U.S. cities have been taking a closer look at traffic within their city limits. Many have increasingly opted to lower speed limits in order to improve safety. The reason behind these changes may be an increase in safety, but there’s more to this movement than just fewer accidents. Let’s take a look at a few ways slower cities are benefiting.
Without a doubt imposing lower speed limits results in decreased traffic-related accident rates. In fact, in New York City areas where Neighborhood Slow Zones have been implemented there has been a 14% reduction in crashes with injuries and 31% reduction in vehicles injuries. In urban areas where micromobility has become widespread, the need for safety measures is essential. After an unusually high number of cyclists’ deaths New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio doubled down on his Vision Zero plan and increased funding for city transportation workers and infrastructure improvements for cyclists.
Urban areas are often known for having congested streets filled with honking cars and irritated drivers. Recent emphasis on sustainable practices and the environmental crisis have led to an explosion of micromobility devices such as electric scooters. They provide an easily accessible alternative mode of transportation. Segways, electric scooters, and bike-share programs have been popping up in urban areas and could serve as a solution to the congestion and traffic jams that many urban areas experience. Slower speed limits make it safer for these types of transportation users and make them a more viable long-term solution. According to the World Resources Institute, lowering speed limits has the potential to reduce congestion because it can reduce the likelihood of bottlenecks. In Sao Paulo, lower speed limits on major arterials reduced congestion by 10%. That might not seem like much, but if you’re a commuter in an urban area, every little bit helps.
# 3 Healthier Cities
It only makes sense that lower speed limits would make individuals more comfortable getting out and being active in their neighborhoods. Making cities safer for pedestrians and bicyclists means more people will be inclined to participate in these activities which promote physical and mental health. The U.S. could save $5.6 billion in health care costs if one in ten adults started walking regularly. Not to mention more people opting to walk rather than drive would reduce emissions which can adversely affect health.
#4 Vibrant Economies
When streets are move inviting for pedestrians and cyclists, they tend to do better economically than streets with lots of fast-moving traffic. People on foot are more likely to stop into shops and restaurants than those driving by at high speeds. Slower speed limits boost real estate values and local economies benefit. In San Francisco, nearly 60 percent of retailers reported increased spending by local people, and nearly 40 percent reported an overall increase in sales and Kensington Street in London’s saw a 13 percent increase in the price of apartments when safety and design improvements were made to the streetscape, and estimates that better shopping access for pedestrians will generate millions of pounds in increased retail spending.
Reducing speed limits in urban areas can have many positive side effects that benefit the community at large. Maybe it’s time for us all to slow down a bit and prioritize safety and environmental concerns – it just may be financially prudent.