The city of Madison is floating a proposal to drop speed limits in two neighborhoods. It’s a part of the city’s ‘Vision Zero’ plan — which seeks to eliminate traffic accidents and fatalities by 2030.
Under the proposal, residential speed limits in several neighborhoods would be dropped by five miles per hour.
The switch to twenty miles per hour, rather than twenty-five, may sound small. But the switch could spur a major reduction in serious injuries.
According to the city, a person hit by a vehicle going 20 miles per hour has a thirteen percent chance of a fatality or serious injury. But, when that speed is increased to thirty miles per hour, the potential for serious injury or death jumps threefold — to forty percent.
The plan, entitled ‘Twenty is Plenty,” could eventually be implemented citywide.
But two Madison neighborhoods are poised to see a test run of the plan this summer. Exactly which neighborhoods have yet to be determined.
Jeremy Nash, an engineer with the city’s Traffic Engineering Division, says that a number of factors are being considered in who gets included in this first phase.
Says Nash: “One important component to Phase One is that we want to get as many different street designs as we can. So, select areas that have a variety of street designs — whether that’s one-sided parking, two-sided parking, narrow street, wide street — we’re hoping to throw as wide a net as we can and get as much different experience as we can with a variety of different streets.”
The Capital Times reports that the city of Madison documented 15 traffic-related fatalities last year; the highest number in at least six years. Madison’s spike tracks with a statewide increase in fatal crashes in 2021.
Those bumps occurred despite a statewide drop in the number of cars on the road at the beginning of the pandemic.
The city has already decreased speed limits on some of Madison’s major thoroughfares; including, among others, East Washington Ave and East Gammon Road. The Twenty is Plenty proposal currently being floated is similar — although it focuses on Madison’s smaller, neighborhood roads.
Reducing speed limits as a whole is a major part of Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway’s Vision Zero initiative. The program was announced last July, and it seeks to eliminate traffic fatalities and severe injuries by 2030.
Speaking at a press conference announcing the initiative last summer, Mayor Rhodes-Conway said that Black residents are disproportionately impacted by traffic accidents. According to Vision Zero, Black Dane County residents are roughly twice as likely to be involved in fatal car accidents compared to their white counterparts.
“We must address the disproportionate burden of traffic fatalities on people of color, people walking and biking and low-income communities,” Rhodes-Conway said.
For Rhodes-Conway, this project is personal. Both her grandfather and five-year-old brother died in a car accident the year she graduated from college.
“I can’t bring them back. But I can, and I will, work to prevent other families from losing their loved ones to traffic crashes.”
Phase one of the project to lower neighborhood speed limits is set to begin this June. The city will analyze data and information from that limited roll-out before implementing a wider-scale rollout next spring.
(Photo: Isabella and Zsa Fischer / UNSPLASH)