PORTLAND, Ore. — Just one death on Oregon roads is one too many. Through the Vision Zero program, the City of Portland and their partners are working to eliminate deaths and serious injuries on our streets.
The "20 is Plenty" campaign is part of that effort to get drivers to go no faster than 20 miles per hour in residential areas and Tuesday it reached a big milestone.
Since 2018, the speed limit on all of Portland's residential streets has been reduced from 25 to 20 miles per hour. Now, the city's signage represents that.
On Tuesday morning, Portland Bureau of Transportation spokesperson Dylan Rivera celebrated the installation of the final 20 mph speed limit sign in Southeast Portland, on Salmon and 122nd Avenue.
“We’ve more than doubled the number of speed limit signs on residential streets. This is the last one of those here in East Portland just off of a high crash corridor,” Rivera said.
Residential streets make up around 70 percent of Portland’s street network and a large proportion of the city’s total public space. Reducing residential speeds is part of a broader citywide effort to support safe driving speeds on many types of streets.
Portland City Council approved an ordinance last year reducing the speed limit on all residential streets to 20 miles per hour. The new speed limit took effect on April 1, 2018.
“This is clearly a narrow, residential city street. Everyone knows this is not a state highway. Yet, historically, we've had to request state permission to adjust the speed limits on these city streets,” Rivera said.
Studies show that excessive speed is a deadly problem nationwide and engineers need to change the way they set speeds to save lives.
Jillian Detweiler is the executive director of Street Trust, which advocates for pedestrian and biker safety in Portland.
“I'm really excited to see the City of Portland lead us to stop being complacent of traffic deaths,” she said.
Street Trust works closely with an organization called Families for Safe Streets, which is comprised of people who have lost loved ones in traffic crashes.
“When you spend time with folks who have lost a son, a daughter, a husband, a wife, a niece -- you become very motivated to prevent other families from experiencing this tragic loss,” Detweiler said.
More than 460 people were killed on Oregon’s roads last year, according to Detweiler.
“It's unimaginable to lose a family member in this way and yet it happens in huge numbers,” she said. “Think of all the lives that that touched and for every one of those crashes that could have been avoided. It's just senseless.”
Safety cameras are also part of the Vision Zero effort. Safety cameras on Marine Drive have almost eliminated top-end speeding and cut all speeding in half. Rivera believes this could save lives in the long run.
On eastbound Marine Drive the safety cameras have reduced all speeding by 54 percent, and top-end speeding by 90 percent. On westbound Marine Drive the safety cameras have cut all speeding by 45 percent, and top-end speeding by 71 percent. Top-end speeding is defined as driving more than 10 mph over the limit, according to Rivera.
There was a 20 percent drop in traffic deaths from 2017 to 2018, according to Rivera, but one or two years of data does not make a trend. He says that the public also needs to do it’s part to make a dent in traffic death totals.
“We need to do more with speed limits, like this, and other programs to encourage everyone to be aware of their surroundings to be aware of other people – especially people walking and biking on our streets,” Rivera said. “That's what we need to do to achieve Vision Zero.”
House Bill 2682 in 2017 allowed the City of Portland to reduce speed limits from 25 mph to 20 mph on residential streets. In the current legislative session, Senate Bill 558 would allow other cities in Oregon to have the opportunity to lower residential speed limits to 20 mph. This speed limit reduction is currently only allowed in Portland, but the City of Portland supports the effort, led by the League of Oregon Cities, to allow more cities to have 20 mph speed limits on residential streets.