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Boston to drop default speed limit from 30 to 25 m.p.h. ASAP

Mayor Walsh's office reports a new law signed by Gov. Baker this week will let Boston reduce its default speed limit on most roads to 25 m.p.h. - and that he plans to work with the DPW and the city council to do that as speedily as possible.

The city council voted in April to ask the state for permission for a 20-m.p.h. limit on city roads.

Walsh and other officials say the reduction will mean safer roads for both pedestrians and drivers.

Previously, the city had to go through a laborious process to win state approval to reduce the speed limits on specific sections of road below 30 m.p.h.

A generic bill covering municipal finances and administration included a provision, agreed to by Baker, letting municipalities reduce the default speed limit to 25 m.p.h. on "any roadway inside a thickly settled or business district in the city or town on any way that is not a state highway."

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I hope this is more rigorously enforced than the rules against texting and driving or running red lights. Otherwise you might as well make it 3 mph.

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This is absurd!!!

How about before we start reducing the legal speed limit (for people who actually care to follow it), BPD actually starts enforcing the current speed limit? Cars constantly drive 45mph+ on Comm. Ave, Beacon Street...etc. (all streets they're trying to make safer for pedestrians) yet I have never seen police with a radar gun and/or ticketing them on those troubled streets. How about spend a few months actually enforcing the current limit, get a bunch of fine $ for the city and let's re-assess.

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In the 20 years I've been in the Kenmore area I HAVE seen the police come out with radar guns.

It happened once, about 10 years ago. Lasted for the better part of the afternoon. They were nabbing people heading outbound from the BU bridge on Comm Ave.

So please don't spread lies that the police don't enforce the traffic laws. Clearly they do. Drivers take notice: They're sure be out there at least several more times before the end of the century.

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If you've ever driven at night on Beacon or Commonwealth you would see cops every other block.

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In the spring, summer, and fall, I regularly bike Beacon and Comm Ave from Beacon Hill to Allston, between 8-9:30 pm. I have only ever seen cruisers out when there has already been a crash. And while not all cars are speeding through the area, I frequently see cars going 2-3 times faster than I am (10-15 mph) on a bike.

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And while not all cars are speeding through the area, I frequently see cars going 2-3 times faster than I am (10-15 mph) on a bike.

So 20-30 mph? Or 30-45 mph?

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I have never seen cops in Boston around Kenmore giving traffic tickets at night. They seem to assume that BU police will deal with anything happening on their campus and BU cops don't issue traffic violations.

Brookline cops (which is Audubon Circle outbound) do pull motorists periodically.

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Brookline doesn't start until St Marys St.

P.S. I almost never drive, but I did get a ticket for speeding approaching Packard's Corner from Harvard Ave/St a few years ago on a sunny October Sunday morning. 42 in a 30, IIRC.

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St. Mary's is a block from Audubon Circle . Don't be a such a Richard.

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I've lived in this neighborhood for the past 15 years... I have NEVER seen cops stop anyone for speeding, nor have I seen speed traps. You have no idea what you're talking about. Cops on every other block? Ha!

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Yeah, the cops are only driving through, though. They're never actually enforcing traffic laws like speeding or running red lights.

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Awesome. So the city or state will spend million$ on new signage for signs that no one will pay attention to.

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Don't worry though, a lot more money will come in from fines since a simple speeding ticket in days of yore will now warrant reckless driving at the same speeds. Also, the state should be getting some kind of kick-back (If I understand politics at all) from Insurance companies who get to raise a driver's premiums for 7 years when such tickets are issued. Everyone wins! (except drivers, of course)

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These speed limits are totally unreasonable! They'll never possibly be enforced. They'll mean reckless driving charges for everyone! This will cost the state millions! The state is making money hand over fist from insurance kickbacks.

The food here is terrible. And the portions are so small!

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Given that Boston replaces at least several signs a day anyway (based on citizen's connect posts) it seems unlikely new signs are going to put much of a strain on the budget.

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So..

Who is the lucky donor sign vendor?

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The default speed limit is the speed limit where there are no signs governing it (there are prerequisites to determining a posted speed limit that must be followed). This does not mean that every 30 mph sign will be replaced with a 25 mph sign, it means that the speed limit will be 25 where there is no sign.

Nice attempt at political cynicism, but because of your abject failure to understand the measure I can only rate you a 2.0 out of 10.0. No gold medal for you.

