Southwest Portland needs more 20 mph streets

Kids walking in the bike lane on SW Vista Avenue, a residential collector street with a 25 mph speed limit.
(Photo: Ryan Fedie)

According to Bloomberg CityLab, Europe is slowing down. Paris already has speed limits of 30 km/h (18 mph) over 60% of the city, and is considering generalizing that limit to the entire city. Spain recently followed suit and reduced the speed limit on all two-lane urban roads to 18 mph, and went down to 12 mph, “on streets which lack a clear delineation between roadway and sidewalk,” which are common in the medieval core of some cities.

Here in Portland, our city has a “20 is Plenty” speed reduction program which covers 70% of our streets. As Scott Kocher wrote for BikePortland last winter, “That’s impressive. However, PBOT has not rolled out 20 mph as directed by the ordinance on collector streets in residence districts in most of the city. If you live on or use one of these streets, you’re not getting the level of safety and comfort you’re entitled to.”

In other words, we have room to improve. Especially in southwest Portland.


SW Dosch Road circled in blue.
(Source: PBOT speed limits map)

Southwest Portland has plenty of roads without a “clear delineation” between bicycle riders, walkers, and drivers — and many of them are collector streets currently posted at 25 mph (like SW Vista in the photo above). One of them, SW Capitol Highway, has recently been in the news because it is slated to receive a full suite of active transportation improvements — curb-protected bike lanes, six foot sidewalks — for a $26 million price tag, after a 30-year gestation period and over a length of just one mile.

At that pace and price, it is hard to imagine constructing a safe bike network in the southwest within the lifetime of someone who’s already middle-aged. In the meantime, the city could improve safety outcomes by following through on its “20 is Plenty” program and lower the speed on all collector streets in residential districts.

This is particularly important for SW Portland because it’s not laid out with a tidy grid. Often there are no alternate routes, especially if you are trying to go some length north or south, in which case your choices are limited to either SW Terwilliger Blvd or SW Montgomery Dr.—>Dosch Rd.—>30th Ave.—>Capitol Hwy.

Lisa Caballero

And yet PBOT is making progress. Take the SW Montgomery to Capitol Hwy project (which will break ground next year). SW Montgomery to Talbot recently got sharrows. Improvements at the Vista and Patton crossings are scheduled for this spring.

If we could slow cars down to 20 mph on SW Dosch Rd, we’d have the start — a backbone at least — of a safer bike network.

— Lisa Caballero,
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