Ruckus Warehouse Sale

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.


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

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  • John Liu January 17, 2018 at 8:28 am

    20 mph on small side streets is amply justified.

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  • SilkySlim January 17, 2018 at 8:43 am

    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!

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    • Dan A January 17, 2018 at 8:43 am

      We don’t have enough sticks anyway.

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    • rick January 17, 2018 at 9:25 am

      But Drexler was # 22 with the Blazers. Who had # 20 with the Blazers ? A.C. Green grew up in Portland and was on many basketball teams so maybe he wore # 20 ?

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      • Huey Lewis January 17, 2018 at 11:05 am

        Maurice Lucas, most notably. But he died a while back. We should lower the speed limit to 17 and have ED DAVIS get on this campaign.

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      • shirtsoff January 18, 2018 at 8:17 am

        20 is Clydy. Err.. the slogan is still a work in progress. 😉

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    • Stephan January 18, 2018 at 9:43 am

      I think part of the educational campaign could be to emphasize that speed limit does not mean recommended or even expected speed. I had multiple conversations with people where I staid below speed limit and they point out that I should drive faster. If people stopped driving regularly at or above the speed limit, no matter what street, that would be a cultural change that would be tremendous!

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  • 9watts January 17, 2018 at 8:46 am

    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.

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    • NC January 17, 2018 at 2:25 pm


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  • Mike Quigley January 17, 2018 at 8:52 am

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

    Bets are on: not much changes.

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    • 9watts January 17, 2018 at 8:55 am

      Rome was not built in a day.

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      • Middle of the Road Guy January 17, 2018 at 12:37 pm

        That is true, but it doesn’t hurt to have parallel processes in place to get to the desired end point faster. I think enforcement and education should be done at the same time. We frequently don’t change our behaviors until it becomes painful enough to force it.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 17, 2018 at 8:56 am

      Hi Mike,

      In my opinion, culture is much more powerful than enforcement. It takes a lot of effort to bend the cultural arc, but we must do it and I think this is a good step in the right direction.

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      • Mick O January 17, 2018 at 9:57 am

        The thing is, why do people think a PR campaign is any more equitable than enforcement? Reaching diverse populations effectively via mass media can be pretty tricky, and certainly costly to do right.

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        • 9watts January 17, 2018 at 10:04 am

          I don’t know if anyone is actually viewing this as an either/or; either signs, or PR or enforcement. My hunch is that over time we’ll see plenty of all of these.

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      • TonyT
        TonyT January 17, 2018 at 10:45 am

        Enforcement is PART of culture. Would our culture have shifted on drunk driving if it was just signs and marketing campaign? Maybe a little. But it was a massive step-up in enforcement and sentencing that really moved the needle.

        I reject the implication that this is an either/or proposition. Enforcement and culture need to work hand in glove.

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        • 9watts January 17, 2018 at 10:53 am

          I didn’t read the article as saying PBOT was abandoning enforcement; rather they were not going to expand enforcement. While more is obviously tempting, the recognition that our police can’t be relied upon to be racially unbiased is not something I’m willing to dismiss.

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          • TonyT
            TonyT January 17, 2018 at 11:16 am

            I didn’t say they were abandoning it. And if I said anything hinting at that in any other post, I should have been more clear.

            Enforcement in Portland is nearly non-existent. My neighborhood, on Greenway that is a block from a school, has requested it for years and gotten squat. If we were in Ladd’s Addition and were upset about people rolling stop signs on bikes, oh boy, we’d get results? Freezing enforcement levels makes our current dearth of enforcement permanent. Not to mention that people of color are more often the victims of scofflaw driving.

            I certainly acknowledge that PPB is plagued with racism. I do not believe that writing off more enforcement will hasten progress in this area. We need to root out and deal with racism in the PPB, not render it less visible while giving drivers of all races a virtual pass on their sociopathic driving.

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          • paikiala January 17, 2018 at 12:45 pm

            And, PBOT doesn’t do enforcement…

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            • TonyT
              TonyT January 17, 2018 at 1:37 pm

              Yes, they don’t do the ticketing, but obviously they have a good deal of the control here.

              “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.”

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            • Gary January 17, 2018 at 3:02 pm

              They should. Obviously it’d be a significant departure from their current responsibility (and require law changes), but I’ve been thinking about just this lately. Civil traffic enforcement could be handled just like parking tickets. No authority to arrest (and no gun) should alleviate many inequity/racial issues, far reduced expenses by not relying on sworn officers.

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              • Stephan January 18, 2018 at 9:36 am

                Ultimately, the proof of the pudding will be whether speed on these streets (and others, if there is a cultural shift) goes down, and whether traffic deaths decline. If so, great, this policy works. If not, then PBOT / the city needs to rethink their strategy.

