As some of you may have heard, last month, the Boston City Council voted unanimously to lower the speed limit on "thickly settled" streets from 30mph to 20mph and in school zones from 20mph to 15mph. "Thickly settled" areas are streets where houses and buildings are located, on average, less than 200 feet apart. The process by which a city may change their speed limits is quite cumbersome and in the case of Cambridge would require the city to obtain state approval on a street-by-street basis complete with speed study reports. As you can imagine, this can take a significant amount of time, energy and resources and even then there is no guarantee that changes will be made. One thing Cambridge can do is post signage that requires drivers to drive more slowly-- this is incredibly important especially as we consider the statistics. The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) has compiled a "Driving Speed Fatality Risk Chart" that shows a 45% risk of fatality to pedestrians and cyclists in accidents involving an automobile that is traveling in the 30mph to 35mph range, as compared to a 5% risk of fatality when automobiles are traveling in the 20mph to 25mph range. Both City Manager Rossi and Traffic Commissioner Barr agreed that this kind of action is an important step to take. I've included a brief video (3min 51sec) of our discussion as well as the original policy order below.
As we pursue a Complete Streets agenda, a Vision Zero policy, and a larger regional effort, I hope that a reduced speed limit on thickly settled streets will ultimately mean safer neighborhood streets for all Cantabrigians.