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Today at City Council: 20 is Plenty

Posted by on January 17th, 2018 at 8:22 am

PBOT says the new signs — and new law — will be ready by April 1st. No foolin’.

Today the Portland will make official one of the key pillars in the war on speeding: A blanket 20 mph speed limit on 70 percent of our entire street network.

The move comes as Portland grapples with its deadliest year for people walking and biking in over two decades and the highest overall death toll since 2003. That grave reality is reflected in the ordinance language that will go before Council this morning: “An emergency exists because people are dying in traffic crashes; therefore, this Ordinance shall be in full force and effect from and after its passage by the Council.”

This major step forward was made possible by a legislative lobbying push from the Portland Bureau of Transportation to pass House Bill 2682, which authorized the City of Portland to, “Designate speed that is five miles per hour lower than statutory speed when highway is located in residence district and highway is not arterial highway.” After going through a major revision that allowed it to apply only to Portland (it was initially statewide), the bill sailed through the Oregon House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor Kate Brown in June.

PBOT has over 2,000 “20 MPH” signs ready to install and they expect all of them up by April 1st. Practically-speaking, the ordinance gives PBOT the authority to create 20 mph speed limits on any road that isn’t classified as an arterial and that isn’t in a business district. This means it applies not only to small, residential streets, but also to larger “collector” streets. PBOT already has the authority to reduce speeds in business districts and has about a 95 percent success rate when they request permission from the Oregon Department of Transportation to do so. PBOT’s website lists 30 streets where they successfully reduced speed limits in 2017.

Given that lower speeds are a key part of Portland’s Vision Zero Action Plan, which was passed unanimously by Mayor Ted Wheeler and City Council, we don’t expect much debate today. What we do expect is more of a celebration of a traffic safety milestone and the introduction of PBOT’s “20 is Plenty” marketing campaign.

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Oregon State Senator Ginny Burdick unveils a 20 mph speed limit sign in this slide from a PBOT presentation.

While “More enforcement!” is what many people are eager for, PBOT is betting heavily that the softer tact of marketing and education will hasten behavior change. And that’s not simply their decision. The agency’s own Vision Zero Task Force intentionally endorsed a plan that prohibits PBOT from upping enforcement due to concerns about how police might unfairly target people of color.

In notes from the Task Force’s December meeting, PBOT offered hints about what we can expect for the upcoming “education campaign.”

PBOT hired a public relations firm to help develop the campaign. After using focus groups to solicit feedback, the firm decided on a campaign that, “Involves having a Portland celebrity sharing the stories of lives lost on Portland streets due to speeding, and highlighting that everybody is somebody.” After hearing the outlines of the campaign, Vision Zero Task Force members offered feedback. Several of them wanted the campaign to not just focus on victims. They want it to highlight the consequences for the people who are deemed at-fault in a collision. “For example, a family member who is now in prison as a result of driving impaired and hurting someone,” said one task force member. “Get people to imagine killing someone, how that would feel,” and “If you speed, you could change someone’s life,” offered others.

To make sure City Council hears loud and clear that Portlanders want people drive more slowly, The Street Trust launched a petition campaign last week. So far well over 600 people have signed on.

The ordinance is set to be heard at 9:45 this morning (1/17). If you can’t make it to City Hall, you can watch the livestream here.

Learn more about PBOT’s residential speed limit reduction efforts on their website.

UPDATE, 11:30 am: As expected the ordinance has passed unanimously 5-0.

— 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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John Liu
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John Liu

20 mph on small side streets is amply justified.

SilkySlim
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SilkySlim

Looking forward to seeing that education campaign roll out, as I think the culture change could (a “carrot”) should be more effective than enforcement (a “stick”).

But the real question… what Portland celebrity?? C’mon Clyde Drexler!

9watts
Guest
9watts

Clearly a move in the right direction. The attitude to match the new speed limit will take time to develop. I’m sure we could learn from European municipalities which have led the way with their 20-is-plenty efforts.
Thanks for the update on this.

Mike Quigley
Guest
Mike Quigley

So, PBOT is relying on a PR campaign rather than enforcement? Good luck!

Bets are on: not much changes.

Stephen Keller
Guest
Stephen Keller

Where do high-traffic residential streets like Willamette fit into the picture? These clearly need calming, but are probably also classified as arterial streets and thus not applicable to this ordinance. And why are business districts immune? Seems to me that dense business districts are even more likely to have vulnerable road users (i.e. people crossing the street) than residential neighborhoods. Sigh… I guess we take baby steps and be thankful for what progress we do see.

Tom
Guest
Tom

What is the reason for the business district exclusion? Does fast traffic past a business increase business. I would think faster traffic would lower business in general.

