One speed does not fit all.
While Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero Initiative – a comprehensive plan to make city streets safer for pedestrians and drivers – has garnered massive support citywide, certain communities and their elected representatives feel that a lowered speed limit on particular streets might cause more harm than good.
Last year’s implementation of several Vision Zero plans included reduced citywide speed limits from 30 mph to 25 mph, as well as expanded neighborhood “slow zones,” and stiffer penalties for dangerous driving. The goal of the initiative, which is reshaping traffic across the city, is to reduce traffic fatalities in New York City to zero. In 2013, there were 295; in 2014, there were 256, according to the mayor’s office.
However, Councilmembers David Greenfield and Mark Treyger fear that for Ocean Parkway, the lowered 25 mph legislation which went into effect back in November is increasing congestion, forcing drivers to wayfare through side streets.
“I am proud to have co-sponsored legislation that reduced the default speed limit citywide to ensure the safety of every New Yorker,” said Greenfield. “However, we were promised that major thoroughfares like Ocean Parkway would not be reduced without the input of the local community.
“We very clearly told the Department of Transportation that Ocean Parkway is not an appropriate street for 25 miles per hour,” he went on. “Applying the 25 mile per hour speed limit on Ocean Parkway will actually do more harm than good for our neighborhoods: it will increase traffic and force drivers onto the surrounding narrow residential streets.”
“I fully support the new speed limit on the majority of roads across the city, especially in residential areas. At the same time, we must recognize the important role that major thoroughfares like Ocean Parkway play in moving high volumes of traffic as efficiently as possible,” Treyger said. “I am concerned that this lower speed limit will only serve to increase traffic on this extremely busy street without having a real impact on pedestrian safety. This will result in drivers searching for alternate routes through the neighborhoods surrounding Ocean Parkway, which will unnecessarily jeopardize the safety of residents in those areas.”
According to Greenfield’s office, Ocean Parkway – which runs from Church Avenue to Surf Avenue — was constructed to be the major roadway throughout central and southern Brooklyn. Since there are no parallel roads of similar capacity, the parkway sees heavy traffic on a daily basis.
However, a spokesperson from The Department of Transportation (DOT) said that because “Ocean Parkway is considered the fourth most dangerous roadway for pedestrians in Brooklyn, its history of serious crashes informed [the] DOT’s decision to reduce the speed limit by 5 mph.”
“A pedestrian struck at 25 mph is twice as likely to survive a crash as one struck at 30 mph,” the DOT said.
Data provided by the DOT also stated that 64 pedestrians were killed or severely injured on Ocean Parkway between 2009 and 2013, including eight pedestrian fatalities.
Updated at 4:05 p.m. to include comments from the DOT.