Over the weekend, advocates from Right of Way and residents in a dozen Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens neighborhoods installed dozens of “20 Is Plenty” signs, which urge drivers to slow down, and asked Mayor de Blasio to keep his promise to fast-track Slow Zone installations. The neighborhoods represented in yesterday’s demonstration are among those that have either had their applications for 20 mph zones rejected by DOT or are waiting up to two years for the city to implement the traffic calming program.
“These Slow Zones have massive community support,” said Keegan Stephan of Right of Way. “This is an actionable item that could be implemented immediately.”
On Saturday and Sunday, the group installed 110 custom 20 mph signs, donated by RoadTrafficSigns.com, in Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Park Slope, Greenpoint, Astoria, Jackson Heights, Jamaica, the Upper West Side, the Lower East Side, Tribeca and the West Village.
Speed was the single leading factor in New York City traffic deaths in 2012, according to DOT, contributing to 81 fatal crashes. Unless otherwise posted, the default speed limit is 30 mph.
The mayor’s Vision Zero report, released last month, said the city will look to lower speed limits on major arterials, where pedestrian fatalities are concentrated. Since January, DOT has lowered the speed limit in limited cases to 25 mph, such as on Prospect Park West, where a driver struck and killed 12-year-old Sammy Cohen Eckstein.
DOT submits Slow Zones to community boards for approval before installing them. Last month, Community Board 3 in Bedford Stuyvesant rejected a Slow Zone proposal. Though the 20 mph zone was requested by neighborhood residents, the chair of CB 3 said reckless driving is “not an issue” in the community, casting doubt on whether DOT would move forward. “De Blasio specifically said he would look at community boards as advisory,” Stephan said, “but what we’ve seen is that they have veto power.”
The push for slower speeds comes as legislators in Albany consider bills to lower the city’s default speed limit. One measure, sponsored by Assembly Member Dan O’Donnell and State Senator Martin Malave Dilan, would set the maximum default speed at 20 mph, the limit preferred by advocates. A bill from State Senator Brad Hoylman would lower the speed limit to 25 mph, the limit backed by the mayor’s Vision Zero report. At a City Council hearing on Vision Zero in February, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said the city’s preference for 25 mph over 20 mph isn’t “necessarily written in stone.”
Tomorrow, families of traffic violence victims will travel to Albany to speak with lawmakers about legislation including the speed limit bills. Another trip to Albany, with members and allies of Families for Safe Streets, is scheduled for May 6.