Council Member Joe Borelli is a speed demon on two continents!
The Staten Island lawmaker — who admits that he regularly speeds (and pays tickets for same) in New York — got a camera-issued speeding ticket while on vacation in France last month.
He was clocked going 51.5 mph in a 43.5 zone in the tiny Normandy village of Hénouville — exactly three miles per hour more than the grace speed of 48.5 miles per hour. In New York, the cameras that have caught Borelli's car seven times only issue tickets when a driver exceeds the posted speed limit by 11 miles per hour or more, but France's far-more-stringent rules may be one reason that the country's traffic death rate per 100,000 people is less than half of the United States (the death rate is even 20 percent lower when you calculated it by vehicle miles traveled, which gives the U.S. an advantage because of how much driving we do.)
Borelli freely admitted his guilt and said he has already sent a check to cover the €45 fine from the Aug. 8 road trip.
Borelli told Streetsblog that he should have been aware when the speed limit dropped from 80 kilometers per hour (about 50 miles per hour) to 70 (43.5 MPH), but it's not always so easy in the French countryside.
"The speed limit drops whenever you enter an incorporated village," he said. "You're not always aware you crossed the boundary — I admit, you should know that, but sometimes it's hard to know if three barns in a row are a village or just three barns in a row."
Borelli said he was on vacation with his wife and kids to celebrate his 40th birthday, as well as his lifelong love of France. We asked Borelli, a Republican, whether being a Francophile would raise more eyebrows among his voters than the speeding ticket, but he pointed out that loving French culture is downright American.
"I really do love France," he said. "I visited the Normandy beaches and the American cemetery there. I encourage people to travel to France and not be intimidated by driving. Get the feel of each village or town — and ideally, do not speed through." (In fairness to Borelli, we only found out about the ticket because he tweeted us a picture of it after we recently wrote about his anti-camera ally Inna Vernikov's 23 camera-issued speeding tickets.)
The French know a thing or two about irony, but Borelli's ticket in France doesn't meet the definition: he opposes speed cameras on both sides of the Atlantic.
"I don't like speed cameras," said Borelli, who voted against their expansion in May (just a few days after receiving a camera-issued red light ticket). "I find them intrusive. And I don't find them actually preventing speeding."
Borelli was reminded that the Department of Transportation has long claimed that speeding drops more than 70 percent at locations with speed cameras and that more than half of drivers who get a camera-issued speeding ticket don’t get another one.
Borelli said that's only because drivers become aware of where the cameras are and then slow down accordingly.
Like so many Americans who have visited France, Borelli admitted that some things are better over there, but he disagreed that we need to take lessons about livable cities from the French, where cities are clean, safe and bike friendly. But he did like one thing particularly.
"The thing we need to export from France before anything else, more so than cheese or wine, is the sound-triggered cameras," he said referring to French systems that can issue tickets to people driving loud cars. "As a gentleman of quiet enjoyment, nothing irks more than hearing some jerk drive down a street with an ATV or some sort of altered muffler just to make his car turn heads. I can't wrap my head around people who [here, Borelli shifted into what he described as his "cave man" voice], "I like loud things and I want to make things loud."
Borelli's first camera-issued speeding ticket in almost two years puts him back in the Council’s unofficial Speed Demon Caucus, a bipartisan delegation that includes Transportation Committee Chairwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers (D-Queens), Francisco Moya (D-Corona), Justin Brannan (D-Bay Ridge), Vernikov (R-Coney Island) and Joanne Ariola (D-Queens). Former Council members Paul Vallone (D-Queens); Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn), and Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) are also members emeritus. (Borelli, Vernikov and Ariola voted against the speed camera home rule message earlier this year.)
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