Lower Speed Limits Save Lives

Seven years ago I was riding my bike and was hit by a car. While I was recovering in the hospital, I learned that “When you get hit by a car traveling at 20 mph you live… but if you get hit by a car traveling at 40 mph you die.“

The recent deaths of three pedestrians and of a boy riding his bike has resulted in Bike Walk Greenville being asked, “what can our community do to reduce the number of deaths?”

There are two answers.  The first is to slow down the cars.  Across the country many cities are implementing Vision Zero. A goal of Zero embraces the concept that mistakes on the part of a pedestrian or motorist should not be fatal.  The below graphic from Seattle’s Vision Zero plan tells the story.  Lowering our speed limit is  something we can implement now on our residential streets.

Graphic from Seattle’s Vision Zero plan: /Documents/Departments/beSuperSafe/VisionZeroPlan.pdf


The second answer is designing our streets for people–not just for cars.  This is a fundamental change that will not be easy.  Consider the experience of walking along White Horse Road, where the sidewalk is immediately adjacent to six fast lanes of traffic.  This design is not only unpleasant for people who must walk there but has proven deadly, as a few years ago a driver killed a pedestrian who was on the sidewalk.  Contrast this to walking on Main Street in downtown Greenville where pedestrians are separated from slow moving traffic by trees and parked cars.  People walking on Main Street have smiles on their faces; those walking on White Horse Road do not.

Main Street has sidewalk extensions that shorten the travel distance at crosswalks   On White Horse road pedestrians have to cross six lanes of traffic and very few locations feature a narrow center island as a place of refuge.  The distance between traffic lights for safe crossing is extremely long, and people often cross by necessity far from the traffic lights.

Of course many people who have been killed are wearing dark clothing at night and may be impaired– no design improvement will save them.  Distracted driving is also a huge challenge for our society that must be solved through state and national leadership.

We can reduce fatalities of pedestrians and people on bikes by lowering and enforcing our speed limits.  The City of Greenville has installed a number of monitoring signs that display the vehicle speed compared to the speed limit, and my casual observation is the posted 30 mph speed limit is consistently exceeded.  Let’s change the speed limit to 20 mph on these residential streets as the first step in saving lives.  All it takes is for our elected officials to decide this is the right thing to do.


Frank Mansbach is the Executive Director of Bike Walk Greenville and can be reached at info@bikewalkgreenville.org.


This Guest Commentary has been published by the Greenville News at this link

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