October Speed Workshop Recap

October Speed Workshop Recap

Earlier this month, we held a 90- minute lunchtime workshop on speed limits and community advocacy around speed mitigation where we discussed the many speeding issues communities across the Commonwealth are facing. This workshop was made possible thanks to funding from the Plymouth Rock Assurance Foundation.

The slides we shared at the beginning of the workshop can be viewed here. Below we’ve summarized the breakout sessions, included links for some of the questions that were posed during the discussion so you can learn more, and added a list of funding sources that places across Massachusetts can use to improve pedestrian safety in their community. 

PROBLEMS: “What speed setting problems are you facing?”

  • Road Jurisdiction: who controls the road? State agencies (MassDOT, MassDCR) set the speed limit on roads they control, which may be at odds with what the community wants. These roads are also not subject to a community’s opt-in to 25mph speed limit
  • Discrepancies between design speed and posted speed limit. If when repaving or reconstructing a road the design speed selected is higher than the posted speed limit, it encourages people driving to drive faster. If a speed study is done after paving, even higher speeds may be observed, leading to a higher posted speed limit. 
  • Blanket Speed Limits that don’t match the local context and land use. If there is a blanket 25mph limit but a road is designed for higher speeds, it gives a message to people driving that the speed limit can be ignored. 
  • Only posting speed limit signs for the default 25 mph speed limit at municipal lines can be confusing. A few examples people offered:
    • A person could drive an entire trip within a community and never see a speed limit sign for the default speed, since it is not allowed to be posted anywhere other than at the municipal line.
    • Mixed messaging – there can be a sign w/ a different speed limit almost immediately after the default speed limit sign at the municipal line if that particular road had a speed study for a higher speed limit. 
    • Even when using a speed feedback sign that displays a driver’s speed, we have been told that we can’t post the white/black speed limit sign along with it to show the default speed limit. 
  • The 25 mph opt-in legislation leaves out many rural municipalities since it is meant to include ‘thickly settled areas.’ What can be done for communities that have areas that don’t fit the definition of ‘thickly settled’? 

Interventions and Strategies

  • Speed Feedback signage. Speed feedback signs can cue drivers to slow speeds, and can be periodically moved around to different areas where they may be useful. Complete Streets funding is one method to purchase speed feedback signs.  
  • Utilize speeding ticket revenue for improvements around the immediate area. In Salem, revenue generated from parking tickets issued for infractions that occur in accessible parking spaces is directed towards the disability commission. As with this example, revenue generated from speed ticketing can be used to help fund streetscape improvements that slow speeds and increase safety in the area where the infraction occurred.
  • Piggyback on upcoming investments. When changes and investments are about to be made, seize the opportunity to work with the City, DCR, MassDOT or whichever party has jurisdiction over the road, and ask for additional changes at the project site that advance best practices for traffic calming and can be made concurrently.
  • Use multiple strategies, even if low-cost. Singular built environment changes are seldom as effective as making multiple, complementary streetscape changes that provide drivers with repeated cues to slow down. In-street signage, advanced yield signs, striping, and flex posts and painted curb bump outs are all inexpensive interventions that can be affordably implemented together to slow speeds. See our report on low-cost traffic calming strategies for more. 


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