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              • Dan A January 18, 2018 at 10:51 am

                # of traffic deaths is just one metric for quality neighborhood streets. On the vast majority of streets, that number is “zero”, but we can still do much more to make neighborhood streets places where people outside of cars will feel welcome.

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 18, 2018 at 1:17 pm

          I agree with you TonyT.

          Absolutely. We need culture AND enforcement. And that’s what we have. Can enforcement be more robust and more effective? Yes! Should we be absolutely mindful about how it unfairly impacts people of color and people who live in lower-income n’hoods? Yes!

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      • Middle of the Road Guy January 17, 2018 at 12:39 pm

        But Jonathan, the existing culture already is to drive faster than the speed limit. How will the culture change if the speed limit is lowered?

        Without enforcement, there is little incentive to change.

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        • 9watts January 17, 2018 at 12:40 pm

          I am not sure anyone is suggesting “an absence of enforcement.”

          The question here is how to up the enforcement in an unbiased fashion. I don’t think anyone’s come up with a good answer yet.

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          • Middle of the Road Guy January 17, 2018 at 4:59 pm

            Agreed. I would suggest be “anyone above 20mph” as a benchmark.

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      • TonyT
        TonyT January 18, 2018 at 11:24 am

        I gotta say that I’m kind of blown away by how easily you’ve accepted PBOT’s “no additional enforcement” position. 2017 was the deadliest year for pedestrians since when, 1996 or something? To simply wave away additional enforcement and point to culture as the preferred solution, glosses over something that really needs to be emphasized: Portland’s enforcement is TERRIBLE. And enforcement is part of what establishes the culture you claim is so powerful. I’ve never lived in a city where I’ve observed so little enforcement.

        So many people have moved here from other states/car cultures, and the message our dearth of enforcement sends is that whatever car culture people came from, it’s totally fine here as well. Cops need to be sending a clear message of, “Welcome to Portland, now get off your phone and slow the hell down.” The PR campaigns speak to, and are heard by the drivers who already drive with care. The selfish drivers won’t change their behavior unless they fear getting hit in the wallet.

        As I said in another comment, this position is a do nothing solution to the fact of racial disparities in enforcement. Essentially we’re accepting the following, “Our government will not pursue an increase in enforcement, in the face of death and destruction because that’s easier than dealing with the fact that a branch of our government sucks at justice.”

        If you’re going to accept this freeze on additional enforcement, I really think you ought to investigate what PPB is doing to actively reduce racial disparities in their enforcement. What other law enforcement endeavors are being frozen in place or is just traffic enforcement? What are their quantifiable goals as far as equity in enforcement? When is enforcement back on the table? If there are no satisfactory answers to these questions, then there needs to be pushback on PBOT because they are essentially locking enforcement at current levels with no end date in sight, in the face of historic levels of carnage on our street.

        Please push back.

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      • caesar January 18, 2018 at 12:30 pm

        Artsy print media ads and emotional TV PSAs will do exactly nothing to change the behavior of speeders. Surprised at the naïveté of those who think this approach actually works, especially without an increased enforcement initiative.

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        • 9watts January 18, 2018 at 12:34 pm

          Easy to sit on the sidelines and jeer.

          If you concede that our police haven’t figured out how to live down their reputation for profiling poor people or black and brown people then perhaps you can appreciate the challenge of proceeding on these two fronts? Shouting for more X when X is recognized to have historically caused unevenly distributed harm along a different axis is not helpful here.

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          • caesar January 18, 2018 at 3:43 pm

            Then the goal should be to find way(s) to end PPBs unfair/unjust enforcement practices, not to simply discount enforcement as a viable and perhaps the most effective tool in changing dangerous driver behavior. They are not mutually exclusive.

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            • 9watts January 18, 2018 at 7:30 pm

              Of course. I can’t imagine anyone would disagree with that.
              But the challenge is that constituencies (rightfully) want both – NOW. So how do you solve both simultaneously?

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              • TonyT
                TonyT January 19, 2018 at 8:52 am

                I would be satisfied with a specific timeline that includes all actions that PPB is taking to deal with racism within their ranks.

                Something along the lines of: “We are freezing enforcement while we do X, Y, Z which will take such and such amount of time. After this hiatus, we will pursue increased enforcement with renewed energy and a focus on random enforcements aimed at dangerous driving on neighborhood streets.”

                Short of that, we are just taking the heat off of PPB by not actually aggressively dealing with their racism. And while the new chief, who is female and black, might be a start, institutional racism is quite content to use foot soldiers of any race. Just look at the officers implicated in the death of Freddie Grey. Three of six are black.