Evan Manvel
Guest
Evan Manvel

Business districts can already be signed 20 mph. ORS 311.111 (https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/811.111)

TonyT
Subscriber
TonyT

“The agency’s own Vision Zero Task Force intentionally endorsed a plan that prohibits PBOT from upping enforcement due to concerns about how police might unfairly target people of color.”

And I’ll ask again: Please point to me any other enforcement that is being curtailed in Portland to avoid racial profiling. Are drug busts being curtailed?

Absolutely racial profiling happens. But shouldn’t we be asking to see what exactly PPB is doing to combat racial prejudice in their ranks? Where are the mandatory workshops? Where is the commitment to a diverse civilian oversight?

If this inaction is happening WHILE PPB is addressing racial profiling, then okay, I can support that for a while. But if this is inaction is happening while it is business as usual in the PPB, then their racial prejudice is simply asking them to do less.

Where’s the timeline where we get to see when enforcement is back on the table?

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

Lets just put mandatory 20 mph governors on all autos legal to operate in the metro area and be done with it. From what I have seen you can’t go faster than 20 on any of the highways during rush hour anyway.

RH
Guest
RH

I just don’t understand the non-enforcement aspect of things. If I could potentially harm someone else, I think people would want that harmful action enforced to help avoid it.
At least give out some warning tickets for the first 30 days and put up some random ‘speed enforced by traffic cam’ signs.

Phil Richman
Subscriber

20 is plenty, 15 is serene.

jeff
Guest
jeff

dang…now I’m going to have to slow down on my bike around town.

Carter Kennedy
Guest
Carter Kennedy

I sure hope some new signs will keep the drunken and irresponsible drivers from hitting people.

Dave
Guest
Dave

Great – now let’s talking about enforcement and consequences. I’m sick of feeling terrorized by people driving so recklessly fast on our streets. Let’s start talking about the number of distracted, uninsured and impaired drivers. Let’s also talk about those driving with expired tags and/or suspended licenses.

I want to see real and concrete consequences for people who egregiously break our traffic laws.

Can anyone tell me, or the readers here, what is being done at the local and state level to keep these people out of cars? I want to see the bar raised for access to driving privileges in our state. Doing so in a meaningful way could potentially help reduce the economic costs associated with crashes and traffic delay, but more importantly, would reduce the amount of human trauma and suffering caused by such careless people.

Matti
Guest
Matti

I think the PR campaign should feature hazardous and illegal use of cell phones while driving!

Jason VH
Guest

The problem with enforcement and the traffic safety classes they allow you to take to drop a ticket is they don’t even make a mention of bicycles.

This is a positive step but we need traffic control devices as well. I’ve yet to see paint stop a car from hitting a pedestrian or cyclist.

wheelwing
Guest
wheelwing

Source of / link to a higher-res version of the sign placement map above?

Stephen Keller
Guest
Stephen Keller

Actually, I think the main calming that bluff-end of Willamette needs is barriers of some sort to prevent drivers from entering that brand new, extra-wide bike/ped path on the bluff side. I see lots of passing on the right to get around left-turning cars. Someone is going to plow into a cyclist or a pedestrian one of these days. Unfortunately, the presence of bus stops on the bluff side complicates the placement of such barriers. Of course, getting over to those bus stops is a dicey operation during peak traffic times.

It’s the other end of Willamette, however, that most needs calming. Motor vehicle speeds between the railway cut and Richmond seem to be much higher than between the cut and Rosa Parks. Maybe it’s due to the absence of bike lanes and sparse curb-side parking that lends the feeling of very wide lanes to that section.

Rob
Guest
Rob

This is great news. Does it include “local access streets” such as NE Knott, NE 7th, NE 15th, NE 21st, etc.? Those streets are residential, but I wonder if they’re legally defined as such. Does anyone know? They’re pretty popular with cyclists, so I hope so.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

I’ve been driving 20 in my neighborhood for a couple of years, and slower when the weather warrants it. You definitely notice people a lot more when you’re moving slower.

SD
Guest
SD

If I am riding at 15 mph on a residential street. How long (time and distance) does it take a driver to pass me safely if they are traveling 20 mph?

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

As a 1st Step — PBoT [+ODoT] please include supplemental signs on interstate off ramps & at the city limits notifying ALL drivers of this change [that all un-signed streets are 20 mph now] as they enter Portland’s street network. Most drivers are still out of touch about this change…and many juries/ judges may waive tickets if such notification is not done well.

