NYC Will Expand 20 MPH Zones to 13 Neighborhoods, With More to Come

Following the launch of the city’s first 20 mph zone in the Claremont section of the Bronx last year, NYC DOT has selected 13 more areas to receive the “slow zone” treatment (see the full list), Mayor Michael Bloomberg and DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan announced this afternoon. DOT was inundated with applications for slow zones after the agency announced the program in November, and Sadik-Khan said more neighborhoods would be able to opt in next year.

Behind Mayor Bloomberg are Council Member Julissa Ferraras, NYPD Transportation Chief James Tuller, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Council Member James Vacca, and Assembly Member Francisco Moya. Photo: Ben Fried

In each slow zone, the speed limit is reduced to 20 mph and low-cost safety improvements like speed humps help regulate motorist behavior. “Slow zones send a strong message to drivers that these streets are not shortcuts,” said Sadik-Khan, noting that about 60 traffic deaths in the city each year are attributable to motorist speed. The safety benefits of capping vehicle speeds at 20 mph are tremendous, she said, with pedestrian survival rates at 95 percent in the event of a crash at that speed. Pedestrian survival rates at 30 mph are 60 percent, according to America Walks [PDF].

In London, where 20 mph zones are accompanied by more intensive physical traffic calming measures, researchers credit the program with preventing 27 deaths and serious injuries each year. Preliminary results in Claremont show that speeding is down at six out of seven locations with new speed humps, and maximum speeds are down about 10 percent, according to the mayor’s office.

The new batch of slow zones range in size from .08 square miles to .30 square miles. Today’s press event was held at the corner of 99th Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Corona, where Queens Community Board 3 approved a slow zone of .26 square miles, or about 35 city blocks. Inside the zone, DOT will add 14 speed humps, and at 13 intersections the agency will add gateway treatments announcing the lower speed limit with bright blue signs.

With more than 100 slow zone applications pouring in to DOT, there’s still plenty of unmet demand for traffic-calming out there. As City Council Transportation Committee Chair James Vacca put it, “There’s not a place I go in this city where people don’t want speed bumps.”

More slow zones will follow this first round of winners. DOT plans to re-open the application process again next year. It will be interesting to see if the selection criteria, which ruled out areas that include wide, highly-trafficked streets, change between this round and the next.

NYPD Transportation Chief James Tuller was also on hand at today’s presser. When I asked him how the NYPD measures the success of its speeding enforcement, Tuller said police deploy enforcement resources to locations based on data collected by DOT. It’s good to know that some sort of strategic deployment of resources is in place, but the question wasn’t about how police deploy resources. Tuller sidestepped the question of how his department measures success when it comes to speed enforcement. His reply gave no indication that the NYPD is measuring the extent of speeding or gauging the effect of its enforcement efforts. And when it comes to speeding, police enforcement is scarce: Recent summons data posted online indicates that precincts issue hardly any speeding tickets on neighborhood streets.

In the absence of NYPD enforcement, speed cameras are the city’s best shot at pairing safer street designs with effective enforcement. Pledging to continue to push for speed cameras, the mayor’s frustation with Albany leaders was on full display, after another legislative session where state lawmakers failed to pass a bill enabling automated speed enforcement. “It never made any sense to me,” Bloomberg said of Albany’s power to dictate traffic enforcement policy in New York City. “We should be in charge of our own destiny.”

  • Anonymous

    Bravo.  Cars are not healthy for children…

    Gonna miss this Mayor someday.

  • chaueche wu

    I dont miss King Bloomburger when he is gone wrecking the city.

    Speed bumps are useless.

    Slow Zones will change the driving habits.

  • fj

    This will greatly improve street safety and pave the way for great improvements in moving about this city. 

  • How are speed bumps useless. You don`t think people will slow down for speed bumps. Yeah, everyone will just go flying over them at 40MPH, ruining their cars. LOL.

  • Frustrated motorist

    I’ve had it with this city. Slowing traffic down will increase congestion, not help it. The cyclists continue to run red lights and come closer to hitting people than the cars I’ve seen. Cars are not healthy for children? People have been driving cars for over a hundred years in this city. Teach your kids not to run out into the street and they won’t get hit! I realize the mayor wants to eliminate cars altogether from this city, but some of us actually need our vehicles to get around, and he’s making it so difficult to do that we may have to leave the city…Okay, I’ve always driven safely, YOU pedestrians learn not to cross in the middle of the block, or against red lights, and to look both ways, and YOU will be safer. Stop putting all the blame on drivers!

  • Frustrated motorist

    I’ve had it with this city. Slowing traffic down will increase congestion, not help it. The cyclists continue to run red lights and come closer to hitting people than the cars I’ve seen. Cars are not healthy for children? People have been driving cars for over a hundred years in this city. Teach your kids not to run out into the street and they won’t get hit! I realize the mayor wants to eliminate cars altogether from this city, but some of us actually need our vehicles to get around, and he’s making it so difficult to do that we may have to leave the city…Okay, I’ve always driven safely, YOU pedestrians learn not to cross in the middle of the block, or against red lights, and to look both ways, and YOU will be safer. Stop putting all the blame on drivers!

  • Frustrated motorist

    I’ve had it with this city. Slowing traffic down will increase congestion, not help it. The cyclists continue to run red lights and come closer to hitting people than the cars I’ve seen. Cars are not healthy for children? People have been driving cars for over a hundred years in this city. Teach your kids not to run out into the street and they won’t get hit! I realize the mayor wants to eliminate cars altogether from this city, but some of us actually need our vehicles to get around, and he’s making it so difficult to do that we may have to leave the city…Okay, I’ve always driven safely, YOU pedestrians learn not to cross in the middle of the block, or against red lights, and to look both ways, and YOU will be safer. Stop putting all the blame on drivers!

  • Bronxite

    Automobiles are responsible for the vast majority of deaths and injuries when compared to bicycles or pedestrians.

    Speed bumps are not useless, you hit one like an idiot and there goes your car. Most people will slow down, the idiots will no longer be able to drive.

    These programs will lead to even more aggressive traffic calming in time.

  • Frustrated motorist

    Bronxite, I’m 60 years old with a heart condition. I can’t ride a bike, and my handicapped son can’t travel on a bus by himself. It used to take me twenty minutes to get him to his part time job. Now, thanks to the changes in the streets, bike lanes, etc., it takes almost 45. I know people who have been hit by cyclists, and I see cyclists who drive recklessly every day. I also realize now that everyone that posts on this site are in favor of the mayor’s regulations, and I’m sorry now that I ever posted anything here, because you are all obviously in favor of the changes. Any way to delete my comments from here?

  • chaueche wu

    @ Bronxite… Speed bumps are so useless. It damage your car, bike, body and time!

  • Bronxite

    Frustrated Motorist,

    I am sorry that you have medical complications. Most New Yorkers do not drive. Should a city prioritize the few or the many?

    As a driver, you also benefit from traffic calming. Those that do not need to drive, won’t. That means less traffic.

    Chaueche wu,

    Speeds cause two reactions. One reaction is slowing down, the other is damaging or destroying your car. Either why they accomplish their mission. They make it harder to speed.

  • “I’ve had it with this city. Slowing traffic down will increase congestion, not help it.”

    The purpose of traffic calming is not to decrease congestion dummy. It is to slow down cars to speeds appropriate for urban areas. If you want to drive fast, you can do so on the freeway. There is no reason for anyone to drive fast on a city street. “Increasing congestion” helps slow down traffic to speeds more amenable to pedestrians and other users. That is a good thing, not a bad thing. For those who drive, you will still get to your destination. It might just take a couple more minutes. And no, your time is not so valuable that you cannot spare a couple of minutes for the greater good.

    “The cyclists continue to run red lights and come closer to hitting people than the cars I’ve seen.”

    On average less than one pedestrian is killed per year after being hit by a bike in NYC. Dozens and dozens of pedestrians are killed each year after being hit by a car in NYC.


  • @ Bronxite… Speed bumps are so useless. It damage your car, bike, body and time!”

    No. It will only cause damage if you don’t go over them at slow speeds. The purpose of speed bumps is to slow you down. And they do exactly that. So they are doing their job.

  • AC

    @a7dacde96cbb5e4948b86d6c3f08e989:disqus oh noes, you will be delayed by 2 minutes. 20mph in a residential area is OK. i drive and haven’t hit anyone. the worst is walking residential streets with idiot constantly in a hurry drivers who can’t stop at a stop sign and are a danger to everyone. 

    i’ll speed on queens blvd and have no problem with running over idiots walking in the express lanes like i saw the other day, but pure residential streets i slow down.

  • Bipded

    What a wonderful idea these slow zones are! And how pointless. Unless the NYPD is prepared to ticket speeders, this is just an empty gensture. When was the last time that happened on a residential street in NYC? Ever seen a car pulled over for speeding on a one lane residential street? Me neither.

  • AC

    @21d16dea06c3d620e6feacca2fdbb025:disqus they are going to have speed bumps. there are a few by forest hills high school and cars always slow down to under 10mph when crossing them. otherwise you scratch the underside of your car unless you have an SUV

  • Bipded

    @7a0635eff4484b63e7a0c682b733fdf4:disqus My entire neighborhood has been designated a slow zone. Every single street. Will they all get speed bumps? I doubt it. Also as my street is a popular truck shortcut to flatbush, speed bumps, while making the traffic slower, will cause a heck of a racket. 

  • Frustrated pedestrian

    @a7dacde96cbb5e4948b86d6c3f08e989:disqus how can I teach my kids to avoid the speeding cars that jump curbs and crash into the sidewalk?

  • fj

    Just like the city is attempting to create a local built environment suitable for rapid deployment of solar it should be obvious that extremely easy, rapid and broad conversion to slow zones will make New York City much more conducive to net zero mobility solutions such as cycling, walking, and much more advanced systems and applications which will thrive once the streets are safe.

  • J

    @21d16dea06c3d620e6feacca2fdbb025:disqus The city installs speed bumps in strategic locations, so that there is no way to cut across the slow zone without hitting 2 or 3 of them. Also, a lot of these neighborhoods already have speed bumps, so this will simply add many more. I agree that these must be self-enforcing to work, since the NYPD has shown zero effort in making streets safer and Bloomberg is too terrified of Kelly to force him to change anything. The slow zones haven’t been around long enough to judge, but my opinion is that we should try them out, and then modify them to increase compliance. Maybe add a few more speed bumps or other traffic calming devices, like chokers, chicanes, etc. Here are a few presentations about the program.

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/2012-06-20-slow-zone-new-brighton-st-george.pdf

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/2012-06-18-slowzone-corona-cb3.pdf

  • J

    @a7dacde96cbb5e4948b86d6c3f08e989:disqus @google-8596cc0e0c4067ed94907fdf59d69e4d:disqus If you guys can’t drive 20mph on a few small residential streets, where there are lots of children, then maybe you shouldn’t be driving at all. We’re not talking about busy arterials, here.

  • C.

    I think it’s important to note that low-speed zones also greatly benefit motorists. As one of the previous comments shows, many drivers see speed reduction measures as inherently anti-car. We should make it clear that low urban speed limits produce the best results for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike. Here is a document from the UK with scientific data in favor of 20mph. In the Netherlands, 30km/h (18mph) is the mandatory speed limit in the “built-up area.” The Dutch, however, rely on even more advanced techniques of traffic re-routing to improve safety and flow.

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