DOT Is Finally Bringing Riverside Drive in Line With 25 MPH City Speed Limit

When the new citywide 25 miles per hour speed limit took effect a year ago, DOT carved out some exceptions, retaining speed limits of 30 or 35 mph on some surface streets.

A new 25 mph sign on the Riverside Drive 125th Street viaduct. Photo: Delphine S. Taylor
A new 25 mph sign on the Riverside Drive 125th Street viaduct. Photo: Delphine S. Taylor

One of those streets was Riverside Drive, where last November DOT installed 30 mph speed limit signs at locations north of 100th Street. At that time we asked DOT why Riverside, a neighborhood street flanked by apartment buildings and parks, was exempt from the slower, safer speed limit, but did not get a response.

“Some larger streets, such as limited access highways or major arterial streets, have posted speed limits of 30 MPH and above,” read a DOT FAQ sheet issued last fall. “[T]hese will remain in place while DOT evaluates these locations.”

Last December, City Council members Helen Rosenthal and Mark Levine asked Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg to “immediately” reduce the speed limit on Riverside from 103rd Street to 165th Street to 25 mph “for the safety of … residents and … consistency of traffic policy.”

Wrote Rosenthal and Levine:

The street is lined with residential buildings on the east side and playgrounds, tot lots, and parkland on the west side. With its connections to the George Washington Bridge, northern New York roads, and the I-95 into the City, there is a constant stream of car and bike traffic on this stretch of Riverside Drive. Residents must brave this traffic as they cross the street to use the park, often with children in tow.

The speed limit remained 30 mph on Riverside north of 103rd Street for about 11 more months. Sometime in the last few weeks, DOT installed 25 mph signs on Riverside south of 135th Street. DOT said the speed limit will be lowered to 25 mph from 135th Street to 165th Street before the year is out.

Through October of this year, drivers injured nine pedestrians and seven cyclists on Riverside Drive between 103rd Street and 165th Street, according to DOT crash data. Thirty-three motor vehicle occupants were injured on that segment of Riverside during those 10 months, a sign that motorists are colliding at high speeds.

DOT said lowering the maximum legal speed on Riverside Drive to the citywide default was done as part of a project that will add sidewalks and pedestrian islands between 116th and 135th streets. We’ll have more on that project, which was opposed by Manhattan Community Board 9, in a future post.

  • mattkime

    I wonder if this will affect the speed of traffic

  • JK

    Finally! Thank you to CM Levine and CM Rosenthal and Transportation Alternatives for pushing DOT on this, and big thanks to Streetsblog for keeping the pressure on.

    As to DOT, hope you publish the list of streets with a speed limit higher than 25mph, and a rationale for the higher speed. It should not have taken this kind of pressure to get the same speed limit on Riverside Drive as Broadway or Amsterdam.

  • r

    This is good news, but note the extra-wide parking lane in that photo. Let’s not forget that DOT is completely dropping the ball on good, safe infrastructure on what is a major bike route for people going to and from the George Washington Bridge.

  • ZB

    Since we know that the 30mph speed limit signs worked so well, I’m sure this will make a huge difference. Or at the very least, allow De Blasio to pat himself on the back a bit more for all the great work he’s doing.

  • mattkime

    thanks for mentioning that – whats up with all the wiiiiiide parking lanes? they confuse me.

  • r

    They help DOT get traffic calming projects past cranky community boards that might reject anything that’s seen as helping cyclists. Sad, but that’s the game DOT is playing right now.

  • JK

    Oh, this is strange. Scratch the thank you. The DOT has signed the Southbound Riverside with 25mph and Northbound with what appears to be new 30mph signs. It appears this maybe part of the dopey “road diet” here in which there are two NB lanes and one SB… And yes, there should be bike lanes on Riverside, including parking protected on the viaduct section. And no, speed limit does matter because typically cops doing radar enforcement only ticket for 10mph over, and they do radar in this area. (Though no photo radar because no nearby school.)

  • BrooklynBus

    This nonsense will continue until every single street in the city is signed at 25 mph or less. This contrary to what deBlasio stated what Vision Zero would entail. 25 mph was supposed to be the default street speed limit with exceptions made as appropriate. By the end of deBasio’s first term there will be no exceptions. He lied to us. Where is the proof that with a 25 mph instead of 30 mph, there are fewer idiots going 50 or 60 mph? Show me that number and I will support a 25 mph default speed limit.

