Does Marty Golden Really Need Convincing That Lower Speeds Save Lives?

The Daily News didn’t need to send anyone to stand in traffic for man-on-the-street reaction quotes on Dan O’Donnell’s bill to lower the speed limit in NYC to 20 miles per hour.

Instead, all they had to do was call up Marty Golden.

With 12 children age 14 and under killed by NYC motorists in the last 12 months, Marty Golden believes lowering the speed limit is an "overreaction."
With 12 children age 14 and under killed by NYC motorists in the last 12 months, Marty Golden believes lowering the speed limit is an “overreaction.”

[Golden] called O’Donnell’s bill an “overreaction” and warned the lower speed limit would snarl traffic throughout the city.

“Traffic would go nowhere,” Golden said. “It would be a disaster and it is not going to eliminate the unlicensed driver who shouldn’t be driving or the driver who’s on drugs or alcohol.”

Golden said a better approach would be to stiffen penalties for aggressive drivers — to “get these morons off the road” — and to better mark off school zones.

Let us count the straw men. Would traffic come to a standstill if speed limits were lowered to 20 miles per hour? No. Where traffic is gridlocked, it already moves much slower than that. What this bill will do is encourage many people to drive at less lethal speeds on streets where they currently open up the throttle.

Slowing down speeding drivers has nothing to do with catching drunk or unlicensed drivers. It is ridiculous to say that since lowering the speed limit would not solve all traffic-related issues it isn’t worth doing.

Albany should certainly stiffen penalties for aggressive drivers. But again, that is a completely separate issue from slowing traffic in general. A pedestrian hit by a vehicle moving at 20 mph has a 95 percent chance of living through the collision. For a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 30 mph, the current city speed limit, the chance of survival drops to 55 percent. Further, drivers traveling at 20 mph can more easily avoid collisions in the first place. Research cited by the 20’s Plenty For Us campaign shows that lower speed limits reduce collisions overall.

Safe Routes to School is a successful program, but slowing drivers citywide would make kids safer than adding paint and signage near schools, or whatever it is Golden is suggesting.

Golden has a mixed record on safe streets legislation. He sponsored bills to toughen penalties for drivers who leave crash scenes, and to require mirrors on large trucks that let drivers see kids who are in front of them. He was a holdout on allowing speed cameras in NYC, but eventually came around.

It’s unclear where his opposition to O’Donnell’s bill is coming from, but if Golden is interested in saving the lives of children, he will get behind the effort to lower the maximum legal speed in NYC.

  • Bolwerk

    Traffic throughput might improve markedly if people aren’t speeding to the next chokepoint, which is basically what they do now.

  • Clarke

    His suggestion to better mark off school zones…sort of like the amazing markings currently used in slow zones? (i.e , , )

  • niccolomachiavelli

    Marty was a cop. It shows. And, he doesn’t specialize in mathematics to the point that the complex equations determining average speed, maximum speed, total trip time probably elude him to the point that he thinks bringing down maximum speed proportionally brings down average speed and inversely increases trip time.
    Still, he is a powerful ex-cop.

  • Eric McClure

    Marty Golden better start preparing for a serious election challenge. Zero Vision’s days are numbered.

  • Mark Walker

    Golden seems like a guy who doesn’t always think things through but is willing to keep an open mind, as in his eventual acceptance of speed cameras. If any of his staff are reading this, I hope they’ll call the facts to his attention — slower speeds save lives — and maybe he’ll see reason. In my occasional interactions with other electeds (Inez Dickens) I’ve found the staff are often amazingly well informed, more so than you’d suspect from listening to their bosses.

