The residential speed limit in Portland is dropping from 25 MPH to 20 MPH -- here's why

DAVID F. ASHTON - PBOT Director Leah Treat, PPB Traffic Division Captain Michael Crebs, and PBOT Public Information Officer Dylan Rivera, together hold a press conference to announce that the new, slower residential speed zone signs are being put into place. There have been plenty of places where 20 MPH has been the speed limit in Portland for some time. School zones and bicycle-oriented "parkways", for example. And, in the last couple of years, PBOT has permitted neighborhood associations and business associations around the city to seek 20 MPH speed limits in busy neighborhood business districts, and some have – Woodstock, Sellwood, and Westmoreland, for example.

But now, after gaining permission to do so from the Oregon State Legislature, the Portland City Council voted on January 17 to reduce the speed limit on most of the city's residential streets to 20 MPH.

Not wasting any time, on February 6, officials from the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) and Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Traffic Division held a ceremony on the east side of the city, at which they began the process of switching out the old 25 MPH speed zone signs for larger ones which specify the new 20 MPH speed limit on residential streets

That was followed by a sign-swapping frenzy, as PBOT crews fanned out to begin the process of changing about 2,000 signs on what they estimate is 70% of Portland side streets by April 1.

The Bureau will be replacing the larger-in-size "reduced speed limit" signs, starting in East Portland and North Portland – and from there it will quickly move through other neighborhoods, revealed PBOT Director Leah Treat.

"This will help tremendously in saving lives, because, even though a lesser percentage of people die on residential streets, people still are killed on these streets," Treat told THE BEE at the press event.

"Last year, we had three fatalities on residential streets; and if the cars involved in those crashes had been traveling at 20 mph, nobody would've died," Treat said. "I also think it's going to go a long way toward shaping 'driving culture' in the city."

PPB Traffic Division Captain Michael Crebs observed that the difference between a vehicle traveling 25 MPH and 20 MPH, when braking, "is an entire car length; which can mean that no collision occurs when a kid runs after his ball into the street – and life goes on perfectly."

About whether police will actively be enforcing this reduced speed limit, Crebs commented, "We have thousands of laws on the books with little enforcement needed; and, we also believe that people will look at this as a legitimate law, and they will obey the law, and slow down."

Although city crews are out installing the new speed limit signs already, officially the new residential speed limit takes effect citywide on April 1. No fooling.

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