TA and Families for Safe Streets Call for Speed Cameras at #EverySchool

Graphic: Transportation Alternatives [PDF]
Assembly Member Deborah Glick will introduce legislation to significantly expand New York City’s speed camera program. To get the bill enacted, street safety advocates will have to build support in the State Senate and ensure that Governor Cuomo signs it into law.

At a press conference this morning, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White joined members of Families for Safe Streets to call on Albany to allow automated speed enforcement by every school in NYC.

Amy Cohen spoke alongside other members of Families for Safe Streets in support of expanding the city's school speed camera program. Photo: David Meyer
Amy Cohen spoke alongside other members of Families for Safe Streets in support of expanding the city’s school speed camera program. Photo: David Meyer

State law currently limits the city’s speed camera program. No more than 140 locations can have the cameras, and they have to be placed within quarter mile of a school on a street that directly abuts the school. Enforcement is limited to hours when school activities are occurring, which leaves the speed limit unenforced during the 12 hours of the day when fatal crashes are most likely.

Glick’s bill would change the current set-up in three ways:

  • Any school in the city would be able to have speed camera enforcement within a half-mile radius, removing the limits on the number of “school zones” that can receive automated speed enforcement at any given rime.
  • Time restrictions on enforcement would be eliminated, allowing the cameras to operate 24/7.
  • The current sunset provision — under which the program would need to be renewed in 2018 — would expire, making the camera program permanent.

Albany first voted to allow speed cameras in NYC in 2013, and lawmakers expanded the program from 20 cameras to 140 in 2014. Since the debut of automated speed enforcement, traffic deaths and severe injuries in NYC have dropped to historic lows. Still, 239 people lost their lives on city streets last year.

“Unfortunately being struck by a motor vehicle is still the leading cause of death for New York City kids, and that’s a huge problem,” said White. “But we know the solution. We know that speeding reduces by 60 percent when we put speed cameras around schools. Speed safety cameras are saving kids’ lives.”

The bill has yet to pick up a sponsor in the Senate, but White said he was optimistic that the bill could win the support of a majority of legislators. “We’re taking this fight in a way that Albany has never seen,” he said. “We have hundreds of New Yorkers downstate and upstate demanding protection for our children.”

White admitted conversations with the governor’s office had been “opaque,” but he expressed confidence that Cuomo would support the legislation, pointing to his past support for lowering the speed limit in New York City to 25 miles per hour. “We have every indication that Governor Cuomo will again support safety for our kids over petty politics.”

So far, advocates have collected 950 signatures in support of the campaign and have been tweeting at legislators using the hashtag #EverySchool.

Speaking later in the morning at TA’s Vision Zero Cities Conference, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton expressed support for expanding camera enforcement, putting the onus on Albany to get it done. “Much of this is controlled by legislators in Albany,” he said, and “many of them do not have the same sensitivities to the extraordinary conditions we face in New York — the crowding conditions but also the sheer number of schools.”

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Every NYC school should Have the street in Front of it 100% Car FREE on school days from 0700-1800

  • chris

    can someone link me a primer on why there is so much apparent resistance in albany to nyc traffic enforcement measures like speed cameras and red light cameras? why don’t we have thousands of each? i might guess that they more than pay for themselves. surely upstate legislators can’t care. so, is it just the queens and SI assembly?

  • A rigorous piece of research on the topic would be nice, but my impression is that it is driver’s belief that such a camera setup is a “cash grab” and that they don’t improve safety, which stems from drivers’ beliefs that speeding isn’t dangerous. And throw in a little bit of belief that drivers have an inherent right to break the law without suffering consequences.

  • Mike

    I think “cash grab” is the excuse, rather than the real reason: drivers just don’t want to drive at slower, safer speeds. And the auto industry doesn’t want people to drive at slower, safer speeds, because doing so is less fun and makes the odds of a person wanting to buy a car become less likely.

