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20 mph speed limits on residential streets are now in effect

20 is Plenty speed reminder sign in Portland. KATU photo

While new speed limit signs have been popping up around Portland since February, the new 20 mph speed limit for residential streets officially took effect the first day of April.

Portland City Council approved the changes in January, lowering the speed limits from 25 mph to 20 mph as part of their Vision Zero initiative. Residential streets make up about 70 percent of the Portland street network.

"You see people going 40 down these streets and that's just wrong. People could pop out between cars, or a kid on a bike," said Chad Biasi, who lives in Southeast Portland and drives for Uber and Lyft.

Biasi says he doesn't think everyone will obey the laws, but at least this is a start.

"If they set it at 20, people will limit it maybe to 25. If it's 25, they're gonna get away with going 30," he said.

Since new signs are already up, police can begin enforcing the new speed limits.

"We are going to do the best we can with the resources we have. We don't have a specific mission out there, other than our officers go out and work the city of Portland," said Sgt. Ty Engstrom, who works with Portland Police Bureau's traffic division.

He says officers will still focus enforcement on Portland's high crash corridors, where a majority of the city's deadly crashes happen. Engstrom said officers can still patrol residential streets if they feel the need. You can call 823-SAFE if you would like to request enforcement in your neighborhood.

Data from the Portland Bureau of Transportation shows 34 percent of all deadly, or serious injury, crashes in Portland happen on residential streets.

Lower speed limits are one way to make streets safer. According to PBOT's website, "Slower driving speeds help prevent crashes and, when crashes occur, reduce the harm that results. A pedestrian hit by a driver at 25 mph is nearly twice as likely to die compared to someone hit at 20 miles per hour."

"Just decreasing the speed down to 20 is probably going to make a lot of difference to the lives and safety of a lot of people on the roads," said Angela Gusa, a bike commuter from the Grant Park Neighborhood.

Gusa says she thinks lower speed limits will make everyone safer. By now she hopes the slogan, "20 is Plenty," has sunken into the collective subconscious of Portland drivers.

"It's going to save many more lives," she said.

PBOT has replaced all old speed limit signs within the city (about 900). They will add about 1,000 more of them to increase awareness.

Bob Reynolds, who lives in Sullivan's Gulch, says 20 mph makes sense for neighborhoods considering the size of residential streets.

"A lot of the neighborhoods have smaller streets. It's tough to navigate already. The slower people go, the safer it's going to be," he said.

PBOT began replacing the old speed limit signs in February. Once all new signs are installed, they say there will be about 2,000 of them throughout the city. Not every street will have a 20 miles-per-hour sign, but that will still be the speed limit on all residential streets.

"As a rule-of-thumb, streets that do not have centerline markings are generally subject to the new 20 miles per hour residential speed limit," says PBOT.

Free corrugated plastic yard signs reminding people driving that “20 is plenty” will be available for community members to display in their yard. The locations of pick-up sites are posted online at http://visionzeroportland.com.

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