  • mattkime

    they have similar painted buffers on bedford ave running through bedstuy. in some places the lines are completely worn away from traffic driving over them.

  • Bernard Finucane

    They are a good thing but they should be striped for slanted parking. That would slow down the traffic.

  • walks bikes drives

    Not unless they start giving lot of tickets. While speeds will probably continue at the same rate initially, the fines go up a great deal, and affect insurance more, by adding that extra 5mph. In time, average speeds will decrease.

  • Ralph Aichinger

    In Europe there seems to evolve a standard of 20mph/30kph. Why is it 25 not 20 in the US? Actually we are beginning to see some 20km/h areas (about 12mph) around here.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    their in-town speed limits tended to be lower than ours to begin with 40kph was tyoical. interesting that their highway speeds are faster

  • Andrew

    Riverside Drive runs between one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the U.S. and a major park. People – including children and the elderly – need to cross the street to reach the park. Riverside Drive is a neighborhood street, not a highway, and it should have a speed limit fitting for a neighborhood street.

    Did you assume that every street where motorists like to drive fast would have a high speed limit? That’s a pretty silly assumption, given the objective of improving pedestrian safety.

    It doesn’t take “idiots going 50 or 60 mph” to kill or severely injure a pedestrian or cyclist. Idiots going 30 or 35 will do the trick just fine.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    next step is start charging market clearing rates for street parking ( ie match prices charged by off street private garages nearby ) & convert one car lane in each direction to exclusive bus lane (0600-2000), maybe add some 25 MPH speed bumps, of course pedestrian bump outs at all crossings, and daylighting at all street corners ( the sightlines are atrocious )

    notice I did not suggest protected bike lane 🙂

  • djx

    I got a ticket on the RSD a few years ago. Not NYPD – some kind of state police. It was for one of my signal lights not working. I was fine with the ticket, though it was annoying how much this person wanted to lecture me while I had a a toddler, an 80+ year-old and another person in the car and we’d been driving for five hours and were five minutes from home. The ticket was self-explanatory but she wanted to go over it all and confirm I understood it all.

    Oh, and also annoying in the context of the massive amount of speeding on that road.

    I don’t think police in NYC care about speeding AT ALL.

  • urbanresidue

    This weekend, I also noticed DOT reduced the speed limit on Mosholu Parkway from 35 mph to 30. It is odd that after years of community interest, they didn’t mention it to anyone. It also seems questionable they continue to post speed limits above the citywide default at locations where engineering analysis has already found that lower advisory speeds should be posted. That sends a dangerous mixed message, and legalizing unsafe speeds would hamper prosecution of reckless driving.

    The old case for reducing the speed limit:
    http://urbanresidue.blogspot.com/2014/02/taming-traffic-on-mosholu-parkway.html?m=1

  • urbanresidue

    The regulatory sign says you’re allowed to go faster. The advisory sign suggests you may want to slow down.

  • Sunstar

    Don’t you think that 20MPH on most streets would be a bit impractical? 25 MPH is fast enough to get where you’re going efficiently, with minimal risk to yourself, other drivers, and pedestrians. 30 MPH in residential streets poses a hazard to all people involved in the situation. 20 MPH is a noticeable change from 30 MPH that may cause traffic while 25 MPH will not. However, one should note the install of neighborhood slow zones in select NYC areas… Overall, 25 MPH makes more sense than 20 or 12.

    Here are some statistics…

    A pedestrian struck at 20 MPH has a 24% chance of being killed or severely injured.
    At 25 MPH it’s 41%
    At 30 MPH it’s 64%
    At 35 MPH it’s 94%
    At 40 MPH it’s 100%

    Just sayin’…

  • Sunstar

    It’s not actually very likely that you’ll kill someone at 30 or 35 MPH, you’re much more likely to severely injure them.

  • Andrew

    According to this study (which just happens to be the first that Google handed me; feel free to compare to others), the probability of death of a pedestrian struck at 35 mph is about 30% (Figure 1, right-hand graph). Which is pretty substantial. At 25 mph, it’s less than 15%.

    I agree that it’s more likely that the pedestrian is severely injured. That’s why used the language “to kill or severely injure a pedestrian.” I’d rather not see pedestrians severely injured, either.

    Driving at 25 mph also reduces the likelihood that the pedestrian will be struck in the first place.

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