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Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill misses cutoff as Senate devolves into standstill

The Senate devolved into a drawn-out parliamentary standstill Friday as the Republicans and three conservative Democrats attempted to push through their own version of the state budget.

The result, however, is that any bill passed previously by the House that was awaiting a Senate vote (and is not necessary to implement the budget) will not be heard this year. The cutoff was 5 p.m. Among those bills is SHB 1217, which would have given municipalities the option of lowering speed limits on non-arterial streets without the need for an expensive engineering study. The bill passed the House unanimously 96-0, passed the Senate Transportation Committee and was on the list for a Senate floor vote when the takeover happened.

The Republican action was basically to ensure that none of the bills (even the ones they liked, such SHB 1217) could be passed. Democracy at its finest.

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From the Bicycle Alliance:

Today, the Washington State Senate did not vote on the Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill (SHB1217) prior to the 5 p.m. cutoff for considering bills from the opposite chamber. After being listed on the Order of Consideration on Wednesday, it was held and passed over. The Senate’s failure to take action on it today means it is no longer under consideration for the 2011-2012 biennium.

SHB 1217 would have made 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 did not mandate any change, it simply would have provided cities and towns the authority to do so.

The Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill garnered support from over 35 statewide organizations, boards, cities, and towns.  In its January 30, 2012 vote, it received unanimous support from the State House of Representatives; and during its 2012 Senate Transportation Committee hearing, which featured Seattle City Council President Sally Clark, Spokane Councilmember Jon Snyder, and former WSDOT Secretary Doug MacDonald, it received no opposition by organizations in testimony or otherwise.

“Based on the strong bipartisan and statewide support we’ve seen, it’s puzzling why the Senate didn’t take action on this bill,” says Bicycle Alliance of Washington statewide policy director Blake Trask.

The statewide support for this bill included the Washington State PTA, AARP-Washington, AAA-Washington, Washington Fire Chiefs, the cities of Spokane, Bellingham, Seattle and, Kirkland, as well as the Town of Winthrop.

“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). “Given the tight budget times we face, this bill would have helped local governments across the state. It aimed to remove 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. I look forward to working on promoting these issues in the future.”

The Bicycle Alliance of Washington worked closely with the Representative to develop and support the bill.

“We are disappointed by the outcome, which will retain the state’s unnecessary hurdles for cities and towns to create safer non-arterial streets. But given the large coalition built to support this legislation, we are optimistic that Washingtonians will continue to demand safer streets,” says Bicycle Alliance of Washington Executive Director Barbara Culp.

This legislation is especially germane to more vulnerable populations, including children. As Washington State PTA wrote in its letter of support, “we believe that SHB 1217 will give local communities a way to make neighborhoods safer places for children to bike, walk and play. “ Similarly, AARP-Washington wrote, “Older pedestrians because of their increased fragility particularly benefit from low-speed environments.”

SHB 1217 sponsors included Ryu, Pedersen, Johnson, Klippert, Maxwell, Finn, Kenney, Santos, Springer, Ladenburg, Appleton, Liias, McCoy, Miloscia, Fitzgibbon, Kagi, Roberts, Billig

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16 responses to “Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill misses cutoff as Senate devolves into standstill”

  1. Todd

    Sadly I’m not surprised. There are some tough choices out there.

  2. Jeremy

    Disgusting and cowardly. For shame, Senators!

  3. Doug Bostrom

    In the meantime, we can compromise by actually driving 30mph where that’s the speed limit, as opposed to 35-40mph.

    I don’t have the skill to prove it but that doesn’t stop me from hypothesizing that if the police actually made a serious effort at enforcing speed limits we’d see a net benefit at least equal to that of the irritatingly stalled bill.

    For that matter, looking at the mayhem cause by traffic in general, one wonders how whether there’s any defensible formal method employed for setting police priorities at all. Cops are very efficiently deployed in hundreds when civilians want to peacefully express themselves en masse, magnetically attracted in their dozens to crazy people having serious issues, nearly invisible when alienated suburbanites are daily making the streets into an automotive free-fire zone.

