“20 is Plenty” Designed to Improve Safety on Boulder’s Residential Streets

If you haven’t heard the phrase “Twenty Is Plenty” in regard to improving the safety of Boulder’s neighborhood streets you’re about to. KGNU’s Roz Brown says Boulder City Council is scheduled to vote in May on whether to lower the speed limit in residential neighborhoods – joining the nationwide movement called “Twenty is Plenty.”

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“What it’s about is adjusting the default speed limit in Boulder,” said Mark McIntyre, a member of Boulder’s Transportation Advisory Board.

Right now Boulder’s default speed limit is 25 miles per hour. But momentum has been building to lower it to 20 – joining the “Twenty is Plenty” movement in cities such as Boston, Portland and Seattle, where it’s already been adopted.

“The practical effect is that residential streets that are currently 25 miles per hour or unsigned, will now be 20 miles per hour,” said McIntyre.

Drivers know 20 or 25 miles per hour can feel pretty slow when you’re behind the wheel of a 2000-pound vehicle. But McIntyre says 20 rather than 25 miles per hour can be the difference between life and death.

“The data shows the severity of injury to a pedestrian or bicyclist hit by a car traveling at 20 miles per hour is dramatically lower than being hit at 25 miles per hour, and we all tend to speed so it’s often higher than that,” said McIntyre.

Sue Prant is the executive director of Boulder’s Community Cycles and has led the push for “Twenty is Plenty.” She says it’s one aspect of Boulder’s “Vision Zero” goal – the goal to reduce the number of traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries to zero.

“It’s a worldwide movement, part of Vision Zero. It’s never been put into place and then removed which leads me to believe it’s popular and not an undue burden,” said Prant.

As part of Boulder’s three-year-old Neighborhood Speed Mitigation Program, Prant says the city receives far more applications than it can fund each year from neighborhoods that want traffic mitigation measures such as speed bumps or roads re-engineered.

“It’s a popular proposal for neighborhood streets where children play and pets roam, where people often can treat the street in front of their home as an extension of their yard,” said Prant. “We have 73 neighborhoods that have applied for speed mitigation in only three years.”

The proposed “Twenty is Plenty” ordinance is one of the rare times Boulder City Council hasn’t demanded a study to see if it’s a good fit for Boulder. While city staff thought a technical report at the cost of $100,000 or more should come first, city council decided to go ahead this year and begin changing the speed limit signage across the city at a cost of $65,000 dollars.

McIntyre adds that in cities that have adopted “Twenty is Plenty,” there’s often an overall speed reduction by automobiles on all streets – good news for Boulder – which has championed the use of alternative transportation for decades.

“So it’s a measure to improve safety, calm streets, make them quieter and more welcoming to children, to the elderly, to people with disabilities and to all modes of transportation,” said McIntyre.

Boulder City Council is scheduled to vote on adopting “Twenty Is Plenty” at a regularly scheduled meeting in May.

(Photo Credit: Deer in Boulder by Travis Essinger on Unsplash)