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              • 9watts January 19, 2018 at 8:59 am

                Bingo. Communication. Something I’ve oft lamented about PBOT here as well.
                Even though all of these city Bureaus have folks whose job it is to communicate with us, the public, the people in those positions are either not empowered to actually communicate useful things like you suggest, ways for us to hold them accountable, or they are asleep at the wheel.

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        • q January 18, 2018 at 12:49 pm

          Is that really true? I know a lot of people who don’t litter, but never met anyone who was fined or even caught and warned about littering. Same with seatbelt use, smoking (not even illegal) and many other things.

          And information campaigns are part of enforcement, especially with something new. Even with 2,000 new signs, you’ll be able to drive blocks without seeing one. With a poor information campaign, people can claim they didn’t know the speed limit had been reduced, and that may actually be true. People who know a cop won’t believe they didn’t know the law know if they’re caught, they won’t be able to talk themselves out of a ticket, so are (I’d guess) less likely to risk breaking it.

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    • J_R January 17, 2018 at 9:04 am

      Just this morning, I had a motorist use the center left-turn lane to blow past me as a drove 20 in a commercial zone. I’m sure that if he’d seen a PR spot on the TV this morning it would have caused him to obey the law. hahaha. You’re right, flashing red lights, a field sobriety test, and a $500 fine wouldn’t have that effect. The power of television.

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      • 9watts January 17, 2018 at 9:08 am

        I was waiting for you to post something sarcastic about this story.

        Like everything worth thinking about this issue has dynamic aspects: People didn’t start wearing seatbelts or start driving 55 overnight. No Smoking has been a campaign for generations. But the time it takes for these strictures to take hold should in no way suggest that we should throw up our hands, or that punitive approaches are the only promising way to proceed.

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        • Middle of the Road Guy January 17, 2018 at 12:42 pm

          I am old enough to recall many people getting pulled over for not wearing seatbelts, when seatbelt laws were first enacted. The fear of the fine changed their behaviors.

          There needs to get a momentum to get a cultural shift started…and sometimes that momentum is provided through punitive measures.

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          • 9watts January 17, 2018 at 1:03 pm

            Right, but we’re up against two urgent cultural shifts –
            (1) the need to stop treating cars as forces of nature, and
            (2) the need for law enforcement to stop treating poor people and those whose skin is not white as expendable.

            The trick is how to expeditiously pursue both simultaneously. If you have suggestions I’m sure we’d all be eager to hear them.

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            • El Biciclero January 17, 2018 at 2:50 pm

              Wouldn’t a data-driven approach be at least marginally more effective at enforcement and also be largely unbiased? What if enforcement actions were triggered any time there was a “qualifying incident”? What might “qualify” a traffic incident could be context-sensitive based on type of roadway: n complaints by neighbors or road users (assuming the preponderance of complaints were about the same “qualified” observed infraction, e.g., maybe “jaywalking” would not be a qualifying infraction, but speeding would) might trigger an enforcement action on a 20-mph residential street, n fender-benders or a single VRU-involved incident might trigger an enforcement action on an arterial roadway, etc. I don’t know what kind of matrix might be constructed, but couldn’t such an approach be designed to target dangerous behaviors for enforcement while avoiding racially biased selection of enforcement locations?

              For known “high-crash” areas, couldn’t speed/red light cameras be installed based on number of crashes, regardless of neighborhood demographics? I suppose statistics can always be manipulated to justify placement of cameras in areas that might be more colorful, so to speak, but could we not institute some sort of neighborhood review board to look over the rationale for increased enforcement and make sure everything is as fair as possible?

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          • Tom Hardy January 17, 2018 at 3:32 pm

            I am old enough to be a very early user of seatbelts and harnesses (1965). It was still PooPooed in 1970 when I warned again my wife to put hers on. 30 seconds later her head busted the windshield. She had put it on but unbuckled it just before a guy went through a red light on Powell in front of us. Her quote! “It was wrinkling my dress!”
            She has worn one ever since.

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    • soren January 18, 2018 at 8:58 am

      Please provide evidence that active enforcement is an effective tool.

      In particular, I would to see your evidence that on a cost-adjusted basis active enforcement is a less expensive remedy for traffic-related injuries/deaths than infrastructure improvement and passive enforcement (largely proscribed in the state of oregon).

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      • caesar January 18, 2018 at 12:36 pm

        Some things are just intuitively obvious. And..are you in favor of the cheaper solution or the more effective one? Lives are a stake here…

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        • 9watts January 18, 2018 at 12:38 pm

          “Lives are a stake here…”

          Perhaps you have heard?
          Lives are at stake with enforcement done in a racist manner;
          lives are also at stake with too little enforcement.

