REYNOSO: Reckless Drivers and Wild West Streets Need to be Stopped Now

More evidence of speeding. Photo: Jacob Robert
More evidence of speeding. Photo: Jacob Robert
Antonio Reynoso. Photo: NYC Council
Antonio Reynoso. Photo: NYC Council

As our city faces a prolonged health crisis, calls have been made to make New York City streets safer for pedestrians looking for a reprieve from quarantining indoors. At the same time, students and families are still traveling to our public schools every day to collect essential meals so they don’t go hungry.

With millions at home in the tri-state area, New York City streets are less congested with cars than ever before. However, now is not the time to turn Midtown into a Grand Prix. Stepped up enforcement of speeding, reckless driving and other dangerous behaviors is more crucial than ever to ensure that pedestrian, cyclist and driver injuries are not adding to the already chaotic emergency demands our local hospitals are confronting.

A recent report of unchecked drivers on New York City’s streets shows that as traffic congestion lessens due to social distancing measures, speeding is surging. Data from INRIX has shown a clear correlation between decreased traffic congestion and traffic speed. On March 18, New York City highways saw a 52-percent increase in speed in the morning, and a 58-percent increase in speed in the afternoon.

We’ve already seen plenty of tragic and preventable crashes in the last several weeks as a result. On March 17, a bicyclist was transported to Bellevue Hospital in critical condition after being struck by a car driver in Soho. On March 25, a car crash in Brooklyn sent two people to the hospital with injuries. And on April 2 in Queens, three people were rushed to the hospital after being hit by a driver that ran a red light.

For city planners and law enforcement, this is an incredibly challenging environment where prioritizing safety, speed and access is a constant balancing act, especially during turbulent times. But there are measures that can and should be taken to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers.

Schools are closed, but about 400 locations remain open for meal programs. What’s more, childcare for New York City’s essential workers is also being offered at 100 sites in school buildings across the city.

Students and parents alike deserve to be protected as they travel to access these critical programs. 

In the near future, the city will continue to implement its street closure program, with a new goal of closing 100 miles of street space. More open streets will ensure the physical safety of pedestrians and bikers, and as New York City continues to follow social distancing. This is welcomed news as being able to take a break and go outside while still keeping a safe distance from others will be imperative to everyone’s mental and physical health. Extensive studies have shown that going outdoors can make a real difference in our well-being. Vitamin D from the sun boosts our immune systems, and spending time outside can help reduce stress, making us less susceptible to getting sick. 

As New York City makes more space for pedestrians and bikers, we need to ensure that our remaining roadways are safe for all users. Less dedicated street space to cars is not an excuse for reckless driving and the threat that it poses to human life. 

Over the last month, our city has seen major disruptions and has been able to respond accordingly. But beyond the obvious, we need to protect New Yorkers from the secondary threats resulting from the pandemic, including dangerous driving and speeding. We have the tools— NYPD patrols, enforcement cameras and planned street closures — to ensure a balance between making more outdoor space available to the public while keeping our roads open for essential workers and emergency vehicles. Now is the time to double down on what we know works as we come together to get through this crisis.

Antonio Reynoso is a City Council Member representing Williamsburg and Bushwick. Follow him on Twitter @CMReynoso34.

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