Jul 19, 2023 - Transit

Why Columbus is working to lower its speed limits

Data: Streetlight Data; Note: Top 30 cities by population from 2020 U.S. Census; Chart: Axios Visuals

Columbus drivers tend to drive faster than the national average on roadways shared with pedestrians, making our streets more dangerous for people on foot.

Driving the news: Just 26.7% of Columbus' major pedestrian roadways had average vehicle speeds under 25 mph as of October 2022, compared to the national average of 36%, Axios' Joann Muller reports.

  • The finding is based on a report from StreetLight Data, a company that tracks mobility trends using anonymized cellphone data and other sources.

Why it matters: Pedestrians are twice as likely to be killed in a collision when a car is traveling at 30 mph compared to 20 mph, and over five times more likely when the car is driving 40 mph, according to the AAA Foundation.

Of note: The biggest danger zones are fast-moving roads alongside busy retail areas with lots of foot traffic — think Morse Road, Dublin-Granville Road or Broad Street.

  • In urban areas, such arterial roadways make up about 15% of all roads but account for 67% of pedestrian deaths, per StreetLight Data.

Reality check: It's difficult to change drivers' behavior on multilane streets, which are common in Columbus. Our street designs make roads feel like speedy highways — and consequently make them more dangerous, Ohio State University researchers found.

The big picture: Over 7,500 pedestrians were struck and killed by cars in the United States in 2022 — the most in 41 years — per a Governors Highway Safety Association report.

Zoom in: Columbus' fatal pedestrian crashes are also trending upward, from 15 in 2016 to 25 in 2022.

The latest: City Council voted in February to lower the speed limit from 35 to 25 mph in our downtown business district.

What we're watching: The plan calls for further improvements and increased police enforcement to reduce local fatalities through 2028.

  • That includes reducing speed limits on at least 10 more streets and reconfiguring lanes on at least five corridors.
  • Work is currently underway to convert Front Street and Marconi Boulevard from one-way to two-way traffic to help slow more downtown vehicles, a Department of Public Service spokesperson tells Axios.
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