The Washington Post

D.C. debates lowering speed limits: How slow would you go?

(Linda Davidson)

Earlier this month, council members Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), proposed lowering the speed limits on residential streets, with some exceptions, to 15 miles per hour. It would have lowered limits by 10 miles on most of those streets, bringing them into line with school zones and alleys.

That proposal, called the The Pedestrian Safe Streets Speed Limit Amendment Act of 2011 [pdf] was scheduled to be scrutinized at a public hearing this month.

But on Tuesday, after learning of the plan to have a public hearing, Bowser’s staff told me that she would be pulling the proposal because of lack of support.

Apparently residents in her Ward, many of them parents, wanted lower speed limits — but not that low.

Supporters of lowering speed limits point to statistics that show slowing car speed even slightly can dramatically reduce the odds of pedestrian death.

Fifteen miles per hour was a dramatic suggestion — it’s even slower than recommendations by the growing international campaign 20’s Plenty For Us which advocates lower speed limits in residential areas. The UK-based movement has spread to the U.S., where cities such as New York and Hoboken, N. J. are trying out lower limits.

Parents are a key constituency on the issue. After all, we often have the most to lose. But we’re obviously not unified on what the right speed is.

One mother may want a quicker car commute to get home to family while another longs for traffic calming measures on her own block. One father may want to avoid local congestion when dashing to drive the kids to school, while another may fear aggressive driving when he bike commutes.

What do you think?

Is 25 miles per hour the right speed limit on most residential blocks? Or is 20 plenty? Or would 15 be serene?


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