When Gov. Cuomo last Friday signed a law that will cut the speed limit on many city streets to 25 miles per hour, he, Mayor de Blasio and others all called it a step in the right direction.
Others believe it is far more important.
“Currently, more than half of those killed in traffic in New York City are people walking or riding their bikes,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “These deaths are preventable, and the shift to 25 mph could cut the annual number of pedestrian deaths in half ... Even when crashes can’t be avoided, they’re much less likely to be fatal at 25 mph.”
“Today’s bill signing is heartening,” said Aaron Charlop-Powers of Families for Safe Streets, whose mother was killed while riding her bicycle in the Bronx four years ago.
As for what the bill actually will do and when, a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Transportation said it will take effect on Nov. 9, 90 days after Cuomo took out his pen. She also said not all streets will be affected.
“Unless a street is marked with signs for a different speed limit, it will be 25 miles per hour,” she said.
The DOT spokeswoman also said that the law is specific enough to give the city the flexibility it needs on major thoroughfares and elsewhere a limit of 25 mph simply would not be safe or practical.
Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), a major supporter of the law who feels it did not go far enough in some respects, said the leeway is a necessary component.
“We don’t want to shut down traffic in New York City,” he said. “We want to move traffic, but we want to do it safely. And remember that as Environmental Committee chairman, I certainly don’t want cars idling in front of people’s homes making them breathe in the emissions because the cars aren’t moving.”
Richards said there are areas in his district, such as the stretch of 147th Street in Brookville that bisects two parks and a Little League complex, where the number of people hurt still demand that more be done.
“I still want slow zones,” he said. “I still want the DOT to put in new signs and other traffic-calming devices. And the law leaves us with the flexibility to do that.”
Robert Sinclair, manager of media relations for AAA New York, said that while lower limits certainly are a viable option in troubled areas, the motorist’s organization has some misgivings about the new law.
He said any serious effort must include far more initiatives.
“One, we think visible enforcement is the best way to ensure compliance with speed laws,” Sinclair said. “People say they are having trouble enforcing 30 miles per hour. How are they going to enforce 25?”
He said the city in the past has flooded troubled areas with police much the way CompStat helps deploy resources to high crime areas.
Sinclair also worries that the law will criminalize drivers who might happen to strike careless or reckless cyclists and walkers.
“When I drive in New York City, I see a lot more bad pedestrians than I do bad drivers,” he said.