  • Flakker

    20 MPH is ridiculous and meaningless because in New York City, cops don’t enforce traffic laws (although I think Bolwerk’s suggestion that it would improve traffic flow in some circumstances deserves serious study). Obviously pedestrians should never have to suffer and die because a driver hit them but there’s a culture of complete lawlessness that has nothing to do with speed limits. Aside from the collision non-investigations/non-prosecutions well-documented on this site, I have personally witnessed all these, commonly, to a degree I’ve never seen anywhere else in America:

    -Drivers with their brights on, everywhere. I’m fairly sure these imbeciles don’t even know what they’re doing and obviously no cop has ever corrected them.
    -Illiterates driving blithely in a lane (on the BQE in the cases I’ve seen it) clearly marked EXIT ONLY only to swerve out of it at the last minute. “But this happens everywhere!” you say. Yes it does, but the New York City version of this is to do so blindly into an already occupied lane without looking. I can only surmise that a good portion of these people actually can’t read the sign.
    -Out of state license plate residents. Round them up and prosecute; seems like a no-brainer from a traffic and financial point of view (albeit a state responsibility).
    -Not signaling when turning. Granted, this happens everywhere but it’s the simplest way to meet ticket quotas if cops felt inclined to do their jobs, which they don’t.
    -Running red lights. I read the police union rep was quoted as objecting to red light cameras because installing them implied that the cops did a poor job. They do.
    -Generally illegal lane changes/turns/blocking the box – epidemic
    -Double parking drivers, (talking about outer boroughs here) blocking buses, stressing out even more motorists behind them leading to other drivers rushing around them and other unsafe behaviors. I realize this is turning into a laundry list but that’s my point; cops are nowhere to be seen. I’m not talking about situations where there’s no way at all to stop nearby other than double parking, I’m talking about entitled motorists blocking an entire lane instead of parking with no fear of prosecution. This is a regular obstruction on the Bx40 at rush hour as far as I can tell.

  • petercow

    The speed camera compromise that Golden eventually acceded to, is so limited and watered-down, as to be nearly meaningless – which was his exact intent. And he only did it after facing huge political pressure.

    He’s a putz. Brooklyn will be a better place when he’s no longer in office.

  • Joe R.

    Here’s a compromise which should get people like Golden on board-remove traffic lights in any zone that is designated 20 mph but at the same time make physical changes to the street to ensure that it’s difficult to drive much over 20 mph. Also disallow parking within 75 feet of the corner to improve lines of sight. That’s how slow zones are done elsewhere. You almost never see traffic signals or stop signs in slow zones in Europe. Intersections either use yields, or are uncontrolled. Uncontrolled intersections alone actually make great traffic calming devices. Just see how people drive when traffic lights go out after a power outage.

    When all is said and done average speed of travel may well be higher in slow zones than in 30 mph zones with traffic signals and stop signs. This is a concept Golden doesn’t seem to grasp-peak speeds don’t matter much if you can’t maintain them continuously. Steady but slower traffic flow will decrease trip time variability. Variability is more important than average trip time because many times people plan when to leave based on a close to worst-case scenario, not their average trip time. The end result more often than not is wasted time when they arrive many minutes early for school/work/appointments. With less variability you don’t have to leave as large a cushion of time for worst-case scenarios.

    As an aside, I also favor raising speed limits on highways to whatever is feasible for the road design as part of a carrot-stick approach. If that speed is higher than the state speed limit of 65 mph, petition Albany to allow it, or to just get rid of the state maximum speed limit altogether. The idea here is to move as much traffic as possible on to highways and away from surface streets. Just based on my limited observation the limit on the LIE can be raised to at least 65 mph, probably 75 or 80 mph once you get past Douglaston, perhaps as high as 90 or 100 mph past exit 40 or so (well outside city limits but if NYC raises the limit Nassau and Suffolk would probably follow suit). The Belt could probably go to at least 60 mph. In fact, most of the city’s highways can safely have their limits raised by at least 10 mph.

  • Real New Yorker

    But who will stand up for the motorists who endanger, injure and kill innocent New Yorkers every single day?…

    Marty Golden will!

  • MaryAnn

    Golden has kids – his children’s safety should be enough to get him on board.


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