  • Brian Howald

    If we just cut off fingers for speeding instead of charging a fine, we could dispense with this “cash grab” excuse immediately.

  • HamTech87

    All for it, but could we please include the walkable towns in NY state too?

  • HamTech87

    Removing licenses would be a start.

  • Joe R.

    I’m all for cutting off another part of the anatomy, especially in cases where the speeding causes serious injury or death.

  • Assembly member Matt Titone (who is from Staten Island) summed up the popular resistance to cemeras in the end of the second paragraph of the following piece….


    Legislative.chicken heartedness follows that attitude Mr Titone spoke of. Politicians are naturally afraid of alienating constuents who feel that way…..and who vote.

  • Alicia

    Or, more seriously, we could assign community service.

  • Joe R.

    Legislators could easily counter that by allowing higher speed limits on limited access highways. I don’t see what the appeal of driving fast on local streets is anyway. Even best case you can’t safely go more than 50 or 60 mph. Note I mean “safely” here in the context of the driver not getting hurt. Obviously those kinds of speeds on surface streets aren’t safe for anyone not in motor vehicle. 50 or 60 mph pales next to putting a car through its paces at 90 or 100 mph on a highway. I guess the reason the don’t want to do this is highway speeding tickets often constitute a significant percentage of revenue. It’s ironic the one place where we often enforce speed limits zealously is the place where there is often little or no safety benefit to doing so.

  • Alexander Vucelic


    some number crunching for you:

    Question: What would medium term goal be for number of Cycling Commuters internal to Manhattan ( live & work in Manhattan ) plus external ( live outside of Manhattan and work in M)

    Some numbers:

    Live & Work Manhattan – 850k
    Live Bronx work M – 150
    Live Queens work M – 260
    Live Brook work M – 265
    Live elsewhere work M – 625

    What do you think would be rrasonable goals in numbers ?

  • AnoNYC

    Well, we definitely need these cameras because the NYPD sure isn’t effective when it comes to enforcing traffic regulations.

    It’s ridiculous that the state can hold the city hostage in this regard. That was not the intended purpose of the constitution.

  • AnoNYC

    Parents coming to pick up or drop off their children around primary schools is a serious problem. There needs to be an educational campaign AND the implementation of significant traffic calming AND loading zones surrounding schools.

  • AnoNYC

    The federal government should regulate some of these commercials which promote aggressive [dangerous] driving to sell a product.

  • Joe R.

    I’m going to assume you’re asking for reasonable goals if/when NYC has a citiwide comprehensive bike network made up of a course grid of non-stop trunk routes and a finer grid of protected lanes, regular lanes, and sharrows for the “last mile”.

    I’ll assume such a network can offer an overall average riding speed of maybe 12-13 mph for a typical cyclist in average condition. I’ll further use the 30 minute window where if the trip takes 30 minutes or less, you get large numbers of potential cyclists. If it takes much longer, the numbers fall off rapidly. At the average speeds I mentioned, 30 minutes implies a commute of about 6 miles each way or less.

    Let’s start with live and work in Manhattan. Without knowing the exact distribution of where people work and live, we do know the longest dimension of Manhattan is a bit over 12 miles. We also know the jobs are overwhelmingly concentration in midtown. If we use “Manhattan distance”, then a 6 mile commute might be 1 mile crosstown, 5 miles up or downtown. With that metric virtually everyone south of midtown is a potential bike commuter, assuming most jobs are in midtown. Everyone south of roughly maybe 150th Street is also. Let’s say that covers 2/3rds of workers who live and work in Manhattan. With a really great bike network I think a 25% bike mode share of that segment is a realistic goal. So you have 25% of 2/3rds of 850K, or about 142K. You still have everyone north of 150th Street. However, just about everyone will have a commute longer than 30 minutes unless they ride faster than average. Still, given the size of Manhattan, the average commute from north of 150th Street isn’t going to be horribly worse than 30 minutes. It’ll probably be under 40 minutes for just about everyone. Some who live north of 150th Street might not work in midtown, so their commute will fall in the 30 minute window. You won’t get 25% mode share here, but 15% might be realistic. So you have 15% of 1/3 of 850K, or about 42K. Added to the 142K for workes south of 150th Street, that brings your Manhattan total to around 184K.

