Tuesday, November 26, 2013

City Council Looks at Lower Speed Limits

City Council Looks at Lower Speed Limits - NYTimes.com
Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, said on Tuesday that she hoped to pass a bill in the coming weeks lowering the current speed limit of 30 miles per hour on many New York streets.

“We are actively working on that bill,” she told reporters, referring to legislation sponsored by Councilman David G. Greenfield of Brooklyn, adding, “Our goal is to pass it before the end of the year.”

Mr. Greenfield’s bill had called for 20 m.p.h. limits “on all streets fewer than 60 feet wide in areas zoned for residential purposes.”

But later on Tuesday, Mr. Greenfield said in an interview that an adjusted version of the bill — lowering the speed limit to 25 m.p.h. on “one-way streets that do not have more than one lane of traffic” — was being considered instead.

The change was necessary, he said, because of a state law requiring any street in the city, except those in school zones, to have further adjustments made if speeds went below 25 m.p.h.

“At this point, with what we can do, this is the best bill that we can get,” he said.

Stretches of many major thoroughfares, like Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn or Hylan Boulevard on Staten Island, would not be affected, nor would they have been under Mr. Greenfield’s original proposal.

But the bill’s passage could signal a significant change in many neighborhoods where traffic is light enough, at least during some hours, to present speeding opportunities.

A spokesman for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the administration was waiting for a final bill.

In recent years, Mr. Bloomberg has taken up speeding as a leading traffic safety concern. The city’s Transportation Department created a series of television and outdoor advertisements highlighting the speed limit, noting that pedestrians struck at 40 m.p.h. were three and a half times more likely to be killed than those struck at 30 m.p.h.

In June, after a lengthy campaign from the administration to bring speed-tracking cameras to the city’s streets, the State Legislature authorized their installation near some city schools. And in 2011, the Transportation Department began a “slow-zone” program lowering the speed limit to 20 m.p.h. in neighborhoods based on crash history, community interest and proximity to schools.

Mr. Greenfield said his revised bill would include a provision requiring the department to introduce at least seven new slow zones every year, each covering at least five blocks.

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has called for a wide-scale expansion of slow zones in the city over the next four years.

During the campaign, Mr. de Blasio said he supported a Vision Zero approach to traffic safety — a streetscape strategy developed in Sweden, intended to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries. He wrote on his website that the city should narrow “excessively wide streets that encourage reckless passing and speeding” and widen sidewalks and medians to make streets easier to cross.

Advocates for lower speeds, many of whom have criticized the Police Department’s enforcement of the existing limit, said the mayor-elect appeared to be sympathetic to their calls.

“There’s an expectation that he not only would support this but would actually be inclined to go further,” Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, said of Mr. de Blasio.

A spokeswoman for Mr. de Blasio said he was still reviewing the proposed lower limits, but added that he “has emphasized the need to reduce speeding in our neighborhoods, especially near schools and senior centers.”

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