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Admit it. You did. We all know why.

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Admit it. You did. We all know why.

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Without this law Boston cannot just post lower speed limits wherever it wants, only where school zones, churches, and such allow for lower speed limits. Changing the default so they can post new signs is exactly what this law is about.

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No, without the law, Boston can post lower speeds wherever it can prove to the state that they're appropriate. Plenty of cities have done this, including Boston itself.

Here are the procedures: http://www.mit.edu/~jfc/speed/MassHighway/manual.html

Also note that the new law doesn't apply just to narrow streets lined with triple-deckers. Any stretch of road in the state that has six houses within a half mile (other than state roads) could now have limit of 25, including rural highways. Or if they say the magic words "safety zone", it could be 20.

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The city can't just ask the state to let it drop the speed limit on a particular stretch of road - it has to provide all sorts of data to justify it, and that's pretty time consuming and probably costs money.

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And? Why shouldn't the city have to justify it?

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But I think CoB has their own sign shop. MassDOT has their own, too, and I think it's still out on Mystic Ave. for the moment.

Man, it's really tiresome to have to read people think there's corruption at every single thing they can think of.

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Well, this is Massachusetts.

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They may have a contract already in place with a vendor (that was publicly bid when put out on the street). Or they have an in house sign shop, like a number of municipalities.

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They are already replacing signs because the awful Boston drivers are constantly speeding into them and knocking them over.

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Boston has almost no speed limit signs. Primary impact will be on streets where there are no signs where the speed limit just goes to the default set by the city.

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speed limit signs only where there is a special regulation, that has been enacted under the provisions of MGL Chapter 85, Section 2, and as reflected in MGL, Chapter 90, Section 18, in place for a specific road. Statutory speed limits, such as the one just enacted for Boston, cannot be posted on regulatory signs.

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Do they have to replace the whole sign, or can they just sticker "25" over the "30"?

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Finally!

But now begins the long process of redesigning streets to make driving safely feel more natural than driving dangerously. Changes in law are a necessary first step, but far from the last.

I'm sure some folks will whinge about the lower speed limit, but decent people recognize that urban neighborhoods are no place for speeding. The preferences of dangerous drivers should not override the safety of people.

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Americans who use 'whinge' seriously are the most pretentious.

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caused by drivers doing between 26 and 30 mph, amirite?

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Until they assign a bunch of officers to traffic control duty and start setting up speed traps and the like, this is a meaningless gesture. As Michael said above, 3 mph or 30 mph, it makes no difference unless there is enforcement.

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If past experience is a guide for future performance: unless you are a pedestrian using a crosswalk obstructing the travel of an off duty cop I don't think you'll see any type of 'enforcement'.

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The problem we've had is that they go out to enforce in our neighborhood but the cars are going 30 MPH on a two-way road that can only fit 1 lane. The cars are going 30 MPH so they can't ticket even though it is totally unsafe. There are many neighborhoods having the similar enforcement issues which is why this was done. Not sure if 25 is enough but at least it's something.

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They can ticket for driving at an unsafe speed, even below 30.

That's why this law makes no sense. They'll only use it to ticket in places where going 30 or 35 *is* safe. Otherwise they could have written tickets under existing laws.

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Although an unmarked road might have a limit of 30, that is only if it is safe and reasonable to drive 30. Often it isn't. But it is a lot easier to ticket for exceeding 25 than it is to argue that 30 is unreasonable. And it’s easier for the ticket to stick.

Most unmarked residential streets should not be driven at more that 20-25 mph regardless of what the “default” limit is.

Now, if there could only be enforcement.

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Which is why we need changes to the infrastructure to make speeding a bad idea if you don't want your car damaged in the process - speed tables, humps, bump outs, etc. Police cannot be everywhere even under the best circumstances.

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the intersection of Bussey and Walter has been improved with turning lanes and bump-outs for the crosswalk. Coming down past Burger King on Washington, they've painted in lanes to reduce traffic to one lane (in theory). It's a start.

The one place I see traffic stops regularly is the Staties when they set up in the VFW/West Rox. Parkway rotary getting outbound speeders.

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the intersection of Bussey and Walter has been improved with turning lanes and bump-outs for the crosswalk. Coming down past Burger King on Washington, they've painted in lanes to reduce traffic to one lane (in theory). It's a start.

Truth.