    The other groups aren’t so rosy. Unless you work in upper Manhattan, any commute from the Bronx will be much longer than 6 miles. That basically makes the Bronx bike commuters pretty much all outliers who either ride faster than average, or don’t mind a much longer than 30 minute bike commute. Also, given the size of the Bronx, some commutes from the northern parts will be too far to consider biking for nearly everyone. I’ll guess then 5% mode share, or 7.5K. Let’s round down to 7K to keep whole numbers.

    Queens and Brooklyn also present a less than ideal picture. Figure once you go over the bridges you might still have a mile or two of riding, and the bridges are over a mile long. That puts the best commuting zones within 3 miles of the bridges. In favor of this is the fact these zones are denser than parts east. Still, the numbers probably aren’t high. Without knowing the exact population distribution, I’d say you’ll be lucky is 25% of the workers are in these ideal zones. Of that, maybe 20% will opt to commute (less than the 25% in the ideal Manhattan zones because of the climbs on the bridges). So you have 20% of 25% of 525K(combined Brooklyn/Queens to Manhattan commuters), or 26K. It’s really hard to hazard a guess for the percentages east of the ideal zones. I’ll go with 5%. I tend to think Queens/Brooklyn riders are used to riding longer distances, so a 45 minute bike commute might not phase as many as in Manhattan. You have 5% of 75% of 525K, or about 20K. Note that we can more or less cut the total Queens/Brooklyn numbers in half to get the individual totals for Brooklyn and Queens since the numbers of commuters are nearly the same.

    Live elsewhere work in Manhattan will probably be a very small percentage. Most of that cohort has very long commutes, way too long to bike. You might have small numbers from right across the river in NJ but I doubt the numbers would exceed 10K.

    So overall then my estimates would be:

    Live & Work Manhattan – 184K
    Live Bronx work Manhattan – 7K
    Live Queens work Manhattan – 23K
    Live Brook work Manhattan – 23K
    Live elsewhere work Manhattan – 10K

    Not surprising the majority of potential cycle commuters liver and work in Manhattan. However, and I can’t even hazard an educated guess at the numbers, I think there is a huge potential for intra-borough bike commuting in Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. A majority live and work in their own borough. A lot of those drive to work, often less than 5 miles. That’s a perfect demographic for bike commuting.

  • Alexander Vucelic


    keep crunching

  • Joe R.

    Just wondering if my estimates seem reasonable to you? For various reasons, NYC will never have a Copenhagen or Amsterdam type bike mode share, but we can do way, way better than the paltry few percent we have right now.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Your total is ~230k

    mine was 210k

    so we are essentially in agreement on the rough figures.

    I think what is surprising is how close we already are to to the 200k commuter number. I reckon about 100k NYrs cycle commute, the vast majority in/to Manhattan. Therefore, there might not be as much scope for cycling growth as most of us imagine.

    ~200-250k is just over 10% commuter modal

    might be interesting to muse how to increase the number to say 500k, The only way to get to 500k is first rate infrastructure for People coming in from Brooklyn & Queens plus a 35% share internal Manhattan. Would that be possible ?

  • ahwr

    I reckon about 100k NYrs cycle commute, the vast majority in/to Manhattan.

    Why do you think the 2014 ACS counted ~43k bike commuters living in NYC?

  • Alexander Vucelic

    because it’s consistently undercounting

    every single metric jas numbers greatly exceeding

    Christ citibike is getting 50k days and citibike represents less than 1/4 of ridership

  • Various reasons, namely because people keep saying “NYC will never have a Copenhagen or Amsterdam type bike mode share” and then using that unsupported statement to enact policies which prevent it from occurring. Its a self fulfilling prophecy, nothing more. The people who live in NYC are the same species with the same motivations as Amsterdam or Copenhagen. Both Amsterdam and Copenhagen were overrun with cars, as NYC is now. They both made policy decisions to change that, and both achieved change. The only reason NYC doesn’t is because they choose not to.