          This is what in this country is often called a Catch 22 I think.

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          • caesar January 18, 2018 at 3:47 pm

            Like I said earlier: fix the enforcement problems but don’t eliminate enforcement as a very effective option. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

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        • 9watts January 18, 2018 at 12:45 pm
  • Stephen Keller January 17, 2018 at 9:01 am

    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.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 17, 2018 at 9:11 am

      Hi Stephen,

      I believe Willamette is a collector, not an arterial. However, it won’t be a part of this 20 mph program because it’s currently 30 mph and the law states that PBOT can only reduce speeds by 5 mph. Also FWIW the speed limit on Willamette was 35 mph, but was just lowered to 30 mph by PBOT last year.

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      • 9watts January 17, 2018 at 9:13 am

        I wonder how much time must elapse between the first 5mph decrease, and a second or third? Is that possible to get to 20 in several steps (and of course more signs and the associated costs)?

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        • John Lascurettes January 17, 2018 at 10:39 am

          That was my immediate question after reading Jonathan’s account of only being able to lower it by 5mph.

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          • paikiala January 17, 2018 at 12:47 pm

            I would caution everyone to read the law, carefully.
            The law permits 5 mph below residential statutory (25 mph). Streets with speed orders by ODOT are not included.

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      • rick January 17, 2018 at 9:21 am

        Has any Portland area road or street been lowered by more than 5 mph? NW Cornell is 45 by many new homes under construction in Washington County.

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        • Dan A January 17, 2018 at 10:10 am

          WashCo views 45mph speed limits as the standard for roads.

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          • El Biciclero January 17, 2018 at 12:38 pm

            50 is nifty!

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            • Dan A January 17, 2018 at 2:01 pm

              We’re happy if people can stay under 20 while driving around in our massive parking lots.

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      • Kyle Banerjee January 17, 2018 at 10:03 am

        Willamette would benefit from calming — most likely without any negative impact on throughput given that what it connects already moves slowly and nothing is going to change that. That strikes me a good 25mph street, but frankly I would consider it progress if vehicles went closer to the 30mph limit during nonbusy times.

        Imposing 20mph on a wide street wide with a buffered bike path, good sight lines, and fewer than typical hazards is unreasonable and unenforceable on a practical level despite what people here want to imagine — I doubt even cyclists will comply. If through enormous expenditure of energy you could somehow pressure the city to enforce a few limited areas, you’ll see a lot more people speeding through neighborhoods.

        20 is more than plenty on many streets that have higher limits, but that’s very different than saying they should lower it every place they have the authority.

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        • 9watts January 17, 2018 at 10:07 am

          “I doubt even cyclists will comply.”

          your parameters are showing

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        • Chris I January 17, 2018 at 10:18 am

          Given that about 99% of cyclists in town typically ride at less than 20mph at any given moment, I think that compliance will be pretty good.

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          • Kyle Banerjee January 17, 2018 at 10:28 am

            If we’re talking casual summer riders, maybe. A considerably higher percentage of the winter riders I encounter maintain a decent pace — possibly because it’s impractical to cycle more than a few miles at low speed.

            In any case, if you want actual progress, you need solutions that can achieve buy in.

            When you are in a position of weakness (I hope we can all agree that society is heavily biased in favor of the motoring public), expecting to impose your will is not a realistic game plan. In a best case scenario, you’ll win a few symbolic skirmishes at enormous expense of energy and lose everything else.

            The vast majority of people will find it totally unreasonable. Attempts to legislate away that reality will either result in failure outright or in side effects that are worse than the problems they attempt to solve.

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            • 9watts January 17, 2018 at 11:32 am

              “expecting to impose your will”

              “Attempts to legislate away that reality”

              Where do you get this stuff?
              Why do you find it meaningful to individualize this?
              Did you read El Biciclero’s bear and rain metaphors in response to prior comments of yours about this which treat automobility as a force of nature that cannot be managed?

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            • Middle of the Road Guy January 17, 2018 at 12:45 pm

              Kyle, you are stating something practical in a room full of idealists.

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              • 9watts January 17, 2018 at 1:00 pm

                I think the word is defeatist.

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            • soren January 17, 2018 at 1:24 pm

              ***comment deleted by moderator***

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            • Chris I January 17, 2018 at 2:04 pm

              I think there is a lot of support for 20mph streets. No one wants their kid mowed down and killed in front of their home (I know I certainly don’t). We do the best we can to educate them about traffic safety, but we need a bigger safety net than merely educating people to fear traffic. Mistakes happen. Kids chase balls into streets. Dogs bolt after cats. No one should be killed on a neighborhood street. Ever. That requires large, deadly objects to follow speed maximums. The research is very clear that 20mph is a good threshold to stay under.

