DOT Launches Speed Limit PSAs; NYPD to Target Speeding, Failure-to-Yield

NYC DOT and NYPD jointly announced some new street safety initiatives today. Harking back to the release this summer of DOT’s Pedestrian Safety Study and Action Plan, Janette Sadik-Khan and Ray Kelly came out with plans to increase awareness about the dangers of speeding and to target more police enforcement on speeding and failure-to-yield violations.

The centerpiece of DOT’s education campaign is a series of PSAs called “That’s Why It’s 30,” which inform New Yorkers about the 30 mph speed limit and why it exists. According to DOT’s pedestrian safety report, most New Yorkers don’t know the citywide speed limit. The video ads repeat this straightforward explanation:

Hit someone at 40, there’s a 70 percent chance they’ll die. Hit someone at 30, there’s an 80 percent chance they’ll live. That’s why it’s 30.

The PSAs will be distributed on TV, radio, and on billboards, but the announcement doesn’t go into detail about the budget for getting them out to the masses. According to the press release, “DOT is also developing a series of public service announcements targeting cyclists ride on the sidewalk, ride against traffic or fail to yield to pedestrians.”

NYPD, meanwhile, has received a $150,000 grant from the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee to direct traffic enforcement resources toward speeding and failure-to-yield. DOT’s safety report had revealed that failure to yield to people in a crosswalk is a factor in 27 percent of motor vehicle crashes that injure or kill pedestrians, and that speeding is a factor in more than 20 percent of such crashes.

Some portion of the same grant will also go toward ticketing “bicyclists who disobey traffic laws by biking on the sidewalk, riding against red signals or riding the wrong way down city streets.”

While it’s encouraging to see the police commissioner himself attend a press event about street safety, Kelly seemed to thumb his nose at the idea that pedestrians and cyclists have a common interest in streets where the most hazardous traffic violations are reined in.

“While New York City has an enviable safety record, there’s always room for improvement,” he said in a statement. “Through a combination of education, enforcement and common courtesy, we think we can do even better in protecting pedestrians who are put at risk by motorists and bicyclists alike.”

Transportation Alternatives released the following statement in response to today’s announcement:

Transportation Alternatives welcomes today’s announcement by Commissioners Kelly and Sadik-Khan. We support their message to New Yorkers to slow down. We’re all neighbors, and exercising courtesy and respect will prevent crashes and save life and limb. It will also help to rein in NYC’s chaotic streets and make the city a more welcoming and desirable place to live. While the DOT has done a lot of work to design safer streets, only the Police Department can enforce the rules of the road.

Transportation Alternatives urges the Police Department to employ data driven traffic enforcement to identify the most common dangerous violations and the worst locations. The Department has famously used this strategy for years to reduce crime (CompStat), and now it’s time to apply it to our roads. T.A.’s report From Chaos to Compliance demonstrated how the police can use data to strategically deploy their resources to reduce the most dangerous traffic behaviors. We also believe the Police Department should deploy more officers on bikes to lead by example and demonstrate civic cycling on the roads and for any bicycle enforcement they undertake.

The DOT’s Pedestrian Safety Study and Action plan found that 27 percent of fatal pedestrian crashes involved drivers failing to yield to pedestrians while T.A.’s report Executive Order found that a driver could fail to yield every day and get ticketed only once every 1,589 years.   With funding from the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) grant of $150,000 in federal funds for increased enforcement against motorist speeding and failure to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks will hopefully begin to curb the dangerous behaviors that cause the most harm.

  • This is long overdue. Ideally, I’d like to see a civility campaign that would encourage all street users (drivers, cyclists, and yes, pedestrians) to be fair and respectful to all other street users. It should be as high-profile and relentless as the city’s anti-smoking ads.

  • Glenn

    It’s great that they boil it down to one crisp stat, but it makes hitting someone at 30 sound like no big deal…

    I would prefer if they just focused on the “speeding kills” aspect. But increasing knowledge of the speed limit is still a good thing.

  • braddock

    This PSA has too many numbers. They need to highlight one number: 30. That’s it.

  • Chris

    “According to DOT’s pedestrian safety report, most New Yorkers don’t know the citywide speed limit.”
    The speed limit is posted fairly prominently on all major roadways entering the city, so a lot of the people they asked either never drive or never leave the city when they do.

