Articles Tagged with “speed limits”

25 mph speed limit sign in Boston, MassachusettsOver the past year, Boston, Cambridge and several other communities have lowered default speed limits from 30 to 25 mph, with a goal of creating safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists. Now it is Quincy’s turn.

Last week, the Quincy City Council passed a measure establishing a speed limit of 25 mph, unless another speed limit is posted. The previous speed limit had been 30 mph. Once Mayor Thomas P. Koch signs the new law, officials will decide on an effective date.

In January 2017, the City of Boston dropped its default speed limit from 30 to 25 mph.

Lowering the speed limit was a key part of the Vision Zero Boston campaign, which was launched by Mayor Marty Walsh in 2015. The goal is to end traffic deaths and serious injuries in the City of Boston by 2030, through a combination of efforts, such as reducing speeds, eliminating distracted driving, and improving infrastructure for safer riding, walking and cycling.

While lowering speed limits was a critical step, the City of Boston was unable to act right away.

First, the city had to obtain approval from the state Legislature and Gov. Charlie Baker. Baker signed the Municipal Modernized bill in August 2016, which gave Boston, as well as cities and towns across the state, authority to reduce the default speed limit on local roads. 

So far, these communities have reduced speed limits:

  • Boston
  • Cambridge
  • Somerville
  • Arlington
  • Newton
  • Randolph
  • Scituate
  • Quincy (approved by City Council)

Source: The Boston Globe.

Benefits to Slower Speed Limits
There is strong evidence that slower traffic means safer streets. An excellent example is New York City. In 2014, the city lowered speed limits to 25 mph on 90 percent of its streets. Over three years, traffic fatalities have decreased 23 percent and fell to the lowest number in the city’s history in 2016.

Boston city officials say that when crashes happen, faster vehicles are likely to cause the most serious injuries and fatalities. According to the City of Boston website, at 20 mph, there is a 17 percent likelihood that someone will be seriously injured or killed. At 40 mph, there is a 79 percent likelihood. Slower vehicles can be stopped more quickly, and the slower speeds allow for longer reaction times.
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17612066_s.jpgGood news for pedestrians and cyclists: the City of Boston plans to lower speed limits to 20 MPH in some neighborhoods. Officials will also advocate to lower Boston’s default speed limit to 25 MPH.

Mayor Marty Walsh released the city’s Vision Zero Action Plan last week, including the Neighborhood Slow Streets Program, which will be launched in 2016. A pilot program will introduce traffic calming measures and a 20 MPH speed limit to the Talbot-Norfolk Triangle in Dorchester and the Stonybrook neighborhood in Jamaica Plain. The full program will be launched later in the year and residents across the city can apply.

The default speed limit on local roads in Massachusetts is 30 MPH. The Massachusetts State Legislature must approve any change and it has not acted on past bills. The Metropolitan Area Planning Council, a proponent of the change, has said lowering the speed limit would prevent 2,200 car crashes, 18 fatalities and 1,200 injuries across the state each year. Some $210 million would be saved in medical payments and lost work.

In 2014, Boston Emergency Medical Services treated two to three people each day due to pedestrian and bicycle accidents.

Earlier this year, Mayor Walsh announced Boston would adopt Vision Zero to eliminate traffic fatalities and injuries by 2030. The far-reaching plan includes many infrastructure and technology changes, from the implementation of smart parking meters to building protected bike lanes in crash-ridden areas and better data collection among city departments.

Boston joins other cities around the world in adopting Vision Zero initiatives. The first was adopted in Switzerland nearly 20 years ago. In recent years, New York City, San Francisco and Chicago have adopted plans.

New York lowered its default speed limit from 30 MPH to 25 MPH last year and San Francisco city supervisors began discussing a 20 MPH speed limit last winter.
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