First NYC 20 MPH Zone to Slow Cars With Gateway Neckdowns, Speed Humps

Bright blue signs in the roadbed will inform drivers that they are entering the city's new 20 mph zone in Claremont. Image: NYC DOT

Last month DOT announced plans for the city’s first 20 mph zone, located in the Claremont section of the Bronx. The agency’s presentation to the local community board is now online [PDF], so you can see how DOT plans to implement the slow zone strategy in what could be the first of several neighborhoods. The approach is low-cost but should be effective: Every entrance to the area will be marked with a highly visible “gateway” announcing the reduced speed limit, and the neighborhood will be blanketed with regularly-spaced speed humps.

A number of factors led DOT to select this quarter square mile of Claremont for the city’s first slow zone. There are five schools in the area, and the streets are relatively dangerous — the number of injuries per mile is higher than almost three-quarters of NYC’s streets. The DOT presentation also notes that Claremont has clearly defined boundaries, with an elevated train on the west and the Sheridan Expressway on the east, making it easier to set the zone apart from the other city streets.

When drivers enter that zone, it will be immediately clear that they are meant to slow down. At each entry point, large signs announcing the 20 mph zone and surface markings narrowing the right-of-way will replace one parking space on each side of the street. Compare the rendering above to a typical school zone treatment, where the signs don’t figure so prominently within the motorist’s field of vision:

School zone signs on Lorillard Place in the Bronx. Image: Google Street View

Within the borders of the slow zone, DOT will add speed humps at regular intervals to physically enforce the 20 mph limit. Near the five schools, the speed humps will be spaced to keep traffic moving even slower, at 15 mph. Between the speed humps, markings on the street will regularly remind drivers of the speed limit.

The 20 mph zone approach has proved enormously successful in London. There, more than 400 slow zones have been put in place, covering 11 percent of the road length of the city. In some of them, speeds are controlled with physical traffic calming measures, and in others, cameras enforce the 20 mph limit. The total number of serious traffic fatalities and injuries has fallen by 46 percent within London’s slow zones, according to the British Medical Journal, preventing an estimated 27 deaths and serious injuries each year.

The gateway to a 20 mph zone in London, including a raised crosswalk. Photo: ITDP Europe/Flickr
  • Joe R.

    I hope they have cuts in the speed bumps for cyclists.  A slow speed zone would be a great place to ride, but not if you’re hitting 2 or 3 speed bumps every block.

  • They’re not using speed bumps — they’re going with speed humps, which in my experience are sort of fun to ride over and not much of an impediment to cycling.

  • Anon

    I think implementing “slow zones” is a fantastic idea. Kind of akin to “low wake” requirements for boats. 

    I hope we can find a way to make it look aesthetically pleasing though. The example in London looks a little nicer then the one in NYC. 

  • wow… big huge concrete blocks w/ blue signs saying 20mph?! not too inviting at all. seems like a nice on-street opportunity for bike corrals or some greenery? yes, that adds to the cost, and perhaps is already in the long term plan, but this seems shockingly scaled back for even a starting point.

  • Danny G

    Could be that the DOT is hoping some people in the neighborhood are thinking the same thoughts as you, which will give them the local grassroots support they need to take it to that next step.

  • dporpentine

    Of course, if they really want beauty, they’ll cut down on the parking and install a two-way bike lane. But I suppose that would instantly kill all the people over 60, the way it did on PPW.

  • Any plans for the NYPD to enforce it?

  • Jeff

    The notion of “zones” does not lend itself to NYC’s geography/streetgrid the same way it does with London’s.  We just need a blanket policy of a 20 MPH speed limit plus speed humps on all single-lane roads (e.g. in Manhattan, all avenues and major crosstown streets would be 30 MPH, and all other crosstown streets would be 20 MPH with at least one speed hump per block).

  • Anonymous

    That would do the trick…

    That said, I await with great anticipation for the howls that will surely come from the “zero tolerance enforcement for bikes” folks once the NYPD is coerced through the release of appalling enforcement data to actually do something about speeding. Schaudenfreude is sweet.

  • Rob

    The Streetfilm about Portland talked about using neckdowns for plantings that would improve stormwater management and beautify the street.  

  • Ty

    I totally agree, Ben.  I like speed humps!!  They’re fun!

    Well, except when I don’t pay attention and I whack exactly into the 8-inch patch that was gouged out by a snowplow… on my block… several times… how I haven’t mangled by rim yet is amazing.

