Southern Brooklyn

City Council Mulling 25 MPH Speed Limit Citywide

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Source: formulanone/Flickr

The New York City Council is considering legislation that would cut the speed limit citywide from 30 mph to 25 mph, and the legislative body’s leadership is hoping to see it passed before the end of the year.

The new bill took shape last week, evolving from legislation originally proposed by Councilman David Greenfield that called for 20 mph limits “on all streets fewer than 60 feet wide in areas zoned for residential purposes.” It would only affect single lane, one-way streets.

A state law, though, interfered with the lower limit. Streetsblog writes:

DOT told the council in October that state law permits the city to set speeds at 15 to 24 miles per hour only if other physical traffic-calming treatments are also implemented, or if a street is within a quarter-mile of a school.

To set speed limits at 20 mph citywide, DOT suggested lobbying Albany to change the state law before passing a local law.

(WNYC created a map showing that most streets are close enough to a school. Still legislators sought to up the limit.)

In addition to slashing the speed limit, the bill will require the Department of Transportation to introduce at least seven new “slow zones” every year, each covering five blocks. Slow zones are areas of reduced speed limits to 20 mph on roadways selected for a history of accidents, proximity to schools and community concerns.

According to the New York Times, Council Speaker Christine Quinn is hoping to see the bill passed before the end of the year, when much of the Council’s members will be ousted by term limits. The paper also reports that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is supportive of the effort and waiting for the final bill. Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio is likely also in favor, given that he has called for an expansion of slow zones, but a spokeswoman said it is still being considered.

Some in the taxi industry are apparently opposed to the bill, reports the Daily News. One representative testified to the Council, saying that changing the speed limit would cause confusion for drivers and give the city an opportunity to dole out more revenue-generating tickets. (Updated)

UPDATE (December 4, 2013): A representative for the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade e-mailed to say that not all in the taxi industry are opposed to the proposal. The MTBT is the largest taxi trade group in the city, and issued the following statement of support:

For over 60 years, MTBOT has made safety a priority for the thousands of drivers it represents and the millions of passengers they serve. That is why we strongly support Int. 535, a life-saving measure that would reduce the speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph exclusively on residential side streets, making the City safer for our drivers, passengers and neighbors.

This important bill should not be used as an excuse to target drivers for tickets, but rather it should bring all New Yorkers together for a common goal, to make our streets safer, especially for our children and elderly residents. Research shows that 20 mph residential speed limits work—including in London and Tokyo, where reduced speed limits have cut the number of fatal crashes on residential streets by as much as half.

It’s time New York joined other major cities in passing this sensible, life-saving legislation. MTBOT calls upon the Department of Transportation to support Int. 535 and make our streets safer for all New Yorkers.

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