Secondarily, as I have studied this issue w/ VZ over the last 20 years, I would suggest that PBoT & the CoP Office of Neighbourhoods allow neighborhood associations to ‘designate’ themselves as “zero tolerance” zones for speeding, and post such notices like other enforcement zones, thus giving PPB cover to enforce this law as a primary offense. I have worried about the overt enforcement [vs. self enforcement thru design] task being the initial weak link in this as many police departments have a unwritten practices of giving 5 to 10 mph “allowance” over a speed before enforcement of speaking as a primary cause is considered.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

PS. Does anyone on the PBAC know how CoP will implement this?
A) the existing 25 mph signs be removed and reused on “faster” streets and new 20 mph signs installed on a 1 for 1 basis?
B) the existing signs stay up and a 3M retro reflective “zero” sticker be placed over the “five” digit?
C) the existing 25 mph signs will be removed and NOT replaced 1 for 1 with 20 mph, but new 20 mph signs only added in fewer strategic areas (speed zone changes or speeding problem areas or ped/ bike black spots)?
D) other?

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

Remember! Enforcing the speed limit will not be at 20 mph but 10mph over. IE 30 mph+.

Dick Pilz
Guest
Dick Pilz

I have yet to see the speed limit enforced on Hawthorne east of 30th Avenue. Many cars going 30-35 during rush hour.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Reducing the standard posted mph speed for neighborhood streets from 25 mph to 20 mph, is I think, a good idea. 20 mph provides for motor vehicle speeds that allow use of motor vehicles to be more compatible with walking and biking on such streets. With the lower speed, there’s less wind and tire noise from vehicles too. Overall, it’s great movement towards improving neighborhood livability.

By itself, this 5 mph reduction in posted speed limit, isn’t a major improvement to safe conditions for walking and biking, but it should help some. Involvement in a collision with a motor vehicle traveling 20 mph can result in serious injury or death to a vulnerable road user, even to people driving. Again though, the lower posted speed limit does wind down some, the potential for collisions and their consequences.

I’m glad this effort towards better neighborhood livability was successful, but I don’t regard the effort as being part of a war on speed, or on any other person or thing. This is, or is what should be, just an example of day to day life, people working together to make their neighborhood a better, safer, happier place to be.

q
Guest
q

Twenty is Venti.

maxD
Guest
maxD

I would like to see the City mandate that all employees and contractors obey all traffic laws at all times. It seems possible to add software to City-owned vehicles that record speed/location for review- anyone know of any options or VZ precedents for this?

Kittens
Subscriber
Kittens

More meaningless public relations talking points.
Brought to you in part by Vision Zero

X
Guest
X

Traffic law enforcement has often been a discretionary activity for police officers who were unassigned, just bored, or: Acting on their biased perception of the person driving the car. Too many times, the alleged traffic violation was the PRETEXT for the stop. When a specific speed enforcement mission is taking place, with the usual signs and hullabaloo, I don’t think bias is so much an issue. Officer approaches car, “I’m stopping you today because you were travelling 5 MPH over the posted speed limit.” That’s the text I’d like to have included in the commercial, with a brand new speed limit sign in the background. If Clyde Drexler wants to play the cop, or the driver, thats all very well but nobody is going to slow down because of his old number. With a suitable PSA campaign, only the unwary habitual violaters will be stopped, and they need to be stopped.

Rod King
Guest

Great to see this initiative in Portland. For some information on our views on best practice implementation of 20mph limits with particular reference to behaviour change and public consensus setting see http://www.20splenty.org/the_20mph_vision

Best wishes from 20’s Plenty for Us

Rick Freed
Guest
Rick Freed

I don’t see Vision Zero working at reducing deaths, because it completely ignores the main problems of aggressive driving and distracted driving which is at the heart of most traffic deaths.

The speed while a big factor it is secondary to the mindset of the driver. I live near Ainsworth and even trying to do 20mph is a challenge. Most folks sit at about 25 comfortably.

But here’s the issue that’s not resolved. I will do 20 but the person in the jacked up 4×4 riding my ass won’t. Not only will they drive more aggressively, they’ll be angrier than they would have been before the change.

I know this because since the change drivers have gotten worse not better. They aggressively tailgate. They pull onto side streets — even with speed bumps — and do 45 mph on bike corridors. They’ve passed me on the right on Ainsworth where cars typically park.

Like the soda tax attempt that spent $800,000 on a ludicrous effort to curb sugar consumption when a 20 pack of box of skittle remained entirely on the table untaxed, this Vision Zero is a product of the policy industry.

A multi billion dollar cash grab by cities, counties and states by policy wonks who have to justify their typically useless jobs in an economy that is itself becoming based entirely on pablum.

If you want to curb traffic deaths in Portland, take the money spent on this BS, purchase a fleet of undercover cop cars, embed them into traffic and aggressively pull over and arrest aggressive drivers with zero mercy or leniency.

Charge them with reckless endangerment, menacing or attempted assault and arrest them on the spot. Tow their vehicles away and do a criminal forfeiture. Don’t plead them. Make them go to trial and when convicted fine the crap out of them and send their asses to jail.

Do this enough times to enough people and you’ll see a decline in deaths. Because this isn’t a speed issue. It’s an attempted assault with a deadly weapon issue and until we enforce it as such Vision Zero is just another useless cynicism call cash grab.