Lower In-Town Speed Limits May Save Lives
This September, Atlanta finally took concrete steps toward lowering the in-town speed limit to 25 miles per hour (mph) and may have turned the corner toward becoming the pedestrian- and bike-friendly metropolis it is capable of becoming. This movement started as an international campaign called Vision Zero, and some of the elements have caught on with local activists. The impetus for this study and subsequent legislation is the surge in pedestrian versus automobile deaths this year, but there are also strong economic and quality of life reasons that make slowing down in main commercial districts so vital.
What difference is 35 mph versus 25 mph going to make? It will slow traffic, which leads to more time for drivers to see, react to, and brake for pedestrians. Secondly, fewer drivers will use surface streets as a racetrack to cut a few minutes off their commutes. People drive 40–45 mph in a 35- mph zone if they can, and as a result, Atlanta has had a surge of scooter, bike, and pedestrian deaths this year alone. If the speed limits came down to 25 mph, map routing applications are going to start sending more traffic to the main routes with faster speeds rather than side streets. This leads to fewer fatal pedestrian accidents. Setting aside the life-safety argument for a moment, think about the time you spend walking. Do you have a sidewalk in your neighborhood? What are the speed limits there? How do you feel when there are cars blowing by at 45 mph versus 20 mph in a small neighborhood street? Do you worry that your dog is going to lurch off the curb suddenly? The difference between many major European cities and Atlanta does not just begin and end with a better metro system. Europe’s streets were laid out long before cars came along, and pedestrian foot traffic has always carried equal weight there. I was just in Munich, Germany, and there is a street for cars, a bike sidewalk for bikes only, and a pedestrian- only sidewalk. The foot traffic is off the charts, which leads to numerous commercial benefits as the stores prosper from walk-in traffic with no overhead to provide parking. At Simon Law Firm, we deal with pedestrian injury and death cases on an all-too-frequent basis, and I can tell you that speed and visibility are the top factors. Lowering speed limits will go a long way toward making our streets and communities safer and more prosperous. Improving Quality of Life
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