Push for 20 MPH Speed Limit Runs into Opposition in Rochester

Better give yourself extra time if you plan on going to grandmother’s house in Minneapolis for Thanksgiving this year. A new 20 mile per hour speed limit has taken effect on most city streets with St. Paul poised to do the same early next year.

City planners sell the slowdown as a safety measure, although it’s clearly part of a relentless drive to phase out cars in favor of bikes, walking and public transit to fight climate change.

But outside the Twin Cities the politically correct cut in speed appears to be running into a roadblock. A proposal to cut  the limit to 20 mph limit to Rochester led to a rare standoff between two city councilors that was covered by the Post-Bulletin.

Emotions surrounding the potential for changing residential speed limits were on display during a brief exchange between two Rochester City Council members Monday.

Council President Randy Staver and council member Michael Wojcik raised questions over each other’s potential wrongdoing amid discussion of a possible compromise related to a proposed ordinance change and policy on the speed limit issue.

When Wojcik suggested the move could find approval from five or six council members, Staver questioned whether he’d been talking to them outside an official meeting.

“That, sir, is a leading question, and I’m not playing that game with you, so please proceed with the meeting,” Wojcik said.

The reduced speed limit has been under consideration since August. But it’s not exactly breaking any records racing to the finish line, due to opposition to a change that would affect two-thirds of city streets.

The flare-up died down as quickly as it sparked, but it echoed the fact that an August proposal to lower the city’s residential speed limit to 20 miles per hour throughout the city has divided the council and community members.

The proposal by Public Works staff came a year after the Minnesota Legislature gave cities the ability to set their own speed limits within provided guidelines, rather than adopting the 30-mph state limit for residential streets.

The leftist agenda behind the drastic reduction in neighborhood speed limits evidently did not come up for discussion at the Rochester City Council. But a recent MinnPost overview on the reasons Minneapolis and St. Paul made the move leaves no doubt of the motives of many proponents. Some excerpts:

The car has been king on American streets for generations. The slower limit hopes to cede some of the road back to everyone else. A pedestrian walking along a street with a 20 or 25 mph speed limit is at a lower risk of being involved in a collision, especially one that could alter their life. This has a huge effect on the level of comfort walkers, bicyclists and those taking public transit…

Minneapolis’ Public Works Director Robin Hutcheson said speed limits can also be tied to racial equity, climate consciousness and prosperity. By lowering the speed limit, for example, the city can reduce the number of accidents — crashes that disproportionately impact people of color, she said. At the same time, reducing speeds makes it more comfortable for people not to drive, which reduces levels of greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change. “Quality of life is behind everything we’re doing,” said Hutcheson. “Our streets, our right-of-ways, are the leverage points for the broad outcomes we want to see.”

There’s still time for Rochester to put the brakes on the slow down in their city. The city council will vote on whether to proceed in December.