Manhattan On Track To Get Its First Slow Zone

Proposed Slow Zone for the Inwood section of Manhattan (NYC DOT)

(New York, NY - WNYC) - Manhattan, where the standard rate of movement is an all-out manic sprint, is about to be told by the NY Department of Transportation to slow down. At least in part: a couple of dozen blocks at the island's northern tip in the neighborhood of Inwood are on track to become the borough's first traffic Slow Zone.

NYC DOT unveiled Slow Zones last year. The program calms traffic by lowering a neighborhood's speed limit to 20 miles per hour--the lowest in the city--and fitting it out with safety measures such as speed bumps, signs and street markings that either force or urge drivers to slow down. The city would also remove more than 20 parking spots in the neighborhood to open up sight lines at intersections.

Inwood's community board passed a resolution in February that unanimously supported the Slow Zone, which would cover the blocks west of Broadway from West 218th down to Riverside Drive near Dyckman Street. A vote by the full board will be held on June 26. Should the Slow Zone be approved, as expected, the NYC DOT is set to install it this summer.

Inwood is frequently used as a short-cut by northbound drivers who cut through it, especially during the evening rush hour, to avoid paying the toll on the Henry Hudson Bridge, which spans Manhattan and the Bronx. Drivers have also learned to avoid the traffic lights on Broadway by traveling on Seaman Avenue, a parallel street that is heavily residential.

In general, Inwood's streets are hilly, narrow and almost wholly disconnected from the street grid. For those reasons, the NYC DOT not only approved the neighborhood's Slow Zone application but doubled the size of the proposed area.

Resident Dave Thom, for one, is pleased. "Our neighborhood is packed with schools, churches and young children," he said. "I have a two year-old and three year-old myself and it can be nerve-wracking to see a car racing down our streets."

The city's first and only Slow Zone was installed in the Claremont section of the Bronx last year. NYC DOT is considering adding another 13 Slow Zones, including the one in Inwood, by the end of 2013.