              Slow down and chill out, please.

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  • Tom January 17, 2018 at 9:27 am

    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.

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  • Evan Manvel January 17, 2018 at 9:45 am

    Business districts can already be signed 20 mph. ORS 311.111 (

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    • Dave January 17, 2018 at 11:12 am

      Interesting and good to know.

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    • El Biciclero January 17, 2018 at 12:01 pm

      I didn’t think they had to be signed; I was under the impression that 20mph was the statutory speed limit in any business district, just like 25mph is the statutory speed limit in any residential district. Doesn’t this 20mph rule just allow jurisdictions to go above and beyond (below and within?) the existing 25mph statutory limits if deemed appropriate?

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    • Todd Boulanger January 17, 2018 at 2:12 pm

      I would additionally suggest that The Streets Trust & ORWalks etc. work to update the state code to allow lower school speed limits to 15 MPH (where appropriate) vs. the current 20 mph minimum. [Many other states have this lower 15 mph limit and it makes more sense in OR now that the local streets can be 20 mph.]

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  • TonyT
    TonyT January 17, 2018 at 10:41 am

    “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?

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    • 9watts January 17, 2018 at 11:16 am


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  • bikeninja January 17, 2018 at 10:57 am

    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.

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    • Dan A January 17, 2018 at 2:05 pm

      Strange how there’s a lot of people driving at rush hour who don’t have to.

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    • shirtsoff January 17, 2018 at 8:07 pm

      Yes. If current cars can “correct” drifting for lane changes without the turn signal activated and “auto-brake” to reduce detected collisions, then absolutely-yes, these smart cars with GPS should be able to be limited to the posted speed. This is the smart city PBOT needs and that Portland deserves.

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  • RH January 17, 2018 at 11:15 am

    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.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 17, 2018 at 11:17 am


      It’s not like the Police Bureau doesn’t do any enforcement. They have ongoing directives to do regular “Vision Zero” enforcement actions in addition to their regular enforcement duties. They most certainly will be enforcing these new speed limits. What the Vision Zero plan did was to make sure that enforcement wasn’t considered something that should be dramatically increased along with the VZ efforts.

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      • B. Carfree January 17, 2018 at 10:04 pm

        Sadly, it is indeed very much like PPB doesn’t do any enforcement. If you had ever lived in a place where traffic laws are enforced, it would be obvious to you that PPB is completely ignoring this most-deadly of unlawful behaviors.

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        • David Hampsten January 17, 2018 at 10:39 pm

          I have to ask, but what large (over 500,000) US city have you been in that the local police actually enforces suburban speed limits? They don’t do it here in NC at all, and what I’ve seen in other regions is enforcement only in and around downtowns, or else in much smaller university towns.

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          • Dawn January 19, 2018 at 12:52 pm

            There is regular enforcement of speed limits in the suburbs of Boston (or there was when I lived there 7+ years ago).

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  • Phil Richman January 17, 2018 at 11:28 am

    20 is plenty, 15 is serene.

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    • Kyle Banerjee January 17, 2018 at 1:07 pm

      Drive 5, stay alive…

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    • NC January 19, 2018 at 3:38 pm

      1 and you’re done.

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  • jeff January 17, 2018 at 11:36 am

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

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  • Carter Kennedy January 17, 2018 at 11:57 am

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

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    • Middle of the Road Guy January 17, 2018 at 12:46 pm

      It is amazing how people will ignore existing laws.

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    • jeff January 17, 2018 at 2:05 pm

      if anyone thinks they’re safer due to a couple of signs, they’re delusional.

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      • 9watts January 17, 2018 at 2:08 pm

        what if you thought of this as a process, a matter of habituation, something that we can achieve over time?

        The surgeon’s general’s warning on cigarette packs in and of itself also hasn’t stopped kids from taking up smoking, but perhaps we can appreciate that it was part of the solution.

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        • B. Carfree January 17, 2018 at 10:12 pm

          I do see it as a process and a matter of habituation. We’re going to see the continuing process of motorists being habituated to ignoring 20 mph signs instead of speed limit signs with a slightly larger number on them. People will drive the same deadly speed they were already driving and without a little citation reminder that they were supposed to pay attention to those black and white signs, there will be no change in behavior.

