Community Transportation

Reader Poll: Should Boston Reduce the City Speed Limit to 20 MPH?

The current city speed limit is 25 mph.

Less than two years ago, Boston lowered the city speed limit to 25 mph to improve safety for all users of Boston’s roadways. Now, according to the Boston Globe, some city councilors are advocating for an additional speed reduction down to 20 mph.

While many people support this, some argue it will not have the desired effect of making the streets safer for everyone. Wendy Landman, Executive Director of the pedestrian advocacy group WalkBoston, argues the city needs to change the environment in order to make the streets safer, such as implementing raised crosswalks, protected bike paths and thinner travel lanes.

What do you think? Should Boston reduce the city speed limit to 20 mph? Vote in our poll and add your comments in the section below.

Note: Web polls are not scientific, representing only those readers who choose to vote.

28 Replies to “Reader Poll: Should Boston Reduce the City Speed Limit to 20 MPH?

  1. 20 mph speed limit would help. Also, a raised crosswalk would be great in front of Billy Tse’s on Commercial St. Cars do not seem to stop there in spite of the well-marked crosswalk and sign.

  2. All crosswalks should be painted our children are going to school for the safety of the elderly that attend mass during the day. Cars don’t STOP on Hanover and prince street the city will paint them when someone gets killed!!!!

  3. I’m sorry but enough attention is not given to the carelessness of many pedestrians and bicyclists.

    Multiple times a week people on foot just walk in front or behind my moving vehicle. You cannot just jump in front of a car because you have “right of way”

    Bicyclists fly down streets the wrong way. Cut in between cars. The rules should be the same.

    1. Careless pedestrians and bicyclists aren’t hitting and killing people with one ton blocks of metal. If you perceive people to be “jumping” in front of your car, then you’re probably driving too fast… especially if they have the right of way. Lower speed limits will encourage you to slow down. Then I’m sure the mysterious case of “jumping” pedestrians will disappear.

      1. If you choose to solely blame vehicle drivers and completely ignore the bad habits of some bicyclists and some pedestrians around this city then you are really bringing nothing to the table. It is irresponsible to do so.

      2. Careless pedestrians and irresponsible bicyclists do cause accidents and usually get themselves injured and or killed.Maybe not in the NE but city and state wide it happens every day.

      3. Just because a bicyclist isn’t driving a one ton vehicle, doesn’t mean that they get a free pass to ignore the rules of the road. I was nearly hit by one when I was in the middle of a crosswalk and had the right of way. When I told him I was in a crosswalk and to learn the rules of the road, he responded by using profanity towards me. Responsibility when it comes to the rules of the road doesn’t just fall on the drivers of cars, it also needs to be taken by bicyclists and pedestrians as well.

      4. I’ve seen far more careless drivers harm or come close to harming people on foot or on a bicycle, then I’ve seen people on foot or on a bicycle harm a driver.

        Obviously, not all drivers are careless all of the time and not all people walking or biking are saints (the person Belle mentioned sounds like a real jerk). However, the level of responsibility that comes with driving a 1 ton metal car capable of considerable speed is far different than a person on foot or a 15-lb bike.

        Setting a 20 mph speed limit does not mean that every driver will suddenly start driving 20 mph (when was the last time you went the exact speed limit?). But the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that odds of drivers going over 30 and 35 mph fell considerably after Boston lowered the default limit to 25 mph. The difference between a driver striking someone at 25 mph versus 35 mph means the difference between life and death, at least according to the AAA Foundation–hardly an agent of the war on cars, which gives a 50-50 chance of survival if hit at 30 mph.

        IIHS report:

        AAA report:

        1. The problem I see is, the vast majority of drivers of cars will admit they break the law from time to lights, stop signs, going over the speed limit. But I have never heard nor seen a bicyclist admit they ever do anything wrong. It’s their way or the highway (no pun intended).

          When’s the last time you’ve seen a car drive the wrong way down Salem St? But bikes do it as the matter of course.

          And yes, cars go the wrong way on one way streets too…and most of them get a ticket for it. But not bikes.

        2. “…the vast majority of drivers of cars will admit they break the law from time to time.” That’s a big deal. When drivers break the law, they are doing so in a 1 ton vehicle capable of considerable speeds. Breaking the law can mean death, like in these recent instances:

          3-year-old killed on a sidewalk in South Boston, July 2018:

          Elderly man killed on a crosswalk in a hit-and-run in Alston, June 2018:

          Man killed in a hit-and-run in Mattapan walking home from work, May 2018:

          When was the last time you saw a pedestrian kill someone from walking into them or a cyclist from hitting someone?

          Of course they break the rules. They’re human and no different than people behind the wheel. But when a pedestrian or cyclist breaks the rules they are only endangering themselves. When a driver breaks the rules, they are risking the lives of others on the street, sidewalks, and bike lanes–including other drivers!

    2. I agree, pedestrians just cross the street without even turning their heads to see if cars are coming, and they do always seem to walk right in back of your car when you are trying to back up into a parking spot. Same for cyclists. The city builds a cycling path along Commercial St and Atlantic Ave and this idiot on a bicycle speeds by me across from Joe’s American Bar & Grill, he’s not in the bike lane, but has the audacity to yell at me for standing in his way while waiting to cross the street where there is only ONE lane for traffic. How I wish I had a brick in my hand.

      And the sad part about these reckless pedestrians and cyclists is that we have to suffer the consequences for what happens to them if there is an accident.

      1. Bicyclists are allowed full use of the road, regardless of the bike track or lane availability. Review MGL Ch 90.

    1. If you’d like to go fast, I’d encourage you to pick a rural highway. Our neighborhoods are not a place to speed.

    1. Few will actually drive 20 mph, but it will get more people to drive slower. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released a report on Tuesday showing that the odds of drivers going over 30 and 35 mph fell considerably after Boston lowered the default limit to 25 mph.

      Seeing as though the AAA Foundation gives the average pedestrian a 50-50 chance of survival when hit by a driver going 30 mph, a change that leads to fewer drivers going that speed is most welcome.

      IIHS report:

      AAA report:

  4. When is the last time you saw someone pulled over for speeding in town? They don’t enforce the current 25 mph limit, what difference is making it 20 mph going to make. It’s a foolish “placebo” change.
    FAR more useful would be installing traffic cameras at busy intersections and mailing people tickets when they go through reds. Every light cycle I see 4-6 cars just blow through clearly red lights, often blocking the box and creating a blockage for the alternate cycle – also endangering pedestrians that have a walk signal. They do this all over the place in other countries. The technology exists and the revenue upside would be HUGE for the city.

    1. I think that if the city was serious about enforcement they would have installed cameras years ago. As MarkB correctly pointed out this practice of installing cameras is used everywhere.

    2. Unfortunately, speed and red light cameras are illegal under state law in Massachusetts. Maybe our State Rep., Aaron Michlewitz can take on the issue after his wraps up the AirBnB legislation…

  5. Please folks how fast can you drive in this congested city? They are destroying the infrastructure of this very old historic city, with bicycle lanes and street markings that seem to have been designed by some one on LSD. The City’s administration knows They are putting pedestrians, bicyclist and motorist at risk and are looking at ways to reduce their liability. Bicycle lanes have increased the number of cyclist related injuries and deaths and so have the terribly marked street lane changes that bicycle lanes force on pedestrians and motorists.

    1. The least historic part of our historic city is the amount of space we give away for free to people in cars. But I’d love to see your data on how bicycle lanes increase cyclist related injuries and deaths

  6. Wait until the electric scooters, skateboards, and bikes really hit their stride (pun intended). I already have seen isolated incidents of these people screaming down sidewalks or bike lanes, and it’s very concerning (for pedestrians, cyclists and riders or the aforementioned) . I don’t have any answers or suggestions, but people are going to be getting hurt in measurable numbers in the coming months. It’s a tough one to figure out regulation and enforcement-wise. It’s a huge challenge for cities all over the country…. 🙁

    1. Fortunately, electric scooters only go 12 mph–far slower than the proposed speed limit! If you’re worried about them, then I’m sure you wholeheartedly support this 20 mph initiative.

  7. We need the crosswalk lines painted plus The speed limit has nothing to do with the crazy drivers that go around corners like they where on the freeway Elderly people can’t walk fast enough Casa Maria #1 when we tell drivers slow down They swear at you! Also at all corners where are the meter maids?

    1. Yes! I see people whip around corners in the North End constantly… Part of the problem is that we have very generous turning radii at our intersections. Bump outs, i.e., extending the curb, can help by making it harder to take a corner at speed, as can raising the intersection, like a plateau, which requires drivers to slow down as they approach it. As an added bonus, a raised intersection is makes pushing a stroller and moving about in a wheelchair much easier.

  8. Lowering the speed limit won’t make drivers go slower, since many of the accidents occur because drivers ignore the existing limits. There are too many side streets to patrol effectively. There is at best random checks, but the streets can’t practically patroled all the time. Speed bumps do the best job of slowing traffiic. They are there all the time and if you hit them regularly at high speed, you damage the car, broken shocks, sparks flying off the oil pan … all kinds of entertaining stuff for us pedestrians.

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