Speed Zones, Traffic Calming

Speed Zones

Speed limits within the City of Battle Ground are determined based on the requirements of federal and state law. Washington law (RCW 46.61.400) states that speed limits shall be 25 MPH on City streets. The law further states that these speed limits may be altered pursuant to RCW 46.61.415. This law states that based on an engineering study speed limits may be increased up to 60 MPH or decreased to 20 MPH. The law also states that on local streets within a residential district or business district may be lowered to 20 MPH without needing to complete an engineering study.

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) published by the Federal Highway Administration establishes the methodology for performing an engineering study. The MUTCD states that speeds should be based on the 85th-percentile speed, but other factors such as road characteristics, sight distance, pedestrian activity, grade, and crashes may be taken into account.

The 85th-percentile speed is the speed at which 85% of vehicles that use a particular segment of road travel at or below. This guidance is used because a number of studies determined that this was the speed at which the fewest and least severe accidents occurred.

The two most frequent questions that are asked about speed limits are (1) Why shouldn’t all the speed limits in the City be set at 25 MHP (or 20 MPH) and (2) Can’t you put more signs up to get people to slow down? In regards to Question #1 as is discussed above while you might have less severe accidents most studies have shown that you will have an increase in accidents by having an artificially low speed limit (one that is set below the 85th-percentile). In regards to Question #2, a number of studies have found that signs don’t have any impact on driver speed. 

Traffic Calming

Traffic calming improves neighborhood livability and the pedestrian environment by reducing vehicle speeds, vehicle noise, visual impacts, and through traffic volumes. Traffic calming includes a variety of design techniques and traffic management programs. Traffic calming includes speed humps, which everyone is aware of, but also consists of traffic circles, medians, curb extensions, special paving, chicanes, and neighborhood entries.

Through the City’s Municipal Code (BGMC 12.116.080) the City requires traffic calming to be installed on all new residential streets.

The City currently does not have a traffic calming program for existing City streets. The City does have a process if a neighborhood is interested in installing traffic calming at their cost. The process is as follows:

  • The neighborhood would put together a petition showing that a majority of the neighborhood is interested in installing traffic calming, what kind of traffic calming is being proposed, the location(s) of said traffic calming, and that the neighborhood is willing to pay for the improvements.
  • The petition is then presented to the Engineering Division who will then review it to ensure that the location(s) and method(s) meet City standards and are appropriate for the street.
  • If the location(s) and method(s) are approved then the neighborhood would need to hire a licensed contractor to install the traffic calming. The Contractor would need to acquire a ROW Permit pursuant to BGMC 12.118 prior to doing any work. The Contractor would need to build the traffic calming per the City’s Standard Details.

The two most frequent questions that are asked about traffic calming are (1) Can you install speed humps on my major street and (2) Can you install a stop sign to slow people down? In regards to Question #1 the City doesn’t install speed humps on collector or arterial classified streets in order to not slow down emergency vehicles. There are more appropriate traffic calming measures for major streets such as medians and special paving that does not slow down emergency vehicles. In regards to Question #2, the answer is no, because placement of stops signs is regulated by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) published by the Federal Highway Administration. Slowing speeds is not one of the acceptable reasons listed for the use of stop signs.

Should you have any questions related to traffic calming, you may e-mail engineering@cityofbg.org with your inquiry.