The yard signs reading “20 is Plenty” started popping up in yards across Minneapolis and St. Paul this summer. On S. Garfield Avenue in Minneapolis, neighbors even put one on a pylon and placed it in the middle of the street.
The goal? Get drivers to slow down and raise awareness of the decreasing speed limits on city streets.
Earlier this year, both Minneapolis and St. Paul decided to lower speed limits on their streets. Main thoroughfares will drop from 30 mph to 25 mph, and neighborhood streets will drop to 20 mph. The changes go into effect once new speed limit signs are posted, work that’s expected to be completed in the fall.
To get drivers’ attention in the meantime, the cities are each distributing 2,500 of the free blue and white yard signs that also say, “Slower is Safer.” Minneapolis residents can pick them up through Friday at fire stations. In St. Paul, signs will be available until they are gone at the Traffic Operations Center, 899 N. Dale St., or through some District Council offices.
“We heard other cities did yard signs and they were very popular,” said Ethan Fawley, coordinator of Minneapolis’ Vision Zero project to eliminate crashes that result in serious injuries or deaths by 2027. “There is a lot of interest and concern about speeding down their streets and making them safer for families and neighbors.”
Between 2007 and 2016, an average of 95 people each year suffered life-altering injuries or were killed in traffic crashes in Minneapolis, and speeding was one of the leading causes, according to the Vision Zero plan published in December.
Eric Barstad, who put a “20 is Plenty” sign in his front yard on Girard Avenue in south Minneapolis, said speeding is a problem on his street, which is just a block off busy Hennepin Avenue and doesn’t have stop signs on two consecutive blocks.
“My first choice would be to have a stop sign or speed bumps,” said Barstad, who has lived in the East Isles neighborhood for two years. Short of that, “whatever signal we can put up in our yard to encourage people to slow down and be conscientious when driving through, we are desperate for that.”
The Minnesota Department of Transportation this summer also distributed about 200 yard signs in south Minneapolis imploring drivers to slow down.
The agency saw an uptick in speeding on city streets after it closed the 46th street ramps to Interstate 35W as part of a construction project, MnDOT spokesman David Aeikens said.
“It is a way to remind people traveling through neighborhoods to be respectful of the people who live there and drive with care,” he said.
But will the signs change drivers’ behavior?
Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, said they are a good strategy to create public awareness and support for lower speed limits. But that only goes so far.
“Excessive speeding has been a cultural problem for too long,” he said. “This education eventually needs to be coupled with enforcement, either conducted by the police or using automated enforcement.”
Mike Hanson, director of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Office of Traffic Safety, said speeding has become culturally acceptable and “we need to figure out how to stuff the genie back in the bottle.” Hanson said he thinks the “20 is Plenty” campaign will have a positive impact.
But Philip Schwartz, who lives in Minneapolis’ Lyndale neighborhood where residents put the sign in the middle of S. Garfield Avenue near W. 34th Street, is skeptical that drivers’ habits will change without changes to the street’s design.
“This [sign] is in the street because basically no one is going to drive 20 unless you put stuff in the way,” Schwartz said.