Rep. Cindy Ryu has introduced House Bill 1217, which will allow cities to set speed limits as low as 20 mph in residential and business districts. The Bicycle Alliance of Washington has named this bill one of its legislative priorities, and it already has a list of sponsors.
I wrote about 20 mph speed limits in August (the StreetFilms video above describes a program in the UK promoting 20 mph streets). To a pedestrian or cyclist, the difference between a vehicle traveling 20 mph and 30 mph is massive. The odds of a pedestrian being killed by a vehicle moving 20 mph is about 5 percent. At 30 mph, the odds jump to 40 percent. at 40 mph, the odds are near 85 percent. The safety benefit gained for each mile per hour is huge, and a law that would make it easier to set lower limits is a low-cost way of setting new speed expectation standards on our streets.
The proposed bill would remove red tape from lowering a speed limit to 20, but an engineering and traffic study would still be needed to raise a limit. From the Bicycle Alliance:
Representative Cindy Ryu, D-Shoreline, last week introduced traffic-safety legislation that would help protect pedestrians and cyclists by allowing cities to set lower speed limits in residential and business districts.
The legislation, known as House Bill 1217, is one of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington’s top 2011 legislative priorities. The concept for the bill was developed by the Bike Alliance’s legislative and statewide issues committee, which also helped draft the legislation.
The bill has already attracted several co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle. In addition to Rep. Ryu, they include Rep. Jamie Pederson, D-Seattle; Rep. Norm Johnson, R-Yakima; Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick; Rep. Marcie Maxwell, D-Renton; Rep. Fred Finn, D-Thurston County; Rep. Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney, D-Seattle; Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle; Rep. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland; Rep. Connie Ladenburg, D-Tacoma; Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo; Rep. Marko Lilas, D-Edmonds; Rep. John McCoy, D-Tulalip; Rep. Mark Miloscia, D-Federal Way; and Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien.
Under HB 1217, local jurisdictions would be able to set blanket 20 mile-per-hour speed limits on non-arterial streets in residential and business areas. Under current law, authority to set 20 mph speed zones is extremely limited, and outside of school zones may normally be done only after an engineering and traffic study has been conducted.