Calling it "a gift to the city," a group of activists changed the speed limit in Park Slope this weekend by hanging rogue 20 mph speed limit signs along Prospect Park West.
Safe streets activists with the group Right of Way installed the signs on Saturday night around 10pm. Organizer Keegan Stephan says the group was motivated by recent pedestrian deaths -- and statistics showing a lower speed limit save lives.
"A pedestrian hit by a car going 20 mph has a 95% chance of survival," he said, who added that a WNYC map showed the city could lower the speed limit to 20 miles per hour across two-thirds of city under current state law. "We don't understand why they're not, (so) we took it upon ourselves."
He said the signs are also a way of showing support for a bill currently under consideration by the New York City Council. When introduced last month, Intro 535, sponsored by City Council member David Greenfield, aimed to lower the city's speed limit to 20 miles per hour. But last Friday, Council Member Jimmy Vacca, who chairs the Transportation Committee, told WNYC "the bill is being tweaked a little bit." He said "we're aiming for 25 miles per hour on narrow, one-way streets."
(Stephan's reaction to that news: "That's disappointing.")
The group posted ten signs every two blocks along Prospect Park West, starting at Grand Army Plaza. The signs read "Speed 20 is plenty," with the words "right of way" framed by images of pedestrians.
(image courtesy of Liz Patek)
One of the signs is posted at the intersection where 12-year-old Sammy Cohen Eckstein was killed last month.
Amy Cohen, Sammy's mother, was quoted in a Right of Way press release saying: "We urge the City Council and Mayor-elect de Blasio to immediately pass the pending legislation for a citywide 20-mile-per-hour speed limit in all of our residential neighborhoods. Reducing the default speed limit to 20 miles per hour will provide an important margin of error so that many crashes can be avoided and when they do occur, injuries will be significantly reduced. According to witnesses, Sammy had the light when he entered the crosswalk but it quickly changed and the driver entered the intersection at full speed. If the van that hit Sammy had been going slower, the driver would have had plenty of time to stop when he saw Sammy’s ball in the street like the car in the next lane that stopped so that Sammy could enter the crosswalk.”
A 20mph sign at the memorial for Sammy Cohen Eckstein (image courtesy of Liz Patek)
Stephan said Right of Way raised money to pay for the signs, which cost a total of $300.
But should the group take similar action in the future, they won't have to pay. Keegan said a sympathetic sign company reached out to him offering free signage. In an email, a sign company employee wrote that a friend of the company's CEO was recently killed in downtown Brooklyn "by a driver who was doing the legal speed limit of 30. That sort of thing is just way too common in a city that's so conscientious - paranoid, even - about safety in other respects."
UPDATE at 5:23 pm: a spokesman for the New York City Department of Transportation said the city had removed the signs.