In yesterday’s Globe, I read that Denise Provost has sponsored a bill to reduce urban speed limits by 5 mph in the state. Here’s the article:


In a collision with a pedestrian, a 5 mph reduction in speed makes a huge difference in the probability of injury. There’s a chart that illustrates this here:


This bill seems like a step forward in making our state safer for all road users and less fossil fuel dependent.

I was hoping to hear some of your thoughts on this bill. Will you support it? Is it likely to pass? What is its current status?

Thank you for hard work!

Best wishes,


10 replies on “Speeding”

  1. Hi Will,

    I have to say I’m not a huge fan of this bill, even though I’m an avid cyclist – as you know.

    For one, the speed limit is low enough as it is. For another, plenty of studies have shown that speed limits don’t really make a difference with regards to how much people drive; drivers automatically adjust their speeds to local road conditions regardless of the posted speed limit. A five mile decrease is simply an excuse for our roving tax collectors to issue more tickets.

    Instead of lowering the speed limits, how about adding signs – e.g., reminding drivers that bicyclists are entitled to use full lanes, reminding drivers to yield for pedestrians, etc. – and ticketing violations of these existing laws.

    1. Sorry, meant with regard to how *fast* people drive… I need to learn to proofread before I post.

  2. To me, this law seems like a win-win. Either it will make people slow down (5 mph makes a big difference in safety whether it’s from 30 to 25 or 40 to 35) or it will provide additional revenue for towns, without raising taxes on those who follow the law.

    1. A 20% reduction in the speed limit = a 20% longer commute – or possibly even longer with red light timing (even for the buses that get stuck on trapelo rd.) This doesn’t seem like a win to me.

    2. Finally, I’ll add this point. Of the six comments on the Boston Globe website, 3 are positive and 3 are negative. The issue is not all that clear cut not all that popular. Will, I’d really urge you to get some more feedback on the issue before pressing ahead with this bill.

  3. A 20% (17%) decrease in the speed limit would not decrease average speeds by 20% because drivers only attain the speed limit for a fraction of their trip in urban areas. In fact, for commuters, the effect would be even smaller since traffic speeds are lower around rush hour.

    I’m not sure about red lights, but I would guess that they can be re-timed for the new speed limits.

    I’d hesitate to assume that comments on boston.com are representative of the opinions of MA voters.

    1. That’s true, but a decrease in the maximum speed limit will affect average speed. For example, let’s assume the average urban speed now is about 12 miles / hour (including stops, red lights, etc.) Let’s assume, arguendo, that decreasing the speed limit by 5 miles/hour will decrease the average commuting speed by 2 miles/hour. That still results in a significantly longer commute time.

      And while it’s true that the 6 comments on the Boston Globe don’t constitute a statistically representative sample, they’re what we’ve got – which is precisely why our representatives should get a better feel for the true opinions of MA voters on this matter before pressing ahead.

  4. I appreciate the dialog on this bill.

    I support it because the evidence is clear that injury and damage in accidents is greatly lower at lower speeds. Most people drive over 30 and more pressure to bring it down would be good.

    I do admit that it will not automatically change behavior — police resources are scarce enough that most traffic laws are very lightly enforced and all too often disregarded.

    Although I’m supporting it, I don’t think it is moving.

  5. LOL – see “Simple Problems” / “Simple solutions” comment I made on another post. Speed limits should be set by traffic engineers, not politicians. period. the end. Good riddance to a bad bill.

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