Downtown workers and residents often feel unsafe crossing the street, cycling in on-street bike lanes, or walking to their offices from bus stops.
In November 2019, a 30-year-old man named Alex Wolf was killed in downtown Minneapolis when a semi-truck turned into his bike lane. Wolf was struck and died at the scene. Wolf was an avid cyclist who had worked at a bike shop and was featured in a documentary on bike messengers. He even took part in Vision Zero Minneapolis events – a program advocating for bike and pedestrian safety awareness and lowering speed limits.
Tragically, Wolf’s experience is not unusual and City leaders have taken steps to make streets safer. Four months after Wolf’s needless death, Minneapolis and Saint Paul announced the introduction of lower, 20 mph vehicle speed limits on residential streets. This month Minneapolis finished installing and updating 1400 – 20 mph signs along city streets. Saint Paul will complete a similar campaign early in 2021. To help build awareness, “20 is Plenty” yard signs have sprouted up across Minneapolis to remind motorists that crossing the street or riding a bike should not have deadly consequences.
Speed limits on Minneapolis streets are now 20 mph unless posted otherwise. Larger arterial streets are 25 mph, with a few higher posted speed exceptions such as West Lake Street near Bde Maka Ska, and Cedar Avenue over Lake Nokomis. County- and State-controlled roads are outside the city’s jurisdiction and their speed limits have not changed.
Vision Zero Minneapolis aims to cut traffic deaths on city streets to zero by 2027. Speed dramatically increases the odds of injury or death. Studies have shown that a pedestrian hit at 35 mph is three times as likely to die as someone hit at 25 mph. Lower speeds also provide drivers more reaction time to stop before crashes happen. It is vital that walkers, bicyclists, and workers heading to and from transit stops feel safe on the streets that are dominated by car traffic.
City of Minneapolis Vision Zero Crash Study (2018) found that 80% of pedestrian deaths and severe injuries occurred on only 10% of streets – including a high percentage of downtown streets. While cyclists made 5 percent of trips in the city, they accounted for almost 20 percent of crash fatalities. Pedestrians make up 20 percent of the city’s commuters but totaled 30 percent of all deaths and injuries. Lower speed limits are also a racial equity issue due to the number of deaths and injuries disproportionately impacting people and neighborhoods of color.
The proposed Minneapolis Transportation Action Plan’s climate change initiatives increase the percentage of commuters who bike, walk, and use transit. These commuting options are vital in lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and the growing number commuters taking part deserve to feel safe sharing city streets with cars.
20 mph is the speed limit in Minneapolis unless posted otherwise. For the sake of Alex Wolf and other victims, “20 is Plenty”.