Speed Limit Bill Alive in Albany

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 - 10:16 AM

Updated 5:00 pm

With just two days to go until the end of the New York State legislative session, state senator Jeffrey Klein introduced a bill giving cities the authority to lower their speed limits.

The bill, which he introduced Monday night, allows cities to lower speeds by five miles an hour — which means New York City could drop speeds on most streets from 30 to 25. For roads with speeds currently over 35 miles an hour, the community board has to get written notice of the change and a chance to comment. But they don't get the final say — the ultimate decision lies with the city's Department of Transportation.

An earlier plan to reduce speeds only on small streets was scrapped.

“I believe in Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan as a comprehensive approach to ensuring our streets are safe. This legislation supports his life-saving vision and is aimed at reducing the high number of traffic related injuries and deaths each year. Our community boards are on the front lines of local concerns each and everyday and know their streets best, which is why they deserve to have a voice in this process,” said state Senator Klein.


The bill would not affect roadways like Northern Boulevard in Queens, Pelham Parkway in the Bronx, and Linden Boulevard, which crosses Queens and Brooklyn, all of which currently have speeds over 30 miles an hour. Some safety advocates argue those streets should not be singled out for additional community board review. 

"These corridors would have been a centerpiece of DOT’s arterial slow zone program,” said Keegan Stephan, an organizer with Right of Way. “Klein’s bill will get in the way of that life-saving program and probably kill it on these speedways, endangering everyone who uses them.” 

The review process puts the Department of Transportation and community boards at odds, Stephan added. "It postpones life-saving safety measures for years, if not forever.”

(Earlier this year, the New York City DOT began an 'arterial slow zone' program, in which it plans to drop the speed limit on over two dozen high-volume, high-crash roadways this year. So far, streets like Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn and a stretch of Broadway in Manhattan have been included.)

Klein's bill was referred to the Senate's Rules Committee. Speaker Sheldon Silver has backed a speed limit bill in the Assembly, which is broadly similar to Klein's, although without the community board input provision. Now, the two chambers' bills have to be reconciled - and fast, since the legislative session is scheduled to end Thursday. 

“We have seen real movement over the past 24 hours," said Wiley Norvell, Mayor de Blasio's deputy press secretary. "We are very hopeful that we’ll have action this session that empowers New York City to curb dangerous speeds on our streets and better protect our communities.”

The City Council will vote on a home rule message tomorrow, urging the legislature to pass Klein's bill and its Assembly counterpart.

"We can’t wait until next year to take action," said Paul Steely White, executive director of street safety group Transportation Alternatives. "Speeding remains the number one cause of fatal crashes, killing more New Yorkers than drunk driving and distracted driving combined. Every year, more than 300 people are killed in traffic crashes on New York City streets and sidewalks, and another 70,000 are injured."

"As families who have had loved ones killed or injured in traffic, we want to remind all parties involved that this is not business as usual; this is a matter of life and death," said Aaron Charlop-Powers, a founding member of Families for Safe Streets. Charlop-Powers lost his mother Megan Charlop in 2010, when she was struck by a city bus while riding her bike in the Bronx. 

There's another potential hurdle for the bill's future: a second speed limit bill, introduced with no named sponsor. That bill differs from Klein's in a few ways, but the crucial one is subtle. It requires community board approval to drop speeds by five or more miles an hour, rather than by more than five. No word yet on who introduced that bill, SB 7891.



Comments [6]

HarlemChildren from Harlem

This will help, but is not a complete solution. Lowering speed limits by 5mph in a city a few miles across won't impact drivers but will improve safety - inevitably. Drivers who run red lights at speed and who speed on residential streets like mine, where children often play because there's nowhere else, should be targeted and punished without reservation. Also, cyclists should be encouraged to play by the rules where their behaviour causes risk.

Aug. 05 2014 11:44 AM
Dob Bole from Dumbo

Why go only after the drivers? At 25 mph you won't get anywhere.

If this goes down I propose the NYPD start ticketing jaywalkers! At least half the people in NYC that are hurt by motor vehicles are hurt because of their own negligence.

Jul. 06 2014 11:22 AM
Chang from NYC

Who are not interested in saving lives? We all try to save lives. Be it humans, cats, a pigeon, even a squirrel!
It's emotional when Aaron speaks for his mother's death. Since it is not a recent accident, I have to point out that the victim is not only the physically injured biker but the bus driver who has to live with it, emotionally devastated. Now how can we avoid this tragedy happening again? Sorry to criticize the biker but the biker should have followed the safety rule for herself and others in future not to be in tragedy again. Bikers in NYC with no lights at night n no bells are not only unsafe but illegal in equipment. Bikers riding wrong direction fast, running through red light fast regardless no traffic anytime as if color blind are not only unsafe but illegal. Why are they allowed roaming around without any mindset of guilt at least if not enforcement?

Ticketing for unsafe and illegal practice to bikers and pedestrians ALSO COULD HAVE SAVED MANY MANY LIVES AND DEVASTATED DRIVERS INVOLVED IN ACCIDENTS.

Slowing down cars below 30mph will increase more jaywalk (as rampant as it is now in NYC) and more accidents. Cars can 10mph can run over and crush living creatures. Cars at any speed is safe unless pedestrians wait for walk signals at 0mph.

Jun. 19 2014 06:30 PM
AMHess from Harlem

Good to hear that there is still potential. We should have a say in how fast cars can go on our streets. It's not as though anyone can maintain 30mph for any amount of time as it is; the dangers of speed far outweigh the benefits.

Jun. 19 2014 08:32 AM

Madness. Why bother driving for a living in NYC, it cannot be done at 25 mph. Way to destroy the working class.

Jun. 18 2014 10:47 AM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

I still feel that this is a joke let alone punishing only one group when there are so many that contribute to making the streets less safe.

Jun. 17 2014 07:54 PM

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