Broadway Speed Limit to Drop to 25 MPH From Columbus Circle to Inwood

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NYPD transportation chief Thomas Chan, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Aaron Charlop-Powers and Audrey Anderson of Families for Safe Streets, and City Council Transporation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez Photo: Brad Aaron

The speed limit will be lowered to 25 miles per hour on eight miles of upper Broadway this summer, DOT announced today.

Motorists have killed 22 pedestrians on Broadway from Columbus Circle to W. 220 Street in Inwood since 2008, according to Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, who was flanked by NYPD officials, city and state electeds, traffic violence victims, and street safety advocates in Inwood this morning. Two vehicle occupants also died in crashes on Broadway during that period.

Arterials account for 15 percent of roadways in NYC but 60 percent of pedestrian deaths. The Broadway announcement is the fourth DOT arterial slow zone reveal, after McGuinness Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn and the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. “The number one thing I hear from New Yorkers is that they want us to do something about these arterial streets,” Trottenberg said.

The press conference was held at the intersection of Broadway, Dyckman Street, and Riverside Drive, where DOT is expected to get started this month on a project that will make it safer for pedestrians to cross there. The Broadway slow zone is scheduled to take effect in July.

Trottenberg was joined by Upper Manhattan City Council members Ydanis Rodriguez and Mark Levine, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, new 34th Precinct CO Deputy Inspector Chris Morello, and NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan.

“Our officers will be out there doing additional enforcement, to make sure that [drivers] are not disobeying our signal lights, our speeds, and that they are yielding to pedestrians who are in marked crosswalks,” Chan said.

Fielding a question from the press scrum, Chan said NYPD is “reaching out” to precincts along arterials, as well as the Patrol Bureau, to “come up with a plan” to improve enforcement, including against violations by motorcyclists, who take over much of Upper Manhattan during warmer months.

However, Chan said NYPD would continue to cede some areas to speeding drivers. “In terms of volume, some streets may not be able to do speed enforcement,” he said.

Despite the installation in 2012 of a 20 mph Slow Zone that covers all of Inwood west of Broadway, as of the end of March the 34th Precinct had issued just 20 speeding summonses in 2014, and local officers ticketed a total of 58 drivers for speeding last year.

“Signage alone is not going to slow cars unless it’s matched with enforcement,” said Council Member Levine. “I hope that we use every tool at our disposal to enforce this lower speed limit.”

As for automated enforcement, Trottenberg said Governor Cuomo is expected to soon sign a bill that would add 120 speed cameras to the 20 the city has now. But since Albany restricts the use of speed cameras to school zones during school days, it’s unclear how effective they will be in helping reduce pedestrian injuries and deaths on Broadway.

Thomas DeVito of Transportation Alternatives called for engineering improvements, such as shorter pedestrian crossings and better bike infrastructure, to accompany the Broadway 25 mph zone. “There is a huge opportunity to bring design changes to ensure that this street better serves the community 24 hours a day,” DeVito said. “We’ve already seen the positive safety gains achieved with redesigns on Broadway below 59th Street. The streets of Northern Manhattan need similar improvements.”

Trottenberg also announced the expansion of the “Reckless Driving Kills” PSA campaign. One of the ads features Audrey Anderson, whose 14-year-old son Andre was killed by a driver while riding his bike in the Rockaways in 2005. Anderson attended today’s event on behalf of Families for Safe Streets, along with Aaron Charlop-Powers, son of Megan Charlop, who was on her bike when she was struck and killed by an MTA bus driver in the Bronx in 2010.

“We want to remind everyone that 10 years is too long” to implement Vision Zero, Charlop-Powers said. “This is a matter of life and death.”

  • Larry Littlefield

    I must say I don’t get the idea of dropping speed limits on arterials but keeping them up on one-lane sidestreets. Shouldn’t the city do the reverse?

  • J

    Great news, but it needs enforcement and design changes to actually reduce speeding and improve safety. Broadway has far too many car lanes on most of its length. The only reason it isn’t more deadly is that curbside parking is so poorly priced and regulated that one lane in each direction is almost always used for double parking. Reduce lane widths, add bike lanes, properly regulate parking, aggressively add bump-outs, remove excess travel lanes, etc. Lots that can be done, but a 25mph speed limit is a good first step.

  • J

    The residential streets aren’t really where people are dying, so it makes sense to focus first on the arterials. Also, the arterials are a heavier lift to reduce speed limits on, so I think the idea is to use the current momentum to lower the speed on the big streets now. Then reducing speed limits on residential streets will be easy.

  • R

    If you drop them to 25 on the arterials it makes the case for dropping them to 20 or even 15 on the side streets much easier down the line.

  • JK

    Great! And how about 25mph for Riverside Drive, which is a big bike commuting route? Many motorists seem to think that the speed limit on Riverside is 40mph — which is a bit scary since cyclists are often stuck in the door zone during peak times.

  • J

    Indeed! And 20mph zones are already spreading quickly.

  • JamesR

    Why wasn’t this extended all the way to the city line in Yonkers? Does not compute.

  • Mark Walker

    I’m thrilled. This may actually make my life safer. Kudos to all involved. I do have a question, though. We seem to be taking a two-tiered approach with reductions to 25 mph in some areas and 20 mph in others. I get that the latter is for school zones. But wouldn’t a more uniform 20 mph approach achieve even greater safety and make messaging a little simpler? Or am I just not paying enough attention to Gresham’s Law?

  • qrt145

    The side streets self-regulate to some extent because they are narrower, often blocked by double-parked vehicles, and drivers hit a red light almost at every corner. It’s hard to speed on those streets. While having a higher official street limit on the side streets doesn’t make sense, it’s not as high a priority, and for now I think the only way to lower the speed limit is to put up signs, until the legislature lowers the default speed limit.

  • Guest

    People get mowed down trying to get to Van Cortlandt Park, where it’s really treated like a highway!

  • Wilfried84

    I have to say, I kinda don’t get it. What good is posting a sign with a lower number, when they speed as it is, with impunity?

  • Clarke

    What cute signs!

  • Brooklynite

    This is good but all of it will be meaningless without enforcement and I am sorry but I just don’t trust that the NYPD is going to put resources into this in the long-term. In fact, I expect the cops will pretty well stop handing out summonses to drivers right around the time the next mayoral election campaign starts heating up, if not a whole lot sooner.

    We need automated enforcement, street design changes, congestion pricing to raise money and reduce the number of private motor vehicles rolling through NYC, and vastly improved transit, biking and taxi service.

    Street signs with the number “25” printed on them are a positive but tiny first step. But this is not going to get the job done.

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