On Monday night, in the last hour he could possibly do so, State Senator Jeff Klein introduced a bill that would lower New York City’s default speed limits to 25 miles per hour. The city’s current standard speed limit, except in areas where it is otherwise noted, is 30 MPH. Lowering speed limits in the city has been a major goal for pedestrian safety advocates, and a top Vision Zero priority for Mayor Bill de Blasio (whose team met with Klein last week).
Klein’s bill would lower the speed limit to 25 (roughly as fast as humans can run: 23 mph on average) and require community board approval to lower speed limits by a margin of more than five miles per hour. The way the bill is written, it would be possible to lower the speed limit in certain areas to 20 miles per hour, the magic number for pedestrian advocates, without going before a community board. (If a pedestrian is hit by a car traveling 20 miles per hour that person has a 95 percent chance of surviving the collision.)
All in all, it seems like a win for transportation advocates who inundated Klein’s office with calls and tweets when it appeared he might not introduce a bill at all. (Streetsblog reports more than 500 people contacted Klein’s office about the bill on Monday.)
But the pedestrian advocacy group Right of Way released a statement this morning saying “Klein’s bill is laden with time-consuming provisions that will cost lives.” The group takes issue with the Community Board approval provision, which it says will hamper efforts to lower speed limits on dangerous arteries like Northern Boulevard, Pelham Parkway, Linden Boulevard, and West Street where speed limits presently exceed 30 miles per hours.
“These corridors were almost certainly a part of the DOT’s arterial slow zone program,” Keegan Stephan, an organizer with Right of Way, said in the statement released Tuesday morning, “so Klein has effectively slowed down that life-saving program, and likely killed it on these corridors, ultimately killing many who use them.”
Right of Way also expressed disappointment that the bill failed to empower to the New York City Department of Transportation to lower speed limits to 20 miles per hour on some streets without installing extra traffic calming measures, a provision the DOT had explicitly requested. (Department of Transportation spokesman Nicolas Mosquera did not respond to a request for comment.)
Looks like the DOT will have to update its speed limit awareness campaign.