  • Joe R.

    I think 500K citiwide is a reasonable goal. Remember that there is HUGE growth potential for intraborough bike commuting in the outer boroughs. In fact, I’ve gone on record saying I think we can get even higher bike mode share (errands + commuting) in presently car-dependent parts of Queens and Brooklyn than we might get in Manhattan. The local public transit in these places stinks, but distances are often too far for walking. That leaves driving and cycling as the only two alternatives. Unfortunately, right now arterials full of aggressive motor traffic work against that. Side streets often don’t continue long enough to be useful. We probably need some combination of protected bike lanes, overpasses/underpasses at busy intersections, even bike viaducts to make the arterials fast and safe. Some of the same things in Manhattan could probably get us to 35% mode share there.

    In short, we have to take what works elsewhere, use it, and probably also invent a few things along the way. Almost forgot to mention—velomobiles. Along with the type of bike infrastructure I mentioned, those could be a real game changer if we can mass produce them enough to get the price down to something reasonably affordable, like $2K or $3K. If your average speed can be 25 mph instead of 12 mph with the same effort, your 30 minute commuting radius jumps to over 12 miles. That covers huge swaths of outer borough to Manhattan commuting. It’s also incidentally faster than the subway, even an express subway.

    I really think even those in the know are largely underestimating the real potential of self-powered transportation.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    True Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn are prime areas for cycling: typical distances of 2-4miles, wide streets, genetally level terrain, and plenty of PARKING !!!!!

  • Joe R.

    The key difference here is NYC is much larger than these cities. It also has a really great subway system. That means a fair number of trips are longer than is generally accepted as a reasonable distance to bike. I’m not saying we couldn’t have 50% bike share. In fact, I think at least in currently car dependent places like eastern Queens which has lousy local public transit we could get there if we wanted.

    I also think 50% citiwide isn’t entirely unfeasible but we’ll have to start thinking in totally different terms. Bike highways, velomobiles, a good network of last mile stuff on local streets are all necessary.

  • Brian

    There’s no proof that cameras save lives or are effective. They ARE nothing but a money grab, pure and simple. And why should they be allowed to operate 24 hours a day? Children are not out walking to school at 3:00 am? Are they?
    Cameras weren’t in use 10,20,30 years ago, and I certainly don’t think it was carnage on the streets back then. This will likely never pass, so Amy ought to stop wasting time on this and get herself to beauty salon. Good god.

  • ahwr

    Census numbers are people saying how they typically commuted the majority of the distance of their commute in the week or so before the survey. Has nothing to do with DOT numbers.

    Commuting to/from work is a small share of overall travel (20-25% of trips according to NYMTC surveys I think). Comparing the number of commuters to total citibike trips on peak days is misguided.

  • Simon Phearson

    As if we needed more reason to resent the constituency opposed to automated enforcement of traffic laws that most drivers think they shouldn’t have to follow, you’ve helped to associate that perspective with a vile, casual sexism. Good job.

    Who cares if they’re a money grab? If they reduce speeds and reckless driving, then they’re serving a beneficial purpose. Drivers need to slow down, and they need to slow down everywhere. Period. Start with the schools, and let’s move on from there.

  • Daniel

    Not from NY, but from Chicago:


    Speed cameras are not accurate, and wrongly issue tickets. They remove due process. The USA is not a police state. and the fact that cities make these like parking tickets so they can easily issue them supports that. Cities only install them if they can make money, and rely on people like many who post here to spread the word that they are about safety.
    Officers making traffic stops help get unlicensed, uninsured, and impaired drives off the road. The argument that cameras “free up” officers to fight real crime is a fallacy. Making traffic stops helps prevent a lot of crime.

