Portland City Council approved an ordinance on January 17, 2018, reducing the speed limit on all residential streets to 20 miles per hour. The new speed limit took effect on April 1, 2018.
Residential streets make up around 70 percent of Portland’s street network and a large proportion of the city’s total public space. Reducing residential speeds is part of a broader citywide effort to support safe driving speeds on many types of streets.
20 mph speed limit supports safety
Most residential streets in Portland are narrow, have few marked crosswalks, and no bike lanes; given the tight space and lack of protection for people walking, using mobility devices, and biking, it is important that people drive slowly on residential streets.
The new 20 mph speed limit is part of Portland’s Vision Zero work to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries. 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 mph (Tefft, 2013, Impact Speed and a Pedestrian’s Risk of Severe Injury or Death).
Sign installation started in February
PBOT began adjusting speed limit signage on February 6, 2018. PBOT is doubling the number of residential speed limit signs, installing approximately 2,000 across the city. At some locations, existing signs are being relocated to maximize their effectiveness.
As is the case today, not every residential street will have a speed limit sign, but the 20 mph speed limit is in effect on all residential streets.
Key questions about 20 mph residential speed limits
Which streets are 20 miles per hour under the new residential speed limit?
Streets are subject to the new 20 mph residential speed limit if they are (1) located in a residence district, (2) have a statutory speed limit, (3) are classified as a Minor Emergency Response Route (view map), and (4) are federally classified as an Urban Local street (view map). For information on these criteria refer to our speed limits webpage.
As a rule-of-thumb, streets that do not have centerline markings are generally subject to the new 20 mph residential speed limit. You can also refer to the map below (subject to change based on street-specific engineering evaluations):
What is the impact of the new speed limit on safety?
A speed reduction from 25 MPH to 20 MPH can save lives.
A pedestrian hit by a driver at 25 mph is nearly twice as likely to die compared to someone hit at 20 mph (Tefft, 2013, Impact Speed & a Pedestrian’s Risk of Severe Injury or Death).
Crash data indicate that speed is a factor in nearly half of deadly crashes that occur in Portland. A 20 mph residential speed limit reduces the probability that people will get hurt or killed on Portland streets.
How many people get hurt on residential streets?
Approximately 34 percent of crashes that resulted in deaths or serious injuries occurred on residential streets from 2006 through 2015, the latest period for which complete crash data is available. This figure includes crashes that occurred at intersections with major streets. There were a total of 2,362 crashes in Portland that resulted in deaths or serious injuries during this time period.
How will the new speed limit impact travel times?
The new residential speed limit has little or no impact on travel times.
- People in emergency response vehicles: no impact because emergency vehicles do not typically travel on residential streets for significant distances and are allowed to travel at speeds higher than the speed limit when necessary.
- People walking, using mobility devices, and biking: no impact
- People using transit: minimal impact because TriMet does not operate on residential streets for significant distances
- People in motor vehicles: minimal impact because streets with higher speed limits are available close to homes on residential streets. Traveling 20 mph instead of 25 mph for half a mile increases travel time by approximately 18 seconds, from 72 seconds at 25 mph to 90 seconds at 20 mph.
How will the new speed limit be enforced?
Enforcement practices have not changed. PBOT continues to refer requests for speed enforcement to our partners at the Portland Police Bureau. People can make these requests by calling 503-823-SAFE (7233), emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by submitting a report on PBOT’s Vision Zero Traffic Safety Resources website.
As resources allow, PBOT continues to evaluate streets for engineering changes that help people drive at safe speeds.
Given the City’s commitment to Vision Zero, the Portland Police Bureau focuses traffic enforcement on streets seeing the most crashes resulting in deaths and serious injuries. PBOT and PPB work closely together to use crash data to identify locations where officers are most likely to save lives and prevent serious injuries through traffic enforcement.
How will people know about the new speed limit?
PBOT is installing approximately 2,000 new 20 mph speed limit signs. This more than doubles the number of residential speed limit signs on Portland streets.
|PBOT provided free yard signs with the above graphic from February to May.|
In addition, PBOT provided corrugated plastic yard signs (see image) reminding people driving that “20 IS PLENTY” to community members to display in their yard.
To inform people about the importance of safe driving speeds, PBOT has also launched a citywide messaging campaign this spring. We are also asking people in Portland to talk about the new speed limit with their friends, family members, and neighbors. Our streets are a shared resource, and it is up to all of us to support each other in using them safely.
How can I get a 20 mph speed limit sign on my street? /
Why was the 25 mph speed limit sign on my street removed?
PBOT prioritized streets for updated residential speed limit signage using two criteria:
- Connectivity: street connects two or more major streets (those that are collectors or arterials). This helps identify streets most vulnerable to cut-through traffic.
- Proximity to bus stops, schools, and parks. This helps us get signs in places where people are most likely to be walking, biking, or playing, especially children.
PBOT used these criteria to relocate a number of existing residential speed limit signs to maximize their effectiveness. The refreshed residential speed limit signage supports broader efforts by PBOT to provide more comprehensive and consistent signage throughout Portland.