March 1, 2011

The Oregon House of Representatives will vote soon on a bill that would allow Oregon cites to lower speed limits on some streets without having to take the issue to the state’s capitol.

Ultimately, the legislation, known as HB 3150, would give cities with populations of more than 100,000 authority to reduce speeds in specific areas to 20 mph. The bill’s sponsor said he hoped it would help to discourage motorists from using streets that have been re-engineered for heavy bicycle and pedestrian traffic, thereby reducing accidents.

In fact, research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration demonstrated that pedestrians struck by an automobile traveling 30 mph have a 40 percent chance of being killed, while at 20 mph, it’s a 5 percent chance.

The bill would also have strict guidelines so cities could not reduce speed limits without cause. For example, only streets with average speeds of less than 30 mph and with 2,000 or less daily car trips could qualify. Also, the reduction could not be more than 5 mph and each would require an ordinance to be passed.

The focus in Portland would be on be turning most greenways, from Northeast Going and Klickitat streets to Southeast Center and Gladstone streets, into 20 mph zones, according to city officials.

One Republican representative said HB 3150 was “a good bill,” even saying it had the potential to pass through the equally divided chamber with a 60-0 vote.

The only detail of the bill that has potential to hold it up is its word choice. The bill uses the term “greenway” to describe streets eligible for cities to delegate as 20 mph speed zones. “Neighborhood greenway” is the term Portland uses for such avenues that have been re-engineered for bikes and pedestrians.

A state rep from Hillsboro, Oregon, said he worries that the terminology would confuse the public about the bill’s purpose. He would prefer that the bill use “neighborhood byway” as opposed to “greenway,” he said. “Greenway sounds like something that’s specific to just Portland,” he reasoned.

Source:, ”Oregon House bill aims to give Portland, other cities more say in setting speed limits,” Joseph Rose, 04 March 2011


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