  4. Mark

    I’m disappointed that the bill didn’t pass, however it was nothing more than a symbol. It is FAR more important to enforce existing speed limits.

    No one, NO ONE obeys the speed limit. I probably see fewer than 3 cars per month driving 25 or lower on my Capitol Hill street. Yes, 20 is better than 25. But 25 is better than 40. This bill would NOT have made our streets and neighborhoods safer; people driving slower would. Any speed limit changes made in response to this law would be as utterly and completely ignored as the current 25 mph speed limit.

    Empty symbols will not make us safer. Education and Enforcement will make our streets and neighborhoods safer.

  5. Education and Enforcement will make our streets and neighborhoods safer, absolutely true. And even more important is Engineering.

    When car drivers are compelled by effective engineering to go 20 mph or less on streets that we want our kids to cross safely, that we want our less-abled neighbors to be able to use to get from the bus stop to the market, that we all want to be able to safely walk and bike on, then we will be well on the path to a Safe Speeds Seattle.

  6. Clark in Vancouver

    Obviously trying to make laws isn’t working. If the existing speed limit isn’t respected then you gotta use other methods. Design the streets so that it encourages those who want to quickly pass through an area to somewhere else don’t use local roads. Also design the surfaces and the widths of the roads so that they give visual, tactile and audible feedback to the driver so they realize they are going too fast for that area.
    If people are going “by feel” instead of what the rules are then you don’t use rules to temper their excesses. You use design.

    1. Doug Bostrom

      We could use speed cameras, but look to the endless infantile whining (“whinging,” I suppose) over in the UK by drivers who resent effective enforcement for an understated harbinger of what would happen if we tried that method here. Same deal as red light cameras; all sorts of excuses and tortured reasons to continue behaving like impulsive toddlers.

      1. All due respect, the whining over speed cameras and red light cameras in the UK, (London, specifically) is happening within a very legitimate response to the terrifying rise in state surveillance they got going down over there.

        Unlike here.


      2. Doug Bostrom

        Ok, let’s stipulate that the whining -overlaps- with legitimate concern over “security” cameras.

        (Leaving an Underground station in London a couple of years ago, I counted -14- cameras within the ceiling space of an escalator foyer about 40’x40′. It’s also funny to see that many of these cameras now have elaborate protections against themselves being stolen. “Who watches the watchers?” :-) )

  7. Seems to me that the larger issue at play here is the shameful self-destruct button -pushing manipulation of parliamentary process. I watched a bit of this nightmare highjacking of the state budget (and consequently all other bills yet to be heard this session) on TVW on Friday night. Ugly.
    Pretty sad politics. Like Mr.Smith goes to Washington meets the Clinton impeachment hearings. Break the government to prove that the government is broken.
    In the name of election year showboating and regular old wealth protection, these miserable excuses for public servants sacrifice the lives of poor Washingtonians, as well as the positive changes the remaining bills (such as the Safe Speeds Bill) likely to pass would have wrought.
    My partner works for an organization that is working to organize a response:

  8. […] HB 1217, which would have allowed municipalities to set neighborhood street speeds at 20 mph. HB 1217 died at the last second after the Senate devolved into a budget standoff (it had bipartisan support and […]

  9. […] Haugen, chair of the WA Senate’s Transportation Committee, was one of the main roadblocks the prevented the Neighborhood Safe Speeds bill from passing last year. The legislative season will not start until January, but Seattle Neighborhood Greenways […]

  10. […] Bicycle Alliance of Washington is again pushing for the Safe Neighborhood Speeds bill (which, though it had broad bipartisan support, barely failed to pass due to a senate meltdown), as […]

  11. […] bill has essentially no major enemies. It passed the House last year 96-0 (!), but died on the floor of the Senate without getting a vote due to an unrelated stand-off. It gives local governments more control over […]

  12. […] in both chambers last year, as well. But it languished on the Senate floor as the legislative body devolved into a standstill over unrelated […]

  13. […] as the street in question was not an arterial. Despite popular and bipartisan support, the bill died on the floor during an unrelated legislative […]

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