Wait Until Next Year: City Council Tables Speed Limit Bill

Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 12:53 PM

School zone in NYC (Kate Hinds/WNYC)

Despite earlier statements that a vote on a bill to lower the city's speed limit in some neighborhoods would happen before the end of the calendar year, the council is tabling it -- for now.

"Due to strong opposition to this life-saving legislation within the Bloomberg administration, I believe it will be more beneficial to reintroduce my legislation next year," said Councilman David Greenfield, the sponsor of the legislation.

He added: "There is no question that speeding drivers are one of the biggest threats to pedestrian safety in New York City. I am committed to reintroducing a bill in the next Council that will do what we have always set out to do - save as many lives as possible by lowering the speed limit in a responsible manner."

Marc LaVorgna, a spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg, says while the mayor supports the spirit of the legislation, the bill as written is too complicated. LaVorgna said the mayor would support dropping the speed limit citywide to 25 MPH. 

Currently, the speed limit in New York City is 30 MPH.

Paul Steely White, the head of the safety advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, was optimistic. "There is a strong consensus among all the players that lives can be saved with lower speed limits," he said. "The question that looms is: what's the most efficient and effective way to do that?"

The next version of the bill, he said, might be even stronger -- especially if Melissa Mark-Viverito becomes the next City Council speaker. "She has been a strong leader on safe and livable streets," he said, referring to her work on the redesign of First and Second Avenues.

The bill, which was introduced two years ago but has had special urgency in the wake of several high-profile child pedestrian deaths, had already undergone several revisions. Its most recent iteration would have changed the speed limit on one-way, one-lane streets to 25 MPH -- a far cry from its original goal of lowering the speed limit on certain streets to 20 MPH.

But waiting for the de Blasio administration -- with its "vision zero" traffic safety goal and an incoming police commissioner who says he's eager to address traffic enforcement -- may pay off.

"The political infrastructure is in flux right now," said Steely White. "It's prudent to wait until the dust settles on the new Council and give the (yet-to-be-named) transportation commissioner a chance to evaluate most cost-effective way forward."



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Comments [3]

Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

I know I will get grilled for this and some may call for me to be burned to the stake, but here it goes. Honestly, I feel that lowering the speed limits won't save lives when pedestrians and even cyclists don't play their part when it comes to safety. There have been times when motorists did hit them when they were following the rules of the road, but the others weren't. What really angers me on this is that some of the anti-car groups are actually glorifying some of the deaths and making some of the victims as the poster children even when the actually stories to some involved not even looking before crossing let along their parents not even helping or watching them. While it might be true that when pedestrians and cyclists flout the law they won't kill anyone, they can still kill themselves by being in harm's way, though the anti-car crowd will probably call them martyrs for that. If it's really about safety, then all groups must adhere to the laws, not just a select group. More importantly, it hardly makes any sense to lower the speed limits when the current one is hardly enforced to begin with, which makes it feel like a waste of money.

Dec. 20 2013 04:27 PM
TOM from Brooklyn

Yes, there seems to be a consensus among 'all the players', especially if you don't include many of the principal players in this debate; but there should be a robust debate on all aspects of the issue.
Eighty years ago NYC moved the street speed-limit up from 'the horse n' buggy' 20mph limit because NYPD figured it would be more reasonable than arresting half the drivers on the city's roads. Somehow road death rate per miles driven did decline. That speed limit was raised thirty years later, not by our local government, but by NYS(that reasoning is worth scrutiny even now). Again, the road death rate per miles driven continues to decline. That general default speed-limit has survived with little change for some fifty years. One would expect another increase in that most drivers feel safe exceeding the current limits at all times of the day and on all roadways, even highways. But we see a rush by some in the City Council to move in the opposite direction in spite of the continuing decline in the road death rate per miles driven.
Come next year we can all sit down and have a more inclusive public debate, but include the motorists. They, as has happened in the past, are already and blatantly acting out their not unreasonable choice.

Dec. 20 2013 11:24 AM
al cinamon from Yonkers NY

That's right. Saving lives can wait. What is needed right now is more revenue that crashes generate. Candidate DeBlasio talks about vision zero. We'll see what Mayor DeBlasio actually does once he's faced with budget shortfalls.

Dec. 20 2013 11:08 AM

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