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on Walter??? How is that good. Yes the turn lane is nice but how would anyone use the bike lane?

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Vaughn K was listing multiple traffic calming efforts.

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There is no bike lane in the middle of Walter Street, not sure what you're talking about. There will be lanes on the right side of the travel lanes as you see on other roads, hopefully before end of this year.

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there are bike lane markings in the middle of Walter St as you go by Weld and down to Centre.

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That is a travel lane on Walter towards Centre. There is also a right turn lane on Walter onto Bussey. The bike markings you see in that lane are called "sharrows." They indicate that is a lane to be shared between vehicles and cycles. They're essentially useless but I digress. A bike lane is what it sounds like, for bikes only. Different but important terminology and usage.

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is they are useless and actually make it confusing. Sharrows?????

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As a person with neck and back problems, I hate speed tables and humps. When I'm having a flare-up, they're dangerous for me at any speed.

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The BPD often stations a traffic-enforcement officer on Hyde Park Ave near Southbourne with radar to enforce the 30 mph speed limit on Hyde Park - he catches a lot of drivers. I'm all for it but it still boggles my mind why they don't put at least 3 traffic-enforcement officers at every lighted intersection surrounding the Forest Hills station. They could easily make tons of money if they did with all the nonsense that goes on at those intersections.

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I'm all for it but it still boggles my mind why they don't put at least 3 traffic-enforcement officers at every lighted intersection surrounding the Forest Hills station.

Because each district has one traffic enforcement officer on duty at a time. That's why.

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most cars will have some GPS based speed restrictions and this established speed limit will mesh with that.

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In 10-20 years driving will be 100% automated, and our robot overlord chauffeurs will all be driving precisely 25 mph.

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Robots will keep us as pets.

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Really this speed change allows Boston to better design roads for the new slower limit. Engineers can now use traffic calming tools like raised crosswalks and chicanes that would not be possible to use when the limit is 30mph.

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As an engineer this is completely 100% false.

1) Even if the default speed limit is 30 mph, the city has always been welcome to reduce the limit to whatever it wants, provided that it can show the state a traffic study justifying it. This just shifts the ability to determine safe speed limits from engineers to politicians.

2) The speed limit is a maximum, not a minimum. There is also a difference between the posted speed limit and a road's design speed. Design speed is what we use when establishing roadway geometry. Thus despite a posted speed limit of 30, it is perfectly possible to design a street that cannot be safely navigated above 5 mph, if we wanted to. A legally defined default speed limit of 30 has absolutely zero bearing on engineers' ability to implement traffic calming measures. And we've been implementing them for years. I haven't personally worked on any such projects in Boston, but I've worked on plenty in Cambridge, which is full of raised elements, curb extensions, etc. despite the default speed limit having been 30.

3) As I alluded to above, lowering the speed limit by 5 mph is not necessary to redesign the roads to be safer. In fact it's completely irrelevant. If we want to slow traffic down on Boston's streets, the solution is to redesign them, not to change numbers on a sign that no one is going to obey anyway. One of the first things you learn in college highway engineering classes is that you NEVER rely on signs to control motorists' behavior - you ALWAYS do so through roadway geometry. Want to slow traffic? Add a raised element or narrow the lanes. Want to make pedestrian crossings safer? Extend the curb. These elements will naturally slow traffic down. A sign will not.

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Amen!

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Wow! What a waste of money to change signs by 5mph which no driver will abide by. Would have be better to funnel that money toward law enforcement dedicated to ticketing speeding drivers. Oh, but that would have meant using your brain... and of course the GOP thinks that's elitist. Thanks, Baker!

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It's the gun laws all over again. Don't hold people accountable for the current laws, just create more oppressive laws.

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Anybody who thinks this will change the way anybody drives or magically make the roads safer is delusional.

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The problem has never been people traveling at 30 MPH. This seems to be a foolish knee-jerk reaction to some incredibly irresponsible drivers drag racing on city streets:
https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/03/20/police-seek-two-men-back-ba...

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Here's another fun aspect of the new law:

Cities don't have to put up *any* signs for the 25 mph zones.

Under the old law, it was easy to know the speed limit anywhere in the state. 30 in a thickly settled area (or 40 rural, 50 rural divided highway), unless otherwise posted.

Now, it's your problem to call up the city clerk of every municipality you're going to drive through. Every day, in case the limit changed.

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