          I honestly don’t know what to make of the claim that there will be some sort of behavioral change without enforcement. To make matters worse, there’s no mechanism to provide carrots either. Hmm, no carrot, no stick and we’re expecting the most selfish citizens to magically alter their behavior in a way that they claim harms them to benefit others. I’m not buying it. I suspect 2018 will have as many roadway deaths in PDX as 2017, though I hope to be wrong.

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          • David Hampsten January 17, 2018 at 10:42 pm

            Here in Greensboro we have lots of 20 mph signs, even with bright reflective orange halos, but no enforcement. People still drive as fast as they possibly can.

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        • Brian January 18, 2018 at 5:14 am

          Exactly. I have had the pleasure of the occasional commute from the Hawthorne Bridge to Cesar Chavez over the last many years, and the overall speeds seemed to have gone down quite a bit overall. I’m optimistic this will have a positive effect across the city, as well. All it takes is a driver or two at a time to slow a considerable amount of others, and then it eventually becomes the norm. I don’t recall much enforcement over the years, but agree that some form of it would help.

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  • Dave January 17, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    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.

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    • El Biciclero January 17, 2018 at 12:27 pm

      Requiring driver’s education classes prior to applying for a license would be a good start. Then more rigorous testing. Then tougher standards for keeping a license, i.e., more ways to lose it. Then confiscation and crushing or auctioning of vehicles if caught driving while suspended.

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    • Middle of the Road Guy January 17, 2018 at 12:47 pm


      Laws mean nothing if they are not applied – and applied equally.

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    • JeffS January 17, 2018 at 2:18 pm

      I’m with you to an extent. I have always been in favor of testing for competence. Specifically, raising the level of in-car testing to the point that many existing drivers would not pass it without additional training.

      You cannot, however, test for carelessness.

      Personally, I worry about the side-effects of treating speed limits as a panacea. Controlling a car at 20mph takes such a trivial amount of brain power that it is likely to induce more carelessness. As an example, look at the behavior that is caused by one driver traveling well under the speed limit. What that driver likely views as safety induces impatience and often reckless behavior by a significant portion of the drivers who encounter them.

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    • bikeninja January 17, 2018 at 3:35 pm

      It seems like we only have 4 choices:1) rigorously enforce the traffic laws with sworn officers and traffic stops, 2) change the laws to allow fair enforcement with cameras, drones etc, ( automation),3) change the road infrastructure to drastically to physically not allow speeding, or 4) do nothing and creep towards a mad max/ grand theft auto type environment where carnage is the order of the day and eventually citizens take things in to their own hands and dispense street justice to errant motorists. Throwing up our hands and not choosing because of some technicality is the same as choosing #4.

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      • Brian January 18, 2018 at 5:17 am

        Is #2 possible? Do other cities allow for speeding tickets similar to parking tickets, or is form of “due process” necessary? I would love to see that change happen, and happen quickly.

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  • Matti January 17, 2018 at 12:21 pm

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

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  • Jason VH January 17, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    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.

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    • paikiala January 17, 2018 at 12:49 pm

      You’ve taken the class?

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      • 9watts January 17, 2018 at 12:56 pm

        I have.
        Not sure about Jason VH; doesn’t sound like it.

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        • jeff January 17, 2018 at 2:06 pm

          did it change your behavior?

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          • 9watts January 17, 2018 at 2:08 pm

            Not sure what behavior you have in mind. I learned a lot.

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      • El Biciclero January 17, 2018 at 3:10 pm

        I’ve taken it (the online version). I was caught in a targeted enforcement for changing lanes too quickly after a protected left turn (the officer’s perception was that I had turned into the wrong lane). It didn’t save me any cash—the cost of the class was about the same as for the citation—but it kept it off my record. My recollection is that the class seemed very heavily aimed at helping me avoid road rage, rather than teaching me about the dusty corners of the law or how to drive more safely around peds or bicyclists.

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      • turnips January 17, 2018 at 4:50 pm

        I’ve taken a class to expunge a ticket, but maybe not the same one. it was Trauma Nurses Talk Tough! I got a seatbelt ticket in West Linn (I was moving a truck about 20 ft. thanks, West Linn!). I did learn that driving with a full bladder is not a good idea, but the class was not exceptionally edifying otherwise.

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        • B. Carfree January 17, 2018 at 10:25 pm

          A friend of mine got into his truck intending to move it about 80 feet. He rolled into a pothole and got bounced out of his seat (real truck, with semi-trailer attached). As he pulled himself up to look out the wind shield he saw that he was about to go off into the the Sacramento River (he was moving a load at the Sacramento Port). He quickly pulled the parking brake which caused him to smacked his head on the dash, opening a nice wound that ruined his night.

