City streets are one step closer to seeing a decrease in the speed limit from 30 to 25 miles per hour thanks to the City Council, which voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bill – given the green light by both the Senate and the Assembly in June — on Tuesday, October 7.
The move to slow down drivers is an integral part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” initiative, targeted to cut down and ultimately eliminate traffic related fatalities.
After sailing through Council with a vote of 44 to four in favor, the bill is poised to be signed by de Blasio with the lower limit taking effect in early November where it will start on streets where no other limit is posted.
Highways and parkways will still have higher limits, legislators said, while school zones will also adopt the lower speed limit.
“This commonsense change is an essential part of the city’s Vision Zero initiative,” lauded Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “If properly enforced, the new speed limit could prevent more than 6,500 traffic injuries in the next year and cut the annual number of pedestrian fatalities in half.”
“There is no question this will save lives,” said the mayor. “Speeding on our streets is taking the lives of our children and our neighbors. Lowering the citywide speed limit is a powerful new tool we can combine with education, enforcement and better-designed streets.”
While most of the council agreed, Brooklyn Councilmember Jumaane Williams suggested the city take a different route.
“I fully support the need to reform traffic laws in New York City, and the majority of proposals offered in ‘Vision Zero,’” said the District 45 councilmember who wasn’t physically present for the vote. “At the same time, I believe that this legislation is too broad in the form passed today and I would have voted against it.
“Instead of an overall speed limit reduction, the better approach is to study the city’s various neighborhoods and major arteries and assess, with specificity, where a lower speed limit makes the most practical sense,” he went on, citing school zones as an example for the lowered limit.
Still, the new speed limit was met by both celebration and frustration amongst local residents.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction because the speeding that goes on in Bay Ridge is rampant,” said Stefania Vasquenz, Bay Ridge resident and a member of BRAKES (Bay Ridge Advocates Keeping Everyone Safe), “and I think, more importantly, it sends a message to people – even if someone doesn’t abide by the law – that there is a problem, and that’s why we’re lowering the speed limit.”
Bay Ridge driver Eddie D’Tomasso strongly disagreed.
“From someone who spends two to three hours a day driving all over the city, the real danger is in reckless drivers. They’re the ones doing 40 when the speed limit was 30 and 65 when the highway limits are 50 – darting through traffic and cutting people off,” he said. “A lower speed limit won’t change those peoples’ actions. Proper education and enforcement of existing traffic laws would actually benefit everyone.
“A 25 mph speed limit does nothing but inconvenience responsible drivers while those who are so selfish and irresponsible will continue to drive like jerks,” D’Tomasso went on, anxious to see the new limit stopped in its tracks.
Nonetheless, the general assumption is that, within a short while, the default city speed limit will be 25 MPH.
“Our office will be working with local police to ensure that [the new limit] is rolled out smoothly,” assured Jane Carey, representative of Councilmember David Greenfield – one of the bill’s sponsors – at an October 7 Community Board 11 meeting.