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House unanimously passes Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill

The Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill (HB 1217) passed the state House 96-0, giving it a huge amount of momentum heading into the Senate. Last year, the bill died in the Senate’s Transportation Committee, but advocates and lawmakers have placed added emphasis on the low-controversy, no-cost safe streets bill this year.

From the Bicycle Alliance of Washington:

Today, the Washington State House of Representatives passed the Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill (SHB1217) unanimously.

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The bill’s unanimous bipartisan support is mirrored by its backing from over 20 organizations, boards, and cities from across the state, including the Washington State PTA, AARP-Washington, as well as the cities of Spokane, Bellingham, Seattle and, Kirkland.

The Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill makes safer streets and neighborhoods by allowing cities and towns the authority to set speed limits to 20 miles per hour on non-arterial streets. It does not mandate any change, it simply provides cities and towns the authority to do so.

“Communities are asking lawmakers to give them more cost-saving tools and local options instead of mandates,” says, prime sponsor, Representative Cindy Ryu (D-32). “This bill will help. It removes an expensive state mandate that deters communities from lowering speed limits on non-arterial roads even when they recognize that lower speeds would make people safer or promote local businesses and jobs.”

HB 1217 joins HB 1700 in the Senate wait list. HB 1700, which would expand the tools available for creating and maintaining complete streets, passed the House January 23 by a significant majority of 63-32. That bill could save tons of money by giving engineers more options for dealing with unique design conditions (more on 1700 coming in a future post).

UPDATE: If you want to help get these bills moving, join a whole gaggle of transportation-loving citizens for Transportation Advocacy Day tomorrow (January 31) in Olympia. Register with Transportation Choices Coalition online.

They need bodies in Olympia arguing for road safety and for preserving bicycling, walking and transit funding. So if you can, make the trip!

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9 responses to “House unanimously passes Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill”

  1. mike archambault

    Great news, but I keep wondering, why even have the 20mph constraint? Why not just let cities choose any speed limit they want for their local streets without all the red tape at the state level?

  2. Terry J Pratt

    waste of time. there is a law against talking on the phone and driving, hows that working. biking will always be dangerous. as a former bike commuter its a draw on who is the most pain in the butt, bikes or cars.

  3. Jim Ewins

    Why is it necessary to give communities the legal right to set local speed limits?

    That being said, is the biking community trying to get everyone down to their preferred speed?

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      A person who gets hit by a car going 20 miles per hour has a 5 percent chance of dying, while at 30 miles per hour, that chance of dying jumps to 45 percent.

      This bill doesn’t mandate anything, just gives municipalities more options. Many of our streets are not safe at 25 mph. That 5 mph means a ton in terms of safety, yet costs a miniscule amount of extra time.

      As someone who bikes, I like the bill because I would prefer cars on neighborhood streets to go a bit slower. But as a citizen of Seattle, I see this as a way to make neighborhoods safe for kids, pets, people with mobility challenges, people backing out of driveways … you know, life!

      It has a wide base of support far beyond bicycle advocates, including AAA and the AARP.

      1. R. E. Messer

        Actually that fatality rate of 5% at 20 mph vs 45% at 40 mph (…yes the number is 40,) is based on NHTSA numbers. These are the numbers for automobiles striking a stationary object head on. Those statistic were established fifty years ago and have come down to their current level due to better vehicle design and enforcement of safety restraint laws. Pedestian fatalies and injury numbers are much higher in motor vehicle vs pedestrian & bike collisions. Biking accidents can produce debilitating and fatal injuries at speeds less than 20 mph. Need proof? Check you bike helmet. Dig far enough and you will find they are designed for no more than a five foot fall at a maximum of 20 mph.
        Educationing the public through numerous and varied means is a much better and historically effective method of changing behaviour than any penalty law. If you are old enough you would remember a time when causing a collision while driving drunk was a minimal penalty. Through the efforts of advocacy MADD that has changed considerably. Do drunks still cause fatal collision? Yes. But the numbers have been reduced considerably.
        I am all for safe traffic behaviour and laws that take into account all traffic, pedestrian, wheelchair, bike, motor-cycle, automobile, delivery van and semi-tractor. Everyone is out there doeing the same thing, getting from one place to another on publicly paid for and owned roads. Pretending that the laws of physics are secondary to the laws of man only produces a momentary sense of self-rightiousness prior to the lights going out permently.

      2. Tom Fucoloro

        Odds of death of person walking if struck by vehicle going 40 mph is between 83-85 percent (source: http://humantransport.org/sidewalks/SpeedKills.htm )

        Vehicle safety “improvements” in America do not factor people walking or biking into the equation in the same way as Europe does. Protecting vehicle passengers is the primary American focus (thus the extended hoods right at knee level, etc.) This is a whole other issue that needs to be changed.

        As for this law, I don’t expect revolutionary changes to come from it. But it is a good opportunity for added education and awareness about vehicle speeds on residential streets and an opportunity for the state’s communities to have a discussion about what speeds they would like to see on the streets where they live.

        And while many chronic speeders may not pay the change any attention, there are many people who do like to follow rules, and it will affect them. So that’s at least somewhat good. For a bill without a price tag (would actually save cities money by removing red tape), it’s hard to think of many reasons to be against it.

        Now, if you want to argue that actual road condition changes (traffic calming) will more effectively and consistently change behavior, I’ll definitely agree with you there…

  4. Let me guess from the comments, the Seattle Times linked to this article? ;-)

  5. Mike H

    I think that the biggest impact this law will have is the choice to design residential and neighborhood streets with a 20 mph speed limit for lower speeds than one with a 25 mph speed. As you mentioned, Tom, to bring a the speed of vehicles on a street to 20 mph, you’ll need to be more aggressive with traffic calming. The Wallingford neighborhood greenway has a great design (parking on both sides, circles at nearly every intersection) that even with a 25 mph speed limit, most motorists are only going 20 mph or so anyways.

    My only concern (and this is minor) is how will cities who chose to implement this sign it? For example, in Seattle, if there is no centerline on the pavement, it’s a pretty good indication that you’re on a local street and therefore, a 25 mph speed limit. But, if we have varying levels of neighborhood streets, well, there will be a lot more signs. Better buy stock in aluminum companies!

  6. […] Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill (SHB 1217) passed the state House 96-0 a few weeks ago, and now it’s starting it’s climb through the Senate. The Senate […]

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