          All of that happened because he thought there was no need to put on a seatbelt when he was only moving a truck a wee ways at a walking speed. He was wrong, in an almost deadly way. No one needed to give him a ticket to prove that to him, but clearly you needed yours (and maybe another one).

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          • turnips January 18, 2018 at 9:19 am

            going to be difficult to give me another seatbelt ticket: I don’t drive anymore. seems like the better option.

            but when I did drive, putting a seatbelt on was reflexive. that may have been the only 20 feet I ever drove without a seatbelt. also, there were no cliffs nearby or tractor trailers involved in my case. I was a source of revenue, not a safety concern.

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    • Middle of the Road Guy January 17, 2018 at 5:04 pm

      I had to take that class once…because I made an incorrect lane usage as a cyclist, if you can believe it. I was in the center lane (on Hawthorne) and went more than one block before turning.

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      • 9watts January 17, 2018 at 5:08 pm

        Similar for me.
        Cop believed the guy driving an SUV, who ran a red light which the cop did see, who said I passed him on the right. We both got the same $260 ticket. I showed up in court and the cop did too. He offered me the option of the $30 class which I took.

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        • Middle of the Road Guy January 18, 2018 at 1:14 pm

          See – we have a lot in common!

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      • q January 18, 2018 at 1:16 pm

        Hence your name?

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  • wheelwing January 17, 2018 at 12:35 pm

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

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  • Stephen Keller January 17, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    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.

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  • Rob January 17, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    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.

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  • Dan A January 17, 2018 at 2:08 pm

    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.

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  • SD January 17, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    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?

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    • Al Dimond January 17, 2018 at 2:57 pm

      Let’s say your bike is 6′ (72″) long and a typical car is 16′ (192″) long. The driver’s overtaking speed is 20MPH – 15MPH = 5MPH, so it’s the time to travel 22′ at 5MPH.

      (22 ft) / (5280 ft/mi) / (5 mi/hr) * (3600 s/hr) = 3s.

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      • SD January 17, 2018 at 4:46 pm


        I would add about 10 feet of space before and after my bike for a safe pass. …Meaning that the car should be partially in the oncoming lane for that period of 5-6 seconds. This would be 150-180 ft to pass safely, which is close to the length of a typical Portland city block (200ft per google.)

        Based on this, it seems like it would be better not to pass a cyclist on a residential road unless there are unusually clear site lines.

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      • NC January 17, 2018 at 4:47 pm

        I wouldn’t call that a safe overtake.
        How about a 2 car length difference in front and behind to pull out and pull back in:
        22ft + 32ft + 32ft = 86ft about 12 secs according to your calculations. In that time the car has travelled over 340ft. Overtaking at 25 mph cuts the distance down to 220 ft, and 30 mph down to 175 ft.

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  • Todd Boulanger January 17, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    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.

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    • paikiala January 18, 2018 at 11:15 am

      Todd, you did not read the text of the law.
      Unsigned residential streets are not 20 mph, they are 25 mph.

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      • Todd Boulanger January 18, 2018 at 2:49 pm

        Paikiala, its been a while since I looked at the ORS…and thus I may be commingling WA state law per the topic. Point taken.

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        • Todd Boulanger January 19, 2018 at 12:03 pm

          UPDATE – perhaps PBoT should add informational signs at all highway off ramps that remind drivers that the defacto speed limits are 15 MPH (‘narrow’ residential streets) and 20 MPH (business districts) when unsigned per The Basic Speed Rule, 2015 ORS 811.105(2)(A-B) – Speeds that are evidence of basic rule violation.

          If polled most Oregon drivers would likely think its 25 and 30/35 MPH.

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  • Todd Boulanger January 17, 2018 at 2:37 pm

    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?

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    • Jim January 17, 2018 at 7:13 pm

      Hello Todd, I was at City Hall today. My understanding:

      By April 1st, all 25mph signs will be taken down, and 2000 brand new 20mph signs will be installed. They will not necessarily be in the same spot as the old signs. The 25mph signs will be kept in storage for when a 25mph sign is needed. The map at the top of this article shows where new signs will be positioned.

      An interesting sidepoint: Leah Treat said that people should obey whatever sign is posted on the street they are traveling on, so the legal change will be rolling over the next couple of months as the signs change. When asked what the legal speed limit will be tomorrow on unsigned streets (25 or 20?), she and her staff had no idea. This was pretty shocking.

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      • David Hampsten January 17, 2018 at 10:53 pm

        Does the installation of all those signs mean that PBOT will delay all their bike/ped projects citywide for the same period? Or are they hiring an army of sign-installers for the project? 2000 signs is an awful lot of removals and installations during the coming cold and rainy weather.

