Coral Gables

Slow down! Coral Gables lowering speed limits on residential streets

Coral Gables has taken a preliminary vote to lower the speed limit on residential streets.
Coral Gables has taken a preliminary vote to lower the speed limit on residential streets.

Drivers traveling through Coral Gables will soon have to ease off the gas pedal.

The city is preparing to reduce speed limits on residential streets to 25 mph, down from the state standard of 30 mph, and to 20 mph in gated neighborhoods. Commissioners gave initial approval to the change at Tuesday’s meeting. It will become law after a second vote.

Reducing the speed limits has been in the works since last year. The effort was primarily spearheaded by Commissioner Vince Lago and the city’s transportation advisory board.

“Every one of us is a pedestrian. This isn’t an attempt to penalize anyone. It’s a move to provide a safer environment when we are at our most vulnerable,” said Jessica Keller, the city’s assistant public works director.

Lago and other supporters said the main reason for pursuing the change was to provide safety for residents and pedestrians. The 5 mph difference between the current speed limit and the proposed change gives pedestrians a much better chance of survival if they’re hit by a car, according to studies from the AAA Foundation. Slowing down also can help eliminate accidents.

Pedestrians are basically invisible to cars. To me this would be a very good first step but only a first step in traffic calming.

Susan Hills, Coral Gables resident

“Pedestrians are basically invisible to cars,” said Susan Hills, a resident. “To me, this would be a very good first step, but only a first step, in traffic calming.”

The city will install more than 550 signs through a partnership with Miami-Dade County’s transportation and public works department. Installation will cost the city about $180,000.

Commissioner Jeannett Slesnick cast the only no vote, saying the city should do a more thorough survey of residents. The city hosted about seven meetings related to the city’s multi-modal transportation plan; most attendees supported reducing the speed limit.

Lago said that after working on the initiative for several years, he felt the potential safety benefits were too important to delay the issue.

“This is a broad brushstroke which will ensure safety of this community on all fronts, from young children to the elderly, to the disabled, to individuals who are on bikes, to individuals who are pedestrians,” Lago said. “This shouldn’t be caught up in politics or whether it’s a survey or whether surveys are appropriate.”

City leaders hope the changes will lead to a 10 percent decrease in injuries every year. About 320 pedestrians and cyclists were hit by cars in the city between 2011 and 2015, according to a study from Atkins North America.

Coral Gables will join New York, Paris, Milan and other cities that have instituted similar speed-limit reductions. Locally, Biscayne Park reduced speed limits in most of the village to 25 mph in 2009, and North Miami recently lowered the speed limit on Northeast 123rd Street east of Biscayne Boulevard from 35 to 30 mph.

City leaders plan to do an educational campaign and will host more discussions on the topic before the final vote.

Lance Dixon: 305-376-3708, @LDixon_3