Lowering speed limits on city streets is one of the proposals being considered by Minneapolis City Council in an effort to improve safety on the roads.
Members of the transportation and public works committee were given a presentation by Vision Zero, a traffic safety campaign introduced by former Mayor Betsy Hodges in 2017, which proposed reducing speed limits as its core strategy for improving safety for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians in the city.
The speed limit on most city streets is currently 30 mph, though Vision Zero's Ethan Fawley did not put forward a speed limit that should be introduced.
Its proposals come after an extensive consultation process with city residents. Of the people it asked about the ways in which safety could improve on city streets, the most popular responses were "build additional street safety improvements" and "slow down cars and trucks to safer speeds."
"We are proposing to reduce speed limits on our streets, because we know that this is going to save lives," Fawley said. "Higher traffic speeds make it harder for someone to stop and increases the likelihood of crashes ... and increase the likelihood that a crash is going to be deadly."
"People don’t necessarily know that [speed] is such a big factor in crashes and the severity of crashes," he added. "So lowering the speed limits is a big opportunity for us to tell that story and let people know that this is a really big deal."
The Minnesota Legislature recently gave cities the power to change the speed limits on city streets, with Fawley noting Vision Zero is working with Mayor Melvin Carter to introduce reduced limits in St. Paul as early as next year.
One of Vision Zero's "guiding principles" is putting safety and human life first, and notes that pedestrians and bicyclists make up a disproportionate number of people severely injured or killed on city streets.
"People in Minneapolis make 18 percent of their trips on foot, but pedestrians are 29 percent of severe traffic injuries and deaths. People in Minneapolis make 5 percent of their trips by bicycle, but bicyclists are 16 percent of severe traffic injuries and deaths. The share of traffic-related severe injuries and deaths borne by people walking has increased in recent years."
When it comes to enforcing the new speed limits, Fawley suggested that an automated speed camera system, as seen in other cities and countries, would be the most effective at reducing speeds.
He also suggested increasing traffic police patrols, though some council members noted it might be difficult to obtain the funding for a comprehensive patrol unit.
Other safety proposals that Vision Zero suggests are increasing speed bumps near pedestrian crossings, reducing four-lane roads to three lanes, removing "high speed turn" lanes, and adding "pedestrian refuge islands" in the middle of intersections.
Vision Zero has a target of achieving zero traffic deaths or severe injuries on Minneapolis streets by 2027.
The city is now taking public feedback on the proposals, with the idea of coming back with more concrete recommendations in the coming months. You can have your say here.
You can watch the presentation here, starting about 30 minutes in.