Coral Gables

Coral Gables drivers will officially have to slow down on residential streets

Coral Gables is lowering the speed limit on residential streets, citing studies that show pedestrians and cyclists are more likely to escape serious injury if struck by a car that is moving slower.
Coral Gables is lowering the speed limit on residential streets, citing studies that show pedestrians and cyclists are more likely to escape serious injury if struck by a car that is moving slower. Miami Herald file

Drivers in Coral Gables will have to slow down on neighborhood streets.

Hoping to reduce injuries from collisions to pedestrians and bicyclists, the City Commission Tuesday gave final approval to a law reducing speed limits on residential streets to 25 mph, down from the state standard of 30 mph, and to 20 mph in gated neighborhoods. Initial approval for the change came in January.

While the item was approved unanimously, commissioners are concerned about the number of signs to be installed. There are currently 127 speed limit signs on residential streets, and the ordinance calls for more than 500 to be placed along those roads. Installation of the signs will cost the city about $180,000.

City staff said the number of proposed signs is due to Miami-Dade County requirements. The signs also should reduce the city’s risk of liability as the police department enforces the new limit.

“If there’s no sign, it’s 30 mph. So now that we’re changing it to 25, according to Dade County, we then have to post a 25 mph sign,” City Attorney Craig Leen said.

Mayor Raúl Valdés-Fauli said he worried about the “visual pollution” of so many signs. Commissioners requested a memo from the city attorney’s office clarifying the county’s standard for signs and also asked that a study be done to identify all the signage in the city.

The effort to reduce residential speed limits has been in the works for years and has been primarily spearheaded by Commissioner Vince Lago and the city’s transportation advisory board in the last two years.

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An illustration of the risk of severe injury or death for pedestrians at various speeds. Miami Herald File

Lago and other supporters said the main reason for pursuing the change was to improve safety for pedestrians. The 5 mph difference 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 reduce the number of accidents.

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.

Some residents, like Debra Register, said they felt that the goal of the ordinance could not truly be met without more police on the street.

“Unless you have the police to enforce, we’re spending money ahead of ourselves,” Register said.

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.

Lance Dixon: 305-376-3708, @LDixon_3

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