    So you all can think you’re so clever with your hashtags and your silly website, but believ me, camera use will not be expanded.

  • Reader

    In 1990 there were approximately 700 traffic fatalities in NYC.

    Commenting on someone’s appearance – a mother who lost her son no less – means you’re probably not interested in facts.

  • mattkime

    so – one bad traffic camera is proof that traffic cameras on’t work?

  • MattyCiii

    A money grab from people who endanger the lives of children? Where do I sign up to support this money grab!!

  • MattyCiii

    ^ That’s correct. Just add in the relevant fact that police in general don’t pull drivers over for speeding and running red lights.


  • Daniel

    It’s proof that they are not accurate and don’t allow for due process. The motivation is 100% financial, as a trial for Chicagos red light camera program recently revealed. Do you think someone who is being paid a commission per camera placed really cares about safety? Wouldn’t it be better if police officers were actually pulling over dangerous drivers and assigning points to their license, which affects insurance, etc.?

    Oh, here’s a camera in Maryland that tickets a stopped bus. Wow, these are real accurate, huh? I doubt you’ll see any expansion of these programs, and thankfully many states are introducing legislation to ban them all together. I can just imagine the carnage.

  • mattkime

    one bad camera is proof of one bad camera. you can point to as many as you want but please complete your work and remind me how many traffic cameras have been deployed in total.

    >Wouldn’t it be better if police officers were actually pulling over dangerous drivers

    thats not the choice. its not like cameras get installed and take over a job that police were doing.

    lets not throw the baby out with the bath water.

  • Dean Finder

    Have stats been compiled on the reduction of injuries and deaths at the schools vs. ones without? The speeding reduction is a likely sign of reduced carnage, but if much of that reduction happens out of school hours, there’s less effect on safety.

  • Dean Finder

    Also, I’d like to see a mayor of some city counter the protesters by instituting strict enforcement of speed limits in school zones by cops, and imposing fees that include the full cost of the cops’ time, the processing cost of the ticket, and the court time.

  • Tyson White

    20 years ago the traffic deaths were 3 times as many as today, now that we have red light cameras. The number of injuries 20 years ago is unknown because they didn’t even keep records of that until a few years ago. (Too many to count, I guess).

    But by all means, let’s go back to those days and raise our children in that climate…

  • Tyson White

    You would also have to assume that drivers know when they are in a school zone.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    just block the street off during school days in front of every school in the city

  • Alexander Vucelic

    great data for our discussion; slighter finer grained data


  • Joe R.

    Thanks! Second link is very useful. However, first link says 404 Not Found.

  • Alexander Vucelic
  • Joe R.

    Thanks! Got it.

  • BBnet3000

    I walk at 3am.

  • Joe R.

    I ride at 3AM.

  • Lakeview Guy

    Let’s do that- most parents these days are so over protective and the kids they raise are nothing but entitled brats. God help them when they get older.

  • Well, lets talk about Manhattan then. And these places, Copenhagen, cities in the Netherlands also have less dense suburbs, people get on trains, into the city. Bicycles are a last mile solution, they make trains and other transit better. There should be little or no reason to bring a car into Manhattan or at the very least certain parts of it.

  • Joe R.

    No argument there. I’ve gone on record saying we should ban private automobiles at least in the borough of Manhattan, perhaps eventually in the entire city if we build better transit.

    Incidentally, I strongly feel bicycles could function as a lot more than a last mile solution with the right infrastructure and equipment. They could serve as a form of urban rapid transit.

  • Well I think we generally agree. And I’m not saying they should be limited to last mile, but they provide an enormous opportunity for last mile, especially in the suburban situation we’ve built ourselves into. NYC is the obvious exception. But there are plenty of people who would bike 10-20 km to work every day, its great exercise, but that is always going to be an order of magnitude less than those who would bike 1-2 km to/from a transit stop.


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