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      • paikiala January 18, 2018 at 11:23 am

        Jim, incorrect.
        All 25 mph signs will not be replaced. Not even all 25 mph signs on residential streets.
        Through residential (non-arterial) streets with 25 mph signs are first, as are such streets with no posted speed. Intermediate signs will be removed (those somewhere in the middle). PBOT will start at the east border and work west to about 82nd, then move to NE/N Portland, then west of 82nd then SW. There may be some odd locations that pop up out of sequence, like Clinton, Hawthorne east of 50th, and Harrison-Lincoln.
        Unposted residential streets in Oregon, by statute, are 25-mph, posted or not.

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        • Jim January 18, 2018 at 8:08 pm

          I was not clear, I meant all the signs on the streets that are being changed, which was quoted as 70% of Portland’s streets. But they were very clear – unposted residential streets are to be 20mph. There was some concern, as this contradicts Oregon DMV literature, but it is not true at all that unposted Portland residential streets are remaining 25mph. Oregon, yes, but Portland, 20mph.

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          • paikiala January 19, 2018 at 9:29 am

            I cautioned everyone to read the text of the law, carefully.
            Your interpretation is wrong. To be enforced at 20 mph (different than statutory), the end of each street must be posted.

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            • q January 19, 2018 at 10:16 am

              I just read the ordinance via the link in the article, and to my layman mind it clearly seems to apply on all the 70% of the City’s non-arterial residential streets. But that doesn’t mean I don’t believe you’re right legally–in fact I assume you probably are.

              The bad thing to me is that here’s a new law, and readers here (and Jonathan) who are far more knowledgeable and interested in traffic laws than the average person are needing to discuss what the law actually is. I’d guess City Council members may not even have known exactly what they were voting on. Shouldn’t the City be able to clearly tell everyone using the streets what a new law is, before it goes into effect? At least in this case, the issue is just how extensively it applies.

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              • paikiala January 21, 2018 at 10:48 am

                The ORS is clear.

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              • q January 21, 2018 at 10:59 am

                I don’t doubt that it is, or that you’re reading it correctly.

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  • Tom Hardy January 17, 2018 at 3:46 pm

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

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  • Dick Pilz January 17, 2018 at 7:56 pm

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

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    • Tom January 18, 2018 at 9:38 am

      West of 30 to 12 is even worse, more like 40-45mph. In a crash I saw last fall at 22nd, the car was completly disentigrated and the entire roof was gone. An officer at the scene said the car may have speeding. Ya think?

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      • Dan A January 18, 2018 at 10:55 am

        I’d argue that in most crashes, speed is a factor (exceeding the basic speed rule). The police don’t include it as a factor unless it’s excessive speed.

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    • paikiala January 18, 2018 at 11:24 am

      see comment above yours.

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  • wsbob January 18, 2018 at 2:20 am

    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.

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  • q January 18, 2018 at 11:32 am

    Twenty is Venti.

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  • maxD January 18, 2018 at 11:38 am

    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?

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    • q January 18, 2018 at 11:53 am

      Your timing is impeccable with this. We were just talking about this as we’re looking out at a Water Bureau truck parked on the sidewalk in front of the new Willamette Park pump station. It’s right where people biking and walking northbound on section of the Willamette Greenway Trail that was just expensively rebuilt dumps out onto the street that leads north and out of the park. The truck blocks their view of oncoming traffic (and the leaf blower blocks their hearing). It also blocks views of people driving into the parking lot, so they can’t see oncoming bikes, and they also are forced into the wrong lane, right where bikes are headed as the bikes swerve around the truck.

      I wouldn’t harp on this, except that it happens up to several hours per day, and it’s almost always either Parks or Water Bureau trucks, or contractors working for the City. I’ve actually seen a bike get hit by a car coming out from behind the truck, driving in the wrong lane because the truck was blocking the lane. It’s all in a signed no-parking zone.

      What’s the point of spending a couple hundred thousand dollars on upgrading a trail, then making it dangerous with illegally-parked City vehicles from the bureaus that paid for it (Water) and built it (Parks). And it wouldn’t take GPS info to prevent this, just a bit of care from the bureaus.

      It’s about 100′ from the infamous fence across the trail, and it’s way more dangerous than the occasional trolley that caused ODOT to order the park entrance closed.

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    • paikiala January 19, 2018 at 9:23 am

      City vehicles already have GPS locators.

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  • Kittens January 18, 2018 at 3:22 pm

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

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  • X January 19, 2018 at 10:14 am

    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.

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  • Rod King January 19, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    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

    Best wishes from 20’s Plenty for Us

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  • Rick Freed September 3, 2018 at 1:33 pm

    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.

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