  • Ty

    I totally agree, Ben.  I like speed humps!!  They’re fun!

    Well, except when I don’t pay attention and I whack exactly into the 8-inch patch that was gouged out by a snowplow… on my block… several times… how I haven’t mangled by rim yet is amazing.

  • Ty

    They have “20 is Plenty” zones all over the U.K.  Saw them in villages all over Scotland and Northern England.

  • Ty

    They have “20 is Plenty” zones all over the U.K.  Saw them in villages all over Scotland and Northern England.

  • Ty

    I think the DOT is getting too used to huge, exaggerated outcries of “You’ve destroyed our neighborhood, our way of life and you’re trying to kill our children” to no be a little careful about this stuff… 

    So, when the politically connected nutjobs with no link to reality make them take it out, it won’t cost too much.  Sadly. 

    Also, this is “unproven” — ya know, since we’re not allowed to used data or experience from other cities around the world because New York is “special” and “unique” and “it won’t work here, it’s NYC” and so on. 

  • Judging from the first page of the powerpoint, this is clearly a “Pilot.”

  • Judging from the first page of the powerpoint, this is clearly a “Pilot.”

  • Andrew

    But what about the ambulances!

  • Anonymous

    Always glad to see traffic calming in residential neighborhoods. It should be the case that any so called tertiary street should be a 20mph street. 
    The city used to have very effective traffic calming measures. They were called cobblestone streets, brick streets etc, (Kevin Walsh covered this extensively in Forgotten-NY). 
    Now they’ve been mostly asphalted over so that people can drive faster. Sad really.Granted you can drive fast on a cobblestone street but your coccyx starts to complain.

  • Mark Walker

    If you’re trying to slow down huge multi-ton vehicles, “huge concrete blocks” aren’t a bad idea.

  • Mark Walker

    On the Upper West Side, you can occasionally see the Belgian blocks through holes in the asphalt. There used to be a lot more cobbled streets downtown — I remember them from childhood — though many have since been asphalted over. Of course, asphalt is a byproduct of cheap oil, so its days may be numbered. I hope I live long enough to see the return of the cobbles.

  • carma

    many streets in soho are still cobblestone.  ive driven through there a few times.  you will never see me rev past 20mph on those.  it hurts your shocks on the car so much and the shocks on your toosh.  whats annoying is there is ALWAYS someone honking in the back.  i mean seriously, > 20mph on a cobblestone street, only to hit a red light?   absolutely pointless.

  • gecko

    Broad implementation of twenty-is-plenty is by far the quickest, easiest, and least expensive way to make NYC’s streets substantially safer.

  • dd

    @m_walker:disqus Good point about the cobbles! Can they show up more in our lives? Upstate quarries would be happy.

  • J

    You don’t even need to quarry them much, since many of our older street are simply asphalt paved directly over existing cobbles.

  • non-driver

    cobbles are terrible for pedicabs, cyclists, rollerbladers and other street users who have narrow tires.

  • Anonymous

    wow, those blocks holding up the signs are huge! another sign of how reckless our driving culture is?

    yay for slowing down cars to a speed that allows them to more safely coexist with humans

  • J

    Cobblestone can be made to suit bikes as well. Check out what is being done in Portland.
    http://bikeportland.org/2010/05/06/first-look-at-new-bike-lanes-through-cobblestones-on-nw-marshall-33121

  • Boris

    Another natural traffic calming measure that DOT has been fighting for years is the narrow two way street. I bet most tertiary streets like the one in the above photo used to be two way. These streets are just wide enough for two cars to pass at 5-15 mph. It reduces reckless driving since drivers realize they could cause a serious reck by hitting an oncoming car.
     
    In Staten Island’s Midland Beach, the conversions to one way were as recent as 2006. Cars fly down streets at 35 mph where they used to inch forward at 20, watching out for oncoming cars.
     
    I guess as with bike lanes the pattern has been make SI more car-friendly as you make the rest of the city more ped- and bike-friendly…

  • Tom

    I am old enough to remember Belgian blocks on streets around Sunset Park.  They were ballast on sailing ships; therefore, cheap. They looked good with their silver blue tint.  They were not good for traction in ice and snow, and not good for stopping when wet.
    In recent years they were uncovered them on the 37th Street 400 block but the experiment didn’t last long.

  • this is exciting technology imformation. I like it. Thank you very much!

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