20 mph? Slow ride, take it easy on city streets, Mpls. and St. Paul say

A group gather under a canopy shelter holding blue speed limit signs.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey speaks Thursday at the announcement of new speed limits in both Minneapolis and St. Paul on Thursday. Both cities have initiatives designed to eliminate traffic fatalities and injuries. Reducing traffic speeds are a major part of those plans.
Brandt Williams | MPR News

Holding signs saying “20 is plenty” and “slower is safer,” dozens of supporters of slower speed limits gathered Thursday near the intersection of Franklin Avenue Southeast and Emerald Street in Minneapolis to watch the posted speed limits fall.

Public works crews in Minneapolis and St. Paul this week began changing signs from 30 mph to 20 mph on some residential streets and from 30 to 25 mph along arterial or more heavily traveled streets.

The new speeds only apply to city-owned roads. The state of Minnesota, Hennepin and Ramsey counties own several major thoroughfares in each city.

The process will take several months, but the new speeds kick in once the signs have been installed, said Minneapolis Public Works Director Robin Hutcheson.

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“You can expect us to roll through each of the neighborhoods of the cities over the next five or six months as we complete this change,” Hutcheson said.

In St. Paul, City Council President Amy Brendmoen said she's already started practicing driving at the slower speeds.

"And I have to tell you, it feels really different. It's a lot slower,” she said. “You really get a different sense of the streetscape and people.”

Public safety, particularly for pedestrians, was the primary reason for the change, Brendmoen added.

Reducing traffic speeds is a key piece of the effort in both Minneapolis and St. Paul to eliminate traffic fatalities and injuries. City officials welcomed the passage of legislation last session to grant cities the authority to change speed limits.

Seniors who worry about fast-moving traffic will like the slower speed limits especially, said Mary McGovern, president of the Minneapolis Highrise Representative Council, a group that represents the interests of public housing residents.

“As we get older, our reflexes are slower and we move more slowly,” said McGovern. “So it’s very important to us that our streets are safe to cross and that the needs of our seniors and persons with disabilities are prioritized and plans are made for safer streets and a more walkable city.”