By Michelle Esteban Published: Oct 16, 2011
SEATTLE – Mayor Mike McGinn is pushing a road safety initiative aimed at making Seattle streets safer for everyone – and that includes lowering speed limits in some neighborhoods.
“We need to start think about each other’s frustrations, each other’s concerns, and how we can help make it easier to get home safely,” McGinn says.
As part of the initiative, state lawmakers are being asked to make it easier for cities to drop their speed limits.
McGinn says that goes for everyone who uses the streets – but at the top of his mind are the deaths of three bicyclists in Seattle this summer alone – including Michael Wang, a father of two.
Already this year, there have been a total of 10 cycling-related deaths statewide.
The Cascade Bicycle Club’s Craig Benjamin says speed is often the killer, which is why he hopes lawmakers will make it easier to slash speed limits.
“House Bill 1217 is to give cities the freedom to lower the speed limits on non-arterials to 20 mph,” Benjamin says.
Cities can reduce speed limits now, but it’s a cumbersome and expensive process. Municipalities who currently want to reduce speed limits have to fund costly engineering studies first.
The proposed measure would eliminate that red tape and open up the possiblity of lower speed limits in cities statewide, including Seattle.
“The data on this is really powerful,” says McGinn. “A collision between a car and individual at 40 miles per hour, there is about an 80 percent chance of death; 30 mph, 50 percent, 20 mph, 5 percent chance.”
Adds Benjamin: “Twenty miles per hour is the magic number. Your chance of dying if hit by a car, you start dropping below 5 percent and your chance of a collision are significantly lower.”
Benjamin says he doesn’t anticipate every city and every non arterial would be considered for a speed reduction, just the streets that make sense.
“It’s really sad that people have to die in order for people to start paying attention, but as a city we have a long way to go,” says Benjamin. “We’ve fallen way behind what other cities are doing in terms of allowing people to ride their bikes safely and allow people to walk and drive safely.”
Bike advocates say speed reduction is just one option. They also want more speed bumps, signage and education.