    I would like to see a few more actions:
    * Reasonable enforcement of jaywalking laws. Too many pedestrians are completely oblivious to traffic and stray off the sidewalk against the light. This makes turns dangerous and leaves no margin of error if a vehicle swerves for any reason.
    * More controlled intersections in the outer boroughs. The intersection by my apartment is a major pedestrian crossing because the subway lets out there, but it has no light or stop sign. Here the visibility is low, so pedestrians and drivers have to venture past the curb to see traffic, which they do since there’s no signal. There’s a fire house nearby, but it should be a simple matter to coordinate the signal with the trucks (do NYC emergency services already do that?)
    * Sign lower speeds where needed. I don’t understand why NYC thinks a blanket speed limit is sufficient – saving money from having to make more signs? In high foot traffic areas and near schools, make the speed limit 20 or even 15. And forget speed bumps; they’re annoying and just encourage people to speed from one to the other.
    * Better synchronization of lights. We all play the game, trying to time the lights. I’ve noticed many of them are set (intentionally? unintentional timing drift?) to encourage faster driving. I think if drivers knew they would be sure of clear traffic in exchange for driving more slowly, they would do it. Maybe even post the speed drivers should travel to encourage it.

  • tom murphy

    I hope nobody watches this, then goes out and tries to maintain the official de jure 30MPH anywhere and everywhere, in all weather and traffic conditions. That would be a short day.

    The de facto speed limit in NYC is something less than the speed of the vehicle in front of you. Even that won’t keep you out of trouble.

    BTW There are many, many routes in NYC where a lesser speed limit is posted, and for good reason.

  • Jay

    I was almost arrested a couple years ago for “disorderly conduct” when a car almost hit me crossing with the light in a crosswalk, and then yelled at the cop leaning against his car 10 feet away, who saw the whole thing: “CAN’T YOU DO SOMETHING?!”

    So I will believe that NYPD enforces “failure to yield” when I see it.

  • BicyclesOnly

    Channel 7 ran a segment tonight on this. It was the usual superficial bs but it was kind of fun watching all the motorists guess that the speed limit in Manhattan was 55. Best of all was the motorist who, when confronted with her error, laughed and said “so I kill someone!”

  • Joe R.

    Well, if you check state law, it says unless otherwise posted you may drive no faster than 55 mph. The city can’t expect the speed limit to be obeyed if it’s rarely posted. Another problem is Manhattan’s Avenues look like wide open highways. Drivers will go as fast as they feel comfortable going. If you redesign a street to “feel fast” at 30 mph, then the majority of drivers will drive at that speed. Unfortunately, many of the arterials in NYC don’t feel fast until you’re on the high side of 50. Maybe a better solution here is to just raise the speed limits on these arterials to better match present speed patterns, and put in pedestrian overpasses or underpasses every block in lieu of crosswalks. Problem solved as far as pedestrians go. At least when the cars are moving they won’t drop as much pollution.

    And I have a similar beef with sidewalk cycling tickets. Until the city liberally signs each and every street with “BICYCLES ARE NOT ALLOWED ON THE SIDEWALK” in several languages, legally any tickets shouldn’t hold up in court. You can’t expect people to obey laws they don’t know exist.

  • The new york times coverage includes much more of what JSK and Ray Kelly said about focused enforcement on cyclists. Definitely required reading for any NYC cyclist. It’s linked in “Today’s News.”

  • That’s a start…engineering the turns to force a slow down would be safer and more sustainable . A turn light is the solution as not only does it protect pedestrians and bicyclist it also prevents honking.
    I wish JSK would adopt this measure

  • This is a cynical co-option of the more than a decade-old technique used to encourage drivers to obey the speed limit in many Western and Northern European cities… except that it’s about 20mph (about 30kph) rather than 30mph.

    Pedestrian deaths and low-cycling mode share will continue if NYC DOT does not get serious about slowing down and bi-directionalizing its 30mph one-way traffic sewers.

    Also see Cycling: the way ahead for towns and cities, page 36…

  • James

    We have GPS. We have cruise control. There is no reason why vehicle speeds cannot be limited by direct mechanical intervention as we pass from zone to zone. Why is speed limit ‘enforcement’ only discussed in terms of (occasionally) ticketing offenders?


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