THE GLOBE recently reported that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation aims to triple the amount of non-car travel in our state by 2030. The benefits of such a mode shift range from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to enhancing public health.
Richard Davey, the state’s transportation secretary, believes that people will change their travel habits if they have, for instance, safer cycling and walking routes.
The department says it will seek funding to achieve this goal, but one vital road safety element is already within reach: lowering the presumptive speed limit from 30 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour on local roads. As the Globe reported (“Sharing the road safely,” Oct. 7), “the survival rate for a person hit by a vehicle at 20 miles per hour is 95 percect but drops to 60 percent at 30 m.p.h. and 20 percent at 40 m.p.h.” The aphorism that “speed kills” is actually based on hard data.
In the last two legislative sessions, a bill to shave 5 miles per hour from the state’s default (“unless otherwise posted”) speed limit has been reported favorably out of committee, then languished. It has the support of the transportation department, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, among others. If we want local streets to be safer for those who walk and ride bicycles, pressing for this change of law seems like a good place to start.