- The Portland, OR City Council has given the go-ahead for lowering the speed limit from 25 mph to 20 mph in residential areas. The move is part of the city's Vision Zero campaign to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2025.
- Busy arterial roads will not be affected by the ordinance, but the residential streets that are affected make up about 70% of Portland's street grid.
- The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) will begin installing new signs with the lower speed limits starting in February, and they are expected to finish by April. The ordinance goes into effect immediately on streets that do not have speed limit signs.
City staff notes that many of Portland's residential streets are narrow and lack proper bike lanes, and few have marked crosswalks. These factors all make the roads dangerous, especially for pedestrians and cyclists. They also point out that even small differences in speed can have large safety impacts. For example, a pedestrian who is hit by a driver traveling 25 mph is almost twice as likely to die as someone hit at 20 mph, according to AAA.
In addition to the speed limit reduction, more signs will be installed throughout the city with the posted limit. PBOT will install nearly 2,000 new speed limit signs, which is double the amount currently in residential neighborhoods.
The new ordinance is part of the PBOT's Vision Zero initiative, which aims to reduce deaths and serious injuries from traffic accidents to zero. One of the action items in Vision Zero is to design safer streets for all residents of all abilities.
The Vision Zero plan states that every crash has multiple factors, and it aims to eliminate the factors that can make an accident fatal. Analysts studied 10 years of Portland's traffic accident data to determine top crash locations and contributing factors. The data collection contributed to the mapping of the city's highest crash streets and intersections. Based on the characteristics of these zones and the crashes that happen in them, planners came up with action items for improving street design, such as installing crosswalks and reducing road speeds.
The city council passed the ordinance the same week that the World Resources Institute released a study calling for city planners to take more initiative in preventing the 1.25 million traffic deaths that occur globally each year. The report especially called out the United States for lagging behind other countries that had similar resources. It did, however, laud some U.S. cities and states for implementing safe streets plans, such as Vision Zero. Using such strategies treats traffic fatalities like a preventable disease that has a cure; in this case, the cure is better sidewalk and road planning, better urban design and improvements to public transportation.