Submitted by Scot Shaw on behalf of the Transporation Advisory Committee
At the Annual Town Meeting on March of 2017, a majority voted to accept Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90, Section 17C. Accepting this change empowered the Selectmen to change the statutory speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph in thickly settled areas or business districts. The “statutory speed limit” is the fancy way of saying “the speed limit you should assume when there are no signs” – so it does not apply to main roads with posted speed limits, but would affect side streets (especially neighborhood roads).
Early in 2018, the Selectmen voted to lower our statutory speed limits to 25mph (https://www.thebedfordcitizen.org/2018/02/bedford-speed-limit-25-mph-thickly-settled-neighborhoods/). As of April 20th, 2018, Bedford opt-in to the lower speed limit became official at the state level. (https://www.mass.gov/info-details/speed-limits-in-thickly-settled-or-business-districts#municipalities-that-have-notified-massdot-of-opt-in-). Signs have been posted at the entry points into town to warn drivers of the new limit.
This has been happening in many towns this year so these signs are showing along Bedford’s borders and other nearby towns. Towns are adopting this new limit as a way to manage cut-through traffic speeds and to make neighborhood streets safer for all users, especially cyclists and pedestrians of all ages. So when we are driving through neighborhood streets, we should all be driving at 5 mph less than we were a year ago. What used to be 5 or 7 mph over the limit is now 10 or 12, putting one at risk of a ticket. Driving 25mph through neighborhoods is the new normal.
In many neighborhoods, traffic volume and speeding issues can be blamed on our frequent cut-through visitors, but the Transportation Advisory Committee continues to field complaints about speeding on streets where cut-through traffic is unlikely – particularly neighborhoods near schools and neighborhoods that are densely populated with many side roads to navigate home. It is clear that the cars speeding through those neighborhoods are predominantly residents – our neighbors and friends, perhaps you, perhaps me, all of us.
It’s hard to change old habits when you’ve driven home the same way day after day, year after year. But this is the new limit for our town and it has been lowered for a good reason. It allows our neighbors to feel safe walking their dog, riding their bike, letting their kids/grandkids play outside in the front yard. With our ever-increasing cut-through traffic in town, it is imperative that Bedford residents make every attempt to adhere to the speed limits on our roads, especially our lower speed limits on neighborhood roads. Don’t just “go with the flow”, instead set the pace – a slower and safer pace for your neighbors and their families and their pets. Let’s all make an effort to be mindful of the new limits until it’s second nature and 30 mph just feels too fast for residential streets.