradway told legislators that with an increasing volume of cut-through traffic (thanks in large part to traffic apps like Waze and Google Maps)”

Matt Meskill
Subscriber
Matt Meskill

I hear 31 is the new 20.

Lester Burnham
Guest
Lester Burnham

Worthless without enforcement.

TonyT
Subscriber
TonyT

And with enforcement being the current cruel joke that it is in this town, this will mean next to nothing. My broken record is that my neighbors and I have called for years for enforcement on our 20mph Greenway and have gotten nothing. We have morning commuters doing 40mph down our street, 2 blocks from a school and just forget it. Nothing. 823-SAFE is the beg-button of help lines. It makes people feel better for having called, but that’s it.

A 20 mph Greenway with traffic going much faster than that, and drivers bypassing the diverter with regularity. And all we got was a single 1/2 hour enforcement (6?) years ago when they first installed the diverter. Since then, despite dozens of calls? Nothing.

It’s a joke.

Matthew in Portsmouth
Guest
Matthew in Portsmouth

The next step in traffic control has to be to cut down the ability of through drivers to cut through residential areas. In the city I grew up in (Canberra), the streets were laid out from the 1950’s with the expectation that cars would dominate, and that through traffic needed to be kept out of residential streets. Obviously we’re not going to be replatting Portland’s streets, but what we can do is break up the grid so that it is not possible for motor vehicles to pass, but it is possible for pedestrians and cyclists. For example, when N Williams crosses N Killingsworth, there are planters preventing motor vehicles proceeding north, but cyclists and pedestrians can carry on. More of this kind of action is needed. In my neighborhood, some streets, like N Portsmouth Ave, N Houghton are wider and clearly meant to be main thoroughfares, others, like N Van Houten are narrow and meant to be residential – yet Siri and Google Maps will direct through traffic down N Van Houten to get to N Columbia Blvd.

I think the grid pattern is the worst possible design for residential neighborhoods – it is an open invitation to heavy traffic on every street.

Chris B
Guest
Chris B

Let’s pause for a moment to say “Thanks Margi!”

Scott Kocher
Guest

Jonathan do you know how PBOT intends to roll this out?