Council Reso Calls on Albany to Lower Citywide Speed Limit to 20 MPH

Steve Levin and Ydanis Rodriguez today introduced a resolution calling on Albany to lower the citywide speed limit to 20 miles per hour, as proposed in legislation sponsored by Assembly Member Dan O’Donnell and state Senator Martin Dilan.

“We have seen time and time again the pain inflicted on families as the result of crashes and we as New Yorkers refuse to stand by and let another person be killed in traffic,” said Levin via a press release. “By reducing speed limits in New York City we will save lives and achieve the goals of Vision Zero.”

“Speed kills, plain and simple,” Rodriguez said. “Whether here or in Albany, we as legislators have a responsibility to protect the lives of our constituents.”

The reso also calls on the state legislature “to give the City Council the authority to impose different speed limits in the city.” While it’s great that Levin and Rodriguez have taken up this cause, determining where and whether drivers should be exempted from the citywide speed limit should be left to DOT, and should not be subject to council politics. As demonstrated most recently by Vincent Ignizio, it’s a bad idea for council members to get the final say in how streets work.

O’Donnell’s bill had picked up about a dozen co-sponsors at this writing, while Dilan’s companion bill had three.

  • BBnet3000

    Are we ever going to take on the home rule issue once and for all? Theres no reason to have to ask Albany for this in the first place.

  • sbauman

    This is great news! The new City Council appears to be out ahead of Streetsblog on this issue. Streetsblog should do nothing to dampen these Council Members’ enthusiasm.

    My only question is whether O’Donnell and Dilan’s bills correctly address the legal issue. There appears to be relevant wording in Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1643 that limits local speed limits to 25 mph. I think any Albany legislation must also modify this section.

    There is a lot more to be gained by lowering impact speed to 20 mph than to 25 mph from the existing 30 mph. Chances of dying from a 30 mph impact are 20%. This lowers to 15% for 25 mph and 5% for 20 mph. This translates to saving 120 lives @ 20 mph vs. 40 lives @ 25 mph, assuming 160 pedestrians are currently killed @ 30 mph. Another way of visualizing the difference for these 5 mph is a 30 mph impact is equivalent to falling from a height of 32 ft. The height is 22 ft for 25 mph and only 14 ft for 20 mph.

    The downside is that a lot more lives will be lost by not enforcing a 20 mph limit than are currently lost by not enforcing the existing 30 mph limit. I would hope that NYCDOT could add a few items to their toolkit to coerce drivers into reducing their speed. Re-timing lights, lights that turn red when speeding vehicles approach and pop-up speed bumps that are actuated by speeding cars are possibilities that come to mind.

    The question as to whether NYCDOT or the Council should decide which streets merit higher speeds is minor. The legislation’s purpose is to save pedestrian lives. The 20 mph limit does not have to be applied where pedestrians are prohibited – limited access highways. We